Mr. Johnson, a teacher of mathematics, included the remarks here published as part of a visiting lecture in economics (in which he is also certified) at Hialeah Senior High School in Florida.
The enthusiasm (and frequent hysteria) for world government embodies, and is the culmination of, the entire philosophy of collectivism. As such, it is a paragon of false idealism, irrationality, and misconception. It is based primarily on five major erroneous philosophical, logical, and historical assumptions.
Peace by Compulsion?
The first of these is that world government would stop wars and bring peace. It is essential that we adopt the usual meanings of the words "war" and "peace," for if this is not done, we may say that there is perfect peace in Russia. Peaceful slavery, however, is not the kind of peace any of us desire, as illustrated by none other than Franklin Roosevelt when he said, "It is better to die standing up than to live on your knees." In like manner, a "police action" or a "resistance to aggression" or such similar phrases do not make a war not a war. Otherwise, we may eliminate war and create peace by simple semantic expedient. There are types of "peace" in the world today as destructive to the human personality as the atom bomb. Without laboring the point further, it should be obvious that peace is much more than the absence of armed conflict.
Bearing this in mind, history shows, from the failure of the Delian League of ancient Hellas, through the Holy Alliance of 1815, up to the present-day United Nations, that the collective approach to peace is a dismal failure. Since the League of Nations and the U.N., wars have been both more frequent and more devastating. World government at best would only transform wars between governments into wars between the government’s police force and segments of the empire. And, again with an eye on the world’s history, can anyone really believe that a government powerful enough to thus "enforce the peace" would not soon become one of the most corrupt instruments of total power and oppression in the history of man?
The United States constitutes but 1/15 of the earth’s surface and 7 per cent of the world’s population, yet we are having enough difficulty preserving liberty on this small segment, let alone the whole world. The fact that others would be helping us is of negative value when these others have little or no conception of liberty as we know it in America.
We experience great difficulty electing representatives adequate to deal with local problems. Are we to imagine this situation improving with the permanent introduction of world problems? How are governments handling world problems these days anyway? Are they doing a fine job—or do we not see that governments unable to tend successfully to their own affairs could not possibly attend to the world’s affairs? How odd, when it is so obvious that most of the world’s problems are caused by government that we should look to government as a solution.
The second erroneous belief is that world government would be similar to our own here in the
Advocates of world government are fond of making a distinction between "human rights" and "property rights." Now, not only are property rights human rights, but no human rights are secure without property rights, as our Founding Fathers so well understood when they revolted in defense of "life, liberty, and property." This is a small sample of the ideological disparity between the philosophers of world government and the architects of the Constitution.
Government, to be controlled, must be kept near home. As the area of government increases, the area of the individual just as surely decreases.
A brief perusal of the United Nations charter will show that it is as similar to the concept and content of our Constitution as a triangle is to Wednesday. How could we expect otherwise? Most of the world’s peoples have never known’ the free society, its comforts, its securities, its spiritual and ideological background. How could we possibly expect such peoples to create anything faintly resembling the government of the United States? Would the founding of such a government be a popular movement in the sense of the American Revolution, or a movement sponsored and consummated by existing governments, most of which are outright dictatorships?
America can serve the world best by continuing to be a shining example of the fruits of freedom and limited government. Other nations may copy us if they so desire, but for the United States to dilute its philosophy with the rubbish of the world would be to raze the pinnacle of civilization—it would be the greatest of moral crimes—economic, political, and ideological suicide. Nothing could possibly be more reactionary.
The third fallacy is that world government would bring all men together—the "brotherhood of man." World government would not unite people… it would merely unite the governments at the expense of the people. Unified trouble would hardly mean less trouble. And why should we all unite, politically or any other way, as long as we follow the golden rule and keep our noses out of places where they are not wanted? As Cobden said, the key to peace lies in "as much intercourse as possible between the peoples of the world… as little as possible between the governments of the world."
Brotherhood based on compulsion is not brotherhood any more than government subsidy is charity. If compulsion is not necessary for it, then we will have brotherhood without world government. A brief consultation with the dictionary will show that every definition of brotherhood implies the concept of voluntarism, nearness, and a relationship between one individual and another. It may be argued, rightly or wrongly, that the Christian concept modifies the principle of nearness and expands the relationship to exist between one individual and all men, but it is still a problem for the individual; it is still voluntary, and most important, men are to be brothers under God, not under world government.
What Can We Lose?
The fourth error lies in the belief that whatever we would have to give up for world government would be well worth it. Let us see what we have, that we may know what might have to be given up.
