Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Sovereignty: What good is It?

The words below are a rewritten version of an article by Wendell Willkie (a GOP Presidential candidate) published in Foreign Affairs, April 1944 Issue.   This is what he might have to say today.  
Sovereignty: What good is It? Edited by Chuck Woolery for Wendell L. Willkie (if he were alive today.)

Over the last 100 years the United States has lost the power of controlling our own national destiny.   Our unwilling participation in two world wars, an endless war against terrorism and our economic instability during the Great Depression and the two most recent recessions are powerful examples.  We didn’t want war or economy instability but our "national sovereignty" couldn’t protect us.  This concept gave us banking failures, depressions, recessions, and highly nationalistic economic and defense policies, with consequent deficit financing and violent discords by groups and individuals within our own society; and war, after war, after war.
If we and our children are to avoid the same disastrous and costly cycle we must give up the idea that sovereignty is something limited to our nation.  This is my thesis.
That our Government and people use the sovereign power of the United States in partnership with the sovereign power of other peace-loving nations to create, operate and fund an international organization designed to protect the rights and security of all people in all nations.   Real freedom means freedom from wars, economic or environmental disasters and freedom from fear of other catastrophic threats.  Any formula maintaining exclusive national sovereignty as the primary organizing force within ‘international law’ is sterile to do so.
We must expand the use of our sovereignty with other nations expanding theirs to accomplish the common purpose of freedom, security and prosperity for all.  Doing so could reverse the fumbled attempts to bring the world together after each World War.  We cannot continue the same reactionary or isolationist path we adopt after each war.
Wise men have said that the ultimate proof of a nation's freedom is in its ability to choose freely between war and peace. Most would agree that maximum human freedom and security is the fundamental condition most useful to America’s interests.  The primary aim of our government is the preservation of individual freedom and security. Our freedom of action to offer peace to all nations, trade and commerce with all nations, honest friendship with all nations.
Any informed American today knows that the United States has rarely been free to choose peace or war.  Mostly, our decision hasn’t been whether or not we would go to war.   But only how long we could postpone going to war.
In 1914 we approached a "foreign" war in a spirit of determined neutrality. In 1939 we did the same, armed with a specific program designed to make us immune to any external shock. Then after the Cold War we expected a “peace dividend”.  Each time we were forced, contrary to our desires and efforts, to abandon our neutrality. Each time we found that our national existence was at stake.  And, each time we had to fight to defend it.  Even with the attacks on 9-11 our enemies understood we would resort to war.
American foreign policy continues to assume that nations are "separate, distinct and wholly independent".  It is a foreign policy which permits any other nation or group to make decisions affecting vital American interests at their convenience and when they choose.
Our inability to control our own separate destiny in economic affairs is scarcely less striking. We still face this fact with reluctance. For a century we prospered magnificently on the assumption that we needed to consider only our own wants, our own resources, our own energy -- and we proudly put all three to use.  Yet even in the nineteenth century the cotton growers of the South discovered important exceptions to the rule that our economy was self-contained. In 1915 the farmers of the Middle West and West discovered their close relationship to countries 5,000 miles away.  In the seventies non American car manufactures dominated Detroit.  In the 1980s the Asian economic flu cut American pension funds by 30% as Midwest farm foreclosures increased 25%.  Then in 2008 our economic blunders brought economic shock to the rest of the world.  
Every decade laws are passed trying to shelter farmers, homeowners, investors and manufacturers from economic forces beyond our shores.  Eventually we must all realize that our own well-being is closely connected with the policies and actions of other nations.
When the Great Depression began the country turned to extreme protectionism in the search for economic security. The Hawley-Smoot tariff of 1930 raised our duties on imports to the highest level in history. Retaliation followed in the form of discrimination against our products by Spain, Italy, Switzerland, France and a score of other countries. In 1932, Great Britain and the dominions instituted their system of "imperial preferences." Which was cause and which effect in the economic chaos of the depression years need not be argued here. The war debts, the reparations tangle, the foreign loans, the speculative mania, the panic of 1929 on the New York Stock Exchange, the collapse of the Kredit Anstalt bank in Austria, Britain's abandonment of the gold standard -- these were only high spots of the general debacle. All the events were interrelated and the effects of all were worldwide. The United States discovered with a vengeance that we were not exempt from those effects.  That it was, in fact, an unstoppable consequence worldwide.
