|NONZERO THE LOGIC OF HUMAN DESTINY By ROBERT WRIGHT|
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PART I: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND
PART II: A BRIEF HISTORY OF ORGANIC LIFE
PART III: FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
NEW WORLD ORDER
Supranational "tribes" are now agitating in such once-national policy realms as factory working conditions. In the process, they illustrate that governance needn't always involve governments. Consider the success of the International Labor Rights Fund, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and other nongovernmental organizations in negotiating a code governing wages, workweeks, and child labor in clothing factories. Nike, Liz Claiborne, L. L. Bean, and other clothiers agreed to the code so their products could sport labels attesting to humane working conditions. Nike, meanwhile, as part of the Federation of Sporting Goods Industries, was also negotiating with such NGOs as Unicef and Oxfam Christian Aid over conditions in sporting goods factories. And the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, working with religious, labor, and consumer groups, got some rug makers in India to allow surprise factory inspections so that their rugs could carry the "Rugmark" label, signifying that adults making the local minimum wage had woven them.
This is not government as we've come to know it; no elected officials, no tax dollars involved. But, to the extent that it works, it is governance, in somewhat the sense that the merging of merchants into the Hanseatic League was. And it is governance aimed at some of the problems in the chaos-theory laundry list, such as the cultural dislocation that comes from the rapid industrialization of traditional societies.
Lest we get misty-eyed over the beneficence of the International Labor Rights Fund and like-minded souls, let's pause for a dose of cynicism. American labor unions didn't spend so much time lamenting working conditions abroad before workers abroad started taking jobs from American workers. Now union leaders worry deeply about those conditions--whenever they keep wages so low that American union members can't compete.
Then again, lobbying has always been self-interested. That's governance as usual. More interesting is what's new about the lobbying: it's transnational. Karl Marx isn't these days considered a great prophet, and his suggestion that "workers of the world unite" doesn't seem to have been widely heeded. But economic logic is moving that prophecy toward a modest kind of fulfillment.
After all, even as American workers try to make some Asians jobless--such as children with very low wages--these Americans see eye to eye with other Asian workers, such as the ones who, after transnational regulation, will get the (now higher-paying) jobs instead of the children. And when American unions press for labor accords in trade agreements--when they want NAFTA to ensure Mexican workers the right to organize--they are singing in tune with most Mexican workers. In general, workers in high-wage and low-wage countries have a common interest in elevating pay in low-wage countries (so long as large numbers of workers in low-wage countries aren't priced out of the market altogether, a threat that doesn't loom large).
An excerpt from Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, By Robert Wright, published by Pantheon Books. Copyright 2000 by Robert Wright. Other excerpts available at www.nonzero.org