What Sort of World Authority?

Douglas Farrow takes up one of the more difficult questions for the right-wing Catholic: Pope Benedict’s call for a “true world political authority” in his recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. Farrow doesn’t fully assuage fear that the pope has erred in the direction of his European intellectual surroundings, but he does provide the context of Benedict’s previous writings, which assure us that the pope does see the danger of secular governmental consolidation.
From the Christian perspective, we must begin with the assumption that the world will converge in some way, making the question how, not whether, to govern that interconnected society:

Globalization, Benedict insists, is something more than the inevitable consequence of technology. In fact, it tells us something about the way humanity is made. Globalization, in other words, is a consequence of divine design. It is no mere accident of history affording “unusual opportunities for greater prosperity,” as John Paul II said. History, as Paul VI suggests, is the site of development, and development is the function of the human vocation, at once personal and corporate, to an end that lies beyond history. On the way to that end, something like globalization was bound to happen. Humanity has been called together by God in Christ, and it will come together. …
In Caritas in Veritate, Benedict speaks of globalization in much the same terms. “Globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it,” he notes, quoting from John Paul II. “We should not be its victims, but rather its protagonists, acting in the light of reason, guided by charity and truth. Blind opposition would be a mistaken and prejudiced attitude, incapable of recognizing the positive aspects of the process, with the consequent risk of missing the chance to take advantage of its many opportunities for development.”

The resolution to the problem, it seems to me, comes into view if we take a classically American view of government rather than the more European view that we fear Pope Benedict to be promoting. In practical terms, this means that, taking a global tier of government to be inevitable, the only tolerable version is after a democratic, federalist model with authority and power inversely proportional to the distance from the individual. The higher one goes, the less the governing body should actually be authorized to do.
In more substantive terms, and here I think it unquestionable that the pope agrees, taking the American view means beginning with the idea that human society is governed by more than just a political government. Our Constitution acknowledges and provides for the maintained health of other spheres of authority, such as religion, commerce, and media, and any higher level of government must do the same to a heightened degree.
Of course, with America herself drifting from those principles, the fear that a “world political authority” formed during these times would have oppressive, totalitarian tendencies is eminently reasonable. What’s needed, in other words, is a cultural conversion before such secular mechanisms would be tolerable. As the head of the Church, Pope Benedict surely sees that, and his encyclical, as Farrow suggests, should be seen less as an instructional document for immediate advocacy than as a presentation of where the world is headed and what final destination Catholics should envision.

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14 years ago

Lack of competition is the result of most of the waste, injustice, and evil in the world.
One world government would therefore be the ultimate evil. If such a government turned itself to an authoritarian regime, or even simply one giant faceless bureaucracy, there would be no hope left for anyone in the world, no competing models, nowhere to which we could escape.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

I don’t wish to back into defending propositions that I don’t support, so I’ll say up front that humankind across the globe clearly does not have the depth of political philosophy to pursue anything remotely resembling a world authority, and it is doubtful that it ever will. (And even if it were to develop, recidivism may be a fatal flaw.)
That said, Dan, I think you err in that you take what I term the European view of government. For the reason you state, a “world government” would have to be, as I said, extremely limited in its authority — limited in police, judicial, economic, military, social, and every other power. This would have to be more the case than even the most federalist vision of the U.S. government.
The libertarian will make all sorts of declarations in response: That we won’t get that sort of government, that such a government would inevitably grow (as the U.S. government has), that there is no need for such a government. But whatever the merits of your case, they’d be ceding the state to the statists, so to speak. They’d be inviting global totalitarians to own all of the positives that a world government might be said to promise.

14 years ago

I will start by saying I am not Catholic, so I personally cannot comment on the “Catholic vision” of a final destination. That said, while certainly technology has had the effect of making the world a “smaller” place, so to speak, I do not necessarily think that a one-world government is necessary, feasible, or desirable. I think that perhaps if the UN worked better as a unit, then that would be a sufficient organization for settling disputes and addressing issues that affect us at a global level. I am not an isolationist; we need to work with other nations to promote peace, trade, and to address issues such as protection of the environment. However, I think this can be done through collaborative partnerships. Each country could still govern in its own way, but we also should have some sort of collaborative group that works together to arrive at agreements that best meet the needs of all nations. This is very different from a one-world government, which I think would be dangerous and would not even really work. I like to think of the ideal situation as an effort among independent nations to work together for the common good.

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