In his provocative article, “Why There Should Be A Global Minimum Wage,” Jason J. Campbell poses the following question: “Since outsourcing is a viable economic model wherein First World corporations export their labor to defer cost and maximize profits, should there be an international standard for the minimum amount that laborers, of any country, may legally be employed for?” (“To what extent does it differ from slavery,” he then asks.)
I’ll stay away from the moral argument, which seems to be the mainstay of Mr. Campbell’s article. The question of implementation, or the feasibility of enforcement, is another can of worms; consequently, I’ll stay away from it, too. I’ll argue, however, that the very idea of “global minimum wage” (and a multitude of similar concepts) presupposes a particular state of affairs – “the new world order,” as it were.
In effect, therefore, whether wittingly or not, Mr. Campbell has given us a blueprint, a glimpse of the future – not the future you or I would necessarily desire but a future nonetheless. His argument is “in reverse,” first positing a controversial piece of legislation – one which, on the face of it at least, would appear to be ludicrous under the existing conditions. And then, daring us to imagine a state of affairs, a world in which the very same proposition or body of laws wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.
Hence, the underlying purpose is to unpack the argument and, through “reverse engineering,” reconstitute it anew.
I’m going to proceed incrementally, from the existing cases to those which are still in the process of forming. Eventually, I’ll consider cases that are likely to come into being in the near or not so near future.
“Global minimal wage” shall remain our point of focus – the lever – but let there be no misunderstanding. Any same-order concept (such as “uniform currency” or “no discrimination” clause) would do just as well. And here, the most logical place to start would be the US itself, already a federation both de jury and de facto (despite a growing sentiment to the contrary).
For better or worse, the minimum wage law is already the law of the land. Granted, every attempt at increase has been fought tooth and nail by business interests and state legislatures from North Carolina to Texas. But once an equitable increase would be approved, it’d become a moot point: the states had better comply or else!
It isn’t to say that the law’s passage would do away with all the regional differences. Far from it! There’ll still be considerable discrepancies in living standards between states like Kentucky and New York or California. Furthermore, it wouldn’t altogether stop the movement of capital from less to more productive areas or regions because of state-to-state differences in corporate tax structure or any other business-related consideration. Naturally, some states are more economically depressed than others. But the overall effect would inevitably result in a kind of leveling. And that’s to say that most Americans, regardless of where they live, everything else being equal, of course, would enjoy pretty much the same lifestyle.
It’s the same with the EU.
The Euro is already the common currency – only the pound maintaining its former independence – which ended cumbersome day-to-day exchange transactions and foreign exchange markets. And considering the distances involved and the absence of passport/visa restrictions, travel’s been made easy. Consequently, a Frenchman is just as likely to work for a German-based firm as an Italian.
Comparable lifestyles and cost of living provide further disincentives for unnecessary capital shifts and business relocation. The EU may have started as an economic bloc, but it’s beginning to approximate a federation of states. “A standardized system of laws which apply in all member states, a common trade policy, agricultural and fisheries policies, and a regional development policy” are some of its features.
In short, it may well be that it’s on its way to becoming a full-fledged political community.
Well, one could think here of NAFTA or any trade agreement designed to facilitate the exchange of goods and services, limit travel restrictions and open the labor markets otherwise less accessible to business and entrepreneurial needs.
There are already strong cultural and linguistic ties binding the Americans and the Canadians. And should those ties become reinforced perchance by the commonality of economic interests, then who knows – even the Mexicans might join (as equal partners, of course) in the joint venture.
But what if past histories, unresolved differences, and feelings of animosity would present a stumbling block?
Well, in that case, the South American countries themselves might form a coalition all their own. And so and so forth, until the entire world would become parceled out thus along economic, cultural, and geographic divides – parcels smaller than continents, perhaps, but beyond nation-states.1 And from there, it’s but one single step until the realization sets in that perhaps, just perhaps, a world government might be the only way to go.
Such could be the natural progression, but then again, it could be not. There might be wars interspersed with rumors of wars, revolutions, social unrest and bloodshed before the world finally settles down and goes about its business (as it eventually will). But the exact chain of events is beyond the scope of this paper, nor is it prudent for any writer to try to divine it.
Suffice to say that the trend towards centralization of power is a real one. However, if we recover from the present crisis and if corporations worldwide will once again acquire their former stature, the centralization of political power might be an effective response.
A way that would be free of violence, takeover, any overt act that would otherwise fly in the face of, and thereby offend the sensibilities of, the feeble-hearted. I’d view it as the most natural response on the part of the polity to deal with the globalization aspect in virtually every other area of our lives.
Since the object of this paper is to examine the consequences if some such state of affairs is likely to occur, let me return to my original question.
What’s to be gained from such an unseemly arrangement? Who’ll be the winner and who the loser? Will the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
Well, let’s think for a moment. A minimum wage law imposed throughout the federation – reinforced besides by the same currency – would do away with unnecessary and sometimes wasteful capital shifts from one part of the globe to another. And the same goes for unnecessary business relocation.
