Monday’s Mtg: Do/Should Internatl Government Orgs Have Power Over Us?

We haven’t talked about international relations in a while.  Fortunately, for us, the Ukraine crisis has raised serious questions about the limits of Western power, but also about the usefulness of the major intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) through which we and the West often operate.

Our topic also is another installment in our little experiment in explicitly debating major beliefs of today’s political conservatives.  To many people on the right, it is practically axiomatic that IGOs, especially the United Nations, undermine American sovereignty and power and give us little in return.  Conversely, I think some progressives view IGOs as important tools for limiting American abuse of its power and forcing us to play by the rules.  Most Americans probably are in the middle, viewing IGOs as a necessary part of the modern world but not wanting them to constrain our freedom of action in defending our core interests.

Anyway, I know a fair amount about this stuff.  So, on Monday I’ll open us up by explaining what the major IGOs are and what they do, and how our participation in them is supposed to advance U.S. interests.  I’ll focus on a few IGOs only, like the UN, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the “IFIs,” international financial institutions like International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bank for International Settlements (BIS), and World Bank.  Then, I’ll talk a  little bit about issues of American control of these institutions and relate it to the biggest controversies worldwide surrounding their effectiveness and governance.

One point up front:  This is not about whether the United States should be beholden to a “world government.”  There is no such thing and there won’t be for a long time.  It’s about global governance (a verb).  Governments have to cooperate to help manage the day-to-day tasks of a globalized age, and to solve its problems.  That’s what the IGOs are for.  So, even if you don’t buy conservative arguments about the horrors of the UN eroding American power, this still is an important topic.  Since we do, in fact, give up at least a little of our sovereignty to the UN, the IFIs, and others, questions about, “what’s in it for us?” are fair game, are they not?

Discussion Questions –

  1. What are the most important IGOs that the United States belongs to?  What do they do?
  2. How much power do they have over us and we over them?  What are different ways to estimate/measure such a thing?
  3. Do any of the conservative criticisms of the IGOs ring true to you?  Implications?
  4. What are the big issues surrounding the major IGOs these days that relate to our influence over these organizations and their influence over us?

Links –

ABCs of IGOs

American Power and the IGOs

NEXT WEEK:   Are Science and Christianity Inherently In Conflict?


One response

  1. This has been an issue in this country at least since 1919, when the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations.
    The historical consensus on that–if there is such a thing–is that it was a disaster.
    So why is it still an issue?
    One is tempted to say, because Republicans never learn. They are so blinded by their ideology, their eyes so dazzled, that they cannot see the plainest evidence of historical experience.
    It is in the US interest, not to say the interest of the world, to strength the international rule of law and human rights, not to weaken it
    Of course, we might then have to obey those laws ourselves, which we seem to be unwilling to do.

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