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For centuries, the politics of Western nations have been characterized by a struggle between two antithetical visions of world order: an order of free and independent nations, each pursuing the political good in accordance with its own traditions and understanding; and an order of peoples united under a single regime of law, promulgated and maintained by a single supranational authority.
In recent generations, the first vision has been represented by nations such as India, Israel, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland—and of course by Britain, in the wake of its turn toward independence. The second vision is held by much of the leadership of the European Union, which reaffirmed its commitment to the concept of an “ever closer union” of peoples in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, and has proceeded since then to introduce EU laws and currency into most member nations, as well as requiring the free movement of populations among most member states.
United - States - Founding - Ideal - State
The United States, committed from its founding to the ideal of an independent national state, was for the most part able to maintain this character until the Second World War. But in the face of competition with the Soviet Union, and especially after the end of the Cold War, it has deviated from this model of national independence and has increasingly sought the establishment of a worldwide regime of law that would be enforced upon all nations by means of American power.
The conflict between these two visions of the best political order is as old as the West itself. The idea that the political order should be based on independent nations was an important feature of ancient Israelite thought as reflected in the Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”). And although Western civilization, for most of its history, has been dominated by dreams of universal empire, the presence...
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