Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Second Inconvenient Truth

It is no secret that American jobs have been shipped overseas, many of them to China. The reason for this is obvious:  low labor costs.  Left to their own devices,  companies will  drive down the cost of labor in order to increase profits.  What would you expect? Their job is to make profits for their shareholders.

Capitalism is an economic system that produces economic growth, along with a host of negative side effects.  In the United States, organized labor and government regulation have helped to mitigate those side effects.   History has shown that this kind of regulated free enterprise is humanity's best hope for economic progress.

As soon as a global economy emerged, things changed.  The world has reverted to a system that is more like nineteenth century capitalism than anything else.  Organized labor has lost its clout, as companies simply moved production overseas.  We still have the free enterprise, but the regulation has disappeared.  This is not good.

The New York Times recently reported an interesting development in China:  there is new pressure to raise pay and improve labor conditions.  According to the report, this could cause some companies to shift production elsewhere.  But we shouldn't get excited about this, because the jobs won't be coming here. They will go wherever in the world labor is the cheapest.

Don't you see what has happened?  We have a global economic system, but no global labor laws, no global environmental standards, no global rights for workers.

Al Gore articulated the first inconvenient truth of our time.  Here is the second:  we cannot survive on this planet without a global democratic world government.   We have to have global political institutions to match the globalization of nearly everything else.  There is just no other way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why Nations Cannot Agree

Question:  How do you get groups of  people to agree on anything?

When the group is small, it is possible to come to unanimous agreement by negotiating compromises.  As the group gets larger, unanimous agreement is no longer possible.  A fair process is needed, one that all members of the group have agreed upon in advance.

The fairest process ever devised is majority rule. People vote, and the majority decides. Of course,  it is not quite that simple. To be fair, majority rule must be tempered with protections for the rights of the minority.  However, the essential element is the rule of the majority.

Once the majority has decided,  everyone in the group must abide by its decision.  So there is an element of authority involved.  Individuals in the group are not free to just “walk away” from the decision of the majority.  Otherwise the decision is meaningless.

This is called democracy.  Without such a process, large groups of people cannot agree (in a fair way) to do anything.

Among the nations of the world, there is no such process in place for resolving disagreements. That is the reason we are not able to act on global problems:  trade, climate change, controlling the spread of nuclear weapons, terrorism.

The U.N. is a beginning, perhaps. It has a process, but no authority.  Countries are free to “walk away” from its decisions.  Therefore, its decisions are - in really important matters - meaningless.

We have seen a good example of  international paralysis in the recent G20 summit.  Nothing of substance, at all, was agreed upon.  This not the fault of the nations involved. In fact, it is the outcome we should expect, because the G20 is a rather large group of nations. 

Even if the G20 were able to reach a decision on trade, it would not be fair to the other nations who are not represented.   There are around 195 sovereign countries in the world today, most of them unrepresented in the G20. 

Is it possible for all 195 countries to agree on anything of substance, at all?  I believe the answer is "no" in today's world.   Even if the leaders could all agree on something, each nation would have to “sell” the idea to its constituents.

Without a world democratic government, there is no hope for meaningful action on the problems that could destroy our planet. This is a second "inconvenient truth", with apologies to Al Gore. We will have to face it sooner or later.



Thursday, November 11, 2010

News Flash From South Korea

 This Just in From South Korea:
SEOUL, South Korea – A strong sense of pessimism shrouded the start of an economic summit of rich and emerging economies Thursday, with President Barack Obama and fellow world leaders arriving in Seoul sharply divided over currency and trade policies.

The Group of 20 summit, held for the first time in Asia, has become the centerpiece of international efforts to revive the global economy and prevent future financial meltdowns.

Failure in Seoul could have severe consequences. The risk is that countries would try to keep their currencies artificially low to give their exporters a competitive edge in global markets. That could lead to a destructive trade war. Countries might throw up barriers to imports — a repeat of policies that worsened the Great Depression.
Gee, What a Surprise!

Each nation in the G20, quite naturally,  has its own outlook and its own agenda.  There are deep differences of opinion. This is exactly what you would expect from twenty sovereign nations.   

Whenever there are deep differences of opinion among individuals within a democracy, They can be settled by an agreed-upon  process - majority rule, expressed by voting. 

