Gideon Rachman of the respected Financial Times wrote as recently as December 8, 2008 that “the formation of some sort of world government is plausible.” He recognizes that “the most difficult issues facing national governments are international in nature: there is global warming, a global financial crisis and a ‘global war on terror'”. Certainly most people would agree that solving the problems of inequality, climate change and international terror and warfare are ideals worth striving for. Unfortunately for those who see some form of global organization as a solution, Rachman says that “[i]nternational governance tends to be effective only when it is anti-democratic.” This month, I spoke with one man who not only believes in the ideals listed, but says he has the plan to get us there — democratically. Jim Stark, a former non-proliferation activist and current head of Vote World Government, is pushing for democratic world government and outlines his plan in the new book, Rescue Plan for Planet Earth: Democratic World Government through a Global Referendum. He was kind enough to answer my questions, as I remain skeptical of his optimism even while I share his concerns over global crises.
Stark envisions a new system that would work in tandem with other international organizations including, but not limited to, the IMF, WTO, the World Bank and the UN. Representatives would tackle issues that were of a global nature, though not necessarily connected to any nation or set of nations. The climate crisis, for example, clearly affects all of the Earth’s inhabitants regardless of their citizenship. Likewise, the world government politicians would represent people, not nations. Voting blocs would be partitioned off by population and not by border. Nations abundant in population — such as India and China — would have multiple voting blocs, whereas smaller neighboring nations might only be represented by one bloc. Such a division would take regional differences into account without any preference for a national position or interest, since the representative would not be speaking or voting on behalf of any one country.
Corruption is estimated to be low due to representatives being recorded at all times during their work day and transcripts of their words being available for public dissemination. Think of it as C-SPAN, FactCheck.org or YouTube taken to the next level. Those “caught lying or saying one thing on the record and another off the record would lose their jobs, their pensions and their good reputations.” I hardly see any reason to believe global politicians would be any more honest than local or national politicians, though. Taxes to cover salaries and expenses would also, in theory, decrease over the years. Here, too, I have my doubts. Presumably taxes would lower as global problems decrease, but it seems more likely new problems would arise first. Utopia can be found exactly where its name’s Greek roots imply: nowhere.
World law would differ from international law in that its focus would be on individual law-breakers rather than nations as a whole, given that the average citizen is not directly responsible for the unethical decisions of their leaders. The world government would “not resort to the collective punishment techniques used by the UN. Sanctions often hurt ordinary people and don’t bother the top officials who are responsible for the wrong that is supposed to be addressed.” This is quite right — sanctions tend to impoverish the working class while wealthy dictators remain unfazed. Recall that American sanctions on Iraq during the Clinton years were estimated to result in the deaths of a half million Iraqi children. Under world law, dictators would be punished and the people rewarded.
Terrorism would not be addressed militarily unless necessary, but rather by stopping its growth at the root. “Terrorism has causes. For as long as we don’t build institutions mandated and empowered to define and cope with those causes, we will have only ourselves to blame if terrorism continues and grows.” Such causes may include unfair distribution of land, food or wealth, all of which are global concerns.
Interestingly, Internet voting is “absolutely how we’ll start” the call for global government. Stark realizes voting online “is fraught with problems” but sees this as the best way to force a United Nations resolution which would in turn call for national referenda. Should enough people favor a world government, and Stark is confident of this, enactment would follow soon behind.
My chief concern with Stark’s system was with how the rights of minorities would be protected. How would people or nations voting in the minority have their interests accounted for? Does the world government overpower or outweigh a nation’s sovereignty? He correctly pointed out that this was “not a new problem” and is already present in democratic systems at all levels of government. In order to maintain peace, the world government “will have to financially compensate or otherwise placate minorities who feel hard done by.” Whether or not people would suspend their rights for financial compensation is another issue. As for the sanctity of sovereignty: “While this is little understood, sovereignty is initially a property of the individual, and we delegate aspects of our personal sovereignty to collective bodies so that we can achieve objectives that we can’t achieve alone.”
Some will not be convinced that world government is the solution. Whether they fear any sort of world government, such as the John Birch Society opposes the United Nations, or simply believe that the answer is always less, not more, government, Stark respects their concerns but says they will have little recourse. The coming “world government is inevitable. We have no more choice about that than we do about the existence of national, state… or municipal governments.” Where we do have a choice, he says, is between a democratic or autocratic government. If no third option exists, the former is clearly preferable to the latter. Even the staunchest anticollectivists will reluctantly admit they prefer a government-run garbage collection system or protection from fires. Global problems, too, are only solvable if we are to band together.
The most cynical of all may wonder why the human race is worth saving from its own devices, be it environmental collapse or nuclear holocaust. And Stark acknowledges that if other animals were rational, “they would not think humanity was worth saving.” But he posits that not attempting to save mankind when salvation is possible is akin to murder and “the murder of our species is … impermissible.” This may not convince the die-hard cynics, but one wonders if anything could.
For more on Jim Stark and his vision, check out www.VoteWorldGovernment.org or pick up his new book, Rescue Plan For Planet Earth. The complete transcript of my interview with Stark is available online at framingbusiness.net — his answers are thorough and worth considering.
Kaukauna resident Gavin Schmitt (email@example.com) would love to represent your district on global issues, but is a little wary of being bugged.