We have a country with the oldest written constitution in the world, a country whose freedom has been so universal that our greatest danger is that people will take it for granted: a country which produces nearly 50 per cent of the world’s goods, and provides therefore, the only possible bases for security, charity, literature, the arts, sciences—all the finer things of life. All this we have, and more than volumes could tell, yet we are asked to give up part or parcel of our hard won and well-deserved heritage to avoid being called "chauvinistic." The desire to retain the proven success of
At best, we are asked to forego a tangible success for something, as Shakespeare said, "full of sound and fury… signifying nothing."
Freedom without Individuality?
The last, and most remarkable doctrine in the world government repertoire, is that world government is essential for social progress to overcome our "cultural lag" and catch up with the tremendous advances in science and technology. This is like saying that it is essential to jump into the water that we may keep dry. It is an argument which illustrates the peculiar blindness to both logic and fact which seems to be the exclusive province of the contemporary collectivist. It is a classic non sequitur.
If one were requested to compile a list of the great achievements of civilization, such a list would be associated with great individuals, from Solomon to Jesus, Plato to Santayana, Galileo to Einstein, Haydn to Wagner. No one seems to believe that the "Mona Lisa" could have been painted by a committee. Certain phases of human endeavor, especially science and technology, seem to have been blessed by society’s realization that achievement in these fields must be individual in character. The entire history of scientific and technological progress is the history of individuals, from
As John Chamberlain so aptly perceives in a statement backed up by Sir Henry Maine’s Ancient Law: "Individualism belongs to the maturity of the race, not to its beginnings."¹
If social scientists are really anxious to secure governmental harmony, they will abandon their irrational fear of liberty and extend the principle of individuation to all phases of human relations. The American Constitution was the first utilization of this principle—placing the responsibility for government upon the individual first, the community second, the state third, and the central government last. While it is important to know that the Constitution limited government, it is equally important to realize that this limitation applied almost exclusively to the central government. Such limitation is the only possible way to secure self-government, for a man cannot be expected to assume responsibilities with which he is not charged.
Arguments to the effect that "the world is smaller now" miss the point if they are used to justify governmental remedies. Professor Burgess, over 37 years ago, refuted this idea and the claim that we should therefore abandon our historic policy of nonintervention. He stated, "This claim rests upon the very serious error that world intercourse and world interchange of the elements of civilization require political interference and intermeddling. This is not only false, but it is so false as to be highly mischievous and harmful. Outside of this lies the whole free realm of trade, commerce, science, literature, art, and social relations, things which bring all parts of the world together in friendly and helpful interchange, while political intermeddling almost always provokes hatred, enmity and war….
"The freedom of individual thought and expression, of individual initiative and invention, and the free interchange of the results of these great spiritual forces, are the powers which make for civilization both local, national, and universal, while governmental interference through its orders, commands, directions, limitations, punishments, and wars has done much to restrain rather than always to advance the world’s true prosperity."?
The miraculous success of the American experiment in individuation and self-government, plus the tragic history of collectivist palliatives should be enough to convince anyone that the road to world government is the road to reaction. Each step along this road turns the clock back hundreds of years.
It is true that man does not always govern himself perfectly, but he can hardly be expected to learn and to progress by being deprived of the opportunity to do so. If the fruits of decentralized government cannot dispel forever the foggy vision of world-wide, central control, then one can only wonder if man is doomed to repeat a large segment of painful history for not having learned from it the first time. Unity and peace will come only as man changes from within—not as governments seek to force man to change from without. Our greatest task is to see that man has the opportunity for such change.
?Chamberlain, John. The Roots of Capitalism. New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1959. p. 60. Also consult the first six chapters of Sylvester Petro’s The Labor Policy of the Free Society, (New York: Ronald Press, 1957), which contain as brilliant a discussion of government and freedom as may be found anywhere.
? Burgess, John W., Recent Changes in American Constitutional Theory. Columbia University Press, 1923. pp. 12-13.
A Paternalistic Government
In ancient Greece Pericles inaugurated the feeding of the people out of the public treasury. A hundred years later Plato found that he had so completely debauched the Athenians that they were reduced to pauperism. Instead of working, they hung around the market place gossiping, and their characters were so weakened that the State was forced to hire barbarians to defend it from invasion. A paternalistic government is bound to destroy the self-reliance and self-respect of the people. When those attributes go, everything goes. Those are the virtues which have made our country great and those virtues alone will keep us great.
SENATOR THOMAS P. CORE, on the day Congress closed in 1934