by Chris Buskirk
Small-ball, targeted policies, and subtle tweaks will not suffice.
Nationalist or globalist? Somewhere or anywhere? American citizen or citizen of the world? These are the questions driving much of our current politics. But what is globalism? Rather than give a definition, I think it’s more instructive to give some examples.
Emmanuel Todd, a French sociologist and a man of the Left, made one of the most incisive—and most French—observations about our current political moment, which is sometimes called populist, sometimes nationalist, and sometimes both. He said:
The opposition between what are called populist movements and movements of so-called elites has long been complicated by a major paradox: the elites express, in elegant and apparently moderate terms, absurd ideas that are characterized in reality, by extreme violence. The discourse of globalization is nothing but shit in a silk stocking. Among its propagandists, we find well-bred persons who boast of every imaginable credential, but who say awful things and condemn a significant part of the population to social exclusion. In the opposing camp, we find improbable personalities, such as Trump, who certainly utter obscenities that are in fact much more reasonable and moderate in their economic, social, and demographic implications.
Why did he use the term “shit in a silk stocking”? You may recognize it. It is how Napoleon referred to his foreign minister, Talleyrand, and it is a remarkably useful and accurate allusion as we try to understand globalism and globalists—or those who believe in and profit from globalism.
Talleyrand was the richest man in France and her chief diplomat, which makes him sound suspiciously like the modern globalist oligarch, that we sometimes call “Davos man.” Talleyrand is notorious because he took bribes from France’s enemies while negotiating treaties on behalf of Bonaparte. Such treachery still happens.
Take, for example, Samir Jain. He was the head of cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council during the Obama Administration. This means he worked in the West Wing of the White House for the president. He was one of the top—perhaps the top—American official in charge of cybersecurity. Jain now works for the Chinese, having taken a position advising Huawei on how to “deal with”—or more likely, evade—the very security standards he helped to create.
This is wrong. But it is typical of the global elite who see themselves not as Americans but as free agents—global citizens—seeking their own narrow, parochial interests. They are happy to line their pockets regardless of what it does to their country. The spirit of Talleyrand is alive and well.
I’ll give you another example: Google. Peter Thiel noted in a recent speech, that Google refuses to work with the American military, but engages in a “seemingly treasonous” collaboration with the Chinese military.
So, with that as an introduction of what globalism is and what it does let me put forth a few propositions:
First, globalism is an advanced form of secular liberalism.
Second, globalism is a political movement with a comprehensive ideology.
Third, the globalist ideology is utopian and dehumanizing.
Fourth, the city-state and the nation-state are better suited to nurturing and sustaining ordered liberty and the good life. I include city-states here because there are a few, like Singapore, that serve their citizens very well.
Fifth, globalism is an impatient, messianic ideology that engages in moral imperialism and is dependent on violence. Witness this country’s optional wars but witness also the way social and economic punishments are imposed upon those who question the ideology behind globalism. They are shamed, deplatformed, ostracized, and often made unemployable. Those who question the secular religion are shown no mercy. James Damore of Google is one well-known example.
Sixth, globalism is a materialist, man-centered ideology that is overtly hostile to Biblical religion and the family, both of which represent competing power centers and must therefore be degraded or destroyed.
Recall what President Trump said in Warsaw in 2017:
The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?
And he was right. Those are the questions before us and answering them means we must be ready for action. If we answer in the affirmative then it’s time to stand and deliver—and to build anew.
Globalism vs. Civilization
Western civilization, itself, is at a crossroads across the globe—whether that civilization be manifested in the Western Hemisphere or the East, in the North or in the South. All of us share a rich heritage that is under attack. This time it is under attack by a pernicious idea as old as human history. It is the idea with which the serpent tempted Eve, it is the idea that man can be his own god.
The manifestation of this idea in a political ideology and movement have brought us to this unique moment in history. We now have a president who is an American nationalist and who unapologetically believes in our people. We must now reject the idea that nations and peoples should surrender their sovereignty to supranational and transnational organizations, to powerful, but unaccountable bureaucrats like those governing the EU from Brussels, to corporations loyal to themselves but not to their countries or their fellow citizens, and certainly not to the so-called NGOs like the misleadingly named Open Society Foundation, and other foundations associated with eBay founder Pierre Omidiyar and Tom Steyer who have other goals than the well being of America or Americans.
