Transcending National Sovereignty
We might think about transcending the limits of the nation-state to create a global community similar to what international business has done.
May 13, 2018
Lindy Davies

It occurs to me that some people aren't entirely rational about nation-states. To some, the Nation is everything: "America First!" thunders Donald Trump, along with any number of untranationalists around the world. These folks tend to see any form of international cooperation as part of an evil collectivist agenda.

Others, however, think of national boundaries as a vestige of a bygone era. It really is one world, they say, and we cannot afford to cling to parochialism in the face of global threats.

People say that international trade agreements, or even various precepts of international law, pose a dangerous threat to national sovereignty, which must be safeguarded, at all costs! Right?

But think for a second. Before all those loud talkers started screaming about it, was national sovereignty something that you... y'know... ever thought about much? Admittedly, it does kind of depend on where you live. National sovereignty is really quite secure in the United States, or France, or Japan or the People's Republic of China -- but if you live in Bolivia, or Myanmar, Nigeria or Honduras, it could be a dicier issue. People in beleaguered, impoverished countries change governments and flags relatively frequently, and the capacity of their ruling regimes to secure domestic tranquility is less than optimal.

We might think that transcending the limits of the nation-state to create a global community is the province of starry-eyed idealists: Spaceship Earth! The Global Village! In fact, though, it is the international business community that is really on board with the one-world vision. Multinational corporations play the laws  (and the political and economic weak spots)  of nation-states against each other. Corporations do this, very profitably, with the aid of the latest advancements in transportation and communication.

Whatever else a nation-state may do -- join in trade agreements, engage in military buildups, persecute ethnic minorities, manipulate currencies -- Job #1 for every nation-state is to administer its territory. It must make and enforce the rules that govern its land: where the boundaries are, who owns the land and what the owners can do with it.

And yet, today's nations do not do that. They do not, because, for the most part, they all sanction the economic institution of private landownership!  Individuals, or corporations, are allowed to buy and sell territory, to use it for their own profit, to exclude people from it, and to pollute it, in many cases, at will.

If we're worried about the erosion of national sovereignty, that's where we ought to start!

Here are some thoughts on solving this conundrum. These are the sorts of issues we deal with at Understanding Economics.

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Lindy Davies

LINDY DAVIES was Program Director of the Henry George Institute and Editor of the Georgist Journal. He was the author of The Alodia Scrapbook, the fictitious story of how a struggling African nation used Geoism to set itself on the path to prosperity, and of the novel The Sassafras Crossing. He managed a successful campaign to get the Henry George Institute's distance-learning program approved by the National College Credit Recommendation Service. He passed away in 2019, and is lovingly remembered by the many people whose lives he touched.