Our Government, faced with this stubborn fact, pursued contradictory policies. Our only consistency was that we stuck to nothing long. One Administration attempted to revive foreign lending and stimulate international trade by pressing for a suspension of reparations payments and placing a moratorium on war debts. But at the same time it raised the tariff. The next Administration initiated a program looking to international currency stabilization and dropped it, spectacularly, soon after its own emissaries had gathered with those of other nations in a World Economic Conference. It then attempted to institute a program of planned economic nationalism of its own, supported by heavy deficit financing.
This program and its inevitable results accelerated the decline of the economic structure of the European democracies which were then beginning to feel the pressures of totalitarianism (a system of political action and economic organization growing, in part at least, out of the nationalistic policies almost universally practiced by the nations of the world). Winston Churchill in 1937, on the floor of Parliament, pointed out that, "Those who are keeping the flag of peace and free government flying in the Old World have almost a right to ask that their comrades in the New World should, during these years of exceptional and not diminishing danger, set an example of strength and stability. The well-being of the United States may spell not only the well-being but the safety of all sorts and conditions of men. . . . A prosperous United States exerts, directly and indirectly, an immense beneficent force upon world affairs. A United States thrown into financial and economical collapse spreads evil far and wide, and weakens France and England just at the time when they have most need to be strong."
All this is recalled to emphasize one point: our experience demonstrates that we are not "wholly independent." As Senator Capper said on behalf of the farmers back in 1927: "Wherever we turn we find the Middle West and its economic woes entangled in the elusive 'foreign situation' with which it used to concern itself very little."
Some farmers again show signs of being misled into thinking that high protectionism will give them security.  I do not believe that many will wish, on second thought, to resume the hopeless effort to "lock up" wheat prices on a purely national basis. The price of wheat in the United States is not a "separate" affair.  Similarly, the price of cotton will continue to be determined, not solely in the United States, but also in Egypt and India and Manchester and a dozen other cotton-producing and cotton-processing centers. Conditions in Argentina and Australia will continue to affect the livelihood of cattle and sheep raisers in North America. Our businessmen and our farmers alike know in their minds, if not yet fully in their hearts, that the economy of the United States is irretrievably intertwined with that of other nations.
Congress and the press have been discussing the steps which should be taken to bring the peacetime foreign policy of the United States into harmony with twentieth century realities. Much of the talk has centered about the term sovereignty.
In the whole literature of political theory no word has occasioned more disputes. Students of politics hold generally that few countries have contributed more significantly to the development of political institutions than the United States.  But since the days when Madison, Hamilton and Jay wrote for The Federalist we have made few notable contributions in the realm of theory. We cannot dismiss the conflict in opinion over the term sovereignty as mere juggling with words.
The word sovereignty does represent a most important idea. And it is of additional practical importance now because some of our deepest emotions and loyalties, our pride in our country's past and our concern for her future, are associated with it…Many people now feel the necessity of putting the word "sovereign" into any sentence describing our relationship to other nations as automatically as they put on a necktie.  But,it is much too important a word to be used as a mere convention of speech.
The word has had many meanings in humanity's long effort to perfect the idea and instruments of self-government. Only comparatively recently did it come into use as a specific name for the source of power and authority within a state. Toward the end of the Middle Ages it described the position of the feudal chief to whom allegiance was due. There were then layers of "sovereign lords," beginning with a very small "sovereign" who controlled the lives and property of a miserable handful at the bottom of the heap, up through somewhat more impressive sovereigns who ruled over several small ones, to a group of great barons who recognized no superiors. In the course of time and much fighting these many sovereigns yielded to one, and the nation-state emerged with all power in the hands of one ruler, the king.
The great theme of modern history is the story of how the absolute authority of the monarch yielded in turn to the authority of the community – or “we the people”. It is the story of the development of democracy.
The line of development was not straight. Sometimes it doubled back -- as in Fascism. There have been variations in the theory designed to widen the base of popular authority in the state or to narrow it, to keep things as they were or to make way for change, to restrict the electorate or to extend it -- as when the franchise for women was debated.  It is sufficient for us to note that these theories simply were developed in response to the pressure of practical circumstances -- political, military, economic or social.
