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EDITORIAL

On power and anti-Agenda 21

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 12:01 am

Let's not dismiss legitimate concerns as paranoid ravings.

There probably aren’t many people out there afraid that they’ll wake up tomorrow to see armed United Nations troops marching down American streets. But that doesn’t mean the anti-Agenda 21 agitators should be completely dismissed as the paranoid lunatic fringe.

“Agenda 21” is a decades-old U.N. document calling for better management of global resources and better care for the environment. It has become a rallying cry for some on the right who fear that the U.N.’s aim is to establish a global empire and that U.S. sovereignty is at risk. Spurred on by the tea party and people like radio host Glenn Beck, they have made Indiana one of fives states with legislative proposals to ban Agenda 21.

It’s fair to say, to be kind about it, that fears of a U.N. takeover are exaggerated. United Nations documents have no legal effect in Indiana or any other state – they are merely recommendations. Our sovereignty is protected by a Constitution that is, so far, still in effect, and a complicated federal system that would make it nearly impossible for anyone, or any group, to cede the power to the U.N. it would need to “rule” us.

But let’s please not forget the dangers of power so well understood by our founders when they created that complicated system. Power accumulates, and it tends to concentrate at higher and higher levels. Local authority diminishes as state authority increases. State gives way to regional, which is subsumed by federal, which is vulnerable to global. And if the Vulcan Empire suddenly made an appearance, you can bet that global would give way to galactic and then to universal. That’s just the way it is with power.

Power isn’t always taken. Often it is gratefully given away by people who wrongly believe that the group is more important than the individual and control must be exercised by those elite few who know better than the unwashed masses. And power comes not just from force but from influence. Ask yourself: Are those in charge of the current administration the sort who dislike American dominance and would actually prefer that the U.N. have more influence? Not a tough question, is it?

As authority moves up the ladder, its effectiveness in coming up with the right answers grows weaker and weaker. Local officials know their problems and opportunities the best. The higher up we go, the more incomplete or mistaken the knowledge is. Even if the U.N. weren’t full of tin-pot dictators and bureaucratic nitwits, it would be a disastrous solver of the world’s problems.

The worst aspect of the unfortunate anti-Agenda 21 crusade is that it will distract from our debates on power and its proper limits and make legitimate expressions of libertarian concern easy too dismiss as nut-job ravings.