I stress the word “unnecessary” because some movement of capital or production facilities might be a good thing. It’d result in a desirable leveling effect, eliminating the most glaring differences concerning lifestyles and economic opportunity. But even this development, I hasten to add, would be hampered or rendered impractical by the ease of travel and comparable language and employment skills
These are first-order consequences, consequences that are immediate, concrete, and most readily apparent.
There are ramifications, however, which shouldn’t escape us. The first would be putting an end to or severely limiting unfair business practices.
In particular, the moral question which seems to have exercised Mr. Campbell and prompted his article – equating the practice of outsourcing to exploitation, a form of slavery – would dissolve itself. Because as the saying goes, take away the opportunity, and you take away the temptation. And a level playing field for employers and employees alike – pretty much assured throughout the federation – would effectively eliminate those opportunities.
A related development — and I mention it only in passing — would be in the area of competition and product quality. It would revitalize the former from the ground up by making it honest and aboveboard. Cheating or cutting corners wouldn’t be allowed, necessarily improving the latter; everyone would be a winner. It would anchor businesses to their places of operation – a long-abandoned practice since the corporations have long declared their independence and practically disavowed any affiliation with the local community!
Another set of consequences would benefit the polity and significantly improve the relationship between government and business.
The rules of the game would follow.” instead of being dictated “from above.” the government would no longer be perceived as “the oppressor,” engaged in excessive regulation. To be sure, there’d still be regulation and forms of control, but they’d be perceived as working from afar – or indirectly if you like – rather than issuing from the government by any direct kind of action or fiat.
There’d be another concomitant as well, of restoring goodwill and, hopefully, the spirit of cooperation between business and government. But perhaps the most significant effect would be “cleanup.” By “cleanup,” I mean the purging of both public and private sectors of the culture of corruption that permeates the body politic and contributes to the eroding confidence in our political and economic institutions.
I’ve already addressed the likely changes in the corporate culture. Leveling the playing field would help reduce the opportunity to cheat, cut corners, and engage in anything other than fair play. And with those opportunities gone, so would the temptation. But surely, the same logic must apply to the workings of the government as well.
To wit, take the opportunity away, and you have virtually deprived all government officials and politicians of the temptation to engage in favoritism, quid pro quos, and bribes – all things which are the integral elements of, and (in a manner of speaking) define fraud. The collusion between public and private interests would be a thing of the past because the system wouldn’t support it! And then, who knows, we might even restore honesty and integrity to our government. And justice, too!
Granted, it’s a big if, but then again, it all goes to show that the possible future doesn’t have to be all that bleak. All these are positive developments.
But I had better close before exhausting the reader’s patience and my extraordinary streak of good luck. Suffice to say, this little exercise in imaginative thinking – a thought experiment, if you like – has not been in vain.
The experiment is likely to continue. A federation of states may well serve as a crucible of sorts – a testing ground. And in that context, we could well perfect and iron out whatever little wrinkles and inconsistencies may have existed before the “Big Bang:” an all-out world government, of the people, by the people, and for the people – coming about at last. And that’s the beauty of it — its flexibility and openness to experimentation. We can proceed piecemeal, on a case-by-case basis, until the final plan comes to fruition.
That’s something to cheer about, not despair!
It may not be a panacea, especially to those who are entrenched in the past and who are looking for a more equitable resolution. The good ole’ times are gone, and we had better let go. But if you think for a moment the future I’m envisaging is unpalatable or beyond contempt, think again. Just imagine the planet Earth invaded by the aliens and then tell me whether anything less than a worldwide federation would do?
Welcome to Star Trek, The Next Generation. It’s sooner than you think.
The only problem I’m envisaging has to do with the dilution of representation. But representative democracies, for better or worse, have long replaced direct democracies, so there’s no sense crying over spilled milk.
In the best-case scenario, the federation would consist of cantons, local communities whose representatives would have a say in running their affairs. Consequently, these voices would figure in as input to the general assembly. In the worst possible case, God only knows.
A word to my critics: I well know the risks I undertook by resorting to such a controversial title. A “new world order” is bound to evoke all kinds of responses, from negativity and hostility to fear. Let me assure you, however, this has not been my intention. Nor have I tried to validate the purposes of those work towards that end.
Quite the contrary, what I offered is a plausible account of the unfolding future, even if it approximates the wishes of the ruling elite. It’s an “invisible hand” type of explanation — an explanation that considers the workings of the human agency but which, at the same time, isn’t necessarily a direct expression or the intended consequence thereof.
It may well be that for all their cunning and stratagems, for all their wishing for the very same thing that I’m here espousing, there’s a chance that they’re about to shoot themselves in the foot. And I wouldn’t lose a minute of sleep over it.
- It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. At the peak of his powers, Chavez had consolidated South- and Latin American countries into one bloc, as it were. The first fruit of those efforts was ALBA – “The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America,” founded on December 14, 2004. Shortly after, Chavez was instrumental in forging the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution” – another coalition consisting of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The idea was to offset US imperialistic ambitions in the region. With Chavez’s demise, the coalition dissolved, but the pattern was set. In this connection, also see “Building a Global Southern Coaliton: the competing approaches of Brazil’s Lulu and Venezuela’s Chavez.”