June 4, 2008

MORE ON SOVEREIGNTY REDEFINED:

Global Governance vs. the Liberal Democratic Nation-State (John Fonte, 6/04/08, FrontPageMagazine.com)

In the coming years of the twenty-first century the ideology, institutions, and forces of “global governance” will directly challenge the legitimacy and authority of the liberal democratic nation-state and American constitutional sovereignty. What is this ideology, what are these institutions and forces, and how do they challenge liberal democracy and American sovereignty? To begin to examine these issues let us start with the primary questions of politics.

Who governs? 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 perennial questions of politics. As Plato and Aristotle inquired: what is the “best regime”?

In this first decade of the twenty-first century, has the question of what is the best regime been settled? For many throughout the developed world the answer is yes. Liberal democracy, that hybrid combination of liberalism and democracy, is the “best regime.”

Liberalism in traditional political theory means an emphasis on individual rights, free institutions, the impartial rule of law, freedom of speech and association, private property, and freedom for religion, commerce, culture, and educational institutions. Under liberalism, equality of individual citizenship is the norm.

Democracy means rule by the “demos,” the people. At the heart of modern democracy is the doctrine that governments derive their powers from the “consent of the governed,” as famously put in the American Declaration of Independence. National self-government, popular sovereignty, and majority rule (within constitutional limits, i.e., limited by liberalism) characterize the norms of liberal democracy.

These great questions of politics are in theory answered in liberal democracy. Political authority resides in a self-constituted people based on “consent.” 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. Moreover, 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, recently wrote,“…we cannot enjoy liberal democracy outside the framework of the nation-state.” [1]

In his seminal 1989 essay “The End of History,” Francis Fukuyama argued that the great question of politics?what is the best “regime”??has been settled. We have arrived at “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universialization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government,” Fukuyama declared. To be sure, the practical process of spreading liberal democracy throughout the world might take hundreds of years, but the ideological hegemony of liberal democracy has already been established—that is to say, the notion that the only legitimate form of government is liberal democracy is now widespread and almost universally accepted. Even non-democratic governments either pretend to be democratic in their own particular way or claim that they are working towards democracy.

Fukuyama recognized that there will be competiting ideologies to liberal democracy, but no rival political worldviews with universal appeal, in the final analysis. He argued that the potential ideological rivals (Asian values, Islamic fundamentalism) would not likely gain widespread support among Western intellectuals; thus the crux of his argument is that there are “no rival ideologies with universal appeal.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at June 4, 2008 9:19 AM
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