Some ardent theorists have worked to separate sovereignty from reality altogether.  They search for a completely logical system built up out of words.  Sometimes the search for a mystical point called the ultimate source of sovereignty has turned into a game for special devotees, as in the studies finding the ultimate pinpoint of sovereignty in the sub-section of the Constitution which provides for amending it.  Some enjoy such academic pleasures. But the central fact is that sovereignty within the United States resides in “we the people”.  We exercise the supreme power of the state. We are sovereign.
The difficulty arises when we extend the sovereignty concept beyond this fact and apply it to relations among nations.
Does the sovereignty of the American people extend throughout the world?  Obviously not. Superpowers often pretend they have a right and duty to enforce their will throughout the world. They have dressed their claim up in fancy and most offensive theories based on blood, race and mythology. The world put them down. The idea of the absolute sovereignty of any nation in international relations is as impractical in reality as the idea of the absolute separateness of any nation.
To the extent that the term sovereignty is taken to mean that we have the right to do exactly as we please in dealings with other nations, and that what we choose to do is not properly of concern to any other nation, is folly. During most our national existence we assumed that this conception of sovereignty was valid. We even got into the habit of believing that it was an essential part of national freedom. Its invalidity was brought home to us only with the development of modern communications. To try to defend it against the facts of modern life would be unrealistic and dangerous. Nor would we be preserving freedom.
Few remember when there were so few motorcars that each driver was free to make his own road rules.  It was generally understood that a good citizen behind the wheel would slow down on corners and either stop or make as little noise as possible when he encountered a horse.  If he didn't deliberately run into people, "reckless driving" meant only that he would break a spring or his own neck. But as the roads became filled with powerful automobiles there had to be traffic lights and motor cops. A man could no longer make his own road rules. Today if there were no traffic laws few would dare take the car out of the garage.  Red and green lights give us freedom to use our automobiles.
An analogous situation exists between nations. The highways of the world now are crowded.  There are no empty seas, air spaces, radio frequencies or lands where the rights and interests of many peoples do not meet and potentially conflict. The United States or any other nation cannot make the rules of the road all by itself.
Nations should not as a matter of principle refuse to arbitrate international disputes which arise from domestic policies. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, said in a 1923 speech before the Canadian Bar Association: "In these days of intimate relations, of economic stress and of intense desire to protect national interests and advance national opportunity, the treatment of questions which, from a legal standpoint, are domestic, often seriously affects international relations. The principle, each nation for itself to the full extent of its powers, is the principle of war, not of peace."
I am not suggesting the abolition of sovereignty. I am merely following out logically what seems to me an obvious line of reasoning. Senator Austin of Vermont expressed it when he said: "In order to save sovereignty we must use sovereignty in joining other nations for security."
"As I speak of sovereignty," said Senator Wiley of Wisconsin in a Congressional debate, "I speak of something which is precious. I speak of that which my grandfather obtained when he came to this country. Although he still could not understand the English language, he could obtain 160 acres of land, and he never forgot that that was his soil. . . . After he came to this country he became inspired with something called American sovereignty, and he was a part of the national sovereignty. I say that I do not think we, as trustees, can barter that thing away -- the sovereignty of the State or the people."
Most of us share the feeling for American soil expressed so movingly by Senator Wiley. Each of us values the backbone which the feeling of self-reliance extols on us.  Understandably we get angry at the suggestion we might "barter away" something which we hold so precious. But this is just another example where shades of meaning can obscure the essence of what a word stands for.  The actual process of give and take described by the word barter has nothing unworthy about it. Indeed, the phrase "enter into a contract to do such-and-such on such-and-such terms," which can be properly substituted in this connection, carries only honorable and businesslike implications.
I think that if we wish to establish relations between nations based on law instead of force the method we must follow is the one employed when men enter into a contract of partnership.  This has been developed over the years as a practical device for advancing the interests of civilized persons. A proper partnership involves clear rights and equivalent duties for all the partners, proportionate to their respective stakes in the common enterprise. The rights do not exist apart from the duties. This means that anyone who wants to enjoy the advantages of a partnership must give up some of his individual freedom of action. This voluntary limitation on his own future action (be it in a marriage, a university, or a corporation) constitutes the advantage which his partners gain in return for giving up some of their freedom of action in his favor.
