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Transnationalism & its Discontents



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My earlier post on the International Criminal Court perhaps, makes this a good moment to link to these comments by Dan Hannan on my friend and frequent NRO contributor John Fonte’s important new book: Sovereignty or Submission, a book that warns of the threat that transnationalism, “global governance”, call it what you will, poses to America’s (and not just America’s) representative democracy. As John O’Sullivan (oh yes!) notes in the foreword, global governance is not something that is usually discussed for what it is. John Fonte has now made that convenient discretion just a little bit more difficult to sustain.

Dan Hannan exults:

 The past twenty years have witnessed a revolution. It has been carried out quietly and bloodlessly, but it is, in its way, as far-reaching a revolution as those of 1789, 1917 or 1979. The rule that had governed relations between states since the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 – the principle that each government was responsible for its internal affairs, and that crimes were the responsibility of the state on whose territory they were committed – has been overturned. A new legal order has been established, outside and above the nations.

The new order does not take its authority from a single treaty or charter. It is protean, residing in the hundreds of international accords, conventions and declarations that national courts treat as precedent. Nor is it limited in scope. Far from restricting itself to international questions, it presumes to regulate all manner of internal matters: the rights of refugees, the status of children, employment law, religious freedom and so on.

A corpus of law has been created without debate, without ratification by national legislatures, without democratic approval. Its motive force has been the activism of judges and the intimidating fervour of the human rights professionals.

So far, supra-nationalists have had it almost all their own way. In plush conference venues around the world, out from under the public eye, they have enlarged and developed their jurisdiction. Funded by the global NGOs and by UN agencies, they have had time and resources, motive and opportunity. Hardly anyone, by contrast, has much incentive to speak up for the majority…

Fonte is a meticulous and courteous writer. He doesn’t attribute base motives to his opponents. Instead, he sticks to a calm and detailed recitation of the facts. And what facts! If people understood the extent to which power has passed from their elected representatives to activist lawyers, they would, in George Orwell’s magnificent metaphor, ‘rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies’…

Here, in short, is the handbook for all those who oppose the disempowerment of their elected governments, the I Ching of national democracy. Fonte alerts us to a danger whose magnitude few grasp. In his introduction, John O’Sullivan likens Fonte’s book to Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. O’Sullivan points out that most people, when they read Burke’s tract, assume that it must have been written after the Terror began. It comes as quite a shock to discover that the great Whig was warning against what he could see coming. Burke’s magnum opus roused a continent; I hope Fonte’s does the same.

 Amen. The book is well worth a read. 



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