Warming to Global Sovereignty
From its first appearance, the specter of "global warming"
has been aimed at America's industrial leadership and living standards.
Now, as the Kyoto meeting opens, an even greater ambition has come
to the surface. Nothing less than America's sovereignty is the target.
Most other nations have a schizophrenic relationship with America.
There is genuine admiration. And there is genuine envy. There is
the urge to emulate America's success. And there is the urge to
cut America down to size.
Traditionally, Americans tend to be more self-critical than self-congratulatory.
Yet, to appreciate what now is at stake, we must face some unvarnished
facts about political institutions.
Except for a small number of small countries, such as Iceland or
The Netherlands, successful political institutions have been brought
forth alone in the English-speaking world. Success is demonstrated,
above all else, by freedom of movement and the peaceful transition
The rest of the world consists of countries representing varying
degrees of failure. France is in its fifth republic since the great
revolution of 1789. Germany needed America to give it a functioning
government. Italy cannot begin to stabilize its system - and these
are the countries which have produced libraries-full of books about
Political institutions are distinct from other accomplishments.
The artistic, technological, or culinary contributions of many a
society may be of the highest order. But the music of Tchaikovsky,
the paintings of Velasquez, the beautiful proportions of a Ming
vase have gone hand-in-hand with the wanton arrest and torture of
defenseless citizens, and the inevitable bloodbath when power changed
hands. Some societies appear to be on the mend, mostly under Anglo-American
influence, but the turn for the better is far too recent to be seen
International conferences are thus comprised for the most part
of persons representing countries of failed political institutions.
The United Nations is thus populated for the most part by persons
representing countries of failed political institutions. Many of
the countries themselves survived the 20th century because America
had come to their rescue. Why on earth would we hand such persons,
such countries, control over America's affairs?
Would any reasonable employer appoint supervisors who keep "messing
up" in their own work.
Only last week, the world got another reminder about the immense
difficulties in all those arenas where America seems to succeed
with ease. Asia's "economic miracles" ran out of steam,
as the German model had done earlier, before the eyes of a disbelieving
world. Why then has America succeeded from Day One of its existence?
Because good political institutions produce economic success that
But now, politicians elected and sworn to uphold America's Constitution
contemplate yielding up a portion of America's sovereignty. Why
is it not clear to them that, once begun, the process may take us
down a steep slope?
Because, apparently, they have forgotten another defining difference
between America and the rest of the world. People everywhere look
at how their neighbors are doing. Americans succeed because of their
view of success. "If my neighbor has it," so the mantra
goes here, "I, too, can have it, if I just work harder."
The rest of the world tends to operate on another mantra: "If
I don't have it, my neighbor shall not have it either."
The emergence of the American mantra was a direct result of our
political institutions, providing for a more perfect Union, Justice,
domestic Tranquility, common defense, general Welfare, and securing
the Blessings of Liberty.
Those blessings have maintained America on a steady course while
the world lurched from crisis to crisis. Another blessing has been
America's penchant for dealing with reality, as opposed to theory.
Why get all worked up about a theory of global warming, when the
next reality might well be a new ice age? Or a giant meteor, wiping
out all of us next week? Who knows? One of the wisest arrangements
of Providence has been the veil under which it has hidden the future.
As a result, all technological advances notwithstanding, our scientists
cannot predict what a hurricane will do during the next 24 hours.
Climate changes over the next 100 years? Give us a break, Mr. Vice
Of course, there are the "2600 scientists" who have signed
the petition on global warming. I believe I met them when first
appointed professor of music at Indiana University in 1978. Well,
I didn't actually meet them. A letter arrived in my mailbox inviting
me to join "with thousands of my colleagues" by signing
a petition that calls for America's unilateral disarmament. Requests
for a copy of the actual text or a list of previous signers were
refused by a dry voice over the phone, saying "We just want
you to sign."
Perhaps, today's signatories are the same. Perhaps today's petition
is the same. Perhaps someone merely scratched out the words "unilateral
disarmament," and substituted "global warming."