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Will the real International Federalist please stand up?

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Will the real International Federalist please stand up?

Postby Knootoss » Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:49 pm

Will the real International Federalist please stand up?

"The only purpose for which power can be
rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community,
against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good,
either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant."

~John Stuart Mill

In politics, labels matter. The 'right' label can help ideas become more popular. The 'wrong' label can hold ideas back. Regular participants in World Assembly debates have traditionally divided themselves into two camps: the National Sovereigntists, represented by the National Sovereignty Organisation, and the International Federalists. I will argue that the label of "International Federalist" does not apply to the group that currently uses it, and that the "National Sovereigntists" are better off claiming it for themselves.

International Federalists believe in the creed of "improving the world, one resolution at a time." They argue that sovereignty only exists in areas where the World Assembly has not yet chosen to legislate. They believe that the World Assembly may pass resolutions on any subject, provided that it is passed by a voting majority of regional delegates and member nations. This idea allows them to propose or support resolutions in any given area, but they are especially fond of proposals which use the authority of the world Assembly to enforce "universal" minimum standards. They tend to trust the World Assembly agencies and distrust the motives of individuals and the governments of unwilling member states, who might try to "cheat" out of their resolutions.Typical resolutions proposed by International Federalists:

  • Write resolutions that go into a lot of detail about what member nations should do into their own countries.
  • Create "Agencies" of the World Assembly that make sure that countries are following these detailed rules.
  • Write their resolutions so that more rules can be written on the same topic later.

The label "International Federalist" was coined a long time ago, for those member states who would like to see the United Nations World Assembly grow into a sort of "Federation", implying a single government, or at least a World Assembly that can do whatever it likes to fix all the problems in the world.

However, the term "federalism" is more commonly used to describe a system where sovereignty is divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (like states or provinces). A constitution that determines which tasks the Federal government can do, and all the other tasks are left to these political units. Federalism is therefore a system in which the power to govern is shared between the different levels of government.

Because International Federalists are opposed to putting limits on what the World Assembly can do, their label is misleading.

National Sovereigntists, on the other hand, see the incredible power the WA has, and want to make sure that it is used responsibly. The World Assembly is an incredibly diverse place, with nations that have very different cultures, different levels of technology, and which may even be populated by entirely non-human species. This diversity makes it hard for any resolution to do justice to the specific circumstances of all nations. National Sovereigntists tend to think that these differences need to be respected. They trust individuals and member nations to work things out the best they can, and they tend to be sceptical about creating World Assembly agencies. Typical resolutions proposed by "National Sovereigntists":

  • Deal with "international" issues, problems that member states cannot solve alone, and issues which affect everyone in the World Assembly. Often, states need to work together to solve these problems.
  • Talk about big "principles", but leave the details up for member states to work out themselves.
  • Write resolutions as the "final say" on a given topic.

Because they want to let member states decide about more things than the "International Federalists" do, this group has taken up the label of "National Sovereigntists". This label became popular when the nation of Texas Hotrodders wrote an essay called "National Sovereignty and the NationStates World Assembly". In this essay, they argued that just because a resolution can legally be passed, it does not follow that it must be passed. Many of the principles mentioned above were first described in this essay.

However, the ideas of Federalism that were just described, such as limited and constitutional government, fit much better with the ideas of the National Sovereigntists. What they are arguing for is, essentially, a kind of federalism. Therefore, if the so-called National Sovereigntist who wants to own the debate, he or she should feel no shame and stand up to say: "The real International Federalist? That is me. Right here."

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Postby Mahaj WA Seat » Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:56 pm

In terms of a REAL International Federalist...

that would probably be the whole WACO organization.
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Postby Unibotian WA Mission » Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:56 pm

Misleading, Int Feds talk about international issues all the time, the difference is, Nat Sovers only want to talk about 'international issues', and 'international issues' can vary in definition to just about as narrow a category as Nat Sovers feel is necessary.

Create "Agencies" of the World Assembly that make sure that countries are following these detailed rules.


Agencies is misleading, Int Feds believe in Global Governance, strong support via copious organizations that decentralizes power but provides human security.
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Postby Knootoss » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:06 pm

Mahaj WA Seat wrote:In terms of a REAL International Federalist...

that would probably be the whole WACO organization.


