Dr. Russell is Professor of Economics at Rockford College and Chairman of the Department of Economics and Business Administration. This article is from his columns of October 22 and 29, 1961, in the Rockford[Illinois] Morning Star.
One hundred years ago, the most perfect "United Nations" the world has ever known erupted into war. That organization had everything (and then some) that anyone could possibly desire to insure the success of a central government for a group of independent states.
The members of that particular United Nations all spoke the same language. And they still used every weapon known to man to exterminate each other.
They had the advantage of a common religious, racial, and cultural background. And for four years, they slaughtered each other at every opportunity.
There were no restrictions against travel or trade among the member states. And still they did a superior job of killing each other.
They had a "Charter" that was generally recognized as ideal for the purpose of uniting independent nations. And still they fought each other in one of the most destructive wars in history.
For years, the member states openly debated the issues that divided them. But as always happens when truly vital issues are discussed by large groups of politicians in public, the resulting inflammatory speeches for "history and home consumption" made the situation worse instead of better.
Those United Nations had the most favorable opportunity yet known to man to prove the thesis that a formal organization can unite nations and preserve the peace when there is a major difference in the philosophies and aims of the member states. And as any objective student of history and government could have predicted, events proved once again that it never works.
You know, of course, that I am referring to the United States and our Civil War. But the same story (in essence) has happened hundreds and thousands of times throughout history—in Greece, in China, in France, in Russia, everywhere and in all ages.
But in spite of that sad history, millions of my fellow citizens continue to put their entire faith in the United Nations as an instrument for world peace. "The United Nations is our last hope to avoid war," they sincerely plead. "Thus we just must support it, whatever the cost."
As an all-too-human effort to escape from the reality of the frightful situation in which we find ourselves, and from the fearful decisions that must be made, that attitude is easily understandable. Naturally, I hope and pray that it will work out; instinctively, I also always hope that the desperate gambler will win at the races or at poker in his last frantic and unrealistic effort to avoid bankruptcy and the suffering that it would bring to his innocent children. That humane feeling, however, doesn’t induce me to turn to the horses as a sound method to provide for my family, nor to a fabricated and unnatural organization to preserve peace.
The reality of our situation is this. The peace of the world and the future of mankind rests today on one issue, and on one issue only: Can Russia and the United States co-exist on the same earth. I do not know the answer; I know only that our childish faith in a sterile organization has prevented us from facing the issue realistically. Worse yet, it may already have deprived us of any chance for victory if the final answer proves to be no.
Fundamental Differences in Philosophies and Goals
The time for wishful thinking is long past. The Russian and American camps are separated by fundamental philosophies and goals, not by the absence of a place to meet and to record any agreement the leaders may accept.
The Russians are aware of this. That’s why they have always realistically tolerated and used the United Nations when it advanced their cause, and denounced it totally when any decision went contrary to their wishes. Let us also begin to view that organization objectively.
United Nations Day is Oct. 24. During the week, the event will be commemorated by the prayers and sermons of millions of sincere Christians throughout our country. Ironically, each will be asking the blessings of Jesus Christ on an institution that has specifically outlawed his authority and philosophy from all its formal proceedings.
The primary reason for this is that the leaders of Russia cannot associate themselves with any group or statement that acknowledges the existence of moral law or any concept of man beyond the material and animal level. That’s why there is no mention of God in the United Nations Charter, the U. N. Covenant of Human Rights, or any other similar United Nations document. Our leaders who committed us to this "new idea" in world government readily agreed that God should be replaced by a meditation room "in the interests of world peace."
And true enough, the "myths of religion" have now been abolished and man reigns supreme in our new government of the world. It so happens, however, that since 1945 and the founding of the United Nations for freedom and peace, there has been a steady decline in freedom for individuals throughout the world. And all mankind is momentarily and constantly threatened with the most destructive war that the world has ever faced. Any educated man —that is, any person who honestly searches for fundamental relationships between causes and effects —will automatically ask himself if there is a connection. Let us start at the beginning.
The Source of Rights
In our world, there are two fundamental concepts of government and human rights: (1) the source of rights is government itself; (2) rights come from a source other than government.
These two concepts are best illustrated by the constitutions and practices of the
"Article 125. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed by law: (a) freedom of speech; (b) freedom of the press; (c) freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings; (d) freedom of street processions and demonstrations.
"These civil rights are ensured by placing at the disposal of the working people and their organizations printing presses, stocks of paper, public buildings, the streets, communications facilities, and other material requisites for the exercise of these rights."
Under the Soviet concept, all rights come from government. And thus it is the responsibility of government to specify what they are and to provide the people with the means to exercise them.
The other concept is found in our own Constitution: "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." And "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects… shall not be violated." And no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Under the traditional American concept, all rights come from a source outside of government; the government is specifically forbidden to violate these pre-existing rights that belong to each individual. And since the rights do not come from government, obviously the state is not responsible for providing the people with the material means for exercising them.
U.N. Follows Soviet Model
The United Nations is unmistakably modeled on the Soviet concept of rights. To a startling degree, its official documents use the same phrasing found in the Russian Constitution. That fact is discernible in the U. N. Charter itself, but the true philosophy of the United Nations is, of course, most clearly observed in the documents and proceedings of the operating units of the organization—UNESCO, the Commission on Human Rights, and so on. Here is a random sample from the Covenant of Human Rights, sometimes referred to as "the bill of rights" of the U. N.:
"Article 21. The states parties to the covenant recognize the right of everyone to just and favorable conditions of work, including: (a) safe and healthy working conditions; (b) minimum remuneration which provides all workers: (1) with fair wages and equal pay for equal work, and (2) a decent living for themselves and their families; and (c) reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."
Other sections of that covenant specify the right of everyone to "social security," "adequate housing," "medical service," and so on. And all of them are paraphrased from the Soviet Constitution. Under the United Nations concept, all rights clearly come from government, and the government must thus provide all the people with the material means to enjoy them.
As the chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Charles Malik, said, "I think a study of our proceedings will reveal that the amendments we adopted to the old texts under examination responded for the most part more to Soviet than to Western promptings."
A Mistake To Have Joined; Worse Yet To Stay With It
We American people sponsored and endorsed a completely alien concept of government when we joined the United Nations. But such a dramatic change seldom, if ever, happens overnight. John Adams was referring to that idea when he pointed out that the American Revolution was not the war itself—"that was only the effect and consequence of it." The revolution occurred in the minds and hearts of the people, "and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington."
Likewise, I am convinced that we American people really "joined the U.N." from 1930 to 1945, as we increasingly rejected the traditional American concept of government as a protector of pre-existing rights and decided instead that the government should become the source of rights.
If that is what we really want, we can have it. I am convinced, however, that only a frantic search for world peace keeps us from seeing the United Nations for what it really is—a golden calf that induces blind worship instead of objective reasoning.
The issue that today threatens to plunge the world back into barbarism is whether the dictatorial and closed society led by Russia shall prevail over the democratic and open society led by the United States. And surely no one will claim that the United Nations is going our way; over the years, the margin of our so-called "victories" has decreased to the vanishing point in that organization. And the soon-to-be-expected admission of Communist China will complete the process beyond recall.
Worse still, our hasty and questionable United Nations policy of supporting any and all revolutions in a futile attempt "to win the friendship of the new and uncommitted nations" has cost us the traditional friendship of Britain, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, and perhaps others. (The fact that they may still support us in case of war with Russia will be because they don’t really have any other choice.) In return, we have gotten mostly abuse and demands for more money from the new nations. It is high time we gave some consideration to the interests of the United States instead of the United Nations. Let us get out before we are dragged under.