These are powers unto themselves that seek political control—albeit indirectly, often behind the scenes—and their object is to exert an unjust and unfair influence by strategic targeting of social and political pressure points. They seek to shut down conservatives and traditionalists and they are very well financed, as Left Wing causes always seem to be.
This should be no surprise. Globalism is the ideology of the powerful—or at least of those who hold power and want to retain it. It is the ideology of transnational bureaucrats, elite media, respected academics, and global capital. By contrast, identity politics is for the peasants. It’s the distraction created to keep labor—and here I am talking about the wage-earning classes, meaning, almost everyone—from focusing on the fact that real wages have stagnated for nearly 50 years while the price of the three largest expenditures in life (housing, education, and healthcare) have soared.
It’s a distraction, too, from the fact that Big Tech failed to deliver on its promise of better lives. Instead the tech monopolies have choked the promise of the distributed internet, built businesses on tracking and listening to their customers (“surveillance capitalism”), and perhaps worst of all: they aren’t even producing much meaningful new technology. Where is the self-driving car and the cure for cancer?
One of the reasons for the innovation slowdown is that the monopolists aren’t interested in innovating. They never are. They’re interested in rent-seeking and regulatory capture. So they spend their billions on politics. And that means building a world order that supersedes the nation-state and protects their power.
But let me digress momentarily with some examples of what’s possible even against these formidable foes. Here, in the United States, Trump was outspent 2-to-1. But he still won. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro spent very little on his successful campaign—less than a mayor would spend in the United States—and he won the presidency, too. And Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and his Lega Party, I am told (though I cannot confirm), spent less than $1 million in last year’s election. His party is now the largest in Italy. Those examples speak volumes about the strength of powerful ideas and energetic, charismatic candidates.
Let me reiterate the last part: powerful ideas require energetic, charismatic candidates to carry them forward.
The result of the intersection of the globalist ideology and the institutions that support and spread it is that the western world is currently undergoing a rolling political earthquake as free nations reassert their role against the encroachments and usurpations of a powerful front of unaccountable supranational organizations that gained significant power over the past few generations. It’s unclear at this point who or what wins. The organizations arrayed against the nation-state include multistate, multilateral organizations like the European Union, the United Nation, and the World Trade Organization. But they also include massively powerful NGOs and global capital exemplified by stateless multinational corporations loyal only to the dollar. To this we must say, “No more.”
Perhaps the supreme irony, is that these organizations are premised upon their unique ability to provide peace and prosperity, yet we don’t have less armed conflict (we don’t technically have “wars,” only because we don’t bother to declare them anymore) and the material prosperity of large numbers of people in the United States and Western Europe has stagnated or declined. While global capital has enjoyed a period of unprecedented wealth accumulation, the middle and working class have been under extreme duress. We see this across the United States but also in Europe where Jillet Jeunes—the Yellow Vests—represent a class similar to many of the people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and who face similar economic and cultural pressures.
Globalism vs. Globalization: Key Distinctions
Here, a word about the difference between globalism and globalization. They are not the same thing and they can exist independently. In fact, we’d be better off if they did exist independently and if one of them—globalism—just went away.
The globalist looks at society and says that there is no “we.” There is only a collection of cohabiting “mes,” each “living their own truth” but ultimately alone. This is the end state of liberalism: ripped free from religion, it offers a gospel of radical individual autonomy which predictably degenerates from “good news” into a war of all against all. We need look no further than America’s West Coast for a foretaste of the neoliberal state of the multiculturalist, globalist future. California, our largest, richest state, the home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, is home to our largest Pacific ports and is thoroughly globalist in its political outlook. Tom Steyer lives there. So does Pierre Omidiyar. Hillary won the state by 35 points. So how is California doing? It boasts the fourth-highest Gini coefficient in the nation, signifying a gaping—and widening—abyss between its richest and poorest residents.
Globalization, on the other hand, can be—and often has been—a force for increasing prosperity. It’s why we can have Italian mozzarella, French wine, and Brazilian beef in the United States. Free people trading with one another without coercion can be a mutually beneficial arrangement. I say that it “can be” mutually beneficial because it is not always the case, especially when it comes to international trade which is never strictly “free” in the theoretical sense.
As the process advances, globalization and the free trade it depends upon become more complicated. Supply chains become global. An American-made car assembled in South Carolina or an airplane built in Washington state contains components from all over the world. That might be good or bad for the nation’s prosperity, but it is also largely nonideological.