While I would consider myself a centrist, the WACO has no really established principles or ideology to measure it by. Yet.

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Federalist Rome

Postby Federalist Rome » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:18 pm

I am a true Federalist

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Postby Knootoss » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:20 pm

Federalist Rome wrote:I am a true Federalist


"It is difficult to tell where the omnipresent government [of Federalist Rome] stops and the rest of society begins"

Doubtful. Just shows how names can be misleading.

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Postby Darenjo » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:48 pm

OOC: Although Darenjo would most likely be labeled as "IntFed", I really don't see the big deal. You could call IntFeds "WA Liberals" and NatSovers "WA Conservatives".

Also, I always thought the "Fed" in "IntFed" came from the word "Federation", instead of "Federalism".

The dictionary.com definition for "Federation":

fed·er·a·tion   
[fed-uh-rey-shuhn]
–noun
1. the act of federating or uniting in a league.
2. the formation of a political unity, with a central government, by a number of separate states, each of which retains control of its own internal affairs.
3. a league or confederacy.
4. a federated body formed by a number of nations, states, societies, unions, etc., each retaining control of its own internal affairs.


Add the word "International" and you've pretty much got what IntFederalism goes for - of course, then, you run into what qualifies as an "internal affair", which is a matter of opinion.
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Postby Knootoss » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:57 pm

Note how "each of which retains control of its own internal affairs" is an integral part of both those definitions, so no, it doesn't fit.

Also, the "WA liberals" and "WA conservatives" thing is not borne out empirically. I am a liberal myself, and have promoted liberal points of view in the General Assembly, despite being known as a NatSover. I'd say about half of all NatSovers are liberal, in fact. Libertarianism and thoughtful conservatism are also popular.
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Postby Darenjo » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:06 pm

Knootoss wrote:Note how "each of which retains control of its own internal affairs" is an integral part of both those definitions, so no, it doesn't fit.

Also, the "WA liberals" and "WA conservatives" thing is not borne out empirically. I am a liberal myself, and have promoted liberal points of view in the General Assembly, despite being known as a NatSover. I'd say about half of all NatSovers are liberal, in fact. Libertarianism and thoughtful conservatism are also popular.


Once again, what counts as an "internal affair" is an opinion and that difference in opinion is what created the NatSov and IntFed movements.

Also, note the "WA" in front of those two names. You could be a "WA Liberal" while promoting conservative values (Christian Democrats is an example), or vice-versa.
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Postby Glen-Rhodes » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:29 pm

Knootoss wrote:International Federalists believe in the creed of "improving the world, one resolution at a time." They argue that sovereignty only exists in areas where the World Assembly has not yet chosen to legislate. They believe that the World Assembly may pass resolutions on any subject, provided that it is passed by a voting majority of regional delegates and member nations.

This is more consistent with the imaginary IntFed that NatSovers like to talk about, but much less consistent with the actions of actual, self-proclaimed international federalists. As a matter of game mechanics, the World Assembly can do almost anything; the only sovereignty that exists is that which the World Assembly says exists. This should not be disputed by anybody.

It is not, however, the "creed" of international federalists. First, the idea that there is a single creed is false in itself: the loose affiliation of IntFeds does not have a unifying creed anymore than NatSovers do. Indeed, a prominent NatSover just recently declared free trade against NatSov ideals, yet free trade has usually been a mainstay of NatSov and a perennial headache for IntFeds, who for some reason tend to align themselves more with fair trade policies.

The meme that IntFed means unlimited WA power was created by NatSovers to support their own positions, much in the same way that IntFeds created the meme that NatSovers are so for sovereignty that they are against WA-mandated human rights. IntFeds did not ascribe the unlimited power characteristic to themselves.

There may not exist a treatise for the IntFed group, but as arguably the most prevalent IntFed who has been active in the past years (sorry Unibot ;]), I have periodically written on the principles of international federalism. By the looks of it, I did a disservice to the ideology by not formally publishing these writings, but instead posting them sporadically throughout different threads. The term includes the word federalism for a reason: there are things that should be relegated to individual member states.

