2010 #11 Spring ~

“WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY?”

by Professor James Bohman, Ph.D.

St. Louis University Department of Philosophy
Author of DEMOCRACY ACROSS BORDERS (MIT Press, 2007)

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WHEN: Sunday afternoon, April 18, 2010 3:45 p.m. – Informal Reception
4:00 p.m. – Bohman’s talk followed by discussion

5:10 – Annual Business Meeting
5:30 – Buffet turkey dinner

WHERE: THE ETHICAL SOCIETY OF ST. LOUIS 9001 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights, Missouri 63117

(3/4 mile west of the north end of Galleria Shopping Center)

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Pope Benedict on the Need for a World Political Authority

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By David C. Oughton, Ph.D., March, 2010

In his third encyclical “Charity in Truth,” Pope Benedict XVI applies the ethical and spiritual principles of Catholic social teaching (such as charity, the human family, the common good, the defense of life from conception to natural death, and the dignity of every human) to the world-wide economic crisis, globalization, workers’ rights, labor unions, social justice, poverty and hunger, international aid, the environment, human development, and world peace.

In Chapter 5 of this encyclical, Pope Benedict also explains another principle of modern Catholic social teaching—the need for an effective and moral world political authority. This principle was first developed in Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical “Peace on Earth.” Pope John realized that global problems cannot be adequately solved without “public authority which is in a position to operate in an effective manner on a worldwide basis.” (#137) Pope Paul VI and the bishops at the Second Vatican Council emphasized everyone’s duty “to strain every muscle as we work for the time when all war can be completely outlawed by international consent. This goal undoubtedly requires the establishment of some universal public authority acknowledged as such by all, and endowed with effective power to safeguard, on the behalf of all, security, regard for justice, and respect for rights.” (The Church Today, #82)

Besides outlawing war and maintaining a peaceful world order, Pope Benedict adds these reasons why “a true world political authority” is urgently needed: “to manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration.” (#67) Pope Benedict and other recent popes have realized that wars and genocides continue and so many other global problems are not being adequately solved because the world lacks a public authority that is “regulated by law,” that is based on “the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity,” that seeks “to establish the common good,” and makes a commitment “to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth.” (#67)

Because of the “unrelenting growth of global interdependence,” Pope Benedict states that there is a need for a “reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.” (#67) Even though the U.N. has accomplished so much since its creation after the Second World War, it has often been weak and ineffective in solving global problems and preventing wars for these reasons: (1) it is confederation of sovereign national governments that is based on international law, a system of customs and treaties; (2) the U.N. General Assembly can pass only nonbinding resolutions, and its system of “one nation-one vote” is not democratic because of differences in national populations; (3) the U.N. Security Council has often been impotent in preventing or ending wars because of the veto power of any one of the five permanent members, used for themselves or their allies; (4) the rulings of the U.N. International Court of Justice on treaty violations have often been ignored by national governments; and (5) the United Nations system must rely on dues from national governments, which are not always paid.

In order to give the U.N. “real teeth,” it should be transformed into a democratic world federation of nations that would create, enforce, and adjudicate world laws and be able to prosecute individuals who violate them. In order to prevent genocides and other violations of human rights, Pope Benedict believes that there is an urgent need to implement the “Responsibility to Protect” principle: national governments agree to protect people within their borders, not just their own citizens, and the international community is committed to humanitarian intervention.

The kind of world political authority which Pope Benedict supports would not be the only government in the world. He states that it should be based on the principle of “subsidiarity, for the management of globalization.” (#67) The national, state, and local governments would continue to solve problems as well as make and enforce laws for people within their own borders. According to Pope Benedict, a democratic global authority would need to be “universally recognized” and be vested with “effective power.” (#67) It would therefore require a world constitution which would make explicit the powers and limitations of the organs of the world federation of nations; the checks and balances between those organs; the rights, powers, and limitations of national governments; and the rights and responsibilities of all citizens of the world. Such a reform of the United Nations, according to Pope Benedict, would help build “a social order that at last conforms to the moral order.” (#67)

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TWO ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM: OVERPOPULATION AND OPPORTUNITIES WE IGNORE AT OUR PERIL

By David E. Christensen, Denver CO: Outskirts Press, 2010

Book review by Ronald J. Glossop–April 2, 2010

As noted in the Foreword, this insightful book by Professor Emeritus of Geography David Christensen tells you not what you would like to know but what you need to know.

Christensen’s title comes from his thesis that there are two elephants in the room (that is, in our media- directed world) “that no one wants to talk about.” “The Pink Elephant is the Earth’s overpopulation issue” while the Green Elephant stands for “the direct benefits that will come to the human family with the abandonment of war and the establishment of a global government.” (p. 4) Since people don’t want to talk about the critical population problem and also don’t want to talk about world government and its potential benefits, they tend to ignore an extremely crucial problem that isn’t going to go away and also the best hope of successfully dealing with the many problems confronting humanity. This book is an attempt to wake people up, to get them to see the big problem (the Pink Elephant) and the big solution (the Green Elephant), and then to do something about it.

