The idea of a World Government has been in currency for more than half a century. Though very idealistic, many practical geo-political considerations and private economic interests have come in the way of its fulfilment. The subject continues to be debated in academic institutions in North America and Europe, with various proposals being made for its constitution and regulation. But so far, all of these have remained theoretical and academic rather than concrete implementations. The United Nations, which was founded on the aftermath of the Second World War, is the closest we have to an international organization with a broad-based agenda. But in terms of its powers and influence, it doesn’t serve the role and function of a World Government. (Cronkite, 2000, p.45) There are many advantages and disadvantages to forming a World Government. The rest of this essay will explore both sides of the debate.
The idea of a world government, in the more informal sense, can be traced back to several centuries ago. Often related to such notions as ‘a world without war’ or ‘of government without tyranny’, the idea has been mooted and discussed since class Hellenistic Age. In modern history, the Italian poet Dante articulated his vision of a Utopia based on world governance. The Dutch intellectual Hugo Grotius, who is deemed the founder of International Law, believed that a world government is necessary to enforce those laws. More recent philosophers and thinkers, including Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells and Wendell Willkie, have expressed their desire to see the implementation of world government. Their books One World and Brave New World serve as graphic and detailed visualization of a future society under world governance. (Craig, 2008)
Discussions about forming a World Government have become more rigorous in recent years with leading International Relations theorist Alexander Wendt suggesting that a world government is unavoidable in present circumstances. Some of his colleagues have proposed a more formal world state, while others have backed a structurally and functionally more flexible system of global governance. But there is broad consensus as to the basic nature and role of the world government, namely, “an international authority (or authorities) that can tackle the global problems that nation-states currently cannot.” (Craig, 2008)
The United Nations comes closest to the idea of a World Government, although its military and economic powers are very limited compared to its diplomatic programs. When the UN was first created, it was designed to serve as a world government, but it has since descended into a series of scandals that has harmed its reputation and credibility. The ‘oil-for-food’ bribery scandal is the most recent. A little further back, the UN’s passivity and complicity in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has lost it a lot of admirers. In the biggest human massacre of late twentieth century, close to one million people were killed in a matter of 3 months. That it happened under the watch of a purportedly peace-promoting organization speaks ill of the UN. Those defending the UN argue that
“the lesson of the Rwandan genocide and other large-scale tragedies and scandals is that the UN requires more power and money to provide “human security” on a global scale. In other words, the UN, a would-be world government, like most other governments in history, should capitalize on its failures as a means of growing larger and stronger.” (Grigg, 2005)
One of the main advantages of a World Government would be its potential to galvanize and organize disparate political and economic interests. When one looks at the history of twentieth century, there are numerous examples of how global organizations have found success in this regard. Prominent among them are “the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World Trade Organization, the G-7 group of industrialized countries, the World Court, the International Labor Organization, the North American Free Trade Association, and so on, including, as it were, a variety of so-called Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).” (Samuels, 2001, p. 273) Hence, there is the advantage and security of historical precedence in venturing to form a World Government. The success of these global organizations in addressing common issues across continents and cultures makes the case for the formation of World Government. But the flip side of their success is the alleged partiality and favouritism offered toward First World countries in making common policy. For example
“The economic organizations have had several putative overall functions, including: solving international economic problems, organizing the world monetary and borrowing-lending system, establishing markets along desired lines rather than others, imposing certain conditions for domestic reform upon some countries, controlling the nations of first the Third World and more recently the Second World (the former Soviet bloc) in the interests of First-World countries, promoting the spread of the international corporate system, addressing particular problems with the interests of certain nations or groups of nations and/or certain businesses or groups of businesses and not others…” (Suter, 2003)
So, while existing international organizations have achieved certain difficult goals, their policies and operations have proven to be biased toward global elite interests than the interests of a vast majority of the human population. Considering that these organizations touch the lives of most of the human population, one has to approach carefully the process of consolidating their powers (as in building a World Government). Based on their performance record, existing international organizations take decisions for a select global economic minority, but their decisions affect a vast majority of people, “whose opportunity sets and lives are affected by the decisions of these organizations typically have no direct and/or indirect participation in the organizations.” (Samuels, 2001, p. 273)