The United Nations is far removed from the daily grind of domestic politics, where seemingly more pressing ‘bread and butter’ issues are debated.
Its relative immunity from oversight can be attributed to a brilliant strategy of enshrouding itself in a veil of do-gooder spirit. Publicity campaigns routinely proclaim noble objectives such as substantially reducing poverty by 2015, helping achieve world peace, and bringing about inter-cultural dialogue.
Being sceptical about the U.N. is similar to questioning the worth of Mother Teresa – decent, politically correct people just don’t do things like that.
But when it comes to international stability, the cumulative effect of the United Nations is a disastrous one. Far from promoting peace, the U.N. is used by power elites to sow the seeds of conflict. If Australians are serious about keeping their country out of needless wars, they need to pressure their representatives to withdraw from the entangling alliance that is the United Nations.
How does the U.N. ensnare Australia in conflicts that don't affect our interests? Simply put, it's through adherence to the interventionist doctrine of collective security. The doctrine posits that if there is an act of aggression anywhere in the world, all member-states are expected to respond as a united force. Whenever there is an obscure conflict in a far-away land, Australians, who would have otherwise enjoyed a state of peace, and perhaps a reduction in tax-coercion, may be called upon to sacrifice.
Take for instance, Australia's involvement in the Korean War. Why should Australia have spent blood and treasure settling a border dispute that has no direct impact on our national security?
Few, if any, of the U.N.’s missions have been related to questions that affect Australia's interests. The 1991 Gulf War, for example, was geographically removed from our threat zone. Iraq, a third-world nation with a run-down military, posed no substantial threat to Australian security. Yet instead of letting neighbouring Arab states deal with Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, we joined a US-led UN coalition instead.
Collective security has never worked as intended. Under the Charter, collective security was supposed to be a coordinated effort, with a Military Staff Committee composed of generals from Security Council countries meeting to make decisions. In practice, all major collective security actions have been under American command.
Moreover, since the permanent members of the Council possess a veto power, it’s a sure thing that if one of the permanent members or its friends commits an act of aggression, no disciplinary action will be taken. Hence, the Security Council focuses its wrath disproportionately upon less influential "pariah" states and downplays actions taken by politically powerful governments.
The time has come to stop placing our faith in world bureaucracy to forge a durable peace. As Ludwig von Mises wrote:
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What's really damning is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the United States pretty much the same as World War II, even though they are fighting an enemy nowhere near as powerful.
Most central banks are staffed by unelected bureaucrats and are outside the realm of political control. The Treasurer, no matter how much he may disagree, is bound by convention not to interfere with the monetary policy decisions of the bank.
This state of affairs has insulated central banks from accountability. Parliament does not control the Reserve Bank of Australia’s budget, as it does for the High Court.
Full disclosures of monetary policy dealings domestically and internationally are not accessible. The RBA’s exemption from Freedom of Information laws prevents the public from finding out the extent of its relationships with external actors. Like the Fed, no parliamentary committee truly oversees every aspect of its decision-making, meaning it is probably more secretive than the Australian Security Intelligence Service.
A good way to improve accountability is to audit the RBA. Comprehensive audits can reveal useful information about how a central bank is employing its discretionary powers.
Opponents of an audit argue that opening up the bank's books would impinge on its "independence". Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that central bank independence is a good thing. Even so, it's unlikely that expanding the scope of audits would significantly affect independence. Protections can be put in place to minimise this risk. Not all documents discovered during an audit need to be made public. Some can be viewed privately by the inspector-general in charge of accountability. Appropriate safeguards, such as time lags between a monetary policy decision and an audit of the decision, can also be implemented.
Thus, there is no excuse for not providing citizens a better understanding of the RBA's shenanigans.
An additional barrier to employment in the legal profession is the subjective system of "character tests" regulated by the Victorian Board of Legal Admissions (Letters, 6/12). The funny thing is that the character test doesn't seem to always work. Many lawyers that I've interacted with find it difficult to be honest when it comes to fees – inflating billed hours is a common trick. There's no better proof than the hundreds of disciplinary cases lodged against lawyers across Australia.
I would urge politicians to abolish the character test – not just for law, but for all professions. This would encourage competition and bring down prices for consumers of these services. Bad character can instead be sorted out by consumer protection organisations where customers can rate individual lawyers just as they rate cars or hotels.
(Published in The Age, letters to the editor, 7 December 2016)