Law Without Nations? Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States

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Law Without Nations? Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States

By Jeremy A. Rabkin
Princeton University Press, 2005
350 pp. $29.95
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In a spirited defense of the doctrine of sovereignty and of American unilateralism, Rabkin argues that constitutional democracy is only possible in a world of sovereign states. Part of his book is a restatement of the classical theory of government found in the writings of Locke and the American founders, and an exploration of its implications for international law and organization. The rest focuses on the modern assault on sovereignty by liberal internationalism and what Rabkin calls the "global governance" movement -- characterized by the European Union, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, and other modern projects that explicitly seek to transfer legal and political authority away from the state. In Rabkin's view, for Washington to acquiesce in these suspect endeavors would be to violate constitutionalism and undermine U.S. citizens' rights: "Global governance implies the abolition of American independence." One frustration of the book is its tendency to lump the vast reaches of international law, treaties, supranationalism, and international agreements together as "global governance" and indict the whole lot. In fact, intergovernmental agreements -- such as those establishing the Bretton Woods system and NATO -- are often tools that allow sovereign states to increase their capacity to serve and protect.