Oct. 25, 2016
2 The Twin Insurgencies: Plutocrats and Criminals Challenge the Westphalian State
States within the modern global political economy face twin insurgencies, one from below, and another from above. On the one hand, there is a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies, in which the global disenfranchised resist, co-opt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the failures of governance systems to build global commercial empires that, in turn, provide them the resources to corrupt, co-opt, or challenge incumbent political actors. On the other hand, there exists a plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities. From libertarian activists, to tax haven lawyers, to currency speculators, to mineral extraction magnates, the new global superrich and their hired help are waging a broad-based campaign that aims either to limit the reach and capacity of government tax collectors and regulators, or to manipulate these functions as a tool in their own cutthroat business competition. Unlike classic 20th-century insurgents, who sought control over the state apparatus in order to implement social reforms, criminal and plutocratic insurgents do not seek to take over the state. These modern insurgencies do not wish to destroy the state, since they rely, like parasites, on the state to provide the legacy goods of social welfare: health, education, infrastructure, and so on. Rather, their aim is simpler: to carve out de facto zones of autonomy for themselves by crippling the state’s ability to constrain their freedom of (primarily economic) action. The net result: these transnational insurgencies from above and below are challenging the state’s control over the domestic economy, and destabilizing many of the conventions and assumptions rooted in the Westphalian model of governance.