Chapter 2 (The Human Predicament), chapter 3 (Arable Land and Fresh Water), and Chapter 4 (The Pink Elephant) spell out the various aspects of the population problem in detail. Our civilization is “built on sand” in three ways: (1) obsessive dependence on fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas), (2) economic affluence based on corporations exploiting workers in poorer countries, and (3) consumption of resources that takes no account of “externalities,” that is, of negative environmental consequences. This neo-colonial system is maintained by huge military establishments supported by taxes. In addition, “United States citizens, more than those in any other nation, seem to be stuck with a belief in the ‘growth syndrome,’ a notion that everything has to increase every year to be successful.” (p. 16) But that can’t continue. Christensen calculates that, given the limited amount of arable land, the long-term carrying capacity of the Earth is “about half of the world’s present 6.8 billion population.” (p. 19) As a result “about a third of the world’s people are now either malnourished or hungry.” (p. 41) Population growth also means a growing shortage of usable fresh water, which is “only one percent of the Earth’s total water.” (p. 28) The efforts of India and China to deal with population growth have been intensive, but “their populations are still growing.” (p. 56) Nevertheless there are things that can be done: educating parents on the desirability and means of having fewer children, having non-governmental organizations emphasize limiting population growth, having national governments adopt policies that restrain population growth, getting corporations to take account of the negative consequences of their practices and to stop regarding increased personal wealth as the only desirable goal, having everyone recognize that the effort has to be global in scope, and having religions emphasize our moral obligation to control population growth.

Chapter 5 shifts the focus to the Green Elephant, global government as the only way to deal with the whole range of global problems, starting with war and militarism, things which waste huge amounts of resources while simultaneously diverting attention from other problems. “The only way the United States can deal with its enormous debt and financial breakdown, find real security and retain a democratic form of government is to cooperate with other nations and become a leader in helping form a new global government . . . .” (p. 87) “The total yearly cost [of the U.S. military] is over $600 billion” while the “total yearly cost of the UN general operations and its agencies has been less than $20 billion, of which the U.S. pays less than $5 billion.” (p. 90)

Chapter 6 (The Rainbow Cake) describes the additional benefits for the whole world that will come from the creation of a global government. In chapter 7 (Conclusions and Final Thoughts) Christensen notes that the three ingredients needed to move ahead are education, compassion, and political will. Appendix A discusses the three possible ways of establishing a global government: amendments to the U.N. Charter, the formation of a federation of “the world’s roughly three dozen true democracies” (p. 138), and a people’s initiative, beginning with “selection of members for a Global Parliament” (p. 139) or a global referendum to show public support for a global government. Other appendices address “Necessary Attributes of a Global Government,” “UN Millenium Development Goals,” “Education Needs for All,” and “Prescription for a Healthy Democracy.”

This book provides a wealth of information and ideas about our current situation (the Pink Elephant centered on increasing global population) and the way forward (the Green Elephant centered on creating a global government). Although the presentation is a bit uneven in quality, this book is worth reading and then passing on to those who would rather be unaware of the big problems facing us and the ignored solution available to us.

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NUCLEAR WEAPONS ARE AN EFFECT

By Ronald J. Glossop

What happens if Iran gets nuclear weapons? What if other countries get nuclear weapons? These questions are the focus of attention of the media and political leaders.

But nuclear weapons as well as large-scale weapons are an effect caused by something else. Whether the issue is a medical disease like avian flu or a social disease like war and weapons, we don’t get the problem solved by focusing on the effects. We need to focus on the causes.

What causes war and the desire for large- scale weapons? That is a different question than what causes conflicts? Most conflicts within society do not result in wars. Within our country there are many conflicts and opposing viewpoints, but there has been no war within the country since 1861. The same is true within other democratic countries. Wars occur within countries when there are no trustworthy political and judicial institutions (that is, when there is no democratic government) to resolve the conflicts non-violently. The same thing is true at the international level. Wars occur between countries when there are no trustworthy political and judicial institutions (that is, when there is no democratic world government) to resolve the conflicts nonviolently. Unlimited national sovereignty means that the final arbitrator in disputes between nations is international war, and the winner is the nation with the strongest military and biggest weapons, including nukes. In such an situation, why won’t all countries want nukes it they can get them?

War and nukes are effects, not causes. In order to deal with the problem of war and nuclear weapons our media and our political leaders need to focus on the causes rather than the effects. They might not like to address the issue of the implications of unlimited national sovereignty, but unless they do, we will have more and more weapons of mass destruction, biological as well as nuclear–and these weapons won’t be limited to the larger countries.

At the international level we still lack the trustworthy political and judicial institutions needed to resolve conflicts nonviolently. The United Nations and the International Criminal Court are moves in the right direction, but we still lack a democratic world federation with the trustworthy political and judicial institutions which can resolve international conflicts nonviolently.

It would be a wonderful change if our media and political leaders would focus on the causes of our current dangerous social situation rather than just the effects. As Albert Einstein noted, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our ways of thinking.” We are still fixated on particular weapons and particular wars, that is on the effects, rather than on the causes of why we have wars and nukes.

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STRATEGIES FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE: WHAT CAN I DO?

WHEN: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 6, 2010
WHERE: University City Library Auditorium, 6701 Delmar (at Kingsland) PROGRAM:

6:30 p.m. Gathering and Refreshments 7:00 p.m. Panel of Presenters

Robert Fares: Hala Abdelaziz: i Mazen Badra:

“The J Street Position” “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions”

“The Mind of Peace Experiment”

8:00 p.m. Questions and Comments from Audience

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Organized by Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom of St. Louis

Co-sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions of St. Louis For more information, call 314/862-5735 or 314/837-0678.

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