Warming to Global Sovereignty
From its first appearance, the specter of "global warming" has been aimed at America's industrial leadership and living standards. Now, as the Kyoto meeting opens, an even greater ambition has come to the surface. Nothing less than America's sovereignty is the target.
Most other nations have a schizophrenic relationship with America. There is genuine admiration. And there is genuine envy. There is the urge to emulate America's success. And there is the urge to cut America down to size.
Traditionally, Americans tend to be more self-critical than self-congratulatory. Yet, to appreciate what now is at stake, we must face some unvarnished facts about political institutions.
Except for a small number of small countries, such as Iceland or The Netherlands, successful political institutions have been brought forth alone in the English-speaking world. Success is demonstrated, above all else, by freedom of movement and the peaceful transition of power.
The rest of the world consists of countries representing varying degrees of failure. France is in its fifth republic since the great revolution of 1789. Germany needed America to give it a functioning government. Italy cannot begin to stabilize its system - and these are the countries which have produced libraries-full of books about political institutions.
Political institutions are distinct from other accomplishments. The artistic, technological, or culinary contributions of many a society may be of the highest order. But the music of Tchaikovsky, the paintings of Velasquez, the beautiful proportions of a Ming vase have gone hand-in-hand with the wanton arrest and torture of defenseless citizens, and the inevitable bloodbath when power changed hands. Some societies appear to be on the mend, mostly under Anglo-American influence, but the turn for the better is far too recent to be seen as conclusive.
International conferences are thus comprised for the most part of persons representing countries of failed political institutions. The United Nations is thus populated for the most part by persons representing countries of failed political institutions. Many of the countries themselves survived the 20th century because America had come to their rescue. Why on earth would we hand such persons, such countries, control over America's affairs?
Would any reasonable employer appoint supervisors who keep "messing up" in their own work.
Only last week, the world got another reminder about the immense difficulties in all those arenas where America seems to succeed with ease. Asia's "economic miracles" ran out of steam, as the German model had done earlier, before the eyes of a disbelieving world. Why then has America succeeded from Day One of its existence?
Because good political institutions produce economic success that lasts.
But now, politicians elected and sworn to uphold America's Constitution contemplate yielding up a portion of America's sovereignty. Why is it not clear to them that, once begun, the process may take us down a steep slope?
Because, apparently, they have forgotten another defining difference between America and the rest of the world. People everywhere look at how their neighbors are doing. Americans succeed because of their view of success. "If my neighbor has it," so the mantra goes here, "I, too, can have it, if I just work harder." The rest of the world tends to operate on another mantra: "If I don't have it, my neighbor shall not have it either."
The emergence of the American mantra was a direct result of our political institutions, providing for a more perfect Union, Justice, domestic Tranquility, common defense, general Welfare, and securing the Blessings of Liberty.
Those blessings have maintained America on a steady course while the world lurched from crisis to crisis. Another blessing has been America's penchant for dealing with reality, as opposed to theory. Why get all worked up about a theory of global warming, when the next reality might well be a new ice age? Or a giant meteor, wiping out all of us next week? Who knows? One of the wisest arrangements of Providence has been the veil under which it has hidden the future. As a result, all technological advances notwithstanding, our scientists cannot predict what a hurricane will do during the next 24 hours.
Climate changes over the next 100 years? Give us a break, Mr. Vice President!
Of course, there are the "2600 scientists" who have signed the petition on global warming. I believe I met them when first appointed professor of music at Indiana University in 1978. Well, I didn't actually meet them. A letter arrived in my mailbox inviting me to join "with thousands of my colleagues" by signing a petition that calls for America's unilateral disarmament. Requests for a copy of the actual text or a list of previous signers were refused by a dry voice over the phone, saying "We just want you to sign."
Perhaps, today's signatories are the same. Perhaps today's petition is the same. Perhaps someone merely scratched out the words "unilateral disarmament," and substituted "global warming."