The Indo-American Imperative
by Bhaskar Menon on 24 Jan 2015 0 Comment
When President Obama meets with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi in a few days they must look beyond the nuts and bolts of technological and security cooperation to bring into focus an Indo-American responsibility to act coherently on a broad set of critically important global issues. 

Only such action can fulfill the enormous democratic and spiritual potential of the densely interconnected global society being shaped by the Internet and the Worldwide Web. Perhaps as importantly, it is the only way the world can avoid disastrous violence as the guardians of the ancient regime try to preserve their criminal prerogatives. 

As I described in an earlier post on Human Development in the Information Age, we are witnessing a momentous redefinition of the concept of capital that can close the gap everywhere between rich and poor; but just because it is possible does not mean that it is inevitable or that it will be easily achieved. 

Innovative action will be necessary to deal with areas of current crisis such as global crime and climate change; and new institutions must be built to realize the full potential of global connectivity, which has, in effect, pulled the rug out from under elite capacity to monopolize wealth creation and override the interests of social majorities.

Action should focus on three immediate initiatives, followed by longer term institution-building. The three immediate steps should aim to: 

Revamp Drug Laws: Drug trafficking is a $500 billion global industry that funds terrorism and undermines democracies. Existing international drug laws seek to ban drugs but they actually promote trafficking because prohibition gives a huge financial incentive for organized crime to get involved. That creates armies of violent drug pushers and a massive flow of black money into the coffers of money laundering elites.

India and the United States should support the effort of Latin American States to radically redesign the international legal regime on “illicit drugs.” At the scheduled 2016 special session of the UN General Assembly on drugs they should move to junk the existing laws and put in place new ones treating drug use as a public health problem.

Legalizing drugs does not mean allowing corporations to replace criminals. The new legal regime should provide for all drugs in demand to be provided at cost through the medical system, making it impossible for anyone to profit from supplying them. There is no danger of rampant growth in drug use; in fact, it is safe to project that without pushers there will be a continuing reduction. 

Ban Shell Corporations: An Indo-American initiative should seek to put in place a global ban on corporations that do not reveal their true owners. Such corporations are key to money laundering and many other forms of organized crime, including the trafficking of women and children for sex, piracy at sea and dumping of European toxic waste off the coasts of Africa. A ban on shell corporations should go hand in hand with existing initiatives to eliminate all money laundering “tax havens,” including the biggest of them, Britain and Switzerland. 

Reform the United Nations: The United Nations System still functions much as it did when it was founded 70 years ago. It adopts hundreds of resolutions every year phrased in arcane diplomatic jargon addressed mainly to governments. No one knows what actually happens to the resolutions, for there is no systematic feedback on their implementation.

The organization should move to hook its decision-making into the networked world of the 21st century. Resolutions should be crisply action-oriented and go out to all relevant communications, expert and organizational networks worldwide. Feedback from networks should be analyzed and acted upon in a fluid interactive process.

For this to work in the area of peace and security, it is imperative that the composition of the Security Council be changed to reflect contemporary political realities. American support for the strategy I have proposed for such a reconstitution of the Council could build an effective global security apparatus.

In the context of the action proposed in the two preceding paragraphs that would result in a significant reduction in global tensions and conflict, including terrorism, bringing within reach the long declared UN goal of general and complete disarmament. 


Longer Term Measures


Global connectivity is causing an epochal paradigm shift in economics. It is drawing to a close four centuries when the joint-stock corporation empowered small groups to raise massive amounts of capital and shape the course of free markets. As Adam Smith warned in The Wealth of Nations, corporations always represent narrow interests and deform the operation of free markets with fraud and waste.

Crowd funding directed by broad social involvement represents the new paradigm; it can power transformational change in areas as diverse as education, energy use and environmental protection. To make this work new institutions will be necessary, especially: 

The Institutionalized Lottery: Just as the stock market was the essential funding mechanism for the corporate world, crowd funding will require a new institution: the national lottery described in my earlier post. Making the switch from one system to the other can be done gradually and without major disruptions if governments cooperate in building the coherently networked world described below. 

The Community Corporation:
 To ensure that economic, social and environmental issues are coherently addressed, computer networks must be coordinated. As there is no existing system to do that, we will have to invent one.


I propose that the basic building block of the new system be a public institution, the Community Corporation (CC) in which all individuals in the locality would be members. Each CC would have a web site and all of them would be networked in circles that ascend in existing administrative hierarchies set by governments, rising from Town and City to District, Province, State and National levels.

Internationally, the networks would also follow the order of existing hierarchies of sub-regional and regional cooperation, and hook into the UN System globally.

The system could be rolled out with great rapidity once the basic CC module website is agreed upon and developed. The roll out and operation of individual CC web sites could be left to local entrepreneurs.

The overall CC Network (CCN) would provide a strong democratic frame driven by locally directed entrepreneurship and innovation. Undemocratic countries would not be able to benefit from the system and oligarchies would wither on the vine. 

Triangular Cooperation: To promote the process of change described above, India and the United States should systematize their existing initiatives to jointly support development in Africa. Such “triangular cooperation” involving all developed and developing countries should become the framework for all international development cooperation in every region of the global South.

In conclusion, I must emphasize that unless some global vision of progress guides international action intensifying power struggles will make a general war unavoidable. India and the United States must cooperate not only to set a unifying vision before the world, they must join in bringing it to life. 

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