Differences of opinion among nations cannot be settled in that way, because there is no "higher authority" anyone can appeal to.  There are no laws, no established, legally-binding  procedures to which the countries can resort. 

Therefore, there will not be any meaningful, binding agreement.  That's the way it will always be, until the nations agree to surrender a portion of their sovereignty and establish international institutions with real authority. 
Of course, nations are not likely to give up any of their sovereignty, for the same reasons they cannot agree on currency and trade policies.  Such agreement will only happen when the nations literally have no other option.  As citizens of the world, we are the victims of this situation. It is our job to force our governments to be accountable to us. 

If we cannot accomplish that, we will, sooner or later, face a major global catastrophe.  It could be a world economic meltdown or a catastrophe caused by global climate change. Then, possibly, we might all come to our senses. 


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Two Views Of World Government

In my research on the topic of world government, I have found two very different narratives about it. 
Here is the most popular narrative:
Government is a restraining force in people’s lives.  Governments raise taxes and tell people what they can and cannot do. The less government we have, the better.
The last thing we need now is another level of government, over the entire world. Such a government could become a dictatorship, and there would be no other force in the world strong enough to stop it. It would control every aspect of people’s lives.
Since World War II, there has actually been a secret plan to create a world government, called a “new world order”.  This new world order would allow a small group of people to control the entire planet.  The United States, as we know it, would cease to existSome Christians believe that the   “President” of such a new world order will be a godless Anti-Christ. 
Otherwise intelligent people have been duped into supporting such a plan.  You cannot believe anything these people say, including what you are about to read in the next several paragraphs.
Here is the World Federalist narrative:
In 1787, thirteen colonies in North America joined together to form the United States.  In doing so, they did not give up their identity.  Rather, they became states within a larger union.
The people within the colonies did not surrender their freedom.  Rather, they gained more freedoms, with the passage of the Bill of Rights.
Within the borders of the United States, with the single exception of the civil war, there has been peace.  Between the United States and other countries, there have been wars, and lots of them.

Within the United States, there is a framework of laws and peaceful means for resolving disputes.  Between the United States and other nations, no such framework exists. That is why there have been so many wars. 
The nations of the world today are in a situation similar to that of the thirteen colonies back in the eighteenth century. In order to solve the problems facing them, these nations need to create “a more perfect union”, complete with a Bill of Rights for all people. Until they do so, there will be continued wars, terrorism, and genocide.  Multinational corporations will operate freely, with no worldwide labor laws or other regulations to restrain them.  The nations of the world will never agree on the hard choices needed to save the environment. 
Such a world federal government need not be a dictatorship any more than the United States is a dictatorship. 
These are the two narratives. Which one you believe is up to you.  Personally, I believe there are warnings in the first narrative which should be taken into account.  No one wants a world like the one described in that narrative.  Fear of that outcome should not paralyze the world into inaction, however.  Rather, it should inspire the creation of checks and balances which would prevent such a worst-case scenario from ever occurring.   

My questions for opponents of world federation are these:  what are your solutions to global problems?  Do you think nations can solve them?  Or do you simply deny that they exist?

Monday, November 8, 2010

How Our Thinking Has Become Paralyzed

More than sixty years ago,  the Detroit Free Press ran an editorial about world federalism, in which it asked the following rhetorical questions:

  • Are you willing to exchange our Stars and Stripes for any other flag?

  • Are you willing to have the United States of America lose its rights as an independent nation?

  • Are you willing to have any man world ruler, for life, with unlimited powers?

  • Are you willing to have unrestricted immigration from all countries?

  • Are you willing to risk bringing the American standard of living down to the average of the rest of the world?

The above questions contain several popular misconceptions, which I explore in my essay, Overcoming Fear.  Dictatorship, for example, is not a threat in the United States. It should not be a threat in a world federation either.

Regardless of any misconceptions, these questions accurately reflected the state of public opinion when the editorial was written.  Since then, the assumptions behind them have been thoroughly absorbed into our thinking.   

We will see no editorial like this in today’s papers, because there is no longer any debate on the topic.  In the mainstream media, nationalism has won and world federalism has lost.  

