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Global cooperation does not imply global governance

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Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently addressed the myth of national sovereignty being a “relic of the past” and global governance being the singular solution for the West to move forward. In a new article for Public Discourse, he calls out recent reactions to global governance, namely Brexit, as long over-due and something to be expected in opposition to global governance that violates national sovereignty:

Twenty sixteen was not a happy year for globalism. In different ways, Donald Trump’s election and Britain’s decision to exit the European Union represented a rejection of those who view nation-states as a relic of the past and believe that the future belongs to supranational and global institutions.

To be sure, people voted for Trump and Brexit for many reasons. Some, however, mattered more than others. One major factor was surely the sense that the political class—including some who identify as conservative, neoconservative, or classical liberal, and many who live in cities such as Washington DC, London, and Brussels—long ago lost touch with millions of the people they ostensibly serve and represent. The visible disdain with which figures like the European Commission’s outgoing president Jean-Claude Juncker viewed anyone who questioned the wisdom of diminishing national sovereignty only compounded that sense of disconnection.

In retrospect, the only surprise is that such a widespread popular reaction against global governance didn’t come sooner. Precisely how these developments will play out remains unclear. They are, however, an occasion to highlight the deep problems underlying the various ambitions for global governance that have long marked progressive opinion in America and Europe.

As Gregg notes, the political classes in the West have lost the support of the common people due to their failures to listen. In order to better understand the trends of modern globalist thought, Gregg looks back to the roots of global governance thought; tracing them back to the time of the enlightenment:

Modern global governance projects have manifested themselves in Western thought at least since the eighteenth-century. In 1713, a Catholic priest, the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, published a book entitled Projet pour rendre la paix perpétuelle en Europe (“A Project for Bringing about Perpetual Peace in Europe”). Saint-Pierre was the first modern thinker to make a substantive intellectual case for a type of universal federation of states. This federation, he proposed, would be governed by a Congress and vested with many of the characteristics of sovereignty in order to promote and maintain universal peace among European nations.

Saint-Pierre’s vision was further developed by that most influential of continental late-Enlightenment thinkers, Immanuel Kant. In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay (1795), Kant called for the establishment of a “league of peace (foedus pacificum).” This “federation,” Kant held, would “extend gradually over all states and thus lead to perpetual peace.” In this regard, Kant was intent on transforming the law of nations that had hitherto regulated relations between states. In Kant’s view, the law of nations served only to circumscribe rather than abolish war. It was also, he claimed, unenforceable in a world of nation-states. Hence it needed to be grounded upon and reshaped by new political arrangements.

Additionally, Gregg makes an argument in support of free trade in the West calling for global cooperation rather than global governance. He concludes with his support of national sovereignty asserting it as a check to global governance and affirming its necessity in standing up against centralization of power.

Arguments about free trade are part of the contemporary debate about global governance. But the focus of contemporary globalist ideologies and their advocates has never been upon stimulating free trade per se. They are more concerned with promoting trade deals. These are very different from free trade. Moreover, the primary focus of global governance advocates remains the supranational and global centralization of political power, the diminution of national sovereignty, the top-down regulation of all spheres of life across the globe, and the rule of experts.

Good examples of this are the numerous institutions and agencies associated with the most advanced contemporary prototype of global governance: the EU. It has its own parliament, two Presidents (one for the European Council and one for the European Commission), a High Representative for Foreign Policy, a Commission, a Council, a High Court, and a Central Bank. Their activities are supplemented by a Court of Auditors, an Ombudsman, an Investment Bank, and a Committee for Regions. The EU even has its own “Economic and Social Committee” that purports to represent the views of “civil society, employers and employees” to the rest of EU officialdom. There are also no fewer than five different groups of assorted EU agencies, which address questions ranging from energy regulation to banking supervision and vocational training.

…Opposing these ideas and the globalist schemes in which they are increasingly embedded doesn’t imply opposition in principle to cooperation between countries. Nor does it involve exaltation of the nation as the only community that matters. To the extent, however, that national sovereignty puts a powerful check on global governance ambitions and the reign of those who have imbibed deeply of such aspirations, it is surely a very good thing.

To read the full article, visit Public Discourse here.

Image: CC0

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Devin Ryan

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