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Friday, May 8, 2015

British Colonies Forge an American Empire: A Basis for Equitable Trans-Atlantic Relations

By the end of twenty-first century, Americans typically took it for granted that the United States constitute a nation equivalent to France or Spain.  That the Union could have been referred to as the New Empire in its early days would seem nonsensical or flatly erroneous.  Claims that the constitutional convention delegates could have differed on whether they were designing a national or international government would likely get blank stares.  Well into the 2010s, the American and European political and media elites were lock-step agreement: the E.U. was not to be portrayed as equivalent to the U.S.; rather the E.U. was a “supranational organization.” Hence, The New York Times consistently referred to the European Commission as the E.U.’s executive arm rather than branch. Meanwhile, European politicians and journalists were falling over themselves to stress that France, Germany, the U.K., Italy, and other states are member-states, lest anyone confuse an E.U. state with a U.S. state. Referring to an American state as a member-state simply was not done. That in being represented in the U.S. Senate made the American states members of the U.S. was not enough to get them “member state” status. That the U.S. Senate is founded in international principles, wherein each polity gets the same number of votes, whereas the European Council adjusts how many votes a state gets according to population (roughly) was simply ignored or even unknown. The axis of proper comparison was etched in stone, or it appeared to the general public.

That the default reflexively used for trans-Atlantic comparisons might itself be a category mistake—for instance, in treating one Union as commensurate with a State in another Union—would not have been questioned strikes me as bizarre, given the founding and early history of the United States as an international alliance, confederation, and only then was a federal government (and of limited governmental sovereignty) added. 

Access the book here.

In this book, I go back to the colonial period to argue that the United Colonies and subsequent United States were (and are) properly regarded as constituting an empire—using this term both as a political type and a territorial scale distinct from those of (member) states.

Accordingly, I argue that the American colonies and the subsequent individual generically-termed States were commensurate with European kingdoms of the time (and thus with European countries in the twentieth century). In other words, the British colonies in North America were colonies in the Greek rather than Roman sense; the Greek city-states colonized to replicate themselves whereas Roman colonies were designed to be a part of a Roman city rather than eventually cities in their own right. My argument turns on the following point: a Greek city-state would create a colony to become a city-state rather than a part of the founding city-state, and the British created colonies in North America with this model (rather than that of the ancient Romans) in mind. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Is the E.U. a Federal System? Comparing the E.U. and U.S.

The United States and the European Union are not typically thought of on either side of the Atlantic Ocean as commensurate, and thus comparable, at least as of 2015 as I compile the essays in this text. Nevertheless, I contend that both polities are empire-level federal systems—federal in the modern sense, wherein the states and the federal level government share governmental sovereignty. If I’m correct in my categorization, we could evade the mistaken prescriptions that naturally ensue from category mistakes by comparing France, for example, with Texas rather than the entire U.S., and California not with the E.U. but, rather, with Italy. Useful lessons for the E.U. would come from looking at the U.S., and vice versa. Keeping the (member) states distinct from their respective federal levels is rarely if even done in making trans-Atlantic comparisons.

Accordingly, I present a collection of my essays on federalism applied to the E.U. andU.S. so the ubiquitous category-mistakes might finally be viewed as antiquated and useful lessons may be drawn on both sides of the Atlantic to fortify the respective federal empires of (member) states. The essays in Part I emphasize EU-US comparisons. The second and third parts focus respectively on the European Union and the United States, with comparisons and contrasts brought in as needed. I contend generally that both federal systems are in need of improvements to be viable over time. Whereas the E.U.’s risk is dissolution, consolidation at the expense of federalism is the danger facing the U.S. as of 2015. Ideally, a federal system has in its design structures and processes that tend the system itself into having a balance of power between the states and the federal-level governmental institutions. Only thusly can the states provide a check on federal encroachment, and the federal institutions check wayward states. In seeking to realize this benefit, Europeans and Americans could do worse than draw comparisons without committing a category-mistake. 

A Related Audio:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thewordenreport/2013/07/08/the-eu-and-us

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Conflict of Interest at the U.S. Department of Education Keeps Students on the Hook

A conflict of interest can be viewed as two conflicting roles, wherein the one entailing more public responsibility is compromised or eclipsed by the other. The ongoing temptation itself may be sufficient grounds ethically to end or transfer the potentially exploitive role. In other words, sometimes the solution is as simple as ending the potentially encroaching task or role. When the institution is a governmental agency, selecting or creating another agency to perform the task is one alternative; privatizing it is another. Either way, deconstructing an institutional conflict of interest by separating problematic role-combinations is advisable even in cases in which the more private-benefits role has not corrupted the more public-benefits role. The U.S. Department of Education provides a useful case in point.

The complete essay is at “U.S. Department of Education.”