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February 7, 2005

Globalism may be good for business, but not for government

Mark Steyn does a masterful job of getting to the real issue of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal:
[...] what happened was utterly predictable. If I had $64 billion of my own money, I'd look after it carefully. But give someone $64 billion of other people's money to "process" and it would be surprising if some of it didn't get peeled off en route. Especially if that $64 billion gives you access to a unique supply of specially low-priced oil you can re-sell at market prices. Hire Third World bureaucrats to supervise the "processing" and you can kiss even more of it goodbye. Grant Saddam Hussein the right of approval over the bank that will run the scheme, and it's clear to all that nit-picky book-keeping will not be an overburdensome problem.
One of the foundational tenets of my constitutionalist philosophy is "subsidiarity" -- the idea that any legitimate function of government should be conducted at the lowest possible level of government that makes sense (and, of course, illegitimate functions of government wouldn't be conducted at all!). The closer a given level of government is to the governed, the more accountable that level of government will be to the governed, and the less likely that these functions will be tainted by corruption (if the governed happen to be paying attention, which I admit is not necessarily a given).

Steyn suggests that this principle helps to explain why financial scandals in the UN are pretty much inevitable:
This is the transnational system, working as it usually works, just a little more so. One of the reasons I'm in favour of small government is because big government tends to be remote government, and remote government is unaccountable, and, as a wannabe world government, the UN is the remotest and most unaccountable of all. If the sentimental utopian blather ever came true and we wound up with one "world government", from an accounting department point of view, the model will be Nigeria rather than New Hampshire.
The whole article is worth the read.

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