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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 16

16 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 74 
to direction by domestic economic policies. These last twenty years, concludes
G. Edward Schuh, 
 "have been a period in which the economic integration of the international
economy has far outdistanced its political integration. In fact, we have
witnessed a successive breakdown and growing irrelevance of international
institutions at the very time that our respective economies have become increasingly
integrated. Domestic economic policies have less and less relevance in today's
world, and do little more than create suspicion and lack of confidence in
national governments since their policies do less and less what they say
they will" (Schuh, 1985). 
"No nation," concludes Harlan Cleveland, "controls even that
central symbol
of national independence, the value of its money; inflation and recession
are both transnational." 
Perhaps the closest we have come to a really transnational institution with
power to enforce its decisions is the increasingly complex multi-national
corporation. Although they have been much criticized for some of their international
practices, often appropriately, it is almost impossible to conceive of the
world economy functioning without them. One-fifth of the world's gross product
is created by these multi-nationals— more of them based in the
US than
anywhere else. In many commodities, world trade is dominated by the multi-nationals,
and a large part of registered international trade is indeed the internal
transactions of these international companies. With cheap and rapid transportation
and instant communication, these large multi-national corporations have the
capacity quickly to shift capital, technology and management all over the
world. Is it any wonder that national policies do less and less of what they
say they will? 
 Strong economic interdependencies, however, are not the only global ties
among nations. Another major consequence of modern technologies is their
environmental impact. More and more species are threat- 
ened with extinction. The burning of greater amounts of fossil fuels and
widespread deforestation in various parts of the world raises the CO2 content
of the atmosphere. Acid rain and dying forests are not confined to the areas
where the sulfur compounds enter the atmosphere. 
Of course, the most powerful and potentially destructive technologies of
all are nuclear weapons. This has led many to reevaluate the meaning of "national
security"—concluding that such security is not likely to be
found in
more weaponry of increasingly devastating power. There is, says Thomas Wilson,
"an unavoidable nexus between the security of a nation and the state
of the
planet; there is a connecting link between the peace of nations and the integrity
of natural systems; there is a critical relationship between international
order and ecological balance. Indeed, the threat to the security of nations
today is much more easily comprehended from an ecological than from a military
perspective. This point is made with great force by the . . . ' Nuclear Winter
Study" (Wilson, 1985). 
Modern science and technology have brought new possibilities for global (and
indeed extra-global) actions and impacts. The reach and power of some of
these technologies have consequences that cannot be contained in national
decision-making systems. The human drive to "control nature for human
purposes"
must itself be controlled to avoid the potential widespread destruction of
natural systems, without which human life would be impossible. The international
institutions thus far created are not yet capable of dealing constructively
with the global problems that modern science and technology have borne. 
 My comments should not be interpreted as being in any way anti-science or
anti-technology. The earth's 4-5 billion people and the many yet to be added
before world population levels off (even with the best of efforts and the
use of new technologies) cannot be fed without continued developments in
science and technology. Nor can 


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