Sunday, August 01, 2010

Priming the pump of Peace


...yet another draft of the intro section of People Without Borders

Introduction to People Without Borders By John Taylor; 2010 Aug 01, Kalimat 19, 167 BE

The crises and disasters in the headlines urge upon us a single conclusion. Until we form a union of humanity, everything we attempt on the international level will remain an inadequate half-measure. Things will continue to fall apart. Concluding one of his most important books, a prominent ethical philosopher recognized this by comparing the crisis of the present hour with the broad accomplishments of past centuries,

"The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are celebrated for the voyages of discovery that proved that the world is round. The eighteenth century saw the first proclamations of universal human rights. The twentieth century's conquest of space made it possible for a human being to look at our planet from a point not on it, and so to see it, literally, as one world. Now the twenty-first century faces the task of developing a suitable form of government for that single world. It is a daunting moral and intellectual challenge, but one we cannot refuse to take up. The future of the world depends on how well we meet it." (Peter Singer, One World; The Ethics of Globalization, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2002, 200-201)

If the spirit of our time leaves us no choice but to form a world government, why not make it the best government that we can possibly imagine? That act of the imagination is what I shall attempt in this book. Our imagined world government should surely be better than any national government on offer in the world today. At the very least, it should be democratic. It should have a constitution. It should also be a republic, that is, it should combine the best features of several ways of governing. In his Rhetoric, Aristotle discerned four goals that people tend to have. When the influence of each is predominant these four basic types of government arise,

"The end of democracy is freedom; of oligarchy, wealth; of aristocracy, the maintenance of education and national institutions; of tyranny, the protection of the tyrant."

A world government, then, should cover all four of these bases. It must be democratic and assure that equality, rights and freedoms are all maintained. It should see to it that everybody enjoys minimum standards of prosperity, and that the rich keep the wealth they legitimately earn. It should select "aristocrats," that is, experts who distinguish themselves in their chosen profession, to staff world institutions and set the policy agenda. And finally, a world government must have firm protections against tyranny, the rule of ignorance. In order to do that, every world citizen must revere and uphold the reverse of ignorance, which is wisdom. At the same time a world government will need to uphold the ideal of kings and individual leaders, that is, security.

Security Must be Collective

In order to assure the security of all, the first and most important measure that a world government must provide is what is termed "collective security." This law stipulates that any nation that attacks another nation, or one that attacks its own people or permits them to be harmed from within, immediately forfeits legitimacy. Every other nation is automatically obliged to join together and invade that pariah regime, to overthrow and replace it. As Immanuel Kant pointed out in his works on peace, such strict measures would have a startling effect. They immediately would inaugurate a "permanent peace," the first real peace ever seen on this planet. Without collective security, the threat of war will always lurk in leaders' minds. The possibility that sometime in the future there will be more fighting forces the most prominent nations to compete in preparation for the next war. Inevitably competition and arms races will oblige them to invest all their resources to prepare for the war to come. Such a condition resembles a disease; it does not merit the word "peace."

As a result, whatever the design of a democratic world government, its constitution must contain this one essential precondition of a true universal peace. Its constitution must firmly outlaw wars, weapons of mass destruction and even standing armies beyond what is necessary to keep internal order. Collective security would in itself be enough to assure that as soon as a global government forms, everything will rapidly change for the better. There will be no further need to maintain oversize militaries, defense budgets or to research and stockpile the latest weapons. Trillions of dollars now wasted in armament will immediately be freed up for constructive ends. Disbanding the military-industrial-educational complex, along with huge standing armies around the world will also free up a tremendous flood of manpower. It would be wise to put these vast armies to work right away healing the devastation of centuries of lawlessness and neglect in managing our home planet.

A major preoccupation of People Without Borders is to find an answer to the question: what specific projects would accomplish this double task? What would employ large numbers of former defense workers? What kind of mega-projects would heal the ills, human and natural, that afflict this earth?

Stark's Jump Start

None can doubt that a world government would gain stupendous moral authority as it adopts the democratic process. As peace activist Jim Stark points out, the very election of a Democratic World Government (DWG) would immediately invest it with more legitimacy than any of the hundreds of international institutions representing a part of humanity. The DWG will be the only body that can truly say that it stands for all of us, because we chose them. Even an imperfect election held over the internet would permit a DWG to move ahead without the initial consent of national governments. After that, its moral authority would be so powerful that even the movers and shakers in the G20 would have no choice but to pay close attention to what it says.

Whether the initial impulse for a DWG comes from national or a grassroots levels is not my prime concern. What matters most at this point is that we try to imagine world governance. I believe that the more we think about the glorious release of human potential that a global union would set in motion, the easier it will be to give up ancient loyalties and erase the borders that divide us. With that in mind, let us ask questions like: What it would it be like to have the balast of a strong moral authority at the center of international governance? How should we design its institutions? What would we have it do? What kind of election campaigns should it hold? What will it be like to live under such leadership?


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