As Americans rush towards a closely contested election, its worth asking why a voluntary consensus process with no enforcement power is so successful at reconciling opposing interests, and gaining global support for its output.
The United Nations has a multi-billion dollar budget and too often fails to create consensus around the most vital issues of the day, while the global standard setting infrastructure operates on a shoe string, and maintains hundreds of thousands of widely adopted standards. Perhaps there’s something that the diplomats can learn from the engineers.
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Not long ago, Japan launched an effort to create an international food standard based on traditionally brewed soy sauce. Great was the hue and cry in Japan when American industry tried to qualify a cheap substitute under the same standard. Almost as great as it was in Korea, when Japan tried to hijack the standard for traditional Korean kimchi.