Time for World Government?
As I write this, Putin is brutally attacking Ukraine. Do these things really still happen in the 21st century? Is it finally time to put an end to such unilateral behavior with a world government?
The idea goes back to ancient times, when it was largely promoted by powerful emperors who wanted to expand their range of power. But it has also been embraced by Utopian visionaries like H.G. Wells and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry’s Federation of Planets was a Galactic version of this world government.
Such a government would be consensual and exist with the support of member states. In the long march of history, it would seem to be inevitable. Humans have gone from small family and tribal groups on to local kingdoms and city-states and then on to modern countries like China, India, and the U.S. on the scale of hundreds of millions of people. If we can have a nation of a billion people, how much of a leap is it to eight billion?
Many governments already consist of very diverse units that have different languages, religions, values, and even currencies. Italy only became a country in 1861 and the European Union was established in 1993. The European Union did not abolish national governments. But it allowed more uniform regulation and trade. There is always a trade-off in such an alliance and England infamously left the EU in a chaotic Brexit decision.
Not all EU countries share a common Euro currency and there can be advantages to that independence. Greece discovered this the hard way when it could not devalue its currency, being stuck with the Euro.
The United Nations was an attempt to achieve a balance between national sovereignty and world government. But the UN has no enforcement power of its own. They can order sanctions or forces, but they have to come from member nations.
And the Security Council member countries have veto power over any decision. This is a serious problem, since the most powerful countries are on the Security Council and it is those countries that are most in need of accountability!
The International Court of Justice (also known as the World Court) is supposed to provide some of this accountability. In the 1980s Reagan was waging an illegal war against Nicaragua using terrorist attacks, mining harbors, and economic blockades. Nicaragua sued the U.S. and won a multibillion-dollar judgment. But Reagan ordered the U.S. to withdraw from the World Court and refused to pay the judgment.
Unfortunately, there is an entire industry of paranoid conspiracy theories about world government. Republican President George Bush Sr. talked of the “New World Order” and it terrified people across the political spectrum. Those on the nationalist right saw it as the U.S. giving up its sovereignty. Whereas those concerned with global justice feared this meant the U.S. was going to dominate that Order.
Government is not supposed to be a top-down source of tyranny. Ideally, it is a tool used by ordinary people to achieve goals that otherwise would be impossible. We set up governments and pay taxes with the goal of building public infrastructure and investing in education and research that no private organization could fund. Governments provide universal protection with fire departments and law enforcement. Civilized governments provide universal health care as well. And act to head off the Climate Crisis. Because these are market failures in a “free market.”
Without a world government with enforcement powers, how does the world stop a bully like Putin? China has claimed some of the Spratly Islands already claimed by several other countries. China has already taken over Tibet and threatens to take over Taiwan.
Nuclear weapons threaten everyone on the planet. Why should any single country have such weapons?
But the Climate Crisis towers over these conflicts. Who is going to demand that the biggest polluters stop altering the planet’s atmosphere? This is the biggest bullying case of all: The wealthiest and most powerful countries threaten the poorest.
Can we agree that there is a benefit to giving up some of our sovereignty in exchange for having a peaceful and sustainable future? A world government is a tool that actually empowers us as individuals in a way that is otherwise impossible. A country that bullies other countries is also a country that bullies its own citizens. Can we agree that a world government can end that bullying and give everyone an equal voice?