Chapter Five: Political Globalization

V. Models For Supra-National Government

Governments and the globalizing organizations to which their power is leaching away can be discussed both in regional and global terms. One object of this discussion, obviously, is to clarify the future role and functions of the nation state.

In 1750, residents of the United States would have been very alive to the possibility of regional (supra-state) government, something that was gradually to be imposed on (or that evolved from) their contemporary model of independent sovereign states. Nowadays, however, very few US citizens would give house room to the notion that their country might one day form part of a larger association, in political terms.

In Europe, however ('Old' Europe!) the oppposite is true. In 1750, at a time when nation states were coming to be all the rage, only a few nutters would have looked forward to a United States of Europe. But in 2007, this is what they have got, for better or worse.

The United States of America has been a huge success, and continues to be, although its legislative process seems to have become a martyr to pork. The United States of Europe (Winston Churchill's term) is also itself on the way to being a success, although Eurosceptics in the UK and elsewhere think otherwise.

On the other hand, there are now 192 independent, sovereign nation states in the UN, up from 50 at the time of its founding, and the number continues to rise, due to de-colonization, political fragmentation and the triumph of 'human rights' as a guiding principle of political life. Few of these new 'states', though, could be said to have 100% control over the 'essential' political competencies of defence, the law and fiscal affairs. Almost all of them are beholden to a larger power for some or all of these.

Until WWII, the guiding principle of politics was force, and it is easy to forget how much progress has been made in creating and sustaining the idea of national self-determination in the New World Order. Flawed, corrupt and ineffectual as it is, we must thank the UN for this, rather wonderful state of affairs.

The word 'federal' is understood very differently by different groups of political philosophers, but if for the moment we allow it to mean simply a grouping of semi-independent states under a central (federal) authority, then this can adequately describe either the USA or the EU. Both of these federations have successfully prevented internal fighting wars (the USA for 130 years now, and the EU for 60); and both have lively and evolving antagonisms between component states and the federal centre.

Despite 'enlargement fatigue' the EU is still growing, and the weight of its settled policies and economy seems likely to bring economic stability to even the difficult Balkans within the next ten years. As to Turkey, the outcome remains unclear. The USA for its part would like to extend its democratic 'pax americana' to the Middle East and to Central if not Southern America. That also remains to be seen.

Chapter 8 explores the idea that the nation state, which for 300 years was the most successful political unit so far evolved by humanity, is now an outmoded form. There are no more African jungles to conquer and exploit. This is hardly a new idea to philosophers or historians, but it is not easily accepted by politicians, for obvious reasons. One of the reasons for the success of the EU is that it has offered local politicians a bigger stage on which to act (surely the same must have been true of the USA in the 19th century). If local bigwigs are given enough federal candy to entrance their egos, they quickly forget all about local autonomy.

Thus it is an incontrovertible fact that regional political groupings eat away at the powers of their national member states, on all the 'essential' levels of national sovereignty itemized above: defence, the law and fiscal affairs. The very public mantra of the authorities of the EU in Brussels is 'ever closer union'; but is necessary to spend time in Brussels to understand just how deeply this is imbued in all the processes and forward planning of the European Commission and its legislative associates, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, and the wittily mis-named Committee of the Regions.

Regional politicians, even of the stature of Margaret Thatcher, normally don't understand this, and they are easy meat for Brussels' agenda of regulatory creep. The onward march of the EU's 'acquis communautaire' seems as unstoppable as the tide, and it is far from having reached its high-water mark. The centralizing or harmonizing impetus of the Commission and its legislative process are enormously assisted by the European Court of Justice, which has carved out for itself a role equivalent to that of the US Supreme Court. Like the Supreme Court, the ECJ has proved to be far more than just a superior court of appeal, and has frequent reference to the language of the EU's founding documents. This has led to a string of judgements in favour of the 'freedoms' which are spelled out in the Treaty of Rome and its later amendments (Nice, Helsinki and Lisbon), much to the benefit of individual actors (personal and corporate) and for the most part to the disbenefit of the powers of member states.

It is the ECJ, supported by the European Central Bank, that will turn the EU from a single economic market into a real political unit. This outcome is implicit in the EU's Treaties, but without the enforcing mechanism of the Court, it is likely that Member States would have been able to use the Council (the governing body of the Union, in political terms) to fend off the Commission's incursions on to their national turf.

It all takes time, though. The attempt to forge a formal constitution for the Union was abandoned, but much of its burden was incorporated in the Lisbon Treaty, which substantially increased the powers of the European Parliament. Meanwhile, the proposed inclusion of Turkey handed backsliders and eurosceptics a powerful delaying mechanism, amplified by the UK's proposals for an 'in-out' referendum. These are probably just teething problems, and by, say, 2030, it can be expected that, for better or worse, the EU will have, in addition to economic hegemony, unified fiscal, military and judicial responsibilities which will leave little freedom of action to individual member states. Probably it will look a lot like the USA in political terms.

Other regions of the world are hard on the heels of the European Union. Although it is premature to guess at the timescale, organizations such as CARICOM, Mercosur and ASEAN are all likely to develop meaningful regional economic and political powers during the next quarter century. There are many other proto-regional bodies at varying stages of development and with varying degress of political pretension.

The bodies mentioned in this chapter and some others are further described in Appendix One.


The Caribbean Community and Common Market was established by the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was revised in 2001. CARICOM replaced the Caribbean Free Trade Association, originally founded in 1965. Currently there are 15 full members, 5 associate members and 7 observer countries. Since the great majority of these jurisdictions are ex-British colonies, CARICOM is largely English-speaking.

CARICOM's progress towards integration has been stuttering, and it was not until 2006 that a first group of members (Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) brought the CSME (CARICOM Single Market Economy) to life, although with quite limited scope.

CARICOM has set up a number of state-like institutions, including a secretariat with a Secretary-General, located in Georgetown, Guyana, a Standing Committee incorporating heads of government with specific portfolios, and a Committe of Central Bank Governors (the Eastern Caribbean states – OECS – have had their own regional central bank and stock exchange for some time already). The Caribbean Court of Justice came into being in 2005, and apart from acting as a forum for the resolution of CARICOM disputes, has taken over the powers of the Privy Council in London as a court of final appeal for many Caribbean jurisdictions. The CCJ is based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. A CARICOM passport, allowing freedom of movement within certain parts of the area, was launched in 2005, and has been adopted by five member states so far.

CARICOM has entered trade negotiations with a number of regional groupings and individual states, including the USA.


Mercosur (Mercado Común del Sur) remains in reality little more than a South American regional trading pact, but it has pretensions to political integration on the scale of the EU.

Mercosur was founded in 1991 by the Treaty of Asunción, amended and updated by the 1994 Treaty of Ouro Preto. Current members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are associate members.

To some extent, the Free Trade Area of the Americas is an alternative to Mercosur, at least on the level of trade, and it's possible that the US sees the FTAA as a means of vitiating independent moves towards regional political union. The EU, on the other hand, has given strong support to Mercosur, and there are political as well as trade dialogues between the two. If South America does proceed towards any kind of political union, it will be through Mercosur.

The region it covers has more than 220 million inhabitants and has GDP of more than one trillion dollars a year.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in 1967 between Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Since then, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia have joined. The region has a population of about 500 million, and a combined GDP of US$700 billion. ASEAN is mid-way between the EU and Mercosur in terms of its maturity as an organization.

The ASEAN Declaration gives the aims and purposes of the Association as being to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.

The ASEAN Economic Community seeks to create a stable, prosperous and highly competitive economic region in which there is a free flow of goods, services, investment and a freer flow of capital, equitable economic development and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities by 2020.