In the Court of Kingdom Come
REASON seldom publishes fiction, and does so only when the work is particularly effective in making a point. Such is the case with Mark Tier's brief fable of the philosophy of antitrust carried to its ultimate (logical?) conclusion.
It was the last day. The court-room hushed as the tall, white-haired figure of His Excellency, Sir Immanuel Ezuel, Chief Justice of Lesotho, strode to his place on the right hand of the Judges' bench.
As he sat down to his place, lifting his trousers just a little from above the knee, he nodded politely to his opponent sitting on the other side.
Frank Daniels, U.S. Attorney-General represented the United States as defending counsel in the case of Lesotho v. The United States of America. He returned the nod, a little too curtly perhaps; but today belonged to Ezuel.
It had been rumored that the President himself would sum up the U.S. case. No one doubted such a move had been considered. But, as The New York Times had said in the previous day's editorial, such a move would have been interpreted as weakness on the part of the U.S. In any event, Daniels, who had ably presented the U.S. case all along, had given the summation the day before. But the length of the proceedings, and their nature, had taken a toll. Some commentators said they thought Daniels looked the part of the losing man.
In contrast, Ezuel on this last day looked even more confident than he had on the first. Private Eye claimed that this was due to his Oxford education. In a series of background articles on Lesotho, Newsweek suggested that Ezuel had engineered the whole case to compensate for his subordinate position as Chief Justice of Lesotho. After all, at 67 he was two years older than his brother—the President. Newsweek insinuated that Ezuel was more interested in the international prominence his case had brought than in any rights or wrongs in the whole affair.
And his name has certainly become a household word around the world, while still nobody has heard of his brother.
The court stood as the seven Judges of the United Nations Supreme Court entered. There was a pause of a few moments as the TV technicians adjusted the lights and the cameramen adjusted the cameras which would carry the proceedings via satellite around the world (except to Lesotho which, in the words of Ezuel's brother, the President, "could not afford the satellite charges").
Space was at such a premium in the spectators' gallery that the U.N. Secretary-General had been forced to allocate only two seats to each member country. In the space reserved for the press, there wasn't even enough room for the contingent of journalists from New Zealand. So most of the journalists stayed at home or in their hotels and watched the proceedings on TV.
Despite the restrictions, there were a few interlopers crouching on the stairs, the railings, or wherever they could gain a perch. They brushed shoulders with the Soviet Foreign Minister, the President of France, and assorted other dignitaries from around the world.
The Soviets were taking a particular interest in the proceedings. They knew that if successful, Ezuel (or someone else) might launch a similar case against them. Secretly, they supported the U.S. At the same time, they tried to appear to be helping Lesotho. But they ended up fooling nobody but themselves.
With the exceptions of France and China, the rest of the world had divided into two camps: the Western, developed nations supporting the U.S., and the Asian, African, Arab and Latin American countries supporting Lesotho. France, while not supporting Lesotho, was taking a delight in the discomfort of its old antagonist, tripping along on anti-U.S. sentiment.
China was undergoing another internal upheaval. Reports leaking through the bamboo curtain suggested that the old guard had wanted to withdraw from the United Nations.
And throughout the English-speaking world, there was a Rudyard Kipling revival.
The U.N. Chief Justice (ironically, a white South African) rapped his gavel. "The case of Lesotho v. The United States," he droned, "is reconvened."
He directed his gaze at Ezuel. "Sir Immanuel, are you ready to proceed?"
Ezuel inclined his head. His assistant handed him a couple of pieces of paper—his notes. Ezuel had received much assistance, both in money and information, from the nations that supported his stand. But he seemed to appreciate none more than the secretarial assistance provided. His assistant today was a pretty black woman, who was in fact American. She came from the Black Freedom Fighters, a group which had supported Ezuel quite heavily. Playboy reported that Ezuel "is an exquisitely dressed man, with a different Saville Row or Brooks Brothers suit every day. Though the style of his dress is of yesteryear.
"Nothing sets him off better than his choice of secretary—who changes as often as his suits. He seems to be taking the opportunity of sampling the assistance provided by friendly nations. He has squired a heady number of Afro, Asian and Latin women to the better New York restaurants and through New York upper-crust society where he has been an oddly welcome guest."
"My Lords," began Ezuel, with a dry and crisp very-English accent; then bowing his head slightly and turning to the gallery, "ladies and gentlemen.
"In the past weeks, much evidence and argument has been presented in this place. I do not think I need repeat very much at this time.
"I propose to take much less of your time than did my esteemed colleague yesterday. I would point out that much of his argument dwelled on the premise that the United States is a sovereign nation. The fact of his presence in this chamber, to my mind, negates his whole argument.
"In truth, sovereignty rests today in the United Nations, though certainly not complete sovereignty. Your Lordships, as supreme arbiters of that sovereignty, are charged today, I respectfully submit, with deciding the extent of the sovereignty of the United Nations. And, indeed, of the United States and Lesotho.
"In such a context, then, I will summarize our case very briefly.
"We have proved, I think beyond all doubt, that the United States is the most powerful, the wealthiest, and the most influential of all economic units in the world today.
"Their power extends far beyond their borders. Not only do many companies headquartered in the United States control business empires around the world, but the U.S. itself is one of the most important buyers of goods and services world-wide.
"I feel sure that we have shown, beyond dispute, that the United States Government has used all the power at its disposal to exploit its near-monopoly position in the world market so as to manipulate the economies of other countries in its favor.
"It has manipulated currency exchange rates in such a manner that sellers of goods to the U.S. have been left holding worthless paper; it has used trade embargoes and tariff manipulation to ensure that countries such as my own have been unable to gain their fair share of the U.S. market.
"The U.S. Government has entered secret, collusive agreements with companies, and with other countries, to increase the economic power at its disposal. I may say that it seems to me that the U.S. has often transgressed the U.S. Antitrust laws; laws which I would point out, have in most cases been directly transcribed from U.S. to U.N. statute books. And at U.S. insistence!
"In the case of Lesotho, we have repeatedly made representations to the U.S. Government to have our quotas on our agricultural exports raised, to no effect. We are, of course, not the only country in this position, as I have previously pointed out.
"But here we have the spectacle of the richest nation in the world ostensibly protecting its farmers from competition from Lesotho, probably the poorest nation in the world, when it could easily absorb our total output without noticing it! If we had access to the U.S. market, all our people would be able to live in relative comfort. As it is, at the moment our highest paid executive, the President, makes less money than would a U.S. farmer on unemployment relief!
"I submit that this situation is grossly unfair, inequitable, and goes directly counter to the human rights outlined in the Charter of the U.N.
"My Lords, you now have at your disposal all the salient points which have been made again and again in these past weeks. I have reiterated them briefly, feeling that we all are sufficiently aware of them and of their justice that they need no further elaboration.
"Therefore, on the basis that the United States of America has used its economic power, gained through accidents of history, to the detriment of the poorer nations of the world, contravening the United Nations Antitrust Laws, I ask, on the basis of these same Antitrust Laws, that the United States of America be broken up into its 50 constituent States, thereby restoring economic competition to the world marketplace.
"I rest my case."
The Chief Justice tapped his gavel. "The Court will adjourn until tomorrow at 10 a.m."
Mark Tier is a 27 year old Australian, who publishes a weekly economic newsletter as well as a booklet "Understanding Inflation." This story for REASON is his first publication outside of Australia.