Thursday, November 3, 2011

One World Government By ... The Vatican?

A week or so ago, a think tank within the Vatican published a paper calling for one-world government. Rod Dreher summarizes the argument:
The power of global financial entities has outstripped the power of nation-states to subordinate their activity to the common good, even as the commons cannot be protected from the irresponsibility of these entities. The solution proposed by the Pontifical Council is a form of global political and economic common governance in which nation-states relinquish sovereignty to a significant degree in exchange for gaining a measure of accountability and control over global capital.
Source: Rod Dreher.
The thought of one-world government freaked out (his words) my favorite crunchy conservative.

After the jump, more from Dreher (and Jeffrey Weiss and ... me).

Dreher's logic is peculiar (to me):
it is a deeply troubling document. Why? Because it attempts to ally religious authority to the creation of globally centralized political and economic power, with the idea that if only we rationalize our political and economic relationships, and put them under the authority of a wise Authority, we'll all be better off. I can see how that would work in religious matters (hey, the Vatican is just that kind of authority), but in political and economic matters, it is a temptation to tyranny.
Source: Rod Dreher.
It's peculiar that Dreher is perfectly willing to cede such authority over matters pertaining to our immortal souls, but not over matters pertaining to our pocketbooks. If we had to have one or the other, personally, I'd have it the other way around. Dreher is drawing a distinction between the secular and sacred and postulating that the sacred is somehow protected from human tyranny whereas the secular is not. I don't see it myself.

Whatever. Dreher eventually calms down (a little) and, in another post, asks, reasonably, "If not world government, then what?" What, indeed? The question may be moot. I'm reminded of a passage in Francis Fukuyama's "The Origins of Political Order:"
There is clear evidence, however, that there was a tremendous reduction in the total number of political units in China, from approximately ten thousand at the beginning of the Xia Dynasty to twelve hundred at the onset of the Western Zhou, to seven at the time of the Warring States.
China's political consolidation continues to the present day. It is erroneous to think that this global trend of consolidating political units will somehow stabilize at 192 (more or less, the current number of member states in the United Nations). Dreher might be freaked out at the thought of one-world government. He might consider it a nightmare. But it's likely to be irresistible. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend that organizations like the United Nations, the World Court, the International Monetary Fund, and on and on, will go away if America closes the door to them. Or we can actively engage them to ensure that universal human rights are recognized and honored by whatever global political systems do emerge.

Jeffrey Weiss, in RealClearReligion, has another take on the Vatican's suggestion. Like Rod Dreher, he, too considers it a big deal, but rather than railing against it as a nightmare, he is puzzled why so few other people seem to think it's a big deal, judging by the relative lack of coverage the document generated in the media. He points to two possible reasons. First, the Vatican's authority, even among Catholics, has been on a decades-long decline. He's certainly right there. Second, one-world government is a fantasy unlikely to happen in the lifetimes of anyone alive today. He's probably right about that, too. But, the ancient Chinese probably considered unified government to be a fantasy, too. Check back a hundred years, five hundred years, a thousand years from now. One-world government then? It's more likely than not, I'd wager. Like it or not, the question is not whether we'll have one-world government. It's what kind of one-world government we'll have.

By the way, Rod Dreher used to work for The Dallas Morning News. Jeffrey Weiss still draws his paycheck there, but I read both of their pieces elsewhere. I don't know what the heck The Dallas Morning News publishes anymore.


glbeach said...

The irony of this is so rich you could cut it with a knife. Where are the fundamentalists who have always attacked the Catholics? Now, they'll be saying this shows how the Pope is the anti-Christ from the book of Revelations. . .

mccalpin said...

"It's peculiar that Dreher is perfectly willing to cede such authority over matters pertaining to our immortal souls, but not over matters pertaining to our pocketbooks."

I am puzzled. In reading Dreher's original comments, I don't think he is wanting to "[cede] such authority", but that he is recognizing that we have a problem, and the Church (at least) is proposing a solution, although not a solution that he necessarily agrees with: "It is fairly clear why an American would find this dangerous and unacceptable ..., and why it would never fly. ".

Indeed, contrary to what one might surmise from your headline, the Vatican is not calling for IT to run a one world government, but pointing out that multi-national financial institutions are not being effectively monitored and governed by national governments. There are actually two solutions: (1) to create a world government, or (2) sharply restrict the power of pan-national institutions that avoid regulation by any individual government.

The biggest concern that the Church has is that in the West, people don't recognize that we have two different yet parallel systems working together to create our extremely successful society: capitalism and religion. Capitalism rewards those who produce because of self-interest, but religion (whether Christian or otherwise) encourages each individual to be a responsible member of society: to not lie or steal, to honor contracts, and to share wealth with those that deserve it (not just those who want it).

Tacitus once wrote that among the barbarian Germans that social pressure caused much better civic behavior than all the laws of Rome. C.S. Lewis pointed out that he would much rather play cards with a card shark bred to believe that "gentlemen don't cheat" than any professor of ethics. Capitalism depends on an underlying social understanding that there are rules that people follow without regard to apparent self-interest. In the West, Christianity has largely provided this for centuries, but as Christianity and religion lose their hold on the culture, capitalism starts to reveal its dark side - that it's OK to grab as much as you want, without regard to rules, laws, social convention, or the good of the country.

As a Roman Catholic, I don't want the Church to run the world government, but I don't believe that this is what Dreher was saying...but that he was just pointing out an obvious problem that the Church seems to recognize but not enough other people do...


Mark Steger said...

Bill, thanks for your feedback. You are right -- my headline would have been more accurately worded, "Vatican Calls for One-World Government." The document does not say the Vatican should lead such a government.