Global Commerce, Local Culture

In modern America, where hyper-sensitivity to respecting other cultures sometimes seems to be a reigning national value, a simple fact is often overlooked: the British have already won. English is the lingua franca of the world, golf is the sport played round the world, and Western suits are the world standard for formal business. So, dear liberal reader: attend all of the foreign street festivals you want, eat all of the foreign food, do all of the charity work — it won’t change that the British empire remains culturally dominant.

And I actually think that there’s a simple logic to having a single set of dominant standards. In an increasingly interdependent global economy, commercial encounters between people from widely disparate cultures of origin is inevitable. There must be a common set of standards to mediate these encounters and ensure successful trade.

However, this common set of standards does not have to coincide with the standards of any one culture. It could, quite easily, be a standalone rulebook grounded in regulating commercial transactions. This rulebook would discard the norms involved in establishing cultural similarity, such as polite hospitality or conversations about things like sports, news, or television series.

What I’m suggesting is a movement from a globally dominant business culture to a universal business law. The primary effect would be to minimize the educational barrier required for remote cultures to engage in global commerce.

Another advantage of a universal business law is that it would free up local economies — even uneducated economies — to freely go about their own idiosyncratic ways. For businesses that trade exclusively locally, there should be no need to become familiar with British culture, or even with the “universal business law.”

Only inter-state or inter-culture trade should require hard discipline.