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The New Challenge of Governments

By Oliver DeMille

Globalization is changing the demand on governments around the world. Since the advent of the nation-state in 1648, the purpose of national government has been to protect its citizens from attack by international forces and domestic criminals.

Local government has focused on providing the various needs of citizens as deemed appropriate by voters and constitutional by the courts, and together these two levels of government (national and state in the U.S.) have been responsible for certain limited roles; the rest was left to private institutions and citizens.

With the growth of internationalism in the twentieth century, many governments took on the additional responsibility of helping its citizens prosper through the use of diplomacy, military strength and multilateral decision-making abroad.

Such responsibilities included, for example, the safety of citizens traveling the world, the protection of international investments by domestically-owned corporations, and the maintenance of trade and low prices in important commodities (from sugar to petroleum).

Where internationalism added a few such roles to many national governments, globalism is rewriting the entire purpose of government.

And where internationalism assumes a world made up of various separate nations with individual sovereignty and diplomatic arrangements between equals, globalism is based on a different perspective.

In the globalist view, we live in one world, everything that happens everywhere affects us all, and government should care for citizen needs by taking action around the world as needed to protect and promote the best results for its constituents.

Basically nothing is off limits.

This adds numerous implied responsibilities to governments that embrace the globalistic worldview.

For people who believe government should be limited to the authorities explicitly delegated by the people in the Constitution (as I do), this is a disturbing development.

It is becoming a concern for everyone as time passes.

On a technical level, the U.S. Constitution allows the federal government to engage in and ratify treaties with other nations, and when this occurs these treaties become part of the de facto constitutional structure of our nation.

In the era of internationalism (beginning around 1913 and expanding ever since, especially after 1944), the treaty powers have been used to drastically change our Constitutional model.

This is part of the “fine print” of our Constitutional society, and it has been ignored by almost all ordinary citizens.

But the shift from internationalism to globalism is a significantly bigger change (in size and also scope) than the shift from nationalism to internationalism.

Under the new values and ideals of globalism, the role of government is, well, everything it deems desirable.


This viewpoint is fundamentally the end of limited government.

Government in the global era is expected to survey the world, see needs, debate and vote about them, and pass legislation or issue executive orders to deal with whatever the government deems advantageous—the Constitution notwithstanding.

This includes taking action at the most local and personal level, including in peoples’ homes and family decisions, and also at the macro-level in any and every corner of the world.

This is big government gone über.

In this view, government should do whatever is needed to accomplish whatever it considers popular or important.

The courts are allowed to sort out whether or not such action was acceptable, but only after the fact. No checks stop such government action and no balances are required before the government can act.

This is more than big government; it is closer to the philosophy of governance that Hobbes called Leviathan.

No wonder the government hasn’t yet figured out quite how to respond to this changing sense of the state’s proper role.

Congressman Paul Ryan argues that the federal government doesn’t have a tax problem but rather a spending problem, but according to this new viewpoint of globalism the U.S. is going to have to spend a lot more—a lot more!—in the years and decades ahead to fulfill its proper role.

From this perspective, our federal spending spree is just getting started, and the only way to meet the need is to fundamentally reform taxation and get the upper and upper middle classes to foot the bill for a globalist government run from Washington.

In this outlook, we’ll need to keep raising the budget every year and the required spending is deeply underfunded.

Only massive increases in taxes can get us moving in the right direction.

The old debate between Conservatives and Liberals just doesn’t rise to the level of this new challenge, and the current energy in Washington is focused on a globalistic agenda that anticipates drastic increases in government for decades to come.

Georgetown University’s Charles A. Kupchan, wrote:

“A crisis of governability has engulfed the world’s most advanced democracies. It is no accident that the United States, Europe and Japan are simultaneously experiencing political breakdown; globalization is producing a widening gap between what electorates are asking of their governments and what those governments are able to deliver.” (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2012)

Globalism is leading to a natural decrease in the living standard of developed nations, and citizens of such nations are turning to government to help bring back the lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to enjoying.

As the lower and middle classes of the world join the global economy, and as competition for investment and credit is spread around the globe, the special benefits that the middle classes in advanced nations have carved out for themselves are becoming unsustainable.

The middle class was created by generations who worked very hard to earn such benefits, but their posterity seems to prefer keeping these same perks without putting forth the same effort.

When this doesn’t work, they want their government to simultaneously block immigrants from “taking our jobs” and also find ways to maintain their parents’ lifestyle without having to earn them the same way earlier generations did.

Except for the entrepreneurial class—and government is increasing the barriers to entrepreneurship.

This is painful.

And it forces a choice at the voting booth: either more freedom coupled with harder work on the one side or higher taxes on the rich combined with more government benefits on the other.

The “government fix” approach is predictably more popular.

The real answer is to re-establish a truly free system, where the government limits itself to the authority outlined in the Constitution and the laws are altered to re-emphasize true free enterprise where the laws treat everyone (lower, middle and upper classes) equally.

Freedom works, and a refocus on freedom will once again make America’s economy the envy of the world.

Capital, investment and entrepreneurialism aren’t fleeing the United States because of globalism but because Washington’s policies have made the U.S. economy less profitable and attractive to business.

Unless the United States returns to a genuine free-enterprise model, our long-term economic trajectory will decline.

The battle has changed, though most people haven’t realized it yet.

Now it’s less about Left vs. Right and more the burgeoning issues of Free Enterprise vs. Globalism.


odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is the founder and former president of George Wythe University, the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.


