Sovereigntism in a Nutshell

by Peter Spiro

From a new pamphlet, Why Does Sovereignty Matter to America? Merry Christmas from the folks at the Heritage Foundation:

[T]oday, our sovereignty faces new threats. International organizations and courts seek to reshape the international system. Nations are to give up their sovereignty and be governed by a “global consensus.” Independent, sovereign nations will be replaced by “transnational” organizations that reject national sovereignty.

The demand that the United States bow to this “global consensus” does not respect American sovereignty. The offenses the Founders complained of in the Declaration of Independence now have an international flavor. This new project is filled with examples of institutions, courts, and “taxes” that violate the spirit of the Declaration:

• In 1998 the International Criminal Court was established. It is empowered to subject American soldiers to criminal prosecution in Holland for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Founders rejected trying Americans outside American courts.

• In Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, and Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2010, an international conference drafted a global treaty to regulate energy use in the United States. An international bureaucracy would monitorcompliance with the treaty’s terms. The Founders rejected subjecting Americans to “a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution.”

• In recent years, international organizations and foreign leaders have proposed “international taxes” on airline tickets and financial transactions—taxes that would be borne by American citizens and businesses. The revenues collected would be spent by unaccountable international organizations. The Founders rejected taxation without representation.

Hang on to your wallets, the international taxman cometh!  This is clearly intended for mass distribution, at a level that even school children might understand.  I think this is a waning sentiment unlikely to descend to the next generation, as even conservatives find something to like about international law, but so deeply entrenched a mindset won’t go easily.

4 Responses

  1. The founders had a decent respect for the law of nations – more than the current folks. I note that each of the horrors described are based on the acceptance of treaty obligations by the United States (or any other sovereign), compliance with UN Security Council referral or US troops doing something on the territory of some other nation for which they might be charged in the ICC.  Also, if these folks would insist that war crimes etc done by US are prosecuted in the US tribunals, then there is no fear of those troops being prosecuted overseas.

    What they do not say is that the worry is not really about US troops but about US suits at high-levels being charged.  Fluat Stercus is the operative phrase in the US instead of Refluat Stercus.


  2. Dear Peter,

    Thank you for linking to Heritage’s latest “Understanding America” booklet. You are correct that this series is intended for a wide audience. This particular booklet is meant to intorduce that audience to the issue of sovereignty and what our Founders may have thought about it (a difficult thing, I admit, to do comprehensively in 1,200 words!)

    As to your brief comments I’d only say that both the Founders and conservatives today respect international law, properly understood. As for “the international taxman cometh” comment, you are aware I assume that one of the main proposals for funding the “Green Climate Fund” is by taxing international financial transactions and travel, right? ( As for future generations, I think you know where I’ll place my bets.

    Merry Christmas,


  3. Steve, Thanks for the response.  I have no doubt that you are correct about the prospect international taxes – in some form they are an inevitability.  But I think in some forms they’ll be justified.  Some governance functions have to move upstairs, to address transboundary problems, and sometimes they’ll need financing.  There’s nothing really different in the logic than with federal taxes (the necessity of which even Heritage accepts at some level, I assume).

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