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The United States, the United Nations and the Future of the Nation State

Recorded on June 5, 2003

The Heritage Foundation's Van Andel Center

This event is part of the annual Russell Kirk lecture series.

Western Civilization depends on an idea of citizenship that is not global but rooted in territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty. Indeed, the difference between "the West and the rest" depends on the idea of corporate identity, characterized by a constitution, by the rule of law, the rotation of office-holders and collective decision-making. The legitimacy of this power resides partly in custom and tradition, but it also depends on the free consent of a participatory citizenry. Many of the delegates who attend the United Nations do not represent such nation-states at all but rather factions, parties, families or tyrants who have neither legitimacy nor genuine sovereignty. Indeed, the continued transfer of social, economic, political and juridical power to global organizations, ranging from the United Nations and the European Union to the Al Qaeda terrorist network-organizations that are located in no particular jurisdiction and governed by no particular territorial law-is slowly undermining the very conditions that make Western freedoms possible. What does this trend mean for the citizens of nation-states, and what can nation-states do to protect themselves from the assaults of those who have no conception of state sovereignty?

A prominent contemporary English writer, Roger Scruton's more than twenty books include An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture, Thinkers of the New Left and, just recently, The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, published by ISI Books.