Book review: Taming Globalization

Kevin D. Williamson has said of globalization that “it is irreversible, and the desire to reverse it is inhumane because (it) is making the world betterBut there are tradeoffs.”  He wrote that in the context of the economics and free trade, but it is just as true in the larger (and overlapping) context of sovereignty.

Our constitutional commercial republic is out of step with the political and legal habits of much of the world.  Here is an interesting book review for those of us who think this is a good thing, a critical ingredient of our success, and worth protecting as we further coordinate and integrate the disparate political systems found across the globe:

American progressives from Woodrow Wilson and John Dewey to Barack Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have long expressed dissatisfaction with what they see as the constraints of an outmoded 18th-century Constitution. For more than a hundred years, progressives have sought to “transform” America, to make the political, economic, cultural, and legal foundation of our constitutional republic (our “regime,” in the Aristotelian-Tocquevillian sense) more statist, more centralized, more regulatory, more “European,” more secular, and less capitalist, less entrepreneurial, less “provincial,” less religious, less “exceptional.”

Today, that 18th-century Constitution remains problematic for modern-day progressives — not because it is insufficiently “democratic” (this is, if anything, a virtue among 21st-century liberal elites) — but because it (and majority opinion among the American people) presents serious obstacles to the advance of contemporary (and decidedly progressive) global norms on human rights, the environment, social issues, and economic regulation. The promotion of these global norms through radical new interpretations of international law — and, most important, their incorporation into American domestic law — is a major project of many American progressives. Hence they are no longer national progressives (in the TR and FDR sense), but transnational progressives. Their problem is how to circumvent constitutional restraints and stubborn majority opinion on issues such as the death penalty, guns, illegal immigration, and “hate” speech. The answer suggested by President Obama’s State Department legal adviser, Harold Koh, in his earlier career as dean of Yale Law School, is for activist federal judges to incorporate international law directly into American law.

The core argument of the book runs something like the following. Globalization is a powerful force that is transforming American society. Increased globalization brings many benefits, as well as potential problems, to the U.S. While greater international cooperation will be needed, some aspects of what is called global governance present serious challenges to the American political and legal system. The American polity is built on the principle of popular sovereignty; thus, ultimately, authority and sovereignty reside in the people, not the government. In this sense, American sovereignty differs from traditional Westphalian sovereignty. The people are the principal, and the federal government and state governments are the agents of the people. Popular sovereignty is exercised through the Constitution and particularly through separation of powers and federalism. These devices provide checks and balances on the federal government and limit the authority of both the federal government and state governments. New trends in international law directly challenge American popular sovereignty. The key issue is how to accommodate globalization within the American constitutional system. The task at hand is to ensure that the global rules that we choose to follow are incorporated into American law through our constitutional democratic process. Finally, it is possible to accommodate globalization to popular sovereignty.  To accomplish this goal of obtaining the benefits of globalization while preserving American popular sovereignty, Yoo and Ku propose three “doctrinal devices”: 1) a presumption that treaties are non-self-executing, 2) presidential discretion in interpreting customary international law, and 3) a reasonable degree of state autonomy in areas of law reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.

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9 Responses to Book review: Taming Globalization

  1. Jonathan Holmgren says:

    So, should learning, and I mean real learning, about the Constitution be mandated in all public schools? Why don’t we have civics classes from elementary to high school? Or do we? Should students also learn about their state’s constitution? Shouldn’t there be some sort of “practical life” class were the next generations learns how to properly budget and manage a checking account, learn how to change tires and the oil in the car, learn how to file taxes, and register to vote? Should I write my congressman and senator?

    • John says:

      Short version: John Dewey and teachers unions. The Constitution is an anachronism and we must teach Progressivism. We must undo the damage done by parents when they teach traditional values.

      Longer version: the public education is *systemically* flawed and designed for political ends. Those who do poorest on SATs go to education colleges; education colleges teach psychobabble instead of subject matter expertise; their graduates join a union that virtually disallows getting rid of poor performers, and that union is the $$ and shock troops for the Democratic Party – who protects them from meaningful reform; those unionized teachers work for monopolies; those unionized teachers use curricula designed by Progressives with the aforementioned radical goals and values.