It is a simple fact that we have often contracted to limit our theoretically absolute right to do as we liked in dealings with other nations, in return for something which we thought of equal or greater value. Let me cite one example that will surprise most people. In 1874 we bartered away our "right" to require that inhabitants of other countries who wished to mail a letter to the United States must abide by postal rules fixed independently by the United States.  Did we "lose" any of our sovereignty in joining the Universal Postal Union which set standard weights and rates for letters exchanged between Americans and people in other parts of the world?  A hundred other equally elementary examples exist -- the rules of safety at sea of 1889, the international sanitary regulations of 1903, the international regulation of radio wave lengths of 1927. Together they show beyond dispute that in the world today no single state which wishes to have friendly relations with other states is able to exercise all its rights independently of other states.
The subject which therefore ought to be debated now is not whether we should join in any sort of give and take with other nations but what the items of give and take should be.
I offer a simile. Visualize several big apartment houses touching one another in a single city block or occupying adjoining blocks.  Would it be sensible and profitable for each to depend for protection against fire exclusively on a fire-fighting capacities its own dwellers and employees? Or is it better for each owner to make agreements with the others as to the conditions under which their stand pipe to be used and under which fire brigades from neighboring houses may use their roof in fighting a neighborhood fire?  Going one step further, shouldn’t the owners agree to pay taxes at agreed rates to maintain a fire department to serve them all?
Common support of a common fire department does not affect the individual titles of ownership to individual properties. But unless the owners do arrange for common support they will wake up one day to find that their title deeds are indeed perfect but they apply to a pile of rubble and charred beams.  A title deed in a safe deposit box does not insure protection from fire and many other forms of trouble and loss. Only the wise and proper exercise of the rights and powers inherent in the title deed can afford protection.  The same with sovereignty. The proper exercise of sovereign rights protects sovereignty; the failure to properly exercise sovereign rights puts it in jeopardy.
Much of the current confusion over the term sovereignty comes from those who are willing from personal or party advantage to promote discord between the United States and other nations. Usually the nations they seem to hate most can be our chief allies. They shout that they will never permit any flag to substitute for the Stars and Stripes.  We need never abandon our flag.
Today we try to find the right road through the complicated problems raised by the War on Terrorism. We should not be surprised or discouraged when we feel unfriendly toward those who threaten us. We have done many things which are baffling and threatening to them. Under our constitutional system our government is not permitted to make commitments regarding future action to the same extent they are allowed to do under their systems. No one can read the future exactly and what we all are searching for is a means to safeguard our nations from future shocks in unpredictable situations.  It would be a sad commentary on human intelligence if great peoples allowed irritations caused by occasional uncertainties to make them cynical. We must not despair. We must not give up the search maximize the freedom and security that all people want.  It can be achieved if we have the faith to act in common.
Arguments used against international cooperation pretend to be rational.  They fear our loss of freedom and security. But in fact, independent policies ensure we will lose one or both.
Fewer Americans now favor this closed mindset.  Rational Americans can look at the problem of sovereignty without personal or party bias and ask: What specific actions are necessary and wise for the extension of the use of our sovereignty?
Here opinions differ wildly.  Assuming that some action is proper, and that many forms of action may be necessary, disagreement is natural and healthy. Agreement can and should be reached by argument and mutual give and take.  As the war against terrorism evolves, proposals as to how the peaceable nations of the earth should organize to prevent more atrocities will multiply and take more definite shape.  And they need to be examined and discussed in detail. Let us enter this great debate with the object of coming to an agreement instead of an irreconcilable spirit determined to vindicate a particular point of view.
In the League of Nations debate of 1919 and 1920 the sharpest differences of opinion within this country arose over the question whether the United States should commit itself to the use of force in upholding international agreements. Friends and foes alike of the proposed international organization saw that this would be the test of its usefulness. Persons who wished to prevent the United States from joining any world organization at all inflamed emotions and awakened prejudice by proclaiming that such a commitment would be "treason." Those who wanted to make the organization the instrument for preventing a second world war saw that it would succeed or fail according to the willingness of member states to pledge themselves to the use of force to maintain the rule of law, by an agreed procedure and in agreed circumstances.
