Andrew Coyne: I, for one, welcome our new world parliament overlords

Andrew Coyne: I, for one, welcome our new world parliament overlords
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This week’s populist panic concerns a plot to impose a world government on Canada. I’m just kidding, of course: populists are in a panic about that every week. Only this time they can point to an actual proposal — albeit one that has zero chance of ever being enacted.

It’s called the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. As the name suggests, the proposal is to supplement the current United Nations apparatus, made up as it is entirely of the appointees of member governments, with an elected assembly — one that “will directly represent the world’s citizens and not governments.”

To my knowledge no government on the face of the earth supports such a plan, for precisely that reason: armed with the democratic legitimacy popular elections confer, a UNPA would soon seek the powers that go with it. As the campaign’s website explains, “in the long run, once its members are all democratically elected, the assembly could be developed into a world parliament which — under certain conditions and in conjunction with the UN General Assembly — may be able to adopt universally binding regulations.”

The only way to pass some sovereignty upward without sacrificing accountability, is direct democratic elections

Could, may, long run, under certain conditions: in other words, never. The only way this could ever happen would be if all of the world’s governments agreed it should, and even then it would likely be about as toothless as — well, think of how little power the European Parliament has, then dilute it by about 100. But someone said it on a website, so you never know.

The idea — world federalism — is not new, and neither is the campaign: it has been kicking around for several years, driven more by the enthusiasm of the handful of utopian idealists behind it than by any actual prospect of success. In that time, however, it has collected the support of individual parliamentarians in a number of countries, including several dozen current and former MPs in Canada. Most are Liberals and New Democrats, together with a smattering of Red Tories. Among the signatories: one Justin Trudeau, MP, who apparently endorsed the proposal in 2010.

Cue the hysteria, courtesy of Maxime Bernier, leader of the increasingly nutty People’s Party of Canada. Which means, on current form, the Conservatives will be asking about it in Parliament next.

“Our Prime Minister supports a campaign for the establishment of a World Parliament that could impose binding laws and regulations on Canada,” Bernier said in a Thursday tweet, one of several posted before and since. “This is not a conspiracy theory invented by paranoid anti-globalists,” he explained in another. Then, just to underline the non-conspiratorial, non-paranoid nature of his argument, he hit the caps lock key: “IS HE LOYAL TO CANADA OR LOYAL TO A FUTURE WORLD GOVERNMENT THAT WILL DESTROY CANADA?”

2/ This is not a conspiracy theory invented by paranoid anti-globalists. The Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly is an international network that includes influential supporters of “global governance” everywhere.

Of course, just because something is never going to happen doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea: it’s hard to call it fear-mongering when there isn’t even a decent fear to monger. Some of the most perplexing problems facing modern societies — climate change, financial market regulation, the refugee crisis, to go with the enduring challenges of avoiding war and keeping markets open — transcend national borders. The more globalized we become in fact, thanks to advances in communications and transportation, the more global our approach has to be.

To date, in the absence of a world government, we have had to jury-rig a series of ad hoc international institutions: not only the UN and its various conferences and conventions, but the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements, and so on. This has proved increasingly unsatisfactory, for two reasons.

One, to the extent national governments have been willing to cede sovereignty to these bodies, they run up against the “democratic deficit” problem, common to all such exercises in executive accommodation. The governments themselves may (or may not — see below) have a democratic mandate, that is, but not so their collective creations. I support the work of the WTO, but I have a hard time answering when people complain “the WTO says we can’t do this? Who the hell elected them?”

Just because something is never going to happen doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea

And two, so far as governments, partly for this reason, have not been willing to give these bodies the powers they need, they have often proved ineffective. The only way to square this circle, to pass some sovereignty upward without sacrificing accountability, is direct democratic elections: just as, here in Canada, we elect a federal government to deal with problems that transcend provincial boundaries.

Of course, one of the problems confronting such a proposal is that many of the world’s countries currently do not even elect their own governments. If they did, a genuine world government would still be hard pressed to reconcile the interests and values of the many disparate cultures that exist around the world: if the Europeans haven’t managed it internally (some might say the same of Canada) it’s hard to see sufficient trust developing among the peoples of different continents.

And if it did? Again: the decisions of such a body could only ever be enforced in countries that agreed they should be. It would not “destroy Canada” even in the fantastically unlikely event that it ever got off the drawing board.

It’s not going to happen: not in my lifetime, probably not for another century or two after that — if ever. Justin Trudeau, MP, might have signed a statement nine years ago, but Justin Trudeau, PM, is not about to impose it on anyone. But someone said it on a website, so you never know.

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