What’s wrong with world government? Against nuclear arguments

Where in the Bible, the Catechism, the decrees of any ecumenical council, or the Summa Theologica does it say that multiple nation-states are better than a single world-empire, and that the latter is in fact wicked?  Were Jerome and Dante heretics for thinking otherwise?  Anybody who wants to convince me that the Pope has somehow apostasized by preferring a world authority had better be able to point me to something.  I would think we should have some humility before the great number of saints, Western and Eastern, who thought the world empire of Rome a benevolent instrument of God and who deeply regretted its passing.

There is an argument going around now that world government is not just a bad idea, but is actually heretical.  It supposedly denies man’s sinful nature, because it assumes that world authority would never be abused.  Thus, anyone who supports any supernational authority denies the Fall.  The other argument is that this is some sort of immanentizing the eschaton.  Thinking that all the nations can cooperate in this way means one thinks we can build a heaven on Earth, and that we have no need for God.

This is all rubbish.  The trouble with these arguments is that they work just as well against just about anything.  The argument about trust being a denial of the Fall could be used to declare any authority heretical.  Are we heretics for believing that fathers should rule their families?  For being appalled by the idea of giving children powers to “balance” that of their parents?  The “heaven on Earth” accusation could be leveled at anyone who wants to improve the human condition in any way.  Certainly, not all evils can be abolished, but some can be, and others can be mitigated.  Every one of us has some ideas of how we would like to make the world, or at least our little corner of it, better.

On the other hand, these “nuclear” arguments–they can blast away anything–do seem to make important points.  I wouldn’t want to throw them out entirely.  An uncritical trust of big organizations will lead to trouble, and so will the conviction that every problem has a solution and all we need is the right law or regulator.  Such warnings are simply very hard to weigh when making any particular decision.  For any particular issue, the advantages of another, higher level of control will usually outweigh the vague concern that lower levels are atrophying.  No particular reform can be accused of trying to bring heaven to Earth.  But if we keep making decisions one at a time, with such concerns always losing out to the more immediately evident benefit from high-level control, we’ll end up with an inhuman tyranny.  Can it be that no particular decision was wrong, but somehow the sum of hundreds of such decisions–all pushing in the same direction–was wrong?  But where do we draw the line?

Here I think authoritarians like me have an advantage.  We have some very clear lines that the state (or world-empire) may not overstep, even for the alleged common good.  Those are the authority of parents and the Church, which we believe derives as directly from God as does that of the state.  Indeed, I claim that the authority of the Church is categorically superior to that of the state, and the authority of fathers over their children trumps that of the state in a limited sphere.  I’m sure the Pope would agree that a world government would be subject to the same restrictions even if it were to destroy the sovereignty of individual nations–which no one is advocating.

This reminds me of another nuclear argument–the neocon’s warnings about “appeasement”.  We must never appease hostile powers, they say, or else we’ll just get more belligerence.  Remember Hitler!  Now, it’s true, some bullies are unappeasable, and so you simply must stand up to them when you’re in a position to.  If the hostile power breaks up his demands into small enough pieces, no particular one of them might be worth the trouble of fighting for.  Surrendering on all of them, though, might be worse than war.  On the other hand, if we let the argument “never appease” rule us, we will refuse to ever compromise; we will become the bullying, predatory power that not appeasing was supposed to stop.  Here again, some clear lines would be helpful, but I’m not sure what they should be.

15 Responses

  1. @Bonald – week by week you are consistently picking the wrong side in major questions of the day, on the basis that you personally cannot (at this moment) see what is *necessarily* wrong with x!

    This is precisely the standard methodology of political correctness.

    For a self-proclaimed reactionary, something is seriously wrong here.

  2. “Where in the Bible, the Catechism, the decrees of any ecumenical council, or the Summa Theologica does it say that multiple nation-states are better than a single world-empire, and that the latter is in fact wicked?”

    Lawrence Auster is arguing that Babel is “a warning against global unification.” From your second paragraph it sounds like you’ve been reading that discussion. Anyway I don’t know that the question is a matter of “better” or “worse” as if an actually effectively Catholic global political authority would be worse than constantly warring “Westphalian” nation-states. It is about human limits and hubris. The PCJP document appears to require all Catholics to live, breath, and have their being globally: “The birth of a new society and the building of new institutions with a universal vocation and competence are a prerogative and a duty for everyone, without distinction.” Isn’t that a little much — even for an authoritarian? Is it even possible? Was every citizen of Rome required to think about Rome’s universal vocation all day?