There are always externalities, especially politics, when considering what is good for any particular nation in these arrangements. Still, globalization is not the same thing as globalism. Globalism is a militant political ideology guided by a man-centered, relativistic moral philosophy that is degrading and destructive.
In a speech at the United Nations last year, President Trump announced, “We reject the ideology of globalism and embrace the doctrine of patriotism.” And he’s right, of course. Whereas globalization is a roughly organic process where the interests of the participating countries are weighed and worked out between the partners, globalism is an abstract and absolutist political ideology that is materialist, consumerist, and that creates the incentives for a kleptocracy.
We Are Not Machines
As a materialist ideology, globalism denies the imago dei—the image of God—present in all mankind. Like Marxism, it views all of human life, indeed, humanity itself in economic terms. Economics matter, of course. But this reductionist view does profound violence to the essence of our humanity. To use their own terms—the terminology of economics—when globalism looks at society it sees an equation. On the supply side, people are reduced to nothing more than economic inputs—like machines—that can be moved around, “managed” for maximum efficiency. That is to say, for maximum economic output. While on the consumption side, people are viewed and cultivated as pleasure-seeking libertines.
The globalist view says that if GDP is increasing, life is getting better. But we’re measuring the wrong things.
We’re too focused on consumption. The more consumption, the more GDP, the better off we are, right? Not so fast. What if cheap Chinese plastic isn’t the key to the good life? What if there are higher goods? In fact, we all know that there are, but we’ve been taught to measure the success of the country in almost purely financial terms and even then we’re measuring consumption, not production. It’s no wonder the system is starting to fray and the people who have to live with the decisions made here in Washington are unhappy.
Man is not a machine and happiness is the result of virtue, of a life well-lived, of a family, of engagement with other people in a community. In fact, the moral philosophy underlying the globalist ideology does not permit contemplation of that sort of happiness so they replace it with—I would say they settle for—mere pleasure. In practice that means they just give people some product, anything really, to stimulate their pleasure centers and flood their brains with dopamine and serotonin—just like opioid drugs.
This is not hyperbole. The Big Tech oligarchs of Silicon Valley—companies like Google and Facebook—have done extensive research on how best to design their interfaces—the way things are liked, favorited, and shared—so as to increase the dopamine response in the brain and thus make them addictive. Have you ever had that urge—maybe even bordering on a compulsion—to check your phone? To check in on Twitter and see if your last Tweet was liked? How many times it was shared? Or how many people commented on your Facebook post?
That’s built into the design. It’s intentional. And it’s just one example.
Globalism in practice insists on centralizing power in the hands of a supranational economic, cultural, and political vanguard. It makes universal claims of justice and of its right to rule. Globalism promises the “perpetual peace” prophesied by Immanuel Kant, a heaven on earth manifest in what he described as “an international state, which would necessarily continue to grow until it embraced all the people of the world.” And it believes that it should—literally that is must—supplant the nation-state, representative government, national sovereignty, and all of the institutions upon which our societies rely.
What’s more, it is a fervently atheistic faith that is openly hostile to Biblical religion and to the family. In its pursuit of its utopia, it seeks to replace both Athens and Jerusalem and the institutions born out of those traditions. This should be no surprise. Those institutions—those permanent, pre-political, human institutions that existed before, and should transcend any state—are a threat to the claims to rule made by the elites who espouse the globalist ideology. They claim the mandate neither of God nor of man because they believe that the new technocratic elite has replaced both—and their desire for the power they see as their inalienable right is voracious.
Globalism’s Demands Exact High Costs
Does it sound at all familiar? An expansionist, international ideology that wants to dominate national governments and make them vassal states? An ideology that is directly opposed to the family and the church? That is at heart materialist—that sees economics as the determining factor in all of human life? It should. Because globalism is just Marxism in a silk suit.
What are the results?
In the United States over the past 50 years household incomes have been basically stagnant. Moreover, they have remained that stable mostly because more households have two wage-earners now. In other words, it takes two incomes to maintain a middle-class home today where it once took only one.
Yet even this president, who got so much right in the Warsaw speech and clarified the big issues so well, is missing this crucial piece in the puzzle of American unrest. In his State of the Union this year, Trump said, “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.” That was one of the few lines that drew bipartisan applause in the chamber. But why? Are we so sure that’s an unqualified good thing? The clear premise is that work outside the home is more valuable, more honorable, and more fulfilling than work inside the home. That is simply not so, but it is a destructive delusion under which we have labored for a very long time and one for which we are now paying the price.
