.

Global Pillage

By Jason Elbaum

Around the world, internationalism is on the move again--at the price of democracy.


 

If all goes as planned, January 1, 1999 will mark the beginning of a new era in international politics. The adoption of a unified currency by eleven European nations will mean the creation of a new economic superpower, whose annual economic output will rival that of the United States, and whose monetary and trade policies will no longer be set by member states, but by a single, centralized European governing body. It is a step from which France, Germany and the other nations involved will be unable to return without great difficulty, one which will forever bind these nations, and those that follow, in a regional matrimony whose vows include not only the sharing of a single coin, but the eventual removal of all internal barriers to trade and migration, and a common policymaking on foreign and defense issues as wellׁheralding, in case you missed it, an effective end to national sovereignty in Europe.
Few intellectuals and public figures in Europe today lose sleep over the death of the nation-state. On the contrary, most have welcomed the unification of Europe as a great leap forward, and an inevitable one at that. Their reasoning goes something like this: The nation-state has failed to live up to the economic and political needs of a swiftly changing world which is giving way slowly but surely to a series of multinational associations, such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations. And all this is a matter of necessity, due to the unstoppable market forces and technological developments (such as the Internet) sweeping the globe, which are transforming our basic notion of political and economic life into something completely different, something far more homogeneous than ever before.
Of course, the implications of this line of thought are by no means limited to Europe; journalists and activists the world over have begun prophesying the emergence of powerful regional or global bodies, and the corresponding demise of nation-states everywhere. “In the next millennium—in a world where credit and communication transcend all border—what does ‘sovereign nation’ mean?” wrote Newsweek’s Howard Fineman. “Will we still control our land, our currency, our jobs and our courts?” Whatever the answer, it is clear that “there’s no going back” on the process.1 Nico Colchester, editorial director of the Economist Intelligence Unit, put it in a more controlled manner in a 1994 essay entitled “The Slow Death of the Nation-State”: “The threat or promise of government at above the level of the nation-state will be a strong undercurrent in the politics of the rich world…. Institutionally managed savings now slip across national frontiers like quicksilver, sapping the power of governments to finance themselves through inflation. Great companies now transcend nationality. Elites do the same. So governments are reduced to mere corporate managements, competing to attract savings, companies and elites to their territories. This is a game that demands a degree of international refereeing.”2
Political leaders outside of Europe, too, have taken the new world order for granted in formulating their own visions. In September 1997, the leaders of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Belize and the Dominican Republic launched the process of creating a Central American Union. Issuing the ”Nicaragua Declaration,” they called for a “further deepening of the commitments adopted within the framework of integration, especially those that allow the region to link itself advantageously with the globalization processes”—the ultimate goal of which, according to Costa Rican Foreign Minister Fernando Naranjo, is to ”construct something similar to what Europe has now, with the European Union.”3 President Bill Clinton has accepted the basic premise as well, arguing that “the challenge before us is to adapt our international institutions, to deepen the cooperation between nations so that [we] can confront a new generation of problems that know no national borders.” 4And in Israel, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, in his 1994 tract The New Middle East, writes:
Our era has witnessed the emergence of two contradictory trends: Particularist nationalism and ultranational development of regional communities. In every area in which the first has staked a claim, the social order has been subverted and hostility and violence have taken root.... In contrast, everywhere the ultranational trend predominates, there is sensitivity to human needs, opportunities and desires, leading to a more lasting international order that strives for prosperity, development and human rights.
Though “people are not yet ready to accept an ultranational identity”, Peres claims that “a new type of citizenship is catching on, with a new personal identityֹ. Particularist nationalism is fading and the idea of a ‘citizen of the world’ is taking hold.”5 The only solution, according to Peres, is “the creation of a regional community of nations, with a common market and elected centralized bodies, modeled on the European Community.”6
If this all sounds familiar, it should. The idea that irrepressible economic forces are sweeping the world into a new era of international brotherhood, in which national distinctions are trivialized and borders eliminated, has been the principal message of socialist and Communist ideologues from Marx to Lennon. Drawing heavily upon the same determinist materialism unleashed upon the world a century and a half ago, a new generation of collectivist thinkers and activists have convinced much of the industrialized world—yet again—that a new era is dawning, whether we like it or not, and that any nation that does not adapt quickly by sacrificing elements of its sovereignty to international bodies will find itself the odd man out.
Yet the similarity between the new globalists and the champions of international socialism of generations past does not end with basic ideological assumptions. A closer look at the two most important globalist bodies today, the EU and the UN, reveals that in deed as in creed, these new globalists are really nothing new at all. Not only are they preaching the same gospel, they are also working harder than ever to build the same gargantuan bureaucracies—with the same disregard for the self-determination of nations and the liberty of citizens—that the collapse of Communism was supposed to have ended. At a time when gallant defenders of liberal democracy are basking in their presumed victory and celebrating history’s end, a new battle in the same old war may well be taking shape.
 
II

Even before the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, the European Union struck a pose of sovereignty, with its own flag and anthem, a common format for passports, and legislative, executive and judiciary branches of administration.7 With Maastricht came a slew of commitments that went much further, including a single currency, EU citizenship (bestowing as-yet-unspecified rights and duties upon its citizens), and a common foreign and defense policy. Implementing all of these would make the European Union more like a sovereign body itself than an arrangement among sovereign states: Although many provinces around the world have flags, anthems and governments, only sovereign states grant citizenship, coin money, conduct foreign relations and defend themselves.
Yet this union of democratic nations astonishingly left out one vital component of democratic government: Democracy. Though in theory representative institutions are involved at each stage of the EU’s process of government, in practice decisions are made almost entirely by bureaucratic fiat, and the influence of representative bodies is negligible.
The highest body of the EU is the European Council, comprised of the heads of state or government of the member countries, who meet two or three times a year to plan the long-term direction of the Union.8 The real work is the responsibility of the Councils of Ministers, assemblies of government ministers from each member country who meet to discuss issues relevant to their portfolios, such as defense, finance, fisheries or transport. Legislative authority lies not with the democratically elected European Parliament but with these Councils, whose decisions are arrived at behind closed doors, and whose arcane procedures include three different methods of reaching decisions. Councils of various sorts of ministers meet about a hundred times a year, including monthly meetings of foreign ministers, finance ministers and agriculture ministers. In theory, all important EU decisions are made at these meetings of national officials.


From the
ARCHIVES

The Jews’ Right To Statehood: A DefenseA new look at Zionism from the perspective of universal rights.
Locusts, Giraffes, and the Meaning of KashrutThe most famous Jewish practice is really about love and national loyalty.
The Road to Democracy in the Arab WorldLiberalism has deep roots in the Middle East, if we know where to look.
Faces of DeathSaw, a film by James Wan; and Saw II, a film by Darren Lynn Bousman
Israel and the Palestinians: A New StrategyThe former IDF chief of staff proposes a different approach to dealing with an old conflict.

All Rights Reserved (c) Shalem Press 2022