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Whitford, Philip; Whitford, Kathryn (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume 74 (1986)

Dorner, Peter
Technology, institutions, global economy and world peace,   pp. 14-18 PDF (2.6 MB)


Page 15

1986] Dorner—Global Economy and World Peace 15 
 The role of the federal government and our interpretation of appropriate
action under the constitution also gets re-defined, especially in times of
crisis. Our view of the appropriate role of the federal government in economic
planning and intervention in the economy of the 1930s, or its role in defining
and protecting the civil rights of all citizens in the 1950s and 1960s, are
good examples of such re-definition. 
 I wish to emphasize that it is the level at which policy is formulated that
has shifted to the more comprehensive political unit. Managing the consequences
of powerful technology and avoiding chaos through relative uniformity of
rules must be addressed by policy at this higher level. Implementation, of
course, may remain at the local level. And I certainly do not minimize the
very important, creative and experimental nature of state and local governments
in tackling problems and setting patterns for action later taken and made
applicable at the federal level. This has been a common pattern throughout
our history. One of the areas in which we see this local experimentation
operating today is in the variety of community land trusts, public development
corporations and collective property rights institutions. I also admit to
the likelihood of decentralization in the private economy and even new prospects
of cottage industry based on the computer as suggested by Alan Toeffler in
The Third Wave. Yet while this may be one impact of computers, their increasing
power and complexity and potential for misuse is also bringing more federal
concern and control. 
 This interacting process outlined earlier— new wants, new knowledge,
new techniques, new resources, new conflicts, new policies, new institutions,
and yet additional new wants, etc.—is not new. What has changed
and
what is relatively new is the power and scope of our modern technologies.
The consequences of many modern technologies cannot be confined to local
communities, 
and in many cases cannot even be confined to the political units called nations.
Ours is a world, says Harlan Cleveland, 
"where science, which has always been transitional, keeps inventing
inherently
global technologies—for weather observations, military reconnaissance,
telecommunications, data processing, resource sensing, and orbital industry.
As a result. . . we find ourselves moving beyond concepts of national ownership,
sovereignty and citizenship to ideas such as the global commons, the international
monitoring of global risks, and ' the common heritage of mankind" (Cleveland,
1985). 
 We live now in a world of increasing economic interdependence among nations
whose institutions remain geared to addressing problems within their own
national boundaries. But the scope and reach of global technology has consequences
beyond the control of these national institutions. Despite the size of its
economy and its sophisticated science, the United States is tied into this
web of interdependence just as other nations are. We can no longer withdraw
from the world and return to the isolationist ideology of a century ago,
nor can we dominate the world, a role more or less dictated to us by circumstances
for 20 years after World War II. 
 The US now depends on foreign sources for more than half of its supply of
15 minerals crucial for our industrial and postindustrial technologies. For
8 of these minerals, import dependence runs between 80 and 100 percent. Oil
production within the US is not likely to see a major spurt and we will probably
become increasingly dependent on oil imports. Our agriculture and parts of
our manufacturing industry depend heavily on foreign markets. 
 One important change in the world economy has been the dramatic increase
in world wide trade. The dependence of the US economy on international trade
tripled in the period 1965-1979. A corollary of this increased trade is an
economy less amenable 


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