Sort out global poverty and hire Pope Francisby Jonathan Evans / November 13, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
As supreme leader, I have a to-do list:
1. Plan my retirement. Most political leaders run out of road in less than 10 years, because they go mad or the contradictions of their earlier decisions catch up with them. Better to go after seven years. Diocletian was the only Roman emperor to retire and he moved to the Croatian coast to cultivate vegetables.
2. Make sure the government doesn’t think it can do everything. Keep in mind all those meetings I attended in Whitehall where ministers struggled unsuccessfully with screwdrivers that were 200 miles long. Global governance could make that many times worse. We must do a few things well and then get out of the way. In particular we must stop the bureaucrats pursuing tidiness and consistency. This causes endless hassle, delay, cost and complication for no real benefit. Better to accept an untidy solution that more or less works than to struggle for months or years to tie up every loose end. Look at the British constitution—no one would design one like that but it works and, when it doesn’t, you adapt it.
3. Sort out global poverty. The best way to help people out of poverty is by encouraging enterprise, while providing access to capital and markets. Look at southeast Asia and China where more people have been pulled out of poverty in the last 30 years than by all the development aid spent in the last 50. So we will roll out micro-financing initiatives to help individuals and families escape from debt; look at mechanisms to encourage access to capital in countries that are lagging behind (maybe banks are not all bad); and establish a global free-trade system with minimal distortions that will remove barriers to trade and allow enterprises in different parts of the world to access markets that are currently closed to them.
4. The second part of this plan to sort out poverty is to implement an effective and independent legal system globally—the bedrock of freedom, justice, prosperity and economic development. To get this started, we will examine the possibility of establishing “mandate cities” in the developing world where a sponsoring state with a developed legal and regulatory system adopts a city or region. The “mandate city” will use the systems of the sponsor state rather than develop their own piecemeal, and the sponsor state will have a responsibility to provide help, support and personnel. We might start, for example, by appointing Singapore as a sponsor state for a region in Burma. This will create an outcry from those who see it as neo-colonialism but, as I rule the world, I will ignore them.
5. The next part of the plan is to provide minimum global standards of social security and protection for citizens. This is a necessary concomitant to the economic liberalisation outlined above. It will provide a safety net and avoid a “race for the bottom” in terms of social conditions.
6. Free speech. Abolish all laws against causing offence to other people. Giving offence is discourteous and usually counter-productive, but it is no business of government to get involved. Was it helpful that Clacton officials recently removed an anti-racist work by Banksy because they thought it “could be seen as offensive”? With free speech some of what people say will be raucous, ill-informed and offensive. But with free speech you can give as good as you get or you can rise above it and allow others to judge.
7. Ban all telecommunications and news reporting for two weeks a year. This will ensure that everyone will be able to get a break without worrying that they are missing out on something.
8. Appoint a spiritual advisor. Power can be corrosive so, as a Christian, I will need someone to keep me on the straight and narrow. The obvious choice is Justin Welby, who has been seriously impressive as Archbishop of Canterbury and has revived the morale of the Church of England through clear and humble leadership. But Pope Francis has also been an inspiration, both in his personal demeanour and in some of his statements, particularly on ecumenical matters. He has established his moral authority by challenging all sorts of vested interests in the Church. On second thoughts I had better leave them both where they are: getting it right in their jobs is more important than merely ruling the world.