  1. I’ve often wondered about the aversion to globalism. I understand the fear that globalism could undermine the sovereignty of the US constitution, but shouldn’t our goal be to help bring the principles espoused in the US constitution to everyone in the world, thus having only one world government?
    Maybe I’m just not understanding what is meant by globalism. Is it just a name to represent the trend to have bigger and more powerful government, and the name is just coincidental, or is it something else? Is there something inherent about the world governments becoming more uniform that inherently brings about Hobbes’ Leviathan?

  2. Ammon, great question. The answer is a 2-sided coin:

    First, a vital principle of free government is that any government entity (because it is based on power and force, which is what government is) should do everything at the level closest possible to the people. The reason for this is that the smaller the entity, the more say the people will have over government abuse or corruption. The bigger a government, the less say people will have, and therefore, the more government will abuse power.

    Thus, local governments take care of collecting trash so that if the mayor uses the money to buy a boat and the trash remains uncollected the people can immediately and effectively intervene and fix the situation.

    Imagine if the Secretary of Housing in Washington DC used the money for a yacht, and the trash didn’t get collected in your local community. It would take months, maybe years, to rectify the situation. That’s a lot of trash.

    Such a Secretary could use the trash money for maybe 3 small out-of-the-way communities, become very wealthy, do a fabulous job of trash collection everywhere else, and get re-appointed to his office. This is one of a million possible examples.

    Freedom suffers when government is any bigger than it needs to be to accomplish its critical functions.

    In the American founding, the debate between the federalists and anti-federalists over whether or not to join the 13 colonies under one national government hinged on this same question. The anti-federalists argued that state governments could handle whatever was needed. The federalists, in contrast, said that a national government was needed to protect against very real outside threats.

    Within a few years the British attacks on the US (which led to the War of 1812) proved the federalists correct.

    The individual colonies would not have won the War of 1812, but their combined power in a national government led to victory.

    Show me the threat or the need for a government action that can be handled better for the whole globe from a capitol in Beijing, Brussels or Buenos Aires, and globalism starts to make some sense. Alien invasion, maybe?

    Unless there is such a threat, global government is a guarantee of more waste, corruption, abuse, neglect of duty, worsened economies, and many other negatives.

    Now to the 2nd side of the coin:

    Madison says in Federalist 51 that if men were angels there would be no need for government based on force and power. In such a case, people wouldn’t abuse, or be corrupt, and the efficiency of a global government that handled everything happily in a global brotherhood of kindness would be fantastic. I actually do believe that this ideal is attainable, but right now we are a long ways from that.

    If we want to be free, and prosperous, government must be effective and it must also be overseen by the people at the lowest appropriate/effective level.

  3. Insightful, as usual.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Thank you Dr. DeMille, for the insight. I admit I hadn’t thought about it quite that way before. It has taken me a while to process your response. I have been thinking about it for the past week and I can see your point. However, I still have concerns about the reluctance toward a global government.

    In the Book of Mormon, one of the first things that the Savior reproved the Nephites about was their lack of unity.

    “Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” 3 Nephi 11:30

    Avoiding war and protection from outside threats are one of the arguments given by the authors of the Federalist Papers , but that is not the only benefit that they present as reason to have a combined and unified government. John Jay, in Federalists 2-5, especially in Federalist 4, argues from more than the stand point of protecting from foreign threats, but also of benefits of unity in general, and the dangers of internal threats between the colonies.

    Speaking of the counter proposal of making three or four smaller confederacies, instead of one, he wrote:
    “Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance; and would also restrain them from measures calculated to advance or even to secure her prosperity. Much time would not be necessary to enable her to discern these unfriendly dispositions. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them. Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.”

    Are there not also internal threats, such as the unjust causes of war by one nation against another, that are more easily dealt with through a unified central government, rather than letting it be resolved by the individual nations involved? Of course, just like with the formation of the United States, there would need to be checks in the system, but that does not eliminate the benefits of combining, rather is an argument for it.

    I don’t deny that there are many faults in the United Nations charter, both in its form as well as in how authority is misused by the different member nations, including the United States. But in concept, a unified government of the whole world, if formed properly with appropriate checks and balances, could be an effective guard against justly or unjustly started wars between the member nations, could it not? The problem isn’t about whether it would be beneficial, rather it is more about whether it is possible to get the nations of the world to agree to it.

  5. Ammon, Good point, some kind of world unity is possible, but I think it would have to leave the member states intact, and would have to respect the rights of those states, kind of like a larger united states. Perhaps this is possible in a internationalist system?
    Globalism seems to be the idea that the larger always trumps the smaller government. I hear many on the left (whatever that is) say that to deny globalism and its ideas is to want to go backwards, deny economic expansion, and to stifle human rights advances, but it seems to simply leave local governments undefended from the possibly poor ideologies and policies of the global elite.

  6. I agree Steve. Maybe I was just misunderstanding what was meant by globalism.

    It is definitely imperative that the most local government be the most empowered, and what is currently being promoted as globalism, is wanting a government further and further from the governed.

    I am in no way a big proponent of a world government at this point. All changes for the better are best started first from the individual, then from the family, community, municipality, county, state, and so on (in that order). I have enough struggles getting my self straight, then my family, then my local community. Until we can get our communities to adopt both public and and private virtue, nothing much that happens at a larger scale will make that much of a difference. Once we have both public and private virtue as local communities, there is nothing that can stand in our way.


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