Global warming. Terrorism. Poverty. These are global issues that can only be solved on a global level. Environmental controls cannot protect one nation from its neighbor's pollution, domestic surveillance cannot prevent foreign attackers, and no national foreign aid programs have significantly reduced poverty in the third world. Only through international cooperation is there any hope of solving these problems.
Unfortunately, our current system of international cooperation is inadequate. Nations are in general unwilling to agree to accords that require a sizable upfront sacrifice, even when there is a clear long-term benefit. Additionally, nations are almost always unwilling to make sacrifices that have minor negative consequences for them, even if the overall effect on the world is positive.
The only way to ensure all issues are decided in the best interest of mankind and to prevent individual nations from standing in the way of international progress is to unite all nations under a single world-wide federal government. A united world government would have both the authority to enact resolutions necessary to solve problems and the power necessary to ensure compliance with those resolutions. We would finally be able to prevent war, protect human rights, stop global warming, and end world poverty.
History of International Cooperation and World Government
During the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant already recognized the necessity of creating a global federation to prevent war. In his 1795 essay Project for a Perpetual Peace Kant outlines three "definitive articles for a perpetual peace", that which together would form a foundation for lasting peace. It is interesting to note that all three of his requirements were incorporated in the government of the United States, founded nineteen years earlier, and together have been among the primary causes of the lasting success and prosperity of the U.S.A.
First, he argues, "The civil constitution of every state should be republican." This requirement parallels article IV, section 4 of the Constitution, which says that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." Historically this requirement was essential, because no other form of government could guarantee the freedoms of its people. The evolution of the United Kingdom into a constitutional monarchy, and the creation of many other successful parliamentary democracies is an indicator that other forms of government can provide satisfactory guarantees to the rights of their citizens.
Kant's second requirement is that "The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states." This idea is so fundamental to the U.S. that it was formalized in the Declaration of Independence, before it even had a government, when the founders wrote "We...solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States." This parallel between Kant's federation and the United States is incomplete, however. Kant specifies that his federation be a "league of nations", but not a "state consisting of nations", whereas the status of the United States as components of a "perpetual union", a state consisting of states, was confirmed with the Union victory in the Civil War. In this respect Kant's federation would be much closer to the United Nations, wherein all nations are its members yet none are its subjects.
The United Nations, however, has not been very successful in preventing war. Dozens of regional conflicts have been waged since its founding in 1945. In contrast, only one war has ever been fought between members of the United States. It is both the strong authority of the federal government and the guarantee of republican governments that is responsible for this relative lack of conflict, and the United Nations lacks both.
Kant's final requirement is that "The law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality." He goes on to define hospitality as "the right of a stranger not to be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another." Similarly, article IV, section 2 of the Constitution guarantees that "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states", guaranteeing both the right to travel between states, and of equal rights and treatment in all states.
The modern era of international cooperation began after the First World War, when Woodrow Wilson gave his Fourteen Points address before Congress. Wilson had witnessed the enormous scale of death and destruction wrought by the war, and called it "The War to End All Wars", reflecting his desire to prevent future global warfare. To this end, Wilson proposed "A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike." After the war this point would be the basis of the League of Nations. Ironically Wilson was unable to convince the Senate to ratify the charter, and the United States never became a member.
Although the League had some successes in resolving minor disputes between nations, it ultimately failed to prevent the Second World War. With a final death toll of over sixty million soldiers and civilians, this war proved to be even more devastating than the first. For the first time it was clear to all nations that a more powerful organization was needed to facilitate diplomacy and security throughout the world. To fulfill this need representatives from fifty nations met in San Francisco in the summer of 1945, and drafted and signed the Charter of the United Nations "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind". Later that year, however, something else would determine the shape of world government for a generation.
On August 6th the atomic bombing of Hiroshima ushered the world into the atomic age.
