12 November 2008

World Government and World Spending

Recently, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for the US and the UK to lead a “global effort to build a stronger and more just international order” which he sees as a real possibility under an Obama administration. Much of what I’ve read – despite the five or six “points” on which Mr. Brown’s plan is set – revolves around financials. The International Monetary Fund appears to be a centerpiece in the plan. Through global buy-in and coordination, the hope is to “build a truly global society,” in Mr. Brown’s words, according to the Telegraph.

But I have to question how transparently and equitably large, international establishments can function. It appears that transparency is not an advocated position when large amounts of money are involved. A few days ago, Fox News covered a report from the United Nations itself on the amount of money the UN has coming in and going out. As Fox News puts it, “Rich countries, led by the United States” pony up “about $17.2 billion in 2006 [which was] spent on various programs.” And the cost of operations is rising at a pretty rapid pace, “at an average annual increase of 13 percent since 2002.” That can be expected to continue, as the UN lifted a self-imposed (or US imposed) spending cap this past June.

If the United Nations is the model for large-scope, international institutions, one may wonder what Mr. Brown’s global monetary cooperation to create “a truly global society” would cost, and how transparent it would be, if at all. As the UN continues to refuse to reform itself, continues to spend more and more (like so many governmental institutions in the US), it is a continual reminder of what self-interested, bureaucratic organizations can become.

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