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Reimagining International Federalism

Deconstructing Myths and Principles of Contemporary International Federalism

By Glen-Rhodes

I hope that nobody was frightened by the incredibly pretentious title of this lecture. I promise that this will be a fairly straight forward, albeit slightly long, essay. I am assuming that most of the people who will be reading this are not familiar with the loosely defined political blocs International Federalism (IntFed) and National Sovereignty (NatSov) -- within the World Assembly. However, this is not intended to be an educational primer, so some concepts might not be fully explained. In this lecture, I will address some myths associated with International Federalism and I will set out to reimagine the ideology by putting forth what I believe to be important policy goals of the movement. Note, however, than I am not the leader of the IntFed bloc. The views expressed here are my own, and while some may

agree with them, they are by no means consensus positions held by all those who may call themselves International Federalists. Before delving into these issues, it is necessary to have some fundamental knowledge of the broad political workings of the World Assembly. The group of elite (for lack of a better word) players in the World Assembly can generally be placed into two different camps. One camp has a simple concept of what exactly it is the World Assembly should be doing or, rather, not doing. Those who claim membership within the National Sovereignty bloc have a view of the World Assembly as a body with limited authority. While there does exist some internal disagreement about how limited World Assembly authority is, the consensus is that there is a delineated power relationship, and that member states maintain the upper hand. Member states are fully sovereign entities, and encroaching on that sovereignty should only be done in extraordinary circumstances. The other camp, International Federalism, has a much broader view of the power relationship between the World Assembly and its member states. Sovereignty still exists, but in a more limited fashion, as member states voluntarily choose to cede some of their sovereignty when they join the World Assembly. International Federalism is a much harder ideology to de-

fine, as it defies constraints on World Assembly authority as a matter of philosophy, and most importantly, there have not been many prominent proponents of the ideology in recent years. Lacking these proponents, the ideology did not go through the same consensus-building process as the National Sovereignty ideological bloc did. Whereas there used to be a popular and arguably powerful National Sovereignty Organization, there never existed an International Federalism Organization. Many people over the years have claimed the title International Federalist, but these people have such wide ranging political beliefs and policy prescriptions, the movement lacks any clear definition of what it represents. More colorful self-proclaimed IntFeds tarnished the reputation of the movement, leading to many stereotypes and myths being perpetrated about the followers of the ideology. I was contacted by Unibot to give a lecture about International Federalism at the 2012 NationStates World Fair, and I believe this is an excellent opportunity to dispel these myths. So now that I have established a basic understanding of the World Assembly dichotomy, we can head straight into deconstructing the popular mythology of International Federalism, and then head into the reimaging I hope takes hold.

Myths of International Federalism

Myth #1: International Federalism believes the World Assembly is all-powerful and has no limits.
This is perhaps the most constant and consistent criticism of International Federalism argued by the National Sovereignty bloc. The myth goes that International Federalism posits a World Assembly with unlimited authority. International Federalists believe that the World Assembly can pass resolutions on whatever it wants, that sovereignty only exists in areas where the World Assembly has not yet chosen to legislate.1 The reason this myth exists is that International Federalism and National Sovereignty approach the World Assembly from completely different ontological views stemming from the underlying metaphysics of the World Assembly. (Note: I promise this will be the most complicated part of this essay, and the longest answer to a myth.) For simplicity, the underlying metaphysics of the World Assembly will be called game mechanics from now on,

See Knootoss description of International Federalism in his essay posted on the World Assembly forum, Will the real International Federalist please stand up? (http://forum.nationstates.net/viewtopic.php?f =9&t=104396)

as this is what it is called in the Rules and in common discussion. The game mechanics of the World Assembly is that it does have unlimited power, in the sense that, so long as a resolution does not contradict the Rules, there is actually no limit to what a resolution can and cannot do. There is no concept of sovereignty to the game of NationStates itself. That an author can legislate on virtually anything, that there is no limit to micromanagement in the coding structure of the game, is a matter of fact. Both ideological blocs accept this. Where they differ, however, is in the ontological statements that they make from this shared understanding of game mechanics. An ontological statement is a statement about how something exists. When I say that International Federalism and National Sovereignty diverge in their ontological statements about the World Assembly, I am saying that the two blocs disagree fundamentally with how the World Assembly exists. Based on the game mechanics (metaphysics) of the World Assembly established above, International Federalism proceeds with the ontological statements, The World Assembly exists as an all-powerful entity with member states. National Sovereignty proclaims otherwise. They turn sharply away from game mechanics, in this instance at least, and state, Member states exist as supreme. The World Assembly is a construction of member