Some of the first people to realize the repercussions of this were the very people who had made it possible: the atomic scientists. They recognized that for the first time mankind had the ability to utterly destroy itself, and subsequently set out to do whatever they could to remove that potential. Most of them agreed that the only way to prevent the development and use of more nuclear weapons was to establish an international organization and to give it the power to enforce its decisions. In October 1945 a number of these scientists, including Albert Einstein, signed a letter to the New York Times calling the United Nations insufficient, and demanding a more powerful world government: "The San Francisco Charter, by maintaining the absolute sovereignty of the rival nation-states, thus preventing the creation of superior law in world relations, resembles the Acts of Confederation of the thirteen original American republics. We know that this confederation did not work. No league system ever attempted in human history could prevent conflict between its members. We must aim at a Federal Constitution of the world, a working world-wide legal order, if we hope to prevent an atomic war." (Baratta 303). By 1949, however, the movement had achieved little real success and began to fade.
The year 1949 also saw the Soviet Union successfully test their first nuclear weapon, "First Lightning". The arms race continued throughout the Cold War, with both sides adhering to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. In addition to the well-known Cuban Missile Crisis, the two superpowers nearly annihilated each other on dozens of occasions (Philips). One of the most disturbing was the Petrov incident, during which Soviet computers designed to detect American missiles wrongly indicated five incoming missiles. Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov decided on intuition alone that the computer must be malfunctioning, and declined to pass the information to his superiors, and in doing so likely saved millions of lives (Hoffman).
Miraculously, as the USSR
emerged from the Cold War intact. Although the risk of nuclear holocaust with Russia
has declined significantly, the threat has shifted to that of nuclear terrorism
or nuclear blackmail
(Betts, 3). Finally, although at present it does not seem likely, the possibility of a large-scale nuclear war with China
is not impossible (Smith). The only way to ensure peace between all peoples and countries is to unite them under a single government.
The Argument For World Government
There are many compelling reasons for the nations of the world to unite together under a single federal government. It would prevent armed conflict, protect human rights, stop global warming and end world poverty. According to Charles Thomas Taylor, "The basic argument in favor of world sovereignty holds that the establishing of a single universal government is the only viable means today not only to improve the quality but to strengthen the security of the lives of all persons in all parts of the world." (59).
Armed conflict can take many forms, ranging from isolated terrorist incidents to World War. The unification of nations under a single government will eliminate the need for war between countries. These wars are often fought over religion, ideology, or resources. A global government would guarantee all constituent countries religious freedoms, and protect the rights of their citizens. It would also implement fair and effective rules about the use and distribution of resources, and serve as an arbiter in such cases. Finally, the government would have the backing of all the nations of the world, so if any nation became restless and war-hungry it would have to face the combined might of all the other nations of the world.
Different countries have wildly different standards of human rights. There are variations in both the laws surrounding human rights and the actual enforcement of those laws. The United Nations attempted to establish a global standard with its Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This document, however, has not gained universal support. The United States objected to the Declaration on the grounds that it actually infringes upon the right to liberty and property via unnecessary taxation in order to support so-called "economic rights" such as the right to guaranteed employment (Woiceshyn). Islamic states have rejected the Declaration because they say some provisions conflict with traditional Islamic law (Littman). The spectrum of human rights standards is even wider, however. Some nations like China indiscriminately imprison political and religious dissidents, while other groups believe that "human" rights should even be extended to other primates due to our close evolutionary relationship (Declaration on Great Apes).
Despite these vast differences as to exactly what rights constitute "universal human rights" the term itself indicates their invariable nature. Clearly then we must be able to come up with some standard of rights that most people and cultures can acknowledge as universal and fundamental. In order to protect these rights, however, we need a powerful world government with the capability to ensure the compliance of constituent nations. Once we have an enforceable global standard in place the individual nations will be welcome to extend additional rights to their people.
Another issue of truly global impact is global warming. According to the Stern Review, "The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response." (Treasury vi). That same report enumerates the massive costs associated with inaction on this issue. "Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world - access to water, food production, health and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages, and costal flooding as the world warms." (vi).
Global government is the only way to effectively address climate change. The current best attempt, the Kyoto Protocol, has failed on a number of levels. First, it sets relatively low targets for emission reductions. These targets won’t be effective in stopping warming. Secondly, the largest producer of greenhouse gasses, the United States, has refused to sign the treaty. Finally, many signatories to the protocol have even given up, publicly stating that they will not meet their targets.
