It is becoming more important for cities and countries to protect their connectivity and supply chains rather than focusing on single issue politics. Our global connectivity systems of transportation, energy, and communication were likened to the human skeletal, vascular, and nervous systems. These global infrastructure grids matter much more than land borders. Over the next 40 years the world will experience more infrastructure development than in the past 4000. It is time to focus on functional geography rather than political geography.
Despite Brexit, the EU is continuing to grow and remains a prominent regional entity. The smaller nations lack autarchy, and, therefore to survive, are open to working with neighbouring countries. By embracing differences and “tribalism” we may actually be on a path to a more positive approach to globalism. In Parag’s opinion, with the growing desire and possibility for mobility, globalism is just getting started.
When considering new forms of government, Parag compared the Direct Democracy of Switzerland with the Technocracy of Singapore. There are positive aspects of both, and some points which overlap. The positives from Switzerland include plebiscites, part-time parliamentarians, and a multi-party federal executive council. The positives from Singapore include a meritocratic civil service, constant public consultation, and scenario planning. Those points which overlap are what Parag refers to as “Direct Technocracy” or the “Info-State”. This includes mandatory voting, feedback loops with voters, and data driven policy. Parag suggested that although these may be viewed as “boring countries” by some, these are some of the most effective countries. He suggests we must move towards “Info-States” as the most evolved governance form for the Information Age. One counter point from the room was that some cultures and politics require a more emotional approach, so there could be conflict with the “Information Approach” in certain countries.
When asked what countries could do better, Parag suggested the single most important factor is a strong, skilled and autonomous (for budget and policies) civil service. He also noted that for a country to be strong, it must have at least one good, well-functioning city first. From the 1940s to today there are almost 100 new countries. It is the cities which will stand the test of time, not country borders.
To download the Parag Khanna’s presentation please click here.
Words by Emilie Walker, Senior Analyst, Grosvenor and ULI UK YL Committee Member
Books: Technocracy in America;
This event was kindly hosted by Chris Choa, ULI UK Chairman at AECOM on 20 February 2018.