Meanwhile, globalization continues, greatly accelerated by technology.  Our political institutions  remain stuck in a nineteenth century nationalist model, more and more incapable of dealing with the challenges of the modern world  This is a stubborn reality we will eventually  have to face.  Here are some questions, then,  for my fellow citizens:

  • Are you willing to raise the flag of Planet Earth alongside the American Flag?

  • Are you willing to pledge allegiance to the earth, as well as to your country?

  • Are you willing to give other people the chance to enjoy the standard of living we have enjoyed for so many years?

  • Are you willing to treat immigrants like people, instead of like criminals?

  • Are you willing to finally get serious about global threats, like climate change, which could destroy our entire planet?

  • Are you willing to take the steps necessary to eliminate the greatest scourge mankind has ever known:  war?

  • Are you willing to remember your humanity, and forget everything else?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Overcoming Fear

As an American, I am proud of our Constitution and of our democracy. I would like to see every country in the world adopt a system similar to ours.  Almost all Americans would agree with me.

If  I suggest, however, that this system ought to be adopted by the entire world, I instantly become part of a lunatic fringe.  All of a sudden no one agrees with me.  Never has such a sensible idea generated so much fear.  What are we afraid of?

"It’s the tyranny, stupid," you say to me.  A world government will turn into a dictatorship.
The leader in the campaign for world government is an organization called the World Federalist Movement.  Here are the first two paragraphs from the 'Our vision' section of their website World Federalist Movement:

“World federalists believe that all people have the fundamental right to self-government. Some policy matters, depending on their scope, fall under the authority of local governments whereas others fall under the jurisdiction of national governments or international institutions.

World federalists support the creation of democratic global structures accountable to the citizens of the world and call for the division of international authority among separate agencies, a separation of powers among judicial, executive and parliamentary bodies. Only truly democratic and representative bodies can have legitimate authority over all levels of government. We are dedicated to protecting the rights of every person on the planet and preserving the environment for the global community.”
Does that sound like dictatorship?  One thing we have learned in the past century is how to establish governments that are immune to tyranny.  Is there any reason to think we cannot do the same thing on a world-wide basis?
Conspiracy theorists would have us believe there is some sinister power behind the world federalist movement. Sometimes the phrase “new world order” is used to frighten people. What  is the goal of this so-called conspiracy?  Supposedly,  a few powerful interests desire to rule the world, and world government is their vehicle to accomplish that.
I would argue  that a small group of multi-national corporations already rule the world, and world government is the way to hold these interests accountable to the people on this planet.

A conspiracy theory is a convenient way to generate fear and prevent serious consideration of the World Federalist idea.

Purveyors of this conspiracy theory completely mis-represent the idea of World Federalism in order to create fear. Here is a typical example (I have bolded some of the statements):

“The "new world order" involves the elimination of the sovereignty and independence of nation-states and some form of world government. This means the end of the United States of America, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights as we now know them. Most of the new world order proposals involve the conversion of the United Nations and its agencies to a world government, complete with a world army, a world parliament, a world court, global taxation, and numerous other agencies to control every aspect of human life (education, nutrition, health care, population, immigration, communications, transportation, commerce, agriculture, finance, the environment, etc.). The various notions of the "new world order" differ as to details and scale, but agree on the basic principle and substance.“
No one is proposing the elimination of the United States of America, its constitution, it’s bill of rights, etc.  No one is proposing a government that would “control every aspect of human life”.
All powers of government derive from the people.  The people of the United States currently delegate a portion of their sovereignty to the city, a portion to the state and a portion to the federal government.  Each level of government has the powers to accomplish what is appropriate for that level.
World Federalists advocate that the people delegate a part of their sovereignty to a world government, which would have the authority to deal with global issues, and only those. The United States of America would continue to exist as it does now.
Yes, there would have to be a world police force, to prevent war and terrorism. Yes, there would be global taxation.  However, with the need for military spending eliminated, the taxes we pay could  be far less than what we currently pay.
The important point is this:  All of the details - including checks and balances, protection of minorities, etc. -  would have to be worked out by representatives of the world’s people.  Opponents of the idea try to kill any discussion by fabricating worst-case scenarios and generating fear. We can either give in to that fear, or try to find a way to create the institutions that could save our planet from destruction.  Ultimately, the choice is ours.