What international federalists acknowledge that NatSovers don't is that the World Assembly started out as all-powerful, with member states not having any kind of sovereignty or rights of their own. Therefore, the World Assembly isn't limited. But that does not mean it shouldn't be. However, when they start with the ontological statement that the World Assembly exists as all-powerful, IntFeds tend to use language in reference to and to view actions as devolution. NatSovers start with the ontological statement that member states are naturally supreme, and therefore use different languages and tend to view the power of the World Assembly as limited to what its member states agree to give it.

In short, to IntFeds, the World Assembly devolves its inherent powers to member states. To NatSovers, member states devolve their inherent powers to the World Assembly. That is the fundamental difference between the two groups, which is why I'm incredibly skeptical of your claim that NatSovers are the 'real' federalists. Historically, NatSovers have not supported resolutions that place the World Assembly in a federal relationship with its member states. Why? Because the World Assembly is necessarily supreme in that relationship, and that is contrary to their ontological beliefs. Any such resolutions necessarily involves the World Assembly devolving its inherent powers to member states.

Now, there are a few truths in your assessment. IntFeds generally support the creation of agencies and, as Unibot calls it, Global Governance. IntFeds generally do not like leaving the important details up to member states themselves. This is less born out of a patronizing and elitist mindset, and more born out of learning from past mistakes that allowed nations -- namely self-proclaimed NatSovers -- to manipulate resolutions using the maxim that "the law is what the law says." It's interesting to note, though, that when a NatSover's resolution is subject to the same failures, "the law is what the law says" transforms into a maxim that prevents interpretation.

And yes, it is true that IntFeds do not like blockers. I do not particularly see why this is a point of criticism, especially as a matter of practicality. Let's see how long the World Assembly lasts if NatSovers write blockers into all of the resolutions passed, especially when those blockers tend to block wide swaths of policy and frequently attempt to prevent entire categories from being used in the future.

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Postby Unibot II » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:36 pm

No offense taken GR, I'm not even sure I'm an "International Federalist", it's just a category that you're put into if you know you're not a Soverigntist. Personally I think the correct terms would be Political Realist (NatSov) and Political Idealist (IntFed) -- I know I align with political idealism, and NatSov seems to be a hard-copy of Political Realism.
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Postby Glen-Rhodes » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:39 pm

To put my fifth and sixth paragraphs succinctly: NatSovers advocate for a confederation, whereas IntFeds do rightfully advocate for a federation.

Unibot II wrote:No offense taken GR, I'm not even sure I'm an "International Federalist", it's just a category that you're put into if you know you're not a Soverigntist.

You are what others say you are. Be proud. >:]

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Postby Unibot II » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:41 pm

Glen-Rhodes wrote:You are what others say you are. Be proud. >:]


Yeah. I've basically accepted it. *shrugs* It leads to a lot of misinterpretations, because whereas the NatSov doctrine is so rich and diverse (and contradictory depending on who submits the resolution), the IntFed doctrine is basically whatever the NatSovers say it is, so it's just a giant strawman.

I do wonder what you think about using the terms, Political Realism and Idealism?
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Postby Glen-Rhodes » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:49 pm

Unibot II wrote:I do wonder what you think about using the terms, Political Realism and Idealism?

I wouldn't know, to be honest. I haven't seen any prominent NatSovers explain their position in IR terms. NatSovers tend to share the same opinion of IOs that realists do, but there are plenty of examples of idealist policy coming from self-proclaimed NatSovers. Generally, though, I don't think it would be particularly useful to re-brand either bloc, especially using IR terms since I doubt most World Assembly contributers study IR.

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Postby Christian Democrats » Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:02 am

Knootoss wrote:I'd say about half of all NatSovers are liberal, in fact. Libertarianism and thoughtful conservatism are also popular.

I cannot understand why any libertarian would be a National Sovereigntist. A libertarian is someone who advocates individual liberty and promotes limited government. Contrary to National Sovereigntist assertions, the fundamental goal of International Federalism is indisputably libertarian. International Federalists, through detailed resolutions, seek to protect individual rights and liberties by trying to limit the powers of member states to oppress their inhabitants.

