The Bear’s Lair: Take an axe to international bodies

The European Court of Human Rights’ decision sanctioning Switzerland for having not done enough to combat global warming is typical of all international bodies. It flouted the original restrictions imposed on the court’s activity, the decision did direct economic harm to ordinary Swiss citizens, and the Court exhibited utter contempt for Swiss democracy. International bodies have become a mechanism for leftist ideologues to impose their will on the rest of us, entirely free of control by democracy or by the tenets of rationality. These bodies need to be eliminated. Given that they were set up to be eternal and impervious to elimination, this will be difficult.

The immovability of international organizations is part of their DNA. The League of Nations theoretically disappeared in 1945, but its Geneva headquarters, the Palais des Nations was the second largest office building in Europe when it was completed in 1936 – and is still entirely full of United Nations bureaucrats, even though the latter organization is headquartered in New York. Various League of Nations created bodies, such as the International Labor Organization, still exist, are still headquartered in Geneva, and have simply been relabeled as United Nations bodies. So much for democratic accountability or fiscal sanity – the bureaucrats, their fancy office buildings and above all their costs to the world’s taxpayers still exist 80 years after the organization was formally abolished.

The ECHR judgment is disgraceful. It starts from the unproven and grossly hyped theories of “climate change.” As a refresher on those, the modest global warming from 1975-2010 appears to have reversed itself temporarily and the Arctic ice pack has recovered. We are still only 1.2 degrees Celsius above the temperature in 1780, which itself was near the bottom of the global “Maunder Minimum”. The United Nations’ goal of keeping the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius is both nonsensical – it represents only a 0.3 degree rise from current levels — and very probably unattainable. If climate change theories were correct, a 0.3 degrees further warming would occur in 30-40 years, whatever policies we adopt now. It also ignores the geopolitical reality that India and China, the two largest populations among the countries that are enriching themselves rapidly, are quite rightly relying on cheap, readily available coal for their energy needs, thus making it utterly irrelevant what the rest of us do.

The Swiss very sensibly rejected their government’s policies to address climate change in 2021, thus producing the lawsuit on which the ECHR has absurdly opined. Regrettably the position has since been obscured by the leftist Swiss government’s usual habit of putting the referendum question over and over again until it gets the answer it wants, this time (in 2023) seeing its public express a vague goodwill towards the climate change cult without mandating any policies to address it. Still, in the world infested with idle environmentalists that we have, it was inevitable that the case would be taken to the ECHR and inevitable, given the ECHR’s habit of barging in where it is very definitely not wanted, that it would interfere, thereby justifying all kinds of Swiss-impoverishing policies. With leftist lawyers and bureaucrats, the “human” right of imaginary environmental damage trumps the undoubted human right of the Swiss people for reasonable living standards, without being nagged incessantly by unelected and hostile international bodies.

The Swiss can and should leave the ECHR, as should the United Kingdom. However, doing so risks the possibility of electing a leftist government that pushes the country back into it. While the ECHR exists, funded by even one substantial and foolish or evil-minded source, it hangs over the EU and associated countries, doing damage wherever it goes and inventing more ways of hurting ordinary people in order to bulk up its credibility among the intelligentsia (many of whom as lawyers make large and wholly unjustified fees from these cases).

The same applies to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, whose purpose is to hold Stalinist show trials of generals and other leaders of countries of which the global wokies do not approve. This was established only in 1998 and its first action, since it could not get hold of the Serbian leaders in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, was to hold a criminal trial of Ante Gotovina, the successful Croatian general who had led Operation Storm that ejected the Serbian Army from Croatia and ended the war. The ICC sentenced Gotovina to 24 years in jail; fortunately, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, more conscious of which side in that conflict was wearing the white hats, released him the following year. His return to Zagreb in a Croatian government plane, to be greeted by the President and the Prime Minister and a cheering crowd of 100,000 people indicated the contempt with which the ICC was regarded. Needless to say, none of the lawyers involved at the ICC were compelled to relinquish their truly bounteous fees.