    Have you seen John Allen’s argument that this document is “the first ripple of a southern [as in Southern Hemisphere Catholicism] wave”?

  3. Exactly my point on the subject. There is nothing setting aside world government and catolicism. One just have to think about the old hispanic empires (Portugal and Spain) to see how can different and distant catholic communities live under the same rule. Ortega y Gasset talks about the inevitability of a Supra-State, as a natural continuation of the Nation-State. Shoudn’t the Church be ready for the appearence of this Supra-State – and, at the same time, structurally prepared to influence this same institution? The main problem with the EU is, in my opinion, the fact that the Church left to catholics the participation in the building process of the Union, and should have had a stronger presence in the criation of the European Union as an institution of the greater importance in european politics. Now all we can do is to protest to the fact that in no document of the Union is any reference to christianity.

  4. IMO any world government not informed by the principles of Catholicism would be an evil to be avoided in our day and age. The culture of the entire world is corrupted, and even if in principle there is nothing heretical with world government, at this point, for the entire world to be subjected to leaders who are not only not informed by Catholic principle, but are anti-Catholic, would be to allow (in a certain sense) an organized global persecution of Catholicism. At least right now, there are spots of extreme persecution, worse in some areas than others. I agree that there is nothing per se wrong with it according to the Church, BUT I don’t see how any Catholic would want to support it.

  5. I don’t understand. Are you saying that the Church missed some opportunity during the formation of the EU? My recollection is that the Church pushed for the EU to recognize its Christian roots and that the transnational elite told Her to drop dead.

    The EU has a de facto Test Act right now.

  6. Yes, in fact that is what I am saying. European Church has this freaky habbit of trying to talk politics through the mouth of “demochristians”.
    That including priests and bishops who get involved with politics. And its completly understandable! Just look at some of the great figures that supported or help create the EU: Count Kalergi, Luigi Einaudi, Ernst Jünger… Who would think that the EU would turn into a Mega-Leftist-State?

    This is also explainable. The democratic european Left has always been pro-EU. The right has never reached the same opinion in consonance.

  7. Where in the Bible … does it say that multiple nation-states are better than a single world-empire, and that the latter is in fact wicked?

    Uh, in Genesis somewhere? Something called the Tower of Babel.

  8. But this is a novel reading of that story. None of the ancient Christians thought the story of the Tower of Babel meant that the Roman Empire should be fractured into pieces. The sin of the Babylonians wasn’t that they were working collaboratively, but that they sought to achieve divine power in defiance of God. Their punishment was primarily the fracturing of language rather than polities. The more natural conclusion from Genesis is that God desires a multitude of languages and cultures, something Rome and the Habsburgs, for example, were able to respect.

  9. And it so happens that most of the people who dream of a single world government are Christ-haters who worship the state as their god. If the shoe fits…

  10. I assume this is re: the Holy Father’s declaration of support for a worldwide central banking authority? I understand where he’s coming from, but I’m afraid such would simply be bad policy. The problem is ultimately not as a regulatory one (the regulations are already in place everywhere but no one’s following them) but a philosophical one: people in power everywhere in the world genuinely see letting banks commit fraud on the public as the right thing to do.

  11. Hear, hear! A single global state is the Left’s Holy Grail. A man doesn’t need the pope or a council to tell him this would be the dragon’s perfected Babylonian Captivity.

    The problem bonald is having is that he has to back the Catholic Church all the way down the line, thus the intellectual gyrations. The non-Catholic reactionaries are slack-jawed aghast.

  12. You see, this is a problem for the authoritarian faction of the Catholic Church; the one that believes every papal utterance is binding. You see, I think he has exceeded his brief here and disregard his his opinion on financial matters.

  13. There is certainly the possibility of the pope putting his foot in his mouth when he ventures into such matters, but I worry more about our tendency to think that technical things like finance are completely divorced from faith and morals. What this global body’s regulatory dictates should be sounds like something that the magisterium would have little to say about. To say that some activity X should be regulated for the common good, and the appropriate authority is Y, is more like political philosophy, something the Vatican can sensibly speak about.

  14. What’s wrong with world government: no competition, no escape, no comparisons, no alternatives. If a world government screws up, then relative to a national government it will be harder to notice and harder to avoid.

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