Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Revisiting Sovereignty

Dictionary definitions of sovereignty include "complete independence," "exclusivity of jurisdiction," "self-government," "a territory existing as an independent state," "an autonomous state," and perhaps most important, "freedom from external control." In democracies, self-government refers to the citizens of an independent state exercising their political rights to select their leaders though free and fair elections.

Freedom from external control, or undue external influence, enables a country to determine its own domestic and foreign policies. To what extent is the exercise of sovereignty under threat from the increasing pace of globalization? Does rising foreign ownership of U.S. assets limit the country’s ability to act in its national interest? Can the U.S. remain independent if foreigners own half of more of the country’s national debt, a large share of its banks and investment houses, and firms producing goods and services? Is there a tipping point when some degree of foreign ownership of a country’s productive and financial assets threatens its sovereignty? Few would raise this issue if the bulk of foreign owners were British, Scandinavian, or Canadian. It may be entirely different if they are Russian, Middle Eastern, or Latin American oil-exporting nations that are opposed to U.S. foreign policy or may be uncertain friends.

As the U.S. continues to import 12 million barrels of oil a day and transfer hundreds of billions of dollars a year abroad in excess of its foreign earnings, China, Russia, and oil exporting nations gain in power and influence.

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