Initiatives

Governance

At first glance, it might seem as if we have made even less progress in improving the way we govern ourselves than we have with climate change. After all, people around the world worry about the degree to which their governments suffer from gridlock, because we seem unable to make progress on dozens of pressing issues, ranging from the threat of violent extremism to the provision of the right kind of mental health care that could conceivably reduce the number of mass shootings in the United States and elsewhere.

There are many reasons why we find it hard to find cooperative solutions whenever politics is involved. Near the top of any such list has to be the set of values and institutions we inherited from the likes of Thomas Hobbes that assume that political life has to revolve around competition for scarce resources, the use of power over one another, and the making of win-lose decisions as discussed in the earlier page on the current paradigm. That is especially true when it comes to international relations in which the absence of a world state unquestionably makes cooperative problem solving particularlhy difficult.

A growing number of people around the world are experimenting with new practices and institutions that make it easier for us to cooperate when making decisions involving human security and other “tough questions.” Three stand out because they could serve as jumping off points for more effective practices conducted by larger institutions over time.

First and most surprising is the growing use of what political scientists call international regimes, the most powerful of which is the European Union. These are all bodies through which countries and other actors have decided to accept certain norms, rules, and regulations that all but rule out the need for physical force, let alone war.

Second, despite the prevalence of gridlock, many countries have developed institutions and practices that foster cooperation between erstwhile rivals, most notably labor and management in many of the same countries that have gone the farthest in responding to climate change. Other countries—mostly in East Asia—have established cooperative governmental practices with roots in their cultures which the journalist TR Reid has chronicled brilliantly (and humorously) in his book, Confucius Lives Next Door.

Finally, we have made remarkable strieds in creating cooperative governance in regulating the Internet. Ironically, in this case the institutions that make Internet policy are most successful when national government are the least active.

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