GRI.c6 (2/2) — Collaborative internationalism


Richard Moore



The question of world government
Above, under the assumption that most nations had achieved functional
democracy, I observed that the UN would very likely become a hotbed of
enthusiastic international cooperation, and that initial attention would
most likely be focused on the creation of a stable framework for
international order. I'd like to continue that line of investigation with
the additional assumption that all nations, at least all with significant
size or military power, are committed participants in this collaborative

In the fervor of this universal spirit of democratic renaissance, let us
assume that a workable plan for a stable world order could be agreed to and
would be successfully implemented. Let us investigate what the nature of
such a plan must be, if it is to succeed in maintaining order while at the
same time maintaining locally-based functional democracy and global

One of the first projects would surely be to drastically reduce the level of
armaments globally and to all but close down weapons manufacture and
development. Presumably all weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical,
and biological) and their associated materials would be dismantled and
disposed of with maximum attention to the protection of long-term public
health. Whatever arms or arms industry that remains would be minimal, and
would be reserved for emergency use in case some errant nation becomes
aggressive or commits heinous acts against its own people.

Given the central importance of energy use, and in particular petroleum, to
economies and to sustainability, another early project would presumably be
to agree on a global plan regarding the use of remaining fossil fuels.
Although sharp reductions in fossil fuel extraction could be expected
immediately, usage levels would most likely remain high for some period,
while sustainable energy sources, and less energy-intensive infrastructures,
were being developed and deployed. Probably fossil fuels would continue to
be used, at declining rates, until ultimately remaining supplies were
reserved for high-value, relatively low-volume uses, such as lubricants or
essential chemical applications.

There would be additional transition projects, including the collaborative
adjustment of societal borders, rebuilding of fisheries and forests, the
restructuring of global financial arrangements, the phased dismantlement or
restructuring of corporate infrastructures, the phased re-allocation of
corporate-controlled resources and facilities, the establishment of
democratic and sustainable modes of production and commerce, and many more.

Formidable as these projects may be, they are not beyond the capabilities of
a world united by a surge of democratic spirit, and empowered by all the
technologies, productive capacity, and organizational skill that
capitalism's growth-imperative has, for better or worse, endowed it with.
These are all technical projects, and the necessary skills exist to carry
them out. One need only think about the incredible feats that have been
accomplished by modern nations in wartime to realize that when sufficiently
motivated and unified, no mere technical project, if it is reasonably
feasible, is beyond society's ability to carry out.

But not all problems are technical, some are strategic and structural, and
their solutions require careful attention to the principles of global system
stability. Foremost among these are the questions of long-term world
government and of enforcing order in the event of destabilizing behavior on
the part of some nation or other societal grouping.

There are two fundamental systems of world order -- centralized and
distributed. In the centralized approach, military power, albeit minimal,
would be concentrated in a single global police force, under the control of
a democratic world government. In the distributed approach, moderate
military forces would be retained by each sovereign nation. In either case,
if some nation or locality became aggressive or dictatorial, the military
forces of democracies would be used to restore security, and then a
mediation process of some kind would endeavor to restore democratic harmony.

I suggest that either the centralized or distributed approach could be made
to work, at least for a while. Setting up either system is a technical
project, and the organizational skills required are available. The more
important strategic consideration is to compare the relative prospects for
long-term stability of the two approaches.

If there is a world government, with more or less a monopoly over military
power, then the opportunity would exist for the forces of centralism to
prevail. There would necessarily be some kind of central bureaucracy that
maintained the military infrastructure, and some central body of delegates
that was empowered to make use of military forces under certain
circumstances. Throughout history, whenever such central institutions have
been established, they have inevitably led eventually to centralist,
undemocratic governments. Perhaps in a democratic collaborative world such
centralist tendencies could be avoided, but the centralized approach to
world order, I suggest, brings with it a clear long-term threat to democracy
and to local autonomy.

In a distributed (or decentralized) approach, nations retain sovereignty and
each would presumably have a small military force, comparable in power to
its neighbors. Military installations would be always open to inspection,
and strict agreements would forbid any attempt to bolster military forces
beyond allocated limits. If any nation became aggressive, it would not have
sufficient power to wreak significant havoc, and its neighbors could rapidly
rally superior forces in their common defense. In serious cases, worldwide
forces could be rallied to a trouble spot.

Both systems could be made to work, although we have touched here only on
the barest essentials of the problems involved. In both cases, there would
be the formidable problem of restoring harmony after any disturbance,
without violating the long-term democratic integrity of the temporarily
errant population. And in both cases, harmony arises more from the nature of
democratic and sustainable societies than it does from military arrangements
-- militaries in a collaborative world do not maintain order; they restore

I suggest that no system of governance can be considered to be immune from
the forces of centralism nor from the usurpation of power by some ambitious
faction. This is one of the few principles that history demonstrates
unequivocally. If there is a world government, and its power is eventually
usurped by some faction, then the entire world order is threatened. But with
distributed sovereignty, if a single nation succumbs to an ambitious
faction, the problem can be contained and corrected.

In the science of systems, it is well-known that distributed systems are
inherently more robust than centralized systems. No system is perfect, and
behavior under failure conditions is an important aspect of system design.
Distributed systems localize the consequences of failures and minimize the
difficulties in making repairs.