The International Federalist movement is less unified than the National Sovereignty movement only because of internal disagreements about what are and are not rights (e.g., abortion).
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Postby Hirota » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:26 am

Knootoss wrote:This label became popular when the nation of Texas Hotrodders wrote an essay called "National Sovereignty and the NationStates World Assembly". In this essay, they argued that just because a resolution can legally be passed, it does not follow that it must be passed. Many of the principles mentioned above were first described in this essay.
That differs from my memory of things. I recall people vocally complaining about their Sovereignty being ignored/overridden/trampled upon long before TH wrote that piece. But I guess it depends on when you consider National Sovereignty became fashionable.
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Postby Knootoss » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:48 am

In response to the assertions of Glen-Rhodes and Unibot, I would be fascinated to learn about the "constitutional", moral and political restrictions that they feel IntFeds would impose upon what kind of resolutions are acceptable. You know, point by point, measurable restrictions!

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Postby Knootoss » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:52 am

Christian Democrats wrote:
Knootoss wrote:I'd say about half of all NatSovers are liberal, in fact. Libertarianism and thoughtful conservatism are also popular.

I cannot understand why any libertarian would be a National Sovereigntist. A libertarian is someone who advocates individual liberty and promotes limited government. Contrary to National Sovereigntist assertions, the fundamental goal of International Federalism is indisputably libertarian. International Federalists, through detailed resolutions, seek to protect individual rights and liberties by trying to limit the powers of member states to oppress their inhabitants.

The International Federalist movement is less unified than the National Sovereignty movement only because of internal disagreements about what are and are not rights (e.g., abortion).


Not really. Many, though not all, adherents of the NatSov philosophy feel that it is acceptable to restrict the power of member states in order to protect the freedom of individuals. I'm willing to bet that more libertarians are sympathetic to NatSov than the other way around. I deliberately used that quote from John Stuart Mill at the start of my article: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant."

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Postby Knootoss » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:53 am

Hirota wrote:
Knootoss wrote:This label became popular when the nation of Texas Hotrodders wrote an essay called "National Sovereignty and the NationStates World Assembly". In this essay, they argued that just because a resolution can legally be passed, it does not follow that it must be passed. Many of the principles mentioned above were first described in this essay.
That differs from my memory of things. I recall people vocally complaining about their Sovereignty being ignored/overridden/trampled upon long before TH wrote that piece. But I guess it depends on when you consider National Sovereignty became fashionable.


Well, I would say "organised" rather than "fashionable". Of course, NatSov sentiments existed before that essay.

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Postby Glen-Rhodes » Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:39 am

Knootoss wrote:In response to the assertions of Glen-Rhodes and Unibot, I would be fascinated to learn about the "constitutional", moral and political restrictions that they feel IntFeds would impose upon what kind of resolutions are acceptable. You know, point by point, measurable restrictions!

Provide some scenarios and I'll tell you what restrictions should be placed. IntFed has no more of way to provide a general statement on what types of policy should be relegated to individual member states than does NatSov.

The only thing I can think of where IntFed would always be unwilling to relegate to individual member states would be human rights and the response to human rights violations. But even then, what IntFed -- as an abstract group -- would consider to be human rights is a question that cannot be generally answered.

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Postby Knootoss » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:11 am

I wasn't talking about circumstantial arguments, which depend entirely on whether you agree with something or not, but about grand principles. Inquiring about "specific scenarios" and expressing renewed distrust for member states' handling of "important" things really only confirms my original thesis from the opening post.

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Postby Glen-Rhodes » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:21 am

Knootoss wrote:I wasn't talking about circumstantial arguments, which depend entirely on whether you agree with something or not, but about grand principles. Inquiring about "specific scenarios" and expressing renewed distrust for member states' handling of "important" things really only confirms my original thesis from the opening post.

I don't know why you expect 'IntFed' to have a grand treatise on the extent of World Assembly power, especially when NatSov does not have one. When you start from an ontological statement that the World Assembly has plenary power by default, then determining what the World Assembly doesn't have power over is necessarily done on what you call a 'circumstantial' basis. If IntFeds had a general idea of what things the World Assembly can do and what things are reserved for the state, then IntFed would actually be NatSov. So, your request not only doesn't make sense, but it's approaching the ideology from a completely different ontological stance.