states, and only has the authority member states give it. Do you see the difference between the two statements? They contrast starkly. From these ontological statements, we can begin to understand why the two blocs use the language they use and believe in certain ideas. International Federalism will tend to use language in reference to and will tend to view sovereignty as devolution of power from the World Assembly to its member states. National Sovereignty will tend to do the exact opposite. Therefore, when somebody evokes the myth that International Federalism believes the World Assembly is all-powerful and has no limits, they are making the mistake of equating ontological beliefs with policy prescriptions. Merely because International Federalism accepts that game mechanics makes the World Assembly all-powerful, as a simple matter of fact, does not mean that International Federalism does not place limits on World Assembly powerful. It does, but we International Federalists recognize that those limits are of our construction, not some endogenous characteristic of the World Assembly itself. This is a nice segue to the next myth

Myth #2: International Federalism is opposed to putting limits on World Assembly power.

If the opposition cannot accurately say International Federalism has no limits, they turn to the myth that International Federalism actually opposes placing limits on World Assembly power. This often occurs during the discussion of so-called blocker resolutions. A blocker is what it sounds like: a resolution intended to block other resolutions from being implemented. This is usually done when an author feels threatened by an existing proposal draft, and attempts to rush through a resolution that would make the threatening proposal illegal. Sometimes, the blocker will actually address the same issue as the threatening proposal, but do it in a much lighter, less intervening manner. As a matter of general policy, I dislike blockers. Many International Federalists also dislike blockers. However, this is not because we do not believe the World Assemblys power should be limited. It is, instead, a matter of keeping our options open. Far too often blockers are written in the broadest possible manner, effectively putting many different approaches to an issue out of reach. For example, the Nuclear Arms Possession Act is a blocker that is intended to prevent the World Assembly from outright banning nuclear weapons. But it is so broadly written, that any effort to regulate the possession of nuclear weapons is of questionable legality. Is it truly sensible that the World Assembly should not be permit-

ted to regulate nuclear arms possession in failed states, which are highly susceptible to terrorist groups and other non-state actors gaining access and control over those weapons? Just because the author of the Nuclear Arms Possession Act wants to ensure other, more safe and reasonable member states can possess nuclear weapons? I do not believe this is the best way to approach this issue. But it is the most common way, in my experience. Years of experience has given me and other International Federalists a healthy dose of skepticism when other authors from the National Sovereignty bloc propose placing limits on what the World Assembly can and cannot do. That does not mean we oppose all limits, though. The resolution blocking the World Assembly from banning execution, for example, was written by an International Federalist. (Myself, to be exact.)

Myth #3: International Federalism is elitist because it does not trust member states to implement resolutions.
While this myth often comes up in the context of mandatory compliance debates (an issue I will not forge into here), it sometimes is offered up during proposal drafting with proposals that seek to include some kind of compliance mechanism. International

Federalism is argued to trust World Assembly agencies over individual member states, painting a picture of International Federalism a paternalistic ideology. The verdict I have for this myth is that it is accurate in its premise, but could not further from the truth in its conclusion. In the past two or so years, International Federalism has been spearheaded by Unibot and me. We both study political science and international relations theory at university (though not the same one!), where we have garnered a reasonably skeptical view of global governance and compliance issues in real-world international law. In our view, International Federalism does not distrust member states when it comes to complying with resolutions. Rather, International Federalism seeks insurance against noncompliance, which, if we are taking a realistic approach to the World Assembly, will inevitably happen at some point. It is better to establish legal regimes and oversight mechanisms, than it is to pretend that the world is perfect and psychotic dictatorships can be trusted to obey international law. I am not sure why this myth even exists, if I am being honest.

