Global Elitism and Tales of Stupidity

I am a member of several worthless political science groups on Facebook and other Internet locations. I come across thoughtful and encouraging literature from time to time. The rest I see a dangerous ideology of collectivism and growing favor toward technocratic governance. These global elites think up, write, and publish theories on ways to remove people from the equation of government and governed. Such was the case this morning. A thoughtful scholar or grad student thought it would be interesting to share Daniel Esty (2006) [1] essay from the Yale Law Journal, “Good Governance at the Supranational Scale, Globalizing Administrative Law.”

Don’t let the Yale part intimidate you. Many who write in it are usually flat-out wrong, and usually dangerous as a consequence. What is most disturbing to me is the troubling groupthink, the intellectual hangers-on who think the best and brightest are more capable, and, therefore, required to govern the lives of the masses. Nowhere is this fantasy more exercised than at the global level. At any rate, the naive poster asked if it was time to turn over control of governing to the world’s elites.

In a word no; I took the time to read the essay and Esty sums up that sentiment himself by describing Rousseauian democratic tradition as “the right to exercise power has been connected to the expression of majority will…a function of electoral process.”

If only Mr. Esty had stopped there.

Mr. Esty cannot be bothered by three well known facts in international relations.
  1. States do not like to have their destiny tied to another.
  2. There is wide disparity between the kinds of government, culture, and domestic law.
  3. People desire representation, accountability and transparency.
Applying this principle toward supranational governance, it begs the questions whose will, and what majority will exercise power? —the people of the world or the governments of the world? In any case, neither can act unilaterally without the other reacting. Legitimacy comes from the will and feelings of the people. If previously enjoyed rights, customs, and institutions were usurped and passed to some distant global governing body, the result would be problematic. Moreover, would this necessarily mean Western bias? – or hegemonic directed outcomes? How would developing states react, or non-Western states for that matter?

In other words, there would exist an “absence of an electoral connection between the governed and their officials.” This never works out in the long run.

Esty postulates “direct electoral underpinnings are not necessary for good governance” and that international representatives “can have authority even without direct elections.”

I’m not sure what model he used to come to this conclusion, but any “good governing” body has the consent of the governed, and, thus, is legitimate in nature. The technocratic example he uses that “legitimacy may derive from expertise of the policymaker and the governing institution’s ability to generate social welfare gains” is likewise unfounded. What if these so-called experts make a bad calculation?

For example, what if the grain form the Ukraine that was supposed to feed the Congo, so the people in the Congo could be free to mine the metals that would be shipped to Europe so its factories could build cars and steel, sank in the East Med during voyage? Would people continue to delegate their sovereignty and destiny to a group of experts they’ve never met?

The likely reaction would be that most people would start doing for themselves.

There are places, however, for global governance but in no way the kind Esty considers. Meaning, where states’ interest align, naturally cooperation emerges. This isn’t magic or “evolution” on the part of states or people. As trade and communication increases across the globe, interests and agreements converge. States will have to consider what norms can be agreed upon and to what benefit or “relative gain” a state stands to receive. This is seen in the WTO, WHO, and the ISO. However, each regime has specific and limited functions pertaining to issues important enough states have decided to cooperate as opposed to remaining decentralized.

It is undoubtedly true that the interconnectedness of states creates an environment where a partial forfeiture of autonomy is necessary for the facilitation of mutual prosperity, such as in economics, and also that certain problems are “inescapably global,” where a lack of cooperation would “result in market failures, economic inefficiency, and social welfare loss, not to mention environmental degradation,” but these conditions do not necessary translate to establishment of a system where the interest of every state is enabled through an international governing body. 

The trade off is that each state gains security or trade increases. That’s it.

We must not take similarities in one thing and express them as commonalties into another.  

[1] Esty, Good Governance at the Supranational Scale, Globalizing Administrative Law, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 115 (2005-06), pp. 1490-1563



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