One sort of world government or another

Nuclear test in Nevada, November 1951 (picture Cpl. McCauhey / National Archives and Records Administration)
By John Roberts

For the past 60 years federalists have been advocating the need for a democratic world government. Such advocacy of the urgent need for it was given overwhelming intellectual force with the dropping of two atom bombs in August 1945. By that time an inadequate United Nations Organisation had been set up, neither democratic nor effective. Its existence misled sufficient people to think it capable of doing the necessary job and its unhappy misfortune has been to continue as the fig-leaf covering the lack of a proper world authority.

During these six decades of crises, wars, global poverty, inequality and indiscriminate sales of weapons, some of the greatest human beings have supported the call for a democratic world government. They range from Albert Einstein to Thor Heyerdahl, Norman Cousins to Yehudi Menuhin, Margaret Mead to Andrei Sakharov and a host more. They have warned that the alternative to such reforms was not continuation of the old ways of power politics but a world government installed by force. They were right.

Objectors to the idea of world federation have been a miscellaneous lot, mostly natural conservatives, but much more diverse than only that. They included the left-leaning pie-in-the-sky advocates, who looked to a utopian world without the rough-and-tumble of real power; the now defunct Communist parties, that wanted to create the economic paradise of Marxist ideology; happy capitalists, who were calmly taking over the global economy; and the anarchist-minded, who didn’t like the idea of a unified world but felt no obligation to offer their own solutions. Those were the nay-sayers who continue to object and continue to have no alternatives.

What we have today is a world government of the new Republicans, the neo-conservative gang that has taken over the American administration in Washington. And apart from the even more happy global capitalists, the objectors are quite unhappy. Objecting to a democratic world federation wasn’t supposed to lead to this outcome. Some of the most vociferous opponents of a world unified under a democratic and federal constitution will have to spend their time opposing the new masters of the globe, unless, of course, like a few of the former leftists who formed the neo-conservatives, they join them in order to help rule the world just as they are now ruling Iraq.

In the early days of the world federalist movement we prophesied that if the world did not go the way of agreement to create a world government we should get one imposed by force. But in those days we were then inclined to scout the idea as unlikely or impossible to occur: after all, Hitler and the Axis had been seen off and a new Napoleon looked unlikely. But we did not then foresee the growth of the transnational corporations that could lay the basis for a world united under global monopolists. Perhaps we were a trifle too idealistic, but not many people have managed accurate prophesies going beyond a couple of years ahead.

Nor, in fact, did anyone then foresee the likelihood of the military-industrial complex becoming so overwhelmingly potent that not only the one main industrial rival would cave in, but that all immediate alternative centres of resistance would seem dwindled to impotence. That may be wrong. China and even India, may yet, by force of numbers, prove less amenable to American imperial might than the lesser states. But we do have our world government, of sorts. The big question still waiting to be answered is whether it is a sort that will be acceptable to seven or more billion people who do not have the good fortune to live in North America.

John Roberts is Chair of the Trustees of the One World Trust. He writes here in a personal capacity. This article was first published as World Citizen Letter 403, and represents the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union. He may be contacted at [email protected]. First published 27 May 2003.

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