A global government could easily solve these problems. It would have the legislative power to set emission goals at whatever level is deemed actually necessary: there would be no need to lower the standards in order to coax additional nations to participating. And if these standards were enacted as global law there would be no worry of individual nations choosing not to participate. Finally, the presence of a global government would allow the development of an international emissions economy, where nations unable or unwilling to meet their requirements will be able to pay other regions to take on a carbon burden, so the total emissions still meet requirements.
One of the most interesting projects that a global government could tackle is to bridge the economic gap between rich and poor nations. James Yunker constructed an extensive computer model to simulate a "World Economic Equalization Program", or WEEP ("Common Progress" 4). His results indicate that that such a program could "be successful in achieving a substantial degree of economic equalization across the world within a reasonably abbreviated period of historical time, and without imposing an excessive burden on the rich contributor nations" ("Rethinking" 128). In effect, Yunker calls for a "coordinated, worldwide effort to ameliorate the economic gap -- along the lines of the post-World War II Marshall Plan" (88). He goes on to suggest that in addition to the obvious benefits to the third world recipients of such aid, such a program would actually relieve overall global tension caused by the uneven distribution of wealth, and that such a reduction in tension could be accompanied by a reduction in size of the armed forces of all nations (88).
This sort of program is very ambitious, and all wealthy nations would be required to participate in order to ensure the per-capita costs remain below a reasonable threshold. Virtually every nation of the world would be a participant, either as a donor or beneficiary. Controls would need to be in place to ensure contributions are properly collected from the rich nations, as well as to guarantee those contributions are invested in capital and infrastructure of developing nations and not squandered by potentially corrupt local politicians. Only a global government would have the authority necessary to both implement and enforce such a broad program.
The Argument Against World Government
It is a sad truth that there are very few individuals who support the idea of a united world government. Two main reasons exist for this: the perceived unwillingness of nations to give up any portion of their sovereignty, and fear of a tyrannical person or group seizing control of the government, and thus the world.
Although it is true that nations are very careful about giving up any sort of power, when the time and conditions are right they are sometimes willing. After the Thirteen Colonies declared
their independence from Britain
, they formed a loose association under the Articles of Confederation
. When this framework proved to be inadequate the colonies agreed to give up more of their power, and ratified the Constitution
, creating a system of dual-sovereignty
where people are citizens of both the State and the Federation.
More recently the nations of Europe have come together to form the European Union. They have even signed treaties granting the EU lawmaking authority in certain situations. Although the EU isn't a nation in its own right this legislative authority does make it a government. It actually has many of the features associated with the governments of modern democratic states, including a parliament and a high court. The world government will have a similar structure, where individual nations will retain their sovereignty and most of their powers. Only a handful of specific powers will be allocated to the global government, with the rest explicitly reserved for the constituent nations.
Although the current political climate outside of Europe is against that of implementing any regional governments, the slow willingness of these nations to enter into other international agreements such as the United Nations is indicative of a slow but measurable trend toward increasing global authority. It won't be too far into the future before the idea of a global government is actually palatable to the people and governments of the world.
Another common criticism of the idea of world government is the fear of tyranny. This fear has long been a staple of national politics. Over two thousand years ago the Roman Senate slew Julius Caesar on the steps of the Forum because they thought he has aspirations of becoming Emperor. The extensive power of King George and the distant British Parliament were seen as too controlling by many American colonists, so they declared their independence and left the empire. More recently Adolf Hitler's rise to power has caused an entire generation to be weary of concentrating vast amounts of power in one man. Finally, novels such as 1984 and Brave New World have led people to equate world government with totalitarian control. (Hamar 123).
Though these fears are valid, a carefully crafted world constitution would certainly be built with the lessons of history in mind. It would have a ridged separation of powers, with ample checks and balances between the various institutions. A distinct legislature and executive would both keep each other in check, while an independent judiciary would exist to protect the rights of all the people of the world from unjust interference from the global as well as national and local governments. In this way the government would actually serve to ensure personal liberty, not infringe upon it. (Hamar 124).
The world faces a plethora of problems that nations have no hope of solving alone, but the overall lack of success in dealing with major issues via the current system of international cooperation shows a clear need for a new solution. Only by bringing the nations of the world together under a single government can we hope to achieve the levels of coordination and efficiency necessary to truly eliminate war, protect human rights, stop global warming and end world poverty.
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