There are many reasons then, why a distributed system of world order -- a
system of sovereign nation states -- offers more hope of maintaining harmony
and democracy than does a central world government. From a general systems
perspective, the distributed approach is more robust in the face of
inevitable failures. From the perspective of democratic localism, a world
government is considerably more prone to centralism and the dilution of
local interests than would be smaller nations. And from what history tells
us, central bureaucracies with a monopoly on military power are highly prone
to the usurpation of power by well-organized factions.

There would certainly be a forum (presumably based on the UN) for global
deliberations, a place where national delegations come together to
collaboratively solve problems of scarce or shared global resources,
international financial arrangements, etc. But it would be up to sovereign
nations to implement the voluntarily agreed-to policies. A community of
nations, collaborating for their mutual benefit, with small and balanced
military reserves, seems to be the most promising model for stable world
order in a democratic and sustainable world.

Cultural pluralism and the evolution of civilization
With good reason, we have so far been considering downside issues -- how to
reduce the chances of something going wrong with world order. Things do go
wrong, with any system, and decentralized systems recover from failures much
better than do centralized ones. The cost of global breakdown of order is
very high, and minimizing the risks of such failure rightfully deserves
highest priority in considerations of world order. But there are several
positive reasons, as well, that suggest preference for a system of sovereign
nations over a central world government.

The most obvious advantage of decentralized sovereignty is that it maximizes
local autonomy, which in turn provides maximum freedom for problems to be
solved by those who are most concerned with the consequences and most
knowledgeable about local conditions. Within nations the principle of
localism maximizes democratic integrity; distributed sovereignty represents
that same principle on a world scale.

In the realm of economics and land use, sovereignty provides maximum freedom
for local variation. Consider for example those remaining indigenous
cultures that are hidden off in such places as the rain forests of Brazil.
Such cultures are self-sufficient and sustainable, provided they are given
sovereignty over their domains, and such peoples ask little from the rest of
the world other than to be left alone. They would presumably have little
interest in participating in global bureaucracies nor in paying taxes to
support a global military. They may have no use for money at all, and their
societies are best protected by giving them sovereignty and leaving them be,
under international protection.

One of the most fundamental advantages of decentralized sovereignty is that
it inherently encourages cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is of
central importance to the evolution of global society, much as biological
diversity is of central important in the health of natural systems.
Different cultures approach problems in different ways, and human knowledge
and capacity are enriched generally by a wide diversity of societal forms.
Greater diversity brings greater evolution of societies generally. From
sustainable technologies, to spiritual enlightenment, to dealing with severe
climate changes -- human progress and survival are best served by cultural

Nationalism reconsidered
If democracy and sustainability are to be achieved and retained, this
investigation has found that a national focus is to be preferred -- both in
the short-term strategy for a democratic movement and in the long-term
strategy for a stable and productive world order. By that means centralism
is minimized, localism is facilitated, diversity is encouraged,
system-breakdowns can be localized and corrected, and long-term stability is
best assured. World government, on the other hand, is prone to the dangers
of centralism and bureaucracy, and any breakdown in the system might have
dire and irreparable consequences on a worldwide scale.

But even readers who are sympathetic to these arguments might still harbor
reservations about national sovereignty. The history of nations, one must
admit, is full of warfare, competition, and exploitation. For the past
century or two the dynamics of national conflicts have been governed by the
dynamics of capitalism, but similar conflicts existed before capitalism came

I've referred to the example of postwar Western Europe, which shows that
traditionally warring nations are capable of harmonious relations, once a
framework of collaboration has been adopted voluntarily for mutual benefit.
In addition, the sovereignty discussed in this investigation is not
absolute: there are agreed limits on armaments, a requirement that
functional democracy be maintained in each nation, and there is a
decentralized system of world order which is capable of enforcing such
fundamental international agreements.

The distinction between such a distributed regime, and a true world
government, is that there is no permanent centralized bureaucracy which has
authority over nations. The enforcement mechanisms of world order are
invoked only to handle emergencies, not to handle routine decisions and
administration. Nations collaborate together to make treaties, not to make
laws, and in a sustainable world all nations find their best interests in
supporting international harmony and stability.

Western nations arose through power struggles among elites -- kings,
nobility, Popes, wealthy interests, etc. From their very beginnings, these
nations were vehicles for the exercise of elite power, and capitalism simply
succeeded in becoming the final master of these vehicles. In the Third
World, nations were set up as vehicles to facilitate imperialism, with
dictators, local privileged elites, artificial national boundaries, and
other mechanisms which worked against democracy and local autonomy.

Nationalism has been manipulated by national elites, by means of propaganda
and the creation of hysteria, in order to support wars and imperialism which
were in fact the expression of power struggles among those elites. Popular
nationalism has been blamed for causing wars, but it has been in fact a
symptom of warfare. The underlying cause of war during the era of nation
states has always been elite ambitions, and the desire of elites to maintain
their political power.

Where elites have not been in conflict, there has not been warfare. There is
considerable reason to assume that in a framework of global collaboration,
and with locally-based democracy instead of elite rule, international
relations would be generally peaceful and harmonious.

[end Chapter 6]
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