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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The Logical UN

Over the past month, our class has been learning about the implications of Olson’s logic when applied to extremely large groups (i.e. nations). We learned that as long as a nation remains stable, special interest groups proliferate and increase in size. Eventually, these groups begin to lobby the nation’s government for special treatment, leading to increases in bureaucracy and decreases in the effectiveness of the government as a whole. Thinking on this process, I began to wonder: if a nation’s government is tends to become more ineffective over time, how effective could the United Nations, a group made of nations, possibly be?

                If we look at Olson’s implications, the outcome seems fairly predictable. A group of the same magnitude as the UN would surely be a bureaucratic juggernaut, with little, if anything, ever actually being accomplished. Special interest groups from all over the world ranging in size from small cartels to entire nations would flock to the Council, each trying to get a political leg up on their competitions. Lastly, in a group this size, the average citizen of any member nation has even less say in United Nations policy than in their own country’s policy, which would imply that the leaders could pass any legislation that they wanted, regardless of how unpopular it may be.

                Interestingly enough, these issues and more comprise the primary criticisms of the UN today. Many complain that UN policies are ineffective, and that the UN "only addresses the strategic interests and political motives of the permanent members, especially in humanitarian interventions." Just recently, the Canadian foreign minister criticized the UN, stating that “The preoccupation with procedure and process must yield to results.” It seems that, once again, Olson isn't too far off the mark. 

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