Today it is argued that there are global problems such as war, terrorism, climate change, world hunger, inequalities of condition, diseases such as HIV/AIDS and human rights violations that are beyond the capacity of nation-states to ‘solve’. Therefore, some form of transnational political authority above and beyond nation-states (including democratic ones) is required to address these problems. This is proposed as a desirable alternative to American global leadership.
The philosophical basis for
From the premise that all individuals on the planet possess human rights it is taken to follow that international law is the paramount authority that determines those rights, while international agreements establish and expand new rights and norms. In this view, new transnational political institutions (e.g., the International Criminal Court or a strengthened UN) are required to monitor, adjudicate, cajole and administer the international agreements and laws in varying degrees. International non-governmental organizations (INGOs or NGOs) are said to represent “global civil society”, or the “peoples” of the planet. These NGOs would work with transnational institutions and participate in international conferences helping develop the new norms for global governance.
To whom is political authority responsible? How are rulers chosen? How are rulers replaced? How is the power of rulers limited? How are laws made? How can bad laws be changed? These are the oldest questions of politics going back to Plato and Aristotle. These great questions of politics are answered in liberal democracy. Political authority resides in a self-constituted people. This self-governing people choose their own rulers through elections and can replace them if they are unresponsive. The people limit the power of rulers through a constitution that functions as a basic law. Bad laws can be changed by elected national legislatures. In practice, democracy occurs only within the borders of individual liberal democratic nation-states. As Marc Plattner, co-editor of the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy writes, “…we cannot enjoy liberal democracy outside the framework of the nation-state.”
Global governance and
transnational authority are undemocratic
Although there is much talk of “democratic values”, global governance and transnationalism can provide no straightforward answers to the most important questions of democracy. The elites (the international lawyers, judges, activists, NGOs, and UN officials) who participate in the global governance system are not accountable to any self-governing “people.” How can these rulers be replaced? How can “the governed” repeal bad laws and regulations that their “governors” have imposed upon them? Global governance provides no democratic answers to these questions.
Human rights and international
law are always “evolving” in a way determined by elites
Although human rights and international law are considered the moral basis for global governance, they are not “timeless truths” readily understood and agreed to by most people. Instead these concepts are constantly changing or “evolving.” Human rights and international law are, at any given moment, what transnational elites (international lawyers, UN bureaucrats) tell us they are. What was considerd an absolute human right in 1998 differs from what is considered an absolute human right in 2008, which, in turn, will be different from absolute human rights in 2018. For, today a UN convention maintains that children have an “absolute human right” to conduct any correspondence with anyone in the world without interference from their parents, which, strictly interpreted, would give pedophiles the “international human right” to communicate with children on the Internet. It is doubtful that most people in the world would agree.
NGOs are not a substitute for
elected democratic institutions
NGOs participate in the writing of global treaties alongside democratic and non-democratic governments, but they are essentially pressure groups, elected by no one and responsible only to themselves, not to any democratic people. They do not represent the “peoples of the world.”
Can sovereignty or democratic
self-government be “shared” or “pooled” in a transnational
Sovereignty essentially means self-government, a particular people makes its own political decisions. Logically, it is not possible to “share” self-government - that is the ability to rule yourselves - if you cede democratic authority to a political or judicial body that is not responsible or accountable to your own citizens. For example, if ten countries are “pooling sovereignty,” what happens when some nations disagree with the joint decision of the others? If these nations go along with the joint decision against the wishes of their own people, they are no longer sovereign because they no longer rule themselves, but are, in effect, ruled by those outside of their democratic system.
governance/transnationalism will not be more effective at addressing global problems than
liberal democratic nation-states led by the United States
When human rights were threatened in the Balkans it was democratic nation-states led by the United States under the auspices of NATO, not the UN or any transnational institutions that addressed and solved this regional (and global) problem. NATO is an international organization not a transnational organization. That is, it is an organization created and run by member sovereign nation-states who agree to act together. It is not an institution that claims transnational authority over democratic nations like the International Criminal Court. Likewise serious global problems such as genocide in Darfur, HIV-AIDS, and environmental concerns will only be effective if addressed at the international─ not the transnational level. That is to say by a serious international effort led by the United States and other nation-states rather than by ceding sovereign authority to some transnational body or to the United Nations. Thus global governance is both undemocratic and ineffective.
Why has the United States not joined the International Criminal Court?
The US has principled (as well as practical objections) to the ICC. On principle the United States notes that under ICC rules the soldiers of a liberal democracy whose nation did not ratify the ICC treaty could nevertheless be tried by ICC judges against the will of that democratic state. For example, India and the Czech Republic are democracies that have not ratified the ICC. If Indian or Czech troops serving in peacekeeping missions in the Congo (which did ratify the ICC) are accused of human rights violations, they could be tried before this transnational court by the determination of ICC’s Pre-Trial chamber, not the judiciary of the democratic state itself. Thus, the ICC rules are in direct contradiction to the values of democratic self-government. Besides the United States, other democracies that have not ratified the ICC include India, Israel, Chile, the Czech Republic and Taiwan.
Under Liberal Democracy and the Democratic State, Marc F. Plattner, Democracy Without Borders?: Global Challenges to Liberal Democracy, Rowman and Littlefield, Publishers Inc., Lanham, MD, Plymouth, UK, 2008, page 3
Bibliography on Global Governance
Jeremy A. Rabkin, Law Without Nations? Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2005
Jeremy A. Rabkin, The Case for Sovereignty: Why the World Should Welcome American Independence, The American Enterprise Press, Washington, 2004
Jeremy A. Rabkin, Why Sovereignty Matters, The American Enterprise Press, Washington, 1998
Pierre Manent, A World Without Politics: A Defense of the Nation State, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006
Natan Sharansky and Shira Wolosky Weiss, Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy, Public Affairs, New York, 2008
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Kenneth Anderson, “The Limits of Pragmatism in American Foreign Policy: Unsolicited Advic e to the Bush Administration on Relations with International Non-Governmental Organizations, “ Chicago Journal of International Law, Fall 2001
Chicago Journal of International Law, Fall 2000 issue devoted to “Trends in Global Governance: Do They Threaten American Sovereignty” papers from an AEI conference
David B Rivkin, Jr. and Lee A. Casey, “The Rocky Shoals of International Law, “ The National Interest, Winter 2000/01
John R. Bolton, “Why an International Criminal Court Won’t Work, “Wall Street Journal, March 30, 1998
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John Fonte, Democracy’s Trojan Horse, The National Interest, Summer 2004
Fred Hiatt, “Justice Best Served” Washington Post, June 19, 2000