Myth #4: International Federalism is just a One World Government.

This myth does have reason to exist, because there are some people in the past, who claimed to be International Federalists, and advocated for a oneworld government. But I would like to settle this issue once and for all. Let us, from now on, call one-world government advocated World Unitarians. (Hat tip to Christian Democrats from coming up with this term.) While World Unitarians have historically been grouped with International Federalists, I feel that this grouping is unfair to both groups. First, International Federalists do not believe, as a matter of policy, that the World Assembly operates as a central government, with member states being mere administrative units. I have personally fought against those authors who treat the World Assembly as the equivalent to a national legislature, where no issue is too domestic of an issue to address on the international stage. It is not fair to International Federalism that this group maintains our label. And it is not fair to World Unitarianism that they are forced into a group that does not advocate for their positions. In the next section of this essay, I hope to establish a new general policy agenda that will distinguish International Federalism and World Unitarianism. I will address the issue of sovereignty and what it means in the context of International Federalism. After settling that issue, I will move on to other common policy areas and

describe what I believe the preferable International Federalism agenda would be, under the over-arching goal that International Federalism seeks to promote peace and cooperation among member states, secure human rights, and promote the responsibilities of the modern state to its people.

The New International Federalist Agenda

Part I: Sovereignty and Federalism
What does sovereignty mean in the context of an international federal system? What did sovereignty used to mean? What has changed? These are question I will spend this first part answering. If you are reading this section before anything else, you may want to refer to the first myth in the Myths portion of this essay, as it explains the broad ontological reasoning of International Federalism. This section will rely upon an understanding of how International Federalism views the power relationships between the World Assembly and its member states. Old and New Sovereignty The oldest, most basic understanding of sovereignty in the World Assembly is that states maintain total authority over their laws and institutions. It is an inherent violation of the

natural order of things for the World Assembly to encroach on domestic issues. In the context of the World Assembly as an intergovernmental organization, only international issues should be addressed, and only in ways that does not diminish the sovereignty of member states. This interpretation of sovereignty is beyond outdated. Just short of being anti-World Assembly altogether, it is a view of sovereignty that allows little room for the World Assembly to do much of anything. Old Sovereignty tends to diminish the capacity of the World Assembly, rendering it as an institution that exists to protect the sovereign rights of member states, rather than to address social ills or otherwise intervene into the domestic affairs of member states On its face, it is an interpretation that is attractive to many people. That is no surprise, because this interpretation existing for hundreds of years in the real world, as well. But it as severe failures. For once, Old Sovereignty can (and has) been used to defend genocidal regimes, psychotic dictatorships, social discrimination, and a plethora of other negative realities. This is not to say that the contemporary National Sovereignty movement opposes things like human rights, because they most certainly do not. However, they do disagree from time to time on what counts as a human right.

The National Sovereignty movement would be loath to admit it, but I believe they operate under the same interpretation of sovereignty as International Federalism. New Sovereignty is centered on people. The fundamental basis for sovereignty lies within the people. The state has a responsibility to protect those people, to provide for them. Under this interpretation, it is not a violation of sovereignty to declare certain civil and political rights for all people. It is not a violation of sovereignty to enact antidiscrimination laws, nor is it a violation of sovereignty to require social safety nets of some sort. These things are not violations of sovereignty because these are policies targeted towards protecting and providing for people, which is the fundamental responsibility of the state in the first place. A state failing to protect and provide for its people is effectively ceding its sovereignty. Federalism With a new understanding of what sovereignty means, International Federalism must address the perennial question: what are the limitations? Where is the federalism in International Federalism? Throughout this essay, I have referenced and alluded to a prominent essay written by player Knootoss about International Federalism and National Sovereignty. In this essay, he attempts to reclaim (although I