      • jghkaiser says:

        So, is it possible to reboot the system? Is there any hope?

      • John says:

        Well… you know where (who) to go to for hope.

        You come here, you get something else. lol.

        I doubt there’s any chance, this side of collapse, to reboot the system. The interests are too entrenched, and their PR strategies too effective. Think about it: for 40 years our test scores have fallen (vs. the rest of the OECD) and the voters keep pouring good money after bad because “it’s for the children.” It’ll take a Soviet-style (hee hee) collapse to enable a reboot.

        I’d say it’s time for everyone who can to pull their kids out of the system and accelerate the inevitable crisis. Using their terms: “Heighten the contradictions.” If it makes sense for your kids, private or home schooling. Support choice initiatives, vote against every property tax hike. If we could ever stop mandatory deduction (confiscation) of public sector union dues from teacher paychecks, that would ceratinly help.

        The best bet might be the HUGE unfunded pension liabilities triggering some crisis. All these teachers have be promised more in pensions than will ever be paid, so at some point it becomes a trade-off: you want featherbedded pensions for teachers or classes/electives/sports? MAYBE then local voters would force their districts to rationalize and improve.

      • Paul Marks says:

        A lot of the States are not totally messed up (in spite of all of them making the terrible blunder of getting involved in the Medicare and Medicaid programs – and taking money from the Feds in these and other schemes).

        For example, Texas (the second largest State) could, with a huge effort, sort out its problems and start again. However, the Federal government? I do not see how that could be sorted out – even if a President wanted to restore the Republic (and, of course, Comrade Barack wants to destroy what is left of the Republic – destroy it utterly).

        So O.K. let Mitt Romney have his chance – but (as the Irish side of my family would say) “I would not start from here” – not in the United States, not in Britain, not in so many nations in the West.


        Again if the Feds are involved I think it is hopeless. Somewhere like Texas may be able to drive back the P.C. forces in the schools and colleges (contrary to what is often thought – the government schools in Texas are full of leftists and leftist ideology, a collectivist school system is a natual environment for collectivists), but the Federal “Department of Education” is unreformable.

        The Bush idea that the Federal government could be used for conservative social ends (such as improving education) is so wrong it is almost insane.

      • John says:

        So true. So very very true. One can just about trace the accelerating decline of education in America to the creation of the DOE. What a mess.

      • Paul Marks says:

        At the time even the New York Times opposed the creation of the Federal Department of Education. Like the Community Reinvestment Act, the Department of Education was one of Carter’s absurdities.

  2. Paul Marks says:

    “greater international cooperation” and “global governance” – i.e. even more statist collectivism (this time using “globalisation” as an excuse).

    When Glenn Beck warned of the plans of the “Progressives” he was denounced as paranoid – now they admit their plans. Although they are still not honest about the motive for their plans – the reason is not increased world trade (“globalization”), the motive is LUST FOR POWER.

    The elite wish to control every aspect of the lives of ordinary human beings – for “our own good” of course (after all we are all “Homer Simpsons” and they are philospher kings trained in Harvard,, and the other universities, by Sandal and other collectivist wonder brains).

    If the excuse was not increased world trade, it would be the “environment”, or some other excuse. But these are excuses – the real motive is (I repeat) the lust for power.

    As for idea that the Executive Branch (the President and the bureaucracy) having the power to impose regulations on the basis of treaties and the rest of so called “international law” – that would lead to slavery, total and absolute slavery, With nowhere to flee to – as the whole world would be one big slave pen.

    Better to take the path of the sword (to take the risk of the battlefield) than to submit to this “international cooperation” and “global governance”.

    I am fat and bald man – no longer young, malcordinated and in a dead end job. Exactly the sort of person that Cass Sustein and co regard as scum.

    However, this “Homer Simpson” is prepared to take on Cass Sustein (or any of his kind) in battle (to the death).

    Although I have a strange feeling that Dr Sustein would find some good reason not to personally turn up for the fight.

    It is one thing to make plans to enslave people – from the comfort of universities and government offices, and to sneer at us via Hollywood and the rest of the media, A rather different thing to face these same people (even weak and malcordinated people like me) in battle to the death.

  3. jghkaiser says:

    Thanks for all the thought provoking insight.

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