The following essay is excerpted and adapted from What’s Wrong with Global Governance? (Acton Institute 2016).
The term global governance refers to the political dimension of globalization. Here the question is to what degree governance will be centralized and controlled by international institutions in ways that threaten to diminish national and local governmental capacity. Global governance advocates tend to prefer both transnational regulation of markets and the creation of new human rights norms marked by increased centralization.
In the latter sense, global governance can imply much more than simple international coordination and cooperation, which has existed throughout modern international relations. Now it is also a deeply and widely embedded ideology that seeks global centralization and regulation of wide-reaching areas of international interaction. It is believed and advanced by its devotees with an almost religious zeal. If this growing and increasingly influential body of believers simply wanted to resolve pressing international problems, its effects would be largely unobjectionable. International cooperation is needed to prevent, control and resolve conflicts; provide much-needed humanitarian emergency assistance; and promote increasing prosperity among nations.
Global governance ideology aims at eroding and eliminating national sovereignty by reducing national governmental control over the movement of people, goods, services and capital across national boundaries. It seeks to establish an entirely secular order in which activities such as education, health care, economic development and justice are fashioned by global experts rather than by the leaders in their natural local and national contexts. Rule by experts, by global bureaucrats, is regarded as the ideal.
These experts in turn share a common set of outlooks about the world. They are secularists who are at best suspicious of but often outright hostile to religion and traditional culture as influences on civilization. They are bureaucrats or advocates of bureaucracy who believe that government by expert rather than by elected officials is the only way to advance a progressive agenda of modernization. They are environmentalists who, to varying degrees, regard human beings and human population growth as a scourge on global ecology. They are thus almost universally population-control advocates who regard the family, especially the traditional family and the religious beliefs of families, as a threat to environmental integrity. They are transnationalists who believe that the nation-state is an anachronistic cultural construct in need of deconstruction. They are materialists who ultimately deny the transcendent spiritual nature of human beings and who thus are concerned almost exclusively about the physical and emotional needs of people. They are relativists who generally reject the concept of objective moral truth, of natural law or of the religious and spiritual dimensions of the human person. They regard power and control as the mechanisms by which to remake the world in their own image. They are centralists who have little regard for the rights of subsidiary bodies, local agencies of mutual aid and support, churches, local governments or even national governments that wish to preserve their distinctive ways of life. In the name of global solidarity, they violate basic principles of subsidiarity.
The traditional teachings of Christianity, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, are a major target for advocates of global governance. They have adopted the mantle of peace, justice, human rights and humanitarian advocacy—the social gospel of the Church—but have systematically attacked the Church as an institution, the traditional family and traditional moral values, and love of country and love of God. They seek to supplant the Church’s historical role in the provision of corporal works of mercy. They are opponents of religious liberty and even of freedom of conscience.
This sinister version of global governance is a sign of our times. It is fed at an ever increasing rate by the globalization of electronic communication. In this new virtual world, peace and justice contend with violence and depravity. The Church must be aware of the ideological movements at work under the guise of secular humanism and progressive liberalism. Global governance ideology is the intellectual stepchild of Marxist materialist thought. In an age of actual globalization, it is the reigning worldview of elites. The Church therefore must understand it and resist its most sinister goals by serving as a sign of contradiction; by cooperating with international institutionalization where it is most justified; and by opposing it when it violates basic human dignity, the subsidiary rights of the Church and the imbedded agents of mutual aid and support on which local communities depend.
The Church must foster a humane and just form of global governance while resisting the features and political commitments of the ideology that encourages a culture of death rather than a civilization of life and love. The true good and happiness of human persons rests on a genuine respect for human dignity and the advancement of the common good in light of the deepest truths of human nature. The Church—as well as all people of good will—must work to ensure that global governance promotes rather than frustrates this end.