Democracy at Bay?
In The Merchant of Venice, with Shylock pressing his demand for the pound of flesh to be collected from Antonio, Solanio offers Antonio the comforting assurance that “the Duke will never grant this forfeiture to hold.” 1 But Antonio answers:
The Duke cannot deny the course of law; For the commodity that strangers have With us in Venice, if it be denied, Will much impeach the justice of the state, Since that the trade and profit of the city Consisteth of all nations.
So Venice, because it owes its prosperity to trade with “all nations,” cannot sacrifice justice and respect for the sanctity of contract to the dictates of mercy. Thus, writing five centuries ago, Shakespeare recognized that integration into the world economy via trade could constrain the freedom of domestic action.
It is precisely the growing awareness that globalization creates a web of relationships that introduce such complexity, and hence prudence and pause in the policy choices of nation-states, that has led to the charges that globalization and democracy are at odds. But the question whether democracy is enhanced or diminished by globalization is not so easily answered.
The principal reason is that, for reasons that reflect Shakespeare's observation, globalization constrains the exercise of sovereignty, and hence