would say steal) the International Federalism label by building up a straw man and knocking him down with some sensible policy prescriptions. In one post, he outlines the principle of subsidiarity in the context of the World Assembly, which I will quote in full:
I am a European Federalist in real life. I am therefore worried by what I feel are misinformed conceptions that have been voiced by GlenRhodes and Unibot about the nature of international federalism, particularly as it relates to Europe. The crude dimension is economic. Spending of the European Union is only about 1% of GDP. More important is that limitations on EU power have been constitutionally enacted in the various treaties. Importantly: The principle of conferral: that all EU competences are conferred on it voluntarily by member states The principle of subsidiarity: that governmental decisions should be taken at the lowest level possible while still remaining effective The principle of proportionality: that the EU may only act to exactly the extent that is needed to achieve its objectives The Principle of Subsidiarity is especially key here. To quote more, since I feel this point is especially important: "Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects

of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level." More specific dimensions related to the concept of subsidiarity, which are layed out in protocols with the treaty of Maastricht and which were also part of the European Constitution, for the EU to act: The action must be necessary because actions of individuals or member-state governments alone will not achieve the objectives of the action (the sufficiency criterion) The action must bring added value over and above what could be achieved by individual or memberstate government action alone (the benefit criterion). Decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen (the close to the citizen criterion) The action should secure greater freedoms for the individual (the autonomy criterion).

on what the World Assembly might do, there is nothing to separate the WA from a unitary and potentially allencompassing government. So yeah, as a European Federalist, I feel myself most at home with the NatSovs, who are generally speaking a bastion for common sense principles of good governance.

These principles are core tenets of "good governance" and liberal democracy. However, they are explicitly rejected by IntFed authors such as Glen-Rhodes, whose resolutions regularly ride roughshot over these tenets. If the limitations on the power of the central unit (the World Assembly) depend solely on the personal likes and dislikes of resolution writers such as Glen-Rhodes and Unibot, then there really are no principled or 'constitutional' limitations at all. After all, "Where you go from there largely depends on whether you're progressive, neoliberal, conservative, Marxist, etc.", but the direction is always towards more regulation, and a stronger, more intrusive World Assembly. Without constitutional, principled limitations

Knootoss would not see it this way, but I believe I have utilized this principle of subsidiarity more often than I have not. I believe that International Federalism and subsidiarity do indeed go hand-in-hand, and furthermore that National Sovereignty and subsidiarity are only facially compatible. Where Knootoss and I will differ is that I do not see subsidiarity as a oneway road. National Sovereignty, of which Knootoss proudly proclaims to be a member, does not follow the principle of subsidiarity. The goal with National Sovereignty is not to address issues at the appropriate level, but rather to assume that the appropriate level is at the individual state-level, and only extraordinary circumstances permit actions to be taken at higher levels. Indeed, many aspects of the European Union and many treaties and conventions that have come out of the great experiment are anathema to National Sovereignty. Knootoss is an International Federalist at heart, and it is a shame that personal and group rivalries prevent him from crossing the aisle. But

enough about Knootoss. Let me officially decree that the principle of subsidiarity is a tenant of International Federalism, and in the context of the World Assembly it means the following. Lets call this the International Federalism Subsidiarity Principle, as it will not reflect what I believe to be the slightly weak principle Knootoss outlined. 1. The World Assembly should not intervene in domestic matters when individual-level state actions can reasonably be assumed adequate in addressing the issue at hand. 2. The World Assembly should be conscious of cultural differences and should not seek to homogenize governmental and legal institutions while addressing issues that require international intervention. 3. The first part of this principle does not preclude the World Assembly from intervening in domestic matters when individual state-level action is inferior to World Assembly action, even if individual state-level action is possible. This, I believe, accurately represents how International Federalists have written resolutions for the most part. However, these three prongs of this IntFed Subsidiarity Principle do mean some authors will not be able to

pursue resolutions they otherwise would have had before this principle was established. (Assuming that this principle is accepted, of course.)

