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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 17

1986] Dorner—Global Economy and World Peace 17 
critical soils and fragile environments be protected and preserved without
new scientific knowledge and its well-designed technological application.
These must be selective developments, to be sure. All that is new and all
that is possible is not necessarily desirable. We must by all means give
as much public policy and institutional attention to alleviating the negative
socio-economic and environmental consequences of technological developments
as we do to the fostering and the diffusion of new technologies. Science
and technology have negative consequences as well as positive ones. But those
negative consequences are likely to call for more research, new knowledge
and additional developments in technology. 
 In view of these urgent global problems, national policies often seem petty
and contradictory. Said Saudi Prince Sultan Saud as he looked out the window
of the space shuttle Discovery, "Looking at it from here, the troubles
over the world and not just the Middle East look very strange as you see
the boundaries and borderlines disappearing. I think lots of people who are
involved in causing most of these problems ought to come up here and take
a look." 
 Must we wait for world government before any progress can be made in controlling
these potentially destructive trends? We should recognize that some progress
has been made on a variety of issues. International need not always be global
and involve all nation states. In several areas nations in a particular region
are working together on common problems. In other regions, of course, adjoining
nations are at war. We are not very far along the path of creating appropriate
institutions and enforcement powers to control some of the threatening consequences
of the new technologies. In a view that's probably over optimistic, Thomas
Wilson (1985) concludes: 
"If national security is dependent upon world security. . . if there
is no
other way to save our own outstretched necks—then the imperative
of national interest in national security 
impels governments not toward divisive and hostile behavior but toward cooperative
and collaborative behavior in world affairs, whether they like each other
or not." 
 There is an urgent need for new institutional forms to deal with the complex
issues threatening the global economy and environment. Fashioning such transnational
institutions would be more easily accomplished in a world at peace rather
than a world of suspicious and warring nations. Individual nations, especially
the biggest and the most powerful, must seek cooperation and accommodation
rather than threats and confrontation, dialogue and debate rather than accusations
and denunciations. 
 As educators, we must recognize that many issues can no longer be kept in
separate compartments for domestic and international solution. Most major
domestic policies of the United States have significant effects on almost
every ~ther nation. What the United States is able to do, or wants to do,
also depends increasingly on the acts and policies of other countries. That
is what interdependence means. Educators at all levels must be aware of the
fact that in a democratic system where people are the ultimate policy makers,
individual citizens must be taught to understand these complexities. And
elected officials must be able to comprehend these issues so they can help
educate the public and provide the informed judgments required for sound
 In analyzing the need for institutional change to resolve domestic conflicts
and attempt to make private, individual action consistent with the larger
public purpose, the late John R. Commons, Wisconsin's great institutional
economist, suggested that it is quite reasonable to expect that individual
action is intended to serve individual goals and purposes. The real question,
however, is whether individual action also furthers, or at least does not
conflict with, the larger public purposes, or whether it serves only private
purposes (Commons, 1924). We might paraphrase Commons and suggest that individual

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