It’s hard to imagine a more chaotic world than the world in which we find ourselves. The ongoing residual effects of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown, the current euro crisis, the international threat of terrorism, excessive population growth, extreme poverty, and climate change are all evidence of a world that is totally out of control. Political scientists and science fiction writers alike have long been taken with the idea that humans would one day form a global government. Yet few of us take this prospect very seriously, often dismissing it as an outright impossibility or very far off in the future. Given the rapid pace of globalization, however, it would seem that humanity is inexorably headed in this direction.
"We need world government for the same reason that we need government in general. There are a number of things — what we can agree are collective goods — that individuals, markets, voluntary organizations, and local governments aren't able to produce — and which can only be provided through the collective action of states," says sociologist James Hughes from Trinity College in Connecticut. Hughes, whose thinking was significantly influenced by the Star Trek vision of a global-scale liberal democracy, argues that there a number of things that only a world government is capable of doing — like ending nuclear proliferation, ensuring global security, intervening to end genocide, and defending human rights.
He also believes that it will take a global regime to finally deal with climate change, and that it's the best chance we have to launch civilization-scale projects, including the peaceful and controlled colonization of the solar system. The trick, he says, is to get there. But by all accounts, it appears that we're on our way. The ancient Greeks and Romans prophesied of a single common political authority for all of humanity, as did many philosophers of the European Enlightenment, especially Immanuel Kant. More recently, the urge has manifest in the form of international organizations like the League of Nations, which later re-emerged as the United Nations — efforts that were seen as a way to bind the international community together and prevent wars from occurring.
But today, cynicism rules. The great powers, countries like the United States, Russia, and China, feel they have the most to lose by deferring to a higher, more global-scale authority. It's for this and other reasons that the UN has been completely undermined. But as Hughes points out, opposition or not, the thrust of history certainly points to the achievement of a world government. It's obviously difficult to predict when a global government can be achieved given that there's no guarantee that it will ever happen. As noted, the great powers will be very reluctant to give up what they consider to be sovereignty rights. And in the case of China and other countries, there are other potential deal-breakers, such as the ongoing isolationist urge, xenophobia, and incompatible political/ideological beliefs.
But given the pace of accelerating change across virtually all human domains, it may happen sooner than we think.
Kemo D. 7