Friday, August 21, 2009

The Microchip Undermines European Centralization

Readers of The Second XXth Century: How the Information Revolution Shapes Business, States and Nations (Hoover Press 2006, Grasset 2000) know that already, but now David Howell, former UK Secretary of State for Energy, warns that the Information Age is also robbing governments of their age-old monopoly of foreign policymaking. And of their other monopolies too I would like to add.

Despite its still substantial share of world production and its military spending vastly greater than that of the rest of the world put together, the US influence is on the wane. Pax Americana is today as much of history as Pax Britannica. The reason lies in one word – the microchip. “Size no longer equates with power. (…) The miniaturization of weaponry, combined with the communications revolution, has given birth to an irreversible asymmetry of warfare and violence. The power to organise, to coerce and to strike has been placed in the hands of a horde of non-state players and activists, both good and bad. (…) This power is in the reach of the smallest extremist group and the most rogue-inclined rulers.”

“Suddenly, it is no longer a question of Western dominance and who between Europe and America calls the shots. The answer is neither. (…) In this international scene of extraordinary fluidity and uncertainty, the EU cannot afford the stilted rigidity of direction which treaty procedures and formalities of hierarchy impose.”

This clearly spells the end of the centralist project. Some European countries can act effectively on specific issues, but not on everything, and not all together. A united (read “monopolist and vertically integrated") Europe “cannot substitute for the growing mesh of bilateral relations that the information age has created.”

The whole paper is worth reading, here.

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