Edit: And for what it's worth, placing human rights outside the realm of domestic control is not "expressing renewed distrust for member states' handling of 'important' things." It's the only logical way to approach human rights resolutions. After all, you're writing the resolution because there are member states who abuse or ignore human rights. 'Trusting' them to 'handle' human rights themselves is pure folly.
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Postby Knootoss » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:28 am

Actually, the NSO has a bunch of foundational documents for your perusal. If you and other IntFeds are unwilling to place any principled limitations on what the World Assembly should do, then you are indeed not Federalists, but proponents of a singe unitary state. A NationStates World Government.

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Postby Hirota » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:41 am

Knootoss wrote:Well, I would say "organised" rather than "fashionable".
I just knew that would elicit a response. ;) Yes, organised is a better description.

The big flaw in this argument is your interpretation of what Federalist means seems a little off - at least it does for me, maybe I'm in the wrong? :blink:

As far as I'm concerned, Federalists are content (or keen) to have a large and powerful central government, with powers passed down to the member states. Those states can do whatever they like as long as it does not conflict with the wishes of the central government. If we use the US model, those we want the central government small and limited and strictly defined (sound familiar?) are Confederates. But lets set aside the differences in definition aside for now.

EDIT: Looks like I'm not the first person to mention Confederates.

Therefore, if the so-called National Sovereigntist who wants to own the debate, he or she should feel no shame and stand up to say: "The real International Federalist? That is me. Right here."
It seems rather petty to me to seriously consider hijacking a label after it's been in use for so many years just to "own the debate" (and if you have to resort to that then I'd argue you've already lost the debate). A label is a label is a label. If you want to call yourself "the twelve monkeys", "The brotherhood of Knoot" or even just "Maragret" on a Saturday night, it's just a title.

Edit2: Just to add to the discussion ping-pong going on between you and Glen Rhodes - there are limits already imposed upon resolution-making by the rules - such as the WA can't create a police force, it's simply impossible to create a truly one-world government (even if anyone wanted to) because the WA can't legislate on everything, therefore at least some (albeit the tinniest proportion) of "power" is always going to be in the hands of the member state. Oh, and member states can always leave (yes, I know that's cheap, but it's the truth dammit).
Last edited by Hirota on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:55 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Isn't it curious how people will claim they are against tribalism, then pigeonhole themselves into tribes?

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Glen-Rhodes
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Posts: 8983
Founded: Jun 25, 2008
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Glen-Rhodes » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:49 am

Knootoss wrote:Actually, the NSO has a bunch of foundational documents for your perusal.

I've read them all before. They aren't putting forth a grand statement about what things the World Assembly should do. They essentially say what you said above -- the World Assembly should only address 'international' issues. That is just as detailed as what I've mentioned.

Knootoss wrote:If you and other IntFeds are unwilling to place any principled limitations on what the World Assembly should do, then you are indeed not Federalists, but proponents of a singe unitary state. A NationStates World Government.

Why are you relying on plainly false characterizations that have already been refuted in this very thread? You guys really like to characterize IntFed as advocated for a "single unitary world government," even if there's no actual evidence that most IntFed identifiers actually advocate for that. In fact, as I said just a few posts up, that characterization is in direct contradiction with statements made by myself and other IntFeds. It's in direct contradiction with the blockers, limited-scope resolutions, and states' rights resolutions I've written. It's also in direct contradiction with the numerous resolutions I've opposed on grounds that the World Assembly shouldn't be addressing the issue.

The lack of a single unifying mission statement on the proper use of World Assembly power is not proof that IntFed equals single unitary world government. That is argumentum ad ignorantiam, or an argument from ignorance. The lack of that mission statement is the result of the lack of a need for that mission statement: game mechanics supported IntFed (and still do), and the majority of resolutions are products, either directly or indirectly, of IntFed. Clearly, though, one needs to be written.

But, really, there are few differences between IntFed and NatSov. As I said before, the primary and largest difference is the ontological statement. IntFeds start from the idea that the World Assembly has default plenary power. NatSovers start from the idea that the World Assembly has only those powers that its member states grant to it. Both advocate for states' rights and some areas. Both advocate for World Assembly authority in some areas. It's the way each group approaches the question that makes them different.

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