Ten days ago, after I posted my reflections on the Goldstone Report, I found myself deep in an interesting e-mail correspondence with a law professor from Tel Aviv University who is a vocal supporter of abolishing national sovereignty and replacing it with an international human rights brigade. I'm not certain he would have chosen those precise words, but he was quite clear about the underlying principles. Actually, it was even worse, because his definition of what goes under "human rights" is breathtakingly wide, far beyond anything ever conceived of back in the late 1940s, when this fad got seriously underway.
He also rebuked me for not agreeing with him, given how by training I'm an historian of Nazism; I, of all people, should be better informed, he said.
Well. Maybe that explains why I've changed career tracks, I suppose.
Anyway, while I've been aware of this subject for quite a while, this correspondence, along with my reading of the Goldstone Report which preceded it, has alerted me to the seriousness of the issue. There really are many millions of people out there who are eager to whittle away democracy, i.e the responsibility of the electorate to make decisions, so as to replace it with teams of unelected specialists who are confident in their ability to know better what needs to be done, and what is unacceptable. The professor even called my type of democracy, the outmoded type, "technical democracy", while the type he advocates he called "fundamental democracy" or some such term (democratia mahutit).
So I've inaugurated a new tag (see below), called multilateral sovereignty, which I'll use to mark posts about this. Perhaps some day I'll write a book about it, who knows. If you're not interested in this newish interest of mine, feel free to skip those posts, or if I'm really annoying you, you may cancel your subscription.
The Economist last week had a thoughtful column on the fiscal aspects of this subject and their hazards.
Israel's Supreme Court just this week gave a dramatic demonstration, too. Five years after the Knesset passed a law enabling the careful privatization of prisons, the justices threw out the law. Haaretz has the story here, and two columns about it, one in favor of the decision, one critical.
I'm not convinced one way or the other myself. I'm uncomfortable with the ability of five unelected judges to throw out a law. I think it's ridiulous it took them five years, years in which the private businessmen spent a very large sum to build a prison and hire and train its staff. The fact that American, British and French legislators have passed similar laws, which haven't been struck down, indicates to me that it's not obvious that privately-run prisons must obviously be transgressors against the human rights of prisoners. On the other hand, I like the ability of Israel to decide for itself, irrespective of what others decide: that's the very essence of sovereignty. As for the prison itself, it seems the prisoners in the privately-run prison might actually have been treated better than those in the state run one - highly ironic, that - but on the other hand, I can see the sense of contending that the state must preserve it's monopoly of the use of force.
It's complicated. All the more reason not to take it out of the hands of the elected legislators, no?