IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Summer daze…and CS!

OK, ok…I’ve not been posting very regularly the last couple of months.  No excuse, except a summer mindset (more time on the links, etc…)

I have also been doing some grading of my international relations students’ term papers and exams; and, as usual, that is food for thought.  For instance, one student, when writing about the problems associated with making Collective Security (ie in the U.N. system) more effective, was self contradictory without realizing it  (I hope), and it seemed to me that his views are fairly typical.  At one point he restated the old saws about the inter-state system being anarchic, states being sovereign, etc… as a reason why there is resistance to collective security.  Then, he went on to say that the Security Council of the United Nations had the authority to make decisions about international peace and security that were binding on the organization’s members.  While I can understand his reasoning, taken at face value, those two statements are not compatible.  Either the system is anarchic–meaning no central authority–or it isn’t.  In actual fact, we do have a sort of “central authority”, and it is, indeed the Security Council.  However, while its powers are extensive (check the Charter…they are); the conditions for exercising them (ie SC approval, with all permanent members having the veto) are quite restrictive.

You see, what seems to slip by most people is that a–dare I say it–“world government” might  just as well be very loose, relatively ineffective and inequitable in its actions, as tight, authoritarian and unitary.  Both are forms of government.  However, we always imagine the latter when we hear the term, and therefore, might miss that we already have one (at least to some extent).

How’s that grab you!




July 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Why (do) we fear world government(?)

Earlier this month I wrote a bit about world government, and I have invoked the topic from time to time.  I see it as closely connected to peace, because even if most people become saints (or close to it) we will need some institutions with global scope to handle problems of global scope, including differences among states and peoples.  However, a brief hop around the Internet reveals that the idea of WG scares many people, and it seems to me important to try to understand why.  When you wade through the various views (and some are very extreme), I think the main issue (xenophobia and conspiracy theories aside) is that most people assume world government will be centralized and oppressive–as many governments at the national level are or have been at one time.  We are not historically very far removed from national dictators (you could argue that there still are some, for that matter), and the idea of having a world dictator is not very attractive.

I can understand these concerns.  They indicate, among other things, that the theory and practice of “governance” at all levels needs to evolve and improve.  However, let me put on my political scientist’s “hat” for a moment, and remind everybody that there are many kinds of government, and many ways to govern.  Furthermore, the fearful image that the term “world government” evokes in many people is probably the least likely form that it could, in reality, take.  Consider, instead, the idea of a confederation . According to my old pal “the Wik“:

“Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign affairs, or a common currency, with the central government being required to provide support for all members.”

This is a sort of minimalist system, which respects the principle of “subsidiarity”,  currently operating in the European Union.  Again, to quote “the Wikster“:

“Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.”

I personally think that a loose confederal system is already emerging at the global level, but that discussion will have to wait for a later post.  My point here is that WG is not necessarily any “scarier” than government at any other level.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments

First post on “world government”

I received an interesting link from Simon, a Belgian friend.  This is, as you can see, an article from the Financial Times of the UK, which is not a paper known for its extreme and radical views.  I talked a bit about “global governance” in October when discussing the financial crisis, and in the FT article some of those ideas are mentioned.

The article starts with two often repeated points that most major problems are global, and that the means  (transportation and communication) to facilitate collective action in response to these problems exist.  However, it adds an important third point:

“…a change in the political atmosphere suggests that “global governance” could come much sooner than that [ie sometime in the next two centuries]. The financial crisis and climate change are pushing national governments towards global solutions, even in countries such as China and the US that are traditionally fierce guardians of national sovereignty.”

The article goes on to elaborate on this, and, of course, mentions the usual caveats.  These notwithstanding, the article highlights the fact that what is holding back the process is the “human element”.  The fact that politically and culturally most populations and governments are afraid, or at least profoundly skeptical, of world government, even presented in its softer guise of “global governance.”

The implications of this for peace are obvious.  A stronger U.N. system of collective security, as well as other more effective security and development oriented global institutions are probably necessary to achieve and consolidate peace.  However, for this to happen, peoples’ world views have to change to begin to see the “earth as one country”.  Much research in political science indicates that effective institutions (in this case global) must rest on supportive values (in this case also global).

Which again brings us back to education, and the media–and this article indicates that some of the media, at least, are starting to catch on.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments


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