The United Nations-United for What? – THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX


By: Dr. Charles Ormsby – December, 2004

 I became hooked on politics in High School in the early ‘60s. My favorite bumper sticker was in support of Communist China. It read: “Admit Red China to the U.N. – Give Them Our Seat”. I’d suggest such a trade today, but I think every despotic regime is already a member.

 With an annual budget of nearly $1.5 billion ($363 million or 25% of this is paid by the United States), it is not surprising that the U.N. does some good. While I am sure there are legitimate criticisms, the three largest U.N. humanitarian agencies (U.N. Development Programme, U.N. Relief Agency, and UNICEF) certainly provide assistance to many who are desperately in need. Does that mean the U.S. should continue as a U.N. member?

 The answer is an emphatic NO, for one simple reason: The U.N. is not an effective mechanism for achieving our goals. Which begs the question: What are our goals? Or: What should be our goals? Let’s start with a few goals that almost every reader can embrace: * Promote world peace

* Reduce poverty and promote

economic prosperity

* Promote individual freedom (both political and economic).

 Hopefully we are all on the same page. There may be a fourth and fifth objective, but they must pale in comparison to these three. Assuming we agree on these goals, the next questions are “What is the long term strategy for achieving these goals?” and “Does the U.N. support this strategy?”

 When considering their immediate, short-term effects, the three goals are listed in their order of importance. It is hard to worry about your next meal or getting your needed prescription for medicine when bombs are exploding in your front yard or soldiers are about to execute your family, rape your women, or weld shackles around your ankles. World peace (and especially peace for our communities and families) comes first.

 Given a reasonable level of peace, then adequate food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare (i.e., rising above the poverty level) come next. When you are starving, shivering, or deathly ill, only the horrors of war are more dreaded. Finally, if we are safe from war and our most basic needs are being met, we want to be free to employ our talents and expend our perspiration to improve the course of our lives and the lives of our families. While critically important, individual freedom may seem to be an abstract notion when death or starvation is at our doorstep.

 Although this is the order of importance when considering immediate consequences, oddly, the order of importance of these goals must be reversed if we want to address the issues over the longer term. Freedom eliminates poverty, gives people hope, and removes the incentives for war. If we want to eliminate war and poverty, we need to advance human political and economic freedom. And that is where the U.N. is a grotesque failure.

 Each year the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal rank the world’s 161 countries by their degree of economic freedom. As it turns out, for countries whose economic freedom scores have been consistent for several decdes, their Economic Freedom Index is a very good predictor of their prosperity. Where repressed countries have recently become free (e.g., Eastern Europe) or for countries whose economic freedom scores have substantially changed, the annual rate of economic growth (i.e., prosperity increases) correlates strongly with the degree of economic freedom they have adopted.

 Over 6 billion experiments (the current world population) can’t be wrong. The data is crystal clear: If you want prosperity and want to eliminate poverty, you should support economic freedom (free markets, property rights, low levels of taxes and regulation, and political freedom). If you like grinding poverty and the vacant stare of starving children, then autocratic government and repression of human freedoms are the way to go.

 Similar analyses have traced the relationship between government repression and both war and genocide. The record is amazingly consistent. Of 353 wars fought between 1816 and 1991, at most one was fought between two democracies (that one, between France and republican Rome in 1849, is a borderline case). 154 wars were fought between democracies and non-democracies and 198 were fought between two non-democracies. Here are the top eight genocides of the Twentieth Century: Soviet Union (USSR), Communist China, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan (WWII era), Communist Cambodia, Turkey (Armenian genocide), Vietnam, and North Korea. Total deaths are on the order of 100 million. Could the record be any clearer?

 What does the U.N. do to advance human freedom so that the world can enter a new era of prosperity and peace? Essentially nothing.

 Look at the current membership of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Of the 53 Commission members in 2004, 56% (30 countries) are either ranked “Mostly Un-free” (24) or “Repressive” (2) or are too unstable politically to be ranked (4). Bhutan, China, Cuba, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Nepal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Zimbabwe … great role models for Human Rights! Every one of these countries ranked near the bottom of the Reporters Without Borders ranking of Press Freedom (Out of 139 countries ranked, these 30 countries on the Human Rights Commission all scored worse than 100. Even Uganda ranked 52nd !) The Sudan is particularly qualified for membership. It knows genocide when it sees it. In fact, as you read this, Sudan is actively promoting genocide in its Darfur region.

 As previously noted, the U.N. does conduct some useful humanitarian missions. But short-term and shortsighted humanitarian relief efforts are not adequate substitutes for a meaningful strategy to achieve the goals of world peace and prosperity. They may make us feel good and help us sleep at night, but they will never succeed. The U.N. never attempts to address the underlying root causes of poverty, genocide, or war.

 If we are serious about achieving our goals, the U.N. is, at best, a distraction. At worst, it is a major part of the problem. It is corrupt at its core. It protects and encourages the very practices that perpetuate poverty, genocide, and war. The Oil-For-Food scandal is just the latest dismal example.

 We need a new international organization. One that is made up of member countries that understand the role of individual freedom (political and economic) in advancing the well being of all humans.

 No nations get perfect scores on the human freedom scale. That being acknowledged, we should invite the freest countries to join the U. S. in a new Freedom Consortium whose goal would be to encourage as rapid an expansion of human rights around the world as possible. Membership would require countries to have basic functioning democratic institutions and to meet a minimum standard for economic freedom (possibly with a time table for meeting even higher standards).

 Free-trade agreements would automatically be executed between all member countries. Humanitarian and financial aid pooled from member countries along with trade agreements would be leveraged to encourage/reward non-member countries to expand freedoms. Military aid could be extended to freedom fighters in countries that insist on repression. The message needs to be sent: We mean it! It may take decades, but eventually, our goals could be largely achieved. We just have to follow a strategy that is designed to achieve them.

Dr. Charles Ormsby

Dr. Charles Ormsby

Dr. Charles Ormsby served two terms on the North Andover School Committee, co-founded of the North Andover Taxpayers Association, is a a co-founder of and columnist for The Valley Patriot, broadcasts weekly opinion pieces for WCAP (980 AM) in Lowell, and is a faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Dr. Ormsby is a graduate of Cornell and has a doctorate degree from MIT. You can email him at

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