The same essential debate took place after World War II.  Today this is still the core of the decision which we must take.  Are we willing only to talk when any situation arises which plainly threatens war?  Or are we willing, in agreed circumstances, to act, to prevent it?
Unchecked Japanese aggression in Manchuria in 1931 and Italian aggression against Ethiopia in 1935 gave Hitler the assurance he needed.  None believed others was prepared -- psychologically or militarily -- to do more than talk.
We need a clear statement that we are prepared in principle and practice to join with other members of an international organization in using force to protect the freedom and security of all people. Would the creation of such a joint instrument of force threaten our sovereignty?  Or would it, on the contrary, represent a useful extension of our sovereign powers in an effort to protect our vital interests?
First we must acknowledge that any postwar situation will likely require an armed force for "policing" parts of the world outside the boundaries of the United States to protect innocent people.   This is not new to us.  Acting unilaterally we have used our armed forces for police work in other parts of the world more than 50 times in our history.  The cost and the repercussions have not always been favorable.  But ignoring those parts of the world would have been more dangerous.
But we have also on 25 or more occasions taken police action in cooperation with other nations.  The agreements which we entered into with Great Britain in 1891, and with Russia in 1894, to patrol the Bering Sea against illegal fur sealers might be cited as examples of such international policing. These agreements gave both Russia and Great Britain the right to seize suspected fur hunters and their ships, even if they were American citizens sailing under the American flag.  Both those countries in turn gave us a similar right to seize ships and men, of whatever nationality, including their own, if we suspected them of illegal activities. Those agreements were not destructive of our sovereignty or of British and Russians sovereignty. They represented a constructive use of sovereignty, mutually advantageous to all three parties.
This established principle of cooperative international policing gives us the foundation on which to build for the future.  No dramatically long step is required. There are practical difficulties in creating a closely integrated internationalized police force, but they are not insurmountable given the cost of doing nothing or taking uncoordinated or late action as in Rwanda 1994 or Syria 2010.  An agreement between the peace-loving nations to each maintain certain land, sea or air forces and that each will use them collaboratively, in agreed situations and within agreed limits, to prevent aggression is possible.
This seems to me the minimum requirement to ensure that international disputes which are clearly covered by international law shall be submitted to courts and judges, and that those which are not shall be settled by conciliation and compromise. For such a procedure to work successfully, the members of the international organization must say plainly, in advance, that if peaceful methods fail the aggressor state, or state actors committing atrocities within their own nation will encounter sufficient armed forces to ensure his/her eventual defeat.
In planning how this force would be operated as a practical matter we have a model in the combined chiefs of staff with in prior wars. Such a staff would make the necessary technical preparations for effective collaborative action in the event that should ever become necessary.  I would hope that the mere preparation for action would forestall the need of ever taking it. But if the time should come when collective action had to be taken, it certainly is in the interest of the United States and of all other peace-loving states that it be taken promptly and decisively.
To repeat once more: I think that our use of our sovereignty to create an effective instrument of peace is the best way of protecting our sovereignty. If this is called "bartering," I would say that it is a profitable transaction.  I would rather see the United States enter into it than pursue our own aloof and enormously costly way into future wars.
Even with no war in sight we shall face many tough problems which can be met only by international action. Some will be scientific or technological, some cultural or educational. Some will be economic -- our struggle, in partnership with our allies, to use the raw materials and the markets of the world to increase living standards everywhere. Some will be political -- the delicate and hazardous adjustment to freedom and self-government of millions of people who have now heard those magic words and will need our help as they grope dangerously for a way to turn them into reality.
Only in an international organization backed by the machinery needed to enforce its decisions can the United States deal boldly and effectively with the problems which will confront it.  In cooperation with our allies, we will remain leaders by virtue of the strength and ingenuity of our people. Using this leadership, for our own enrichment and that of mankind, will not be weakening the sovereign power of the American people; it will be to widen it and make it more real by maximizing the freedom and security of all humanity.
[i] Made in New York before the Council on Foreign Relations, January 8, 1934.  Rewritten Feb 8, 2014.