June 01, 2004


Matt Welch, currently attempting to make his site "less relevant and more frivolous" (get off my turf, hatboy!) proposes a four-tiered UN:

One for specifically defined liberal electoral democracies, another for countries that aren't quite there but are improving, a third for countries not yet close but not yet totalitarian, and a fourth for the real bad guys. Everybody still gets a seat at the one big table, but only real democracies can ever have veto power, or a significant chairmanship, no matter how temporary. Countries should be given an incentive to liberalize and join the next Circle of Friends; be penalized for being horrible.

If it ever happens, "Circle of Friends" should be part of the official UN description, just so we can see it in New York Times headlines ("Libya ascends to third Circle of Friends"). In the same Norm Geras profile, Matt -- who knows himself well -- answers the question: "What talent would you most like to have?"

The ability to fix anything at all.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 1, 2004 04:34 AM

I've always wondered why we allowed despots to take advantage of a system they'd never allow in their own countries. Then again, this is the same organization that elected Sudan to a seat on the Human Rights Commission. One would think a liberal democratic society a prerequisite to gaining membership.

Posted by: John at June 1, 2004 at 04:52 AM

Sounds like the Circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno. But why bother? The UN is already in Hell.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at June 1, 2004 at 06:04 AM

Rings of Hell. Dante-esque.
Oh, you just said that, Real JeffS.

Isn't the best part about this idea WHO determines the 'sin' level of each country? Devil's in the details---

Posted by: c at June 1, 2004 at 06:25 AM

C's right. Unless the Democratic League is set up by the democracies themselves, who then vet applicants, it'll end up like the current UN, with the Syrias and Libyas being elected to chair the Peace & Motherhood Commissions all over again.

Also there would be room for dispute, even among supporters of democracy, about some countries -- eg, Singapore, or pre-coup Fiji.

Posted by: Uncle Milk at June 1, 2004 at 07:46 AM

Its a great idea! The UN is currently only useful as a punching bag.

But everyone is right, the devil sure is in the detail.

Perhaps the inner circle should only contain representatives directly elected to their position via a free and fair election.

Posted by: liberal avenger at June 1, 2004 at 08:52 AM

OK, then, Liberal Avenger. But who will decide that rule? A vote-at-large of all nations? And who certifies "free and fair" elections?

(Please no one suggest Jimmy Carter! He wouldn't have certified the US 2000 election---)

Posted by: c at June 1, 2004 at 09:28 AM

Does this sound ominously like the church of scientology?

Tom Cruise for Secretary General and John Travolta for chief weapons inspector!

Posted by: Foo Bar at June 1, 2004 at 09:40 AM

Sorry, just read the heading, I guess Tim agrees!

Posted by: Foo Bar at June 1, 2004 at 09:42 AM

"In democracy, the people elect the representatives for Government. In the UN, the government elects the representatives."

A small gem courtesy of Paddy McGuinness. I think Matt Welch has the right idea, though

Posted by: TimT at June 1, 2004 at 11:13 AM

Nice to see people talking UN reform, but having more countries with veto power is not the answer. Veto power has been a big part of the problem all along. Get rid of it entirely, or at least greatly reduce the conditions under which it can be used.

Posted by: Stewart Kelly at June 1, 2004 at 12:55 PM

We should boot out every country from the UN as well as the buerocrats and let them in one by one if they can prove they are liberal democracy's.

Sure it would only be 20 strong but it would work dammit!.

Posted by: JBB at June 1, 2004 at 01:13 PM

CurrencyLad whats with the homoeroticism in the table for the slowly improving? All tough men in white singlets...


The democratic table is serving a turkey.

Uh Oh.

*Cue Leftist meme*

Posted by: Quentin George at June 1, 2004 at 06:21 PM

c, certification of elections is easy, plenty of countries have years of experience doing it.

Boot strapping the new system will be more difficult: It will probably require a few courageous countries unilaterally - yes liberals may say this word! - deciding to elect their representatives. Then the new system could coalesce around this initial group, with representatives added as they to are elected by their countrymen.

Then we may start an eternal debate between country rights and planet rights!

Posted by: liberal avenger at June 2, 2004 at 08:09 AM

Stewart -- I didn't mean to suggest an expansion of veto power, unless it led to more scenes like CurrencyLad's "not yet close" picture, which looks alarmingly similar to the sleeve art of Beggars Banquet. As for who gets to decide, I think I would be a pretty logical choice. As long as Tim gets to name the various Stages of the Thetan.

There's actually a fairly bipartisan & transatlantic push for something vaguely similar to all this, starting off with a League of Democracies, which is a 127-country body (or thereabouts) that was first formed in '98 or 2000. (The only democracy not to join was France; insert joke here.) Some people on the American right and left have tried to turn this into a disicplined Voting Bloc of sorts; and while that seems like a fantasy, there's a germ of a good idea somewhere in there. According to me.

Posted by: Matt Welch at June 3, 2004 at 04:11 AM