Who Voted for the G7?

By Rick Rowden

WORLD LEADERS will gather June 15-17 for the annual G7 summit, offering yet another year's renewed pledge for greater monetary policy coordination, an expression of concern on some foreign policy issues and a few banal platitudes about spreading democracy and markets. And once again, some key questions about the very nature of these summits go unasked.

The seven largest industrialized democracies - the United States, Germany, Japan, Canada, Great Britain, France and Italy - began meeting informally in 1975 in response to the oil crisis, and formal summits began in Tokyo in 1986. In addition to being the most powerful economies, the G7 governments are also the leading sponsors of the world's dominant multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, NATO and others.

Although the G7's original purpose was largely for economic coordination, the Reagan administration's nuclear policies brought politics into its purview, and by the mid-1990's, John G. Ikenberry wrote in Foreign Affairs that "today the G7 must undertake a process of substantive policy coordination, not merely to shepherd the global economy but also to devise a stable political order for the post-Cold War world."

David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal described the G7 as "a kind of coordinating committee for the world economy," but crucially, Wessel neglected to mention that no one has actually voted for this committee.

It seems that we need to be more careful about what we're referring to when we say "democracy." It is interesting that all of the G7 members are themselves democracies, and they all regularly proclaim their support for the spreading of democracy in the post-Cold War world, but that in all of this there is a presupposition that the world is nothing more than the sum of its individual parts. Does a world with an increasing number of democracies really meant that the world is becoming more democratic? I think not.

Clearly, the economy has become global: trade, production, marketing and distribution. But what about the arena of global politics? Is there any democracy among and between nation-states in this global political arena of world politics? It is here where the disproportionate power of the G7 will increasingly become a question.

The G7 are undoubtedly the "leaders of the world" and clearly dominate the global arena politically, economically and militarily. Of course, no one has ever voted for these "leaders" of the world. Their current authority has been established over a two or three hundred year period with viable economic prowess backed up with military force, or the implicit threat of military force.

Therefore, even by the loosest of democratic standards, G7's rule in the global political arena is illegitimate. As the global community faces the next century, those who really believe in the democratic ideal will ultimately be faced with the growing question of "global democracy," and begin asking, "Who voted for the G7?"

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

Back to Top

Back to Eco-nomics Directory