Is any of this to say that women cannot or should not work outside the home? Of course not. The Book of Proverbs says that an “excellent wife” will find a field and buy it and “with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard” and later that she “perceives that her merchandise is profitable.” She’s wise in commerce. But it also makes clear that, like her husband, her focus is on her family and her unique contribution to making it thrive. And that’s what’s missing.
We’ve been sold a myth that getting into the commercial workforce will make every woman Sheryl Sandberg if they would just “lean in.” But it’s been a cruel joke on the middle class for whom it now takes two incomes to pay for what one income used to suffice. The reality is just more women working in retail or in office cubicles whose reward is less time with children and now having to pay for gas, and work clothes, and daycare. And there is a large body of research that shows that what a majority of women really want is to raise their own children and then later some will return to work outside the home. But that’s very difficult for many families to do now. That’s what Elizabeth Warren rightly called “the two-income trap” 15 years ago. But this is the globalist program. Why? Because globalism wants two things above all others: consumers and cheap labor.
The social costs of globalism’s ceaseless demands are readily apparent and they are painful: more divorces, more consumer debt, more children raising themselves because their mother is forced to work outside the home to make ends meet, and a declining fertility rate. Across Europe and the United States, citizens are not having enough children to replace themselves. Portugal: 1.24 Spain: 1.39 Italy: 1.49 US: 1.72 Brazil: 1.705
Obviously, this is unsustainable.
Fortune Favors the Bold
So what do we do?
The first step is to think big—far bigger than anyone has dared think in many years. The problems are big and have taken many years of destructive ideology and bad policy to develop to this point. People across America and across the West sense it, which is why they have been electing previously improbable candidates to high office. But that’s not enough. We need big proposals and bold leadership to rebuild the country on a more stable foundation that is better able to provide long-term peace and prosperity. Let me begin by proposing some big, cultural ideas and a few policy goals. This is just a starting point.
First, we must elevate and strengthen the basic institutions of human life. These give meaning and promote life in its ascendancy. They are:
The family. Sustainable, happy societies rely not on the individual homo economicus but on the family.
Religion. The church and the synagogue along with the family are the foundation of society. They should be returned to a place of honor and respect in society and by this I mean within official, elite society, not just among the deplorables who bitterly cling to their guns and religion. There is no irreligious society in human history that has lasted very long.
Friendship. This means fewer intermediated interactions and more IRL relationships. Spend time with people, get to know them. Re-learn what real friendship feels like. Achilles and Patroclus, Jesus and his disciples, these are great examples of what friendship makes possible.
All great undertakings depend on these three things. Politics can support them and in some situations protect them, but if we want them, we’re going to have to rebuild them from the ground up.
Second, many of the post-war globalist institutions that were founded by the United States have become destructive and actually undermine the peace and prosperity of the American nation and degrade human life here and abroad. They should be shuttered. I’ll start with two: the U.N. and the EU. If we want to get hold of the prime minister of Slovenia, America shouldn’t have to go through the U.N. We could just email or call ourselves.
Third, a policy goal for conservatives that would win nontraditional GOP voters: Break the two-income trap. Propose a bold agenda: The “Family Deal” that will reorder the American economy in a way that allows a family of five or six to be solidly middle class on a single income and that emphasizes growth through innovation rather than financialization.
Small-ball, targeted policies and subtle tweaks will not suffice. The current complex of elite institutions that run the modern order and seem so powerful are, in fact, quite brittle. What looks like hegemonic political, economic, and cultural authority is, in reality, built on sand. And the people who run those institutions know it. Like all tyrannies, they base their power on terror and intimidation because they lack both the legitimacy and the charisma to rule by acclamation. They’re terrified someone will find out and replace them. So the project now is to build institutions and develop leaders to do just that. And that means thinking big.
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Chris Buskirk is the Publisher and Editor of American Greatness and the host of The Seth & Chris Show. He was a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute. and received a Fellowship from the Earhart Foundation. Chris is a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold businesses in financial services and digital marketing. He is a frequent guest on NPR’s Morning Edition. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Hill, and elsewhere. Connect with Chris on Twitter at @TheChrisBuskirk