In a characteristically acerbic and trenchant essay over at Chronicles, Thomas Fleming discusses the introduction of the Security and Prosperity Partnership as an issue in the late Republican presidential race:
Ron Paul’s most flamboyant gesture in defense of the republic (one in which he is joined by the estimable Duncan Hunter) has been the denunciation of what is sometimes called the North American Union. The NAU is an alleged plot to merge the three countries of North America—the United States, Canada, and Mexico—into a union that will function something like the European Union. If the first step toward unification is represented by the “NAFTA Superhighway”—a free-trade hole in the American border stretching from Mexico to Canada—the apogee will be the issuance of a new common currency, the Amero.
World government has been a treasured bugbear of the fringe right since the heyday of the John Birch Society, and the current conspiracy has supposedly been cooked up by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bush administration, and the usual globalist suspects. In 2005, the CFR issued a report, “Building a North American Community,” whose aspirations were echoed in the Bush administration’s plan “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” (SPP), released after a meeting among George W. Bush, Vicente Fox, and Paul Martin. The plan, which is predicated on the idea that “our security and prosperity are mutually dependent and complementary,” calls for a joint task force to implement the goals: common security and a common market.
Representative Paul has denounced the SPP as “an unholy alliance of foreign consortiums and officials from several governments” that does not even enjoy the legal fig leaf of an official treaty. The more general conclusion he draws is that “decisions that affect millions of Americans are not being made by those Americans themselves, or even by their elected representatives in Congress,” but by “a handful of elites [who] use their government connections to bypass national legislatures and ignore our Constitution.”
Ron Paul, whom Fleming characterizes as something of a naif for uncynically espousing the ideals of the Old Republic, and imagining that Americans might actually be roused to political action by such a clarion call, endured snorts of contempt on account of this faux pas. The dismissals of Paul's remarks, however, seem somewhat... odd, even tortured, when considered in the context of the recent vogue of a certain universalism - a subject which has received a measure of coverage here. Perhaps Paul was mistaken about the institutions, players, and details involved; but, manifestly, there are those, within and without our regime, who gaze upon the nation-state as a relic of a bygone era, one better dispensed with (in certain respects, at least), all the more so because its claims are morally invidious.
There is no secret plot or conspiracy to undermine our national sovereignty, unless, by conspiracy, we mean the collective will of the political class. (Snip) All right-thinking people, whatever their party or orientation, support globalization. It is a movement whose virtues are so obvious that Cato staffers cannot even understand why anyone could be upset with the idea of a North American Union.
And then, the knife, a quote of a Will Wilkinson editorial delivered on a recent NPR Marketplace broadcast:
There are some who believe a grave threat to American sovereignty looms over the horizon. A shadowy cabal, they say, is planning a massive “NAFTA superhighway,” a new North American currency, and a common market in goods and labor. It will all culminate in an E.U.-like North American Union. It turns out this is mostly fantasy. But the fantasy is more dream than nightmare. Because some aspects of a North American Union would leave Americans and our neighbors both richer and freer.
Those who do come now are more likely to stay. And this has increased the permanent population of undocumented Mexicans. The best solution to America’s immigration problem is not a wall or a new crackdown on the hiring of undocumented workers. It’s NAFTA’s unfinished business: a common North American labor market.
Fleming then concurs in the judgment of some libertarians that the nation-state has a morally dubious heritage, as nationalism has been the inspiration of many an injustice. Quoting Marx on the nation-state -
has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
Fleming suggests that the very process by which the nation-state is now undergoing subversion is a continuation of the process by which the order of nation-states consolidated, often by force, cunning, and repression, the patchwork principalities of the feudal period. The entire process, of course, transpires not because it is consonant with reason or justice, but because the powerful wish it so, for it serves their interests. In America, "a century ago, national business interests used their clout to eliminate the power of state governments to interfere in their ability to expand and monopolize new markets. Now, since at least the 1970’s, transnational business interests are working to eliminate the power of nation-states to interfere in their ability to expand and monopolize new markets."
Nonetheless, even though "some form of international empire will undoubtedly be the result of the current drive toward reducing and eliminating national sovereignty... this is hardly cause for alarm." The nation-state after all, is historically contingent.
To this, I must offer my demurral, for, although in one sense the passing of the nation-state cannot be more momentous than its creation, nor than the devastation policies imposed by such centralized governments inflicted upon family and culture in the Twentieth Century, the weakening of the nation-state will mark a decisive transition in our history, should it come to fruition. The nation-state arrived at its maturity in the summer of ideas of popular sovereignty and representation, and even if such ideas are mythical, their currency kept the nation-state tethered, however loosely at times, to the people; at a minimum, fictions of legitimacy and consent had to be maintained, and on occasion, the deliberate sense of the people was refracted through the darkened prism of governance. But the open elimination of such institutions, rites, and fictions - well, this will mark a new disenchantment of politics. Were the desires of the elites for the taming of the nation-state to be realized, the solitary vehicle left to ordinary people as a vehicle for policy inputs - even if only through a changing of fools at the helm of state - would be removed from them, and their nakedness before power exposed - to all. It is a thought that causes one to tremble; indeed, one need only look upon Europe under the dominion of Brussels, slowly extending its utterly corrupt and unrepresentative rule over the member states of the E.U. It is uncertain that people accustomed to polite fictions - but it must be observed that many chafe beneath them, as a decent percentage of the disaffected will cite the homogeneity of the governing class as a reason for such disaffection, though obviously not in my terms - will regard with indifference the shattering of their illusions.
A governing regime liberated from the necessity of maintaining legitimacy would, to paraphrase St. Augustine, be openly a band of brigands; and the nation-state, which, for all of its faults, at least offers such fig-leaves, and affords the possibility, however meagre at present, of shifting the levers of power. What chance of that under a transnational regime, unaccountable, yet at once remote, and able to interfere in the smallest locality with complete impunity? No, if it is an age of empires, political and economic, that beckons, will we be like the common people in the days of the 'ecumenical empires', as Voegelin termed them, who could do nothing but seek what shelter and solace as they could find from the relentless movements and buffeting of the empires. But, you say, it was an age of faith, and the Faith eventually overcame at least one of those empires? Ah - but after how long a delay? And at what cost? What cost for us, if we must outlast this latest folly of our elites?