The problem with the ICC, apart from its ruining the lives of random people to whom it takes a dislike, is that it prevents the peaceful resolution of international crises and the removal of bad actors. Uganda’s Idi Amin stepped down more or less voluntarily in 1979, to a peaceful and wealthy 24-year retirement in Saudi Arabia. However morally repugnant this may be to those who remember Amin’s cruelties, if the ICC had existed at that time, can anyone doubt that Uganda would have been involved in a lengthy and bloody civil war, as Amin would have had no alternative? Conversely, the NATO action against Libya in 2012, which killed Muammar Gaddafi, has undoubtedly convinced other bad actors such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, that complying with NATO’s disarmament requests is a mug’s game, since NATO will only kill you anyway if they get the chance. (Indeed, the chance of civilized settlement with North Korea during the Trump administration was wrecked by the cretinous John Bolton, then a senior Trump administration official, rejoicing at this very possibility.)

Making peace with Vladimir Putin is going to be made much more difficult by the ICC having pompously issued arrest warrants against him a year ago. Since NATO has proved unable to defeat him, any settlement, presumably after a new U.S. administration is installed, will have to be a compromise peace. Threatened with the ICC’s lawyers and prevented from travelling safely, Putin is likely to decide a peace with NATO cannot be relied upon, in which case he will prolong the war, perhaps ticking off some more of his imperialist boxes in other countries such as the Baltic states. International diplomacy is difficult enough anyway, without a bunch of unelected and incompetent lawyers making the situation impossible to resolve peacefully.

In the financial arena, there are innumerable targets to choose from, all of which the world would be better off without. Perhaps the most egregious is the International Monetary Fund, currently run by the Bulgarian communist Kristalina Georgieva. The IMF began as a body preaching governmental austerity and the free market and providing loans to recalcitrant countries such as Britain in 1976 that had grossly violated those principles. Then in the 1990s, during the brief period when sounder finance became common worldwide, it appeared that the IMF might be closed, having no lending customers.

That was of course intolerable to its employees and the “international community” so the IMF reversed its principles, lending billions of dollars to hopelessly profligate Argentine governments not once but twice, in 2001-02 and 2016-17. It also propounded a ludicrous anti-market public sector default mechanism that rewarded the IMF’s corrupt and incompetent bureaucrats at the expense of private lenders, putting the private sector at the back of the very lengthy “queue.” Naturally, it has been bailed out by unfortunate Western taxpayers, and continues on its merry way, supporting all kinds of interference in the free market, notably in the area of “climate change” and “fiscal stimulus” that further wrecks the balance sheets of Western governments. It also issues hopelessly inaccurate economic forecasts, deliberately tailored to hinder disfavored governments.

In the interests of the world as a whole, most especially its taxpayers, the IMF should disappear, as should all other corrupt and damaging international organizations. A moment’s consideration of the late Professor James Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory will tell you that any such organization, being wholly uncontrolled by democratic constraints and devoted to self-aggrandizement, must inevitably be a corrupted and destructive force. There are far too many such forces today, and the world keeps creating more of them.

The impossible question is: how do we get rid of them? As the League of Nations examples show, all such bureaucracies develop their constituencies in national parliaments, normally but not exclusively on the left, so that any reforming government finds them impossible to eradicate. If one country leaves the organization, as the U.S. has done with various United Nations bodies, the organization only needs to wait for the “swing of the pendulum” for the left to return and the nation to rejoin, usually providing several years’ back financial contributions in doing so. The interests of ordinary taxpayers, as always, come bottom of the list.

Probably the solution in each country is to adopt by law a system of automatic sunset, so that membership of and contributions to every such organization automatically sunsets every ten years and must be reauthorized by Parliament/Congress. If this were applied consistently, with several international organizations’ memberships sunsetting each year, then mere inertia and gallant Parliamentary opposition would over time cut back their memberships. Once one country had saved their taxpayers money by these means, others would surely follow, and the sunsets would gradually begin to apply to the organizations themselves.

Sunsets are very beautiful. It is time we saw large numbers of them among the international bureaucracies.


(The Bear’s Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that the proportion of “sell” recommendations put out by Wall Street houses remains far below that of “buy” recommendations. Accordingly, investors have an excess of positive information and very little negative information. The column thus takes the ursine view of life and the market, in the hope that it may be usefully different from what investors see elsewhere.)