Guest comment: G-7 countries could improve the world with 1% of GDP | Guest columns
The Group of Seven reconvened on June 11 for the first time since 2018. Its members represent the most powerful bloc of liberal democracies in the world. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States hold half of the world’s wealth but one-tenth of the world’s population. Statements issued by the G-7 underscored the importance of democracies as a best mode of governance.
Members of the G-7, with the exception of the United States, are distinguished by their commitment to social systems that rely on strong government support. This includes a comprehensive welfare state and multi-level collective bargaining based on the economic foundations of free market capitalism.
Each of these countries has a unionized workforce, many of which are employed in the public sector. This includes healthcare and higher education, as well as some utility, rail and airline companies.
This support for general welfare is complemented by a rational approach to defense spending. None other than the United States has a defense budget exceeding 2% of gross domestic product. United States defense spending fuels continued engagement in military interventions around the world. But this does not reflect a systematic assessment of likely threats.
The G-7’s commitment to liberal democracy represents an interesting alternative to China, Russia, Iran and North Korea (CRINK). The CRINK countries have long traditions of nationalism which allow the reign of autocracies masquerading as republics. They have less than half the wealth of the G-7, but have a disproportionate influence on world affairs.
China, through its Belt and Road Initiative, has established infrastructure bases around the world. Russia and Iran continue to support terrorist programs that systematically undermine other countries, including the United States and the Middle East.
CRINK remains committed to disrupting the G-7 and all other democracies, both through political interference and the continuation of large-scale cyberwarfare. The use of social media by Russia, China and Iran to undermine elections is well documented.
More recently, the cyber war waged by Russian criminals resulted in an interruption in the supply of food and fuel to the United States. Parallel attacks have disrupted health care systems across the G-7. Even private companies are regularly subjected to ransomware attacks.
The return of the United States to lead the G-7 and NATO means that a united front against CRINK attacks will be restored. This represents an important step in supporting liberal democracies against the dangerous nationalist isolationism that threatens world peace and prosperity. These measures are defensive measures against terrorism and cyber attacks.
A more positive approach would be for the G-7 countries to devote the equivalent of half of their defense budgets to international development. If each gave 1% of GDP, the resulting fund would receive $ 400 billion a year for development. This international engagement would help fight global malnutrition, collapsing infrastructure and skyrocketing unemployment. The result would be a new era of peace and prosperity as happened in Europe and Japan after World War II.
Dan Freeman lives in Galveston.