(Guest Commentary) Mike Farris – Citizens for Self-Governance – Senior Fellow for Constitutional Studies, co-founder of the Convention of States Project
One of the reasons we have accepted the premise of the “lesser of two evils” in our voting decisions, is that we don’t have clear ideas of what “good” looks like. This is the ninth in a series of ten short articles giving a coherent philosophy on what we should be looking for in a President.
We are so inundated with talk of the lesser of two evils, some fundamental analysis of a constitutionally and morally sound president seems appropriate.
9. We need a president who will not turn America over to internationalist governance
I have been battling the use of international law to control the domestic policy of the United States for over twenty years. People like Bob Dole and John Kerry have blamed me personally for stopping UN treaties from being ratified in the United States Senate.
During this process, I decided that I needed the formal academic credentials necessary to engage in this issue at the highest level. So, I enrolled in the University of London’s LLM Course in Public International Law. I earned this degree with honors about five years ago.
I believe there is a valid place for international law. Examples are laws of war, international trade, and the prosecution of piracy. With the exception of piracy, legitimate international law is limited to the sphere of ensuring that the interactions between nations are governed by the rule of law. It is improper, in my view, to use international law to interfere in the internal affairs of domestic government of any nation.
Why? It is because I believe in self-government. No one has the moral right to tell any nation how it should govern itself except for the people of that nation. Americans need to make the law for America. The French need to make the law for France. The Sri Lankans need to make the law for Sri Lanka. America has no business attempting to make the law for France and vice versa.
What is true individually is also true collectively. No collection of nations—whether that is NATO or the UN—have the right to dictate domestic policy to any single nation. Self-government is a universal principle that precludes any nation or group of nations from attempting to control the domestic policy of any other nation.
This does not mean that we cannot create international documents that are altruistic in nature and urge all nations to comply with such standards. But there a fundamental and critical difference between saying that a nation’s domestic law “ought to” adhere to such a standard and saying that a nation “must” comply with an international standard as a matter of law.
This is why we need a president who will refuse as a matter of principle to engage in treaty negotiations on instruments which seek to control the domestic law of the United States. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (and others) should be rejected on the grounds that these instruments purport to set international legal standards for which the United States is bound to comply in its internal laws.
There are ideas and principles in each of these documents that I agree with. There are many more ideas and principles in each of these documents that I disagree with. But, the chief reason to reject all such treaties is not because of the inconsistent and flawed content—but because all of the policy issues contained in each of these documents need to be determined by Americans and not by any agency of the United Nations.
This is a long-standing principle of American government. In fact it is the oldest of all American principles.
The “no taxation without representation” fight that culminated in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 was not a protest because taxes were too high. Rather, it was a rejection of the usurpation of power by the British parliament which attempted to—for the first time—assert the power to tax and regulate the colonies. We had been self-governing on all such matters since the 1620s—over 150 years.
We rejected rule making by the British in 1776—we wanted to continue to make our own laws. We need a president who understands and believes in the spirit of 1776. A president who wants to use the UN to make American law stands in defiance of the principles of the American founding.
We need a president who believes that Americans and only Americans should make the law for America.
Michael Farris is the Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. During his career as a constitutional appellate litigator, he has served as lead counsel in the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of thirteen states.
Farris has been a leader on Capitol Hill for over thirty years and is widely respected for his leadership in the defense of homeschooling, religious freedom, and the preservation of American sovereignty. A prolific author, Farris has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship by the Heritage Foundation and as one of the “Top 100 Faces in Education for the 20th Century” by Education Week magazine.
Farris received his B.A. in Political Science from Western Washington University. He later went on to earn his J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law, and his LL.M. in Public International Law, from the University of London.
Mike and his wife Vickie have ten children and 19 grandchildren.