Part II: Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

International Federalism has long concerned itself with democracy and human rights, so it should come as no surprise that the first real policy proposal in this New Agenda is dedicated to these two topics. The World Assembly has a respectable amount of human rights protections, which have been written by both International Federalists and members of the National Sovereignty bloc. However, there are still several areas are neglected. Most of these fall under promoting democracy and democratic institutions, but there is at least one striking gap in World Assembly human rights law. Democracy Promotion The World Assembly has the responsibility to promote democracy. Yes, respecting different forms of government is a pillar of the World Assembly, and banning various ideologies is actually against the Rules. But that does not preclude it from promoting democratic institutions and rights. Indeed, many freedoms have already been enshrined in law: freedom of ex-

pression, freedom of assembly, habeas corpus, equal protection, privacy, etc. Inroads have been made specifically in democracy promotion in resolutions like the Elections and Assistance Act. This is a resolution, written by me, that provides certain standards for democratic elections (where actually held) and creates an international organizations that assists not only with the creation of democratic institutions, but also provides election monitoring. Not to pay myself on the back, but those are two very important areas of democracy promotion. There are serious deficiencies in the body of democracy promotion resolutions, though. One resolution that seems to always be out of grasp is establishing the right to selfdetermination. It is a complicated subject, but it is absolutely fundamental. People have the natural right to determine for themselves their government. They have a right to revolt against oppressive regimes, and the World Assembly has the responsibility to legitimize that right. We cannot claim to have a successful portfolio of democracy promotion resolutions without passing this one. Human Rights The World Assembly has robust human rights law. There is little I have to criticize, here. But what I do have to criticize is so obscenely important, I wanted to put it in its own section. The World Assembly has abso-

lutely no mechanism for ensuring compliance with human rights law, nor does it have any way to respond to human rights violation. The World Assembly needs a human rights legal regime. It needs a human rights court, perhaps many human rights courts. In fact, we need a general International Court of Justice, as well. Furthermore, we need to establish ways to respond to human rights violations. Yes, genocide is illegal. But what is our response when it happens? Well, nothing. The World Assembly does not do a single thing in the face of gross and systemic human rights violations. As a response, I believe International Federalism must dedicate itself to instituting the responsibility to protect doctrine in the World Assembly. Humanitarian intervention is a complex subject, but it is a subject that needs to be discussed. International Federalism must come to a consensus on when it is appropriate to engage in military actions against oppressive regimes, and what to do once an oppressive regime is deposed. This will be a difficult subject on which to reach a consensus. Not only that, but many vehicles of instituting the responsibility to protect will reach legal road blocks. The No World Assembly Army rule is a perverse and illogical rule that exists for no real reason, but prevents so much quality policy from being enacted. I call upon

International Federalism to come together and work on changing this rule. We cannot hope to address gross and systemic human rights violations while there is an official Rule that has been historically used to prevent the World Assembly from endorsing military actions. Lastly, the body of resolutions establishing the Laws of War have been slowly chipped away at over the years. Neutrality of Nations needs to be rewritten. Biological and chemical weapons need to be banned again. Mercenaries need to be regulated. Just War rules need to be created. None of these things will face legal hurdles, thankfully. But they have been neglected for too long.

in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. International Federalism should constantly strive to ensure that the entire body of the ICESCR makes its way into the body of World Assembly resolutions. There will be bitter battles over this part of the agenda, just as there always have been. But I am confident that these ideas maintain a broad base of support. International Federalism must dedicate itself to returning the World Assembly to its old self: an organizations that cares for the needy and protects all people.

Addendum: Free Trade

I include Free Trade as an addendum, because I feel that this is a very controversial subject within International Federalism, and I admit that perhaps the movement is not ready to radically shift positions towards more marketfriendly policies. However, I do think free trade has been increasing in popularity, and I am personally convinced of the beneficial nature of trade among states. It not only promotes economic development and prosperity, but when done correctly it also fosters peace and cooperation. In this last part, I wish to see a clear message developed about free trade and International Federalism. The powerbrokers within the bloc should come together and conceive a unity position on this issue.

Part III: Social Justice

International Federalism has been successful in addressing social justice issues for quite some time, already. Unfortunately, it seems these issues, too, have been neglected after demoralizing defeats and repeals in the past two years. The simple fact is modern states have no excuse to not protect their people. Perhaps this is a controversial statement, but social welfare is a right. The modern state has no excuse to not provide for its people, to not ensure adequate health care, to not eradicate crippling poverty, to not care for its elderly. These are all rights set forth