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One World

Are we ready for rule by ‘the party of global governance’?

Jan 23, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 18 • By JAMES W. CEASER
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A new phenomenon needs a name, and Fonte is ready with the label “the party of global governance.” Those supporting this party at any given moment, as one would expect, include many who have signed on without believing in its principles in order to promote a temporary interest, as in the case of the nations at Durban that were motivated by anti-Americanism or hatred of Israel. To understand the real driving force of the party, Fonte separates the opportunists from the genuine adherents. The party’s nexus of theoretical ideas have had their home in the West. Its greatest strength is in Europe, where it has shaped the EU, but it also has an important following in America, especially in universities, think tanks, and parts of the foreign policy commenteriat. It enjoys some support, as well, in certain third world outposts, which are sustained by various NGOs and Western foundations.

What is it, Fonte asks, that “global governancers” (not a term likely to stick) really want? No great political project is ever just about form or structure—in this case, supranational authority—but about a notion, however vaguely defined, of what is the good or just. Part of the good for global governancers, in line with almost all supporters of world government over the ages, is to produce a more peaceful world by creating a restraining force above competing nations. For this reason, the global governancers are hostile to all forces that favor the particularism of a nation (like the Chinese) or that favor an idea of universalism that by definition excludes many (like followers of Islam).

It is obvious—and leading globalist thinkers are not so naïve as to believe otherwise—that the greater part of the world today falls into these camps. But, to use language that global governancers would never dare utter in public, many of the adherents of these particularisms and religions are backwards. They can be brought along to a more advanced state by tutoring them, humoring them, and by a new strategy for the once openly imperialist West, of making concessions: apologies for past exploitation, acknowledgment of group rights for minorities in Western countries, and acceptance of speech codes to avoid offending certain non-Western groups. By patiently waiting things out while simultaneously creating new international institutions, global governancers hope to slowly reshape the non-Western world.

The greatest challenge to this party therefore turns out to come not from the backward parts of the world but from opponents within its advanced regions. Those in the West who cling stubbornly to their nations, their heritages, and their ideas of universalism constitute the greatest threat to the globalist project.  For this reason, it makes sense for global governancers to single out for special criticism the states that continue to support the idea of the nation: the United States, with its widespread view of “exceptionalism,” and Israel, with its defense of the cause of a particular people—and the thinkers, mostly conservative, who continue to defend national sovereignty. For this reason also, it is logical for global governancers to engage in a campaign to replace civic education, which is designed to help build citizens, with programs of global studies, which are intended to cultivate a cosmopolitan disposition.

Forging a structure of peace is only part of what the global governance party claims to espouse. Its adherents also seek a better world that promotes the cause of humanity, and they justify themselves by citing the standard litany of sanitized progressive values: tolerance, justice, rights, and democracy. Taking this statement of intentions at face value, Fonte nevertheless asks what is lost. He is at his best in doggedly holding onto the pant leg of global governancers by insisting that they give an honest accounting of what they mean by democracy. Fonte invokes against them the charge of creating a “democratic deficit” which, at a time when we have all learned to live with deficits, is probably far too polite a term.

In reality, global governance means the loss of the possibility of humans to govern themselves in a meaningful way. This possibility, as defenders of the republican idea have from the outset maintained, can only be exercised inside a community of some limits, limits that in ancient times were traced by the city-state and in our age less vigorously by the nation-state. Democracy for the party of global governance thus turns out to be not a name for self-rule but for a set of prescribed outcomes. Promoting democracy so understood becomes far too important to leave to most people. It is a task to be reserved for trained experts, adept at the art of gently massaging the meaning of words and governing behind a veil of acronyms and legalisms.