Why we need a World Government

In this article, I will try to convince you why we need a World Government, today more than in any other time in history. The how part is more complicated, so I will leave that for later.

State of Nature = State of War

First of all, we must understand the notion of state of nature, which is actually pretty simple to get.

The idea of state of nature is the idea of life without a government and without any laws. Everyone is allowed to act in perfect freedom. And since everyone has the same “amount of freedom”, it makes this state a state of perfect equality. There is no police and no justice to enforce you to obey anything.

Put 200 people in a huge forest full of free food and water, and tell them they can do whatever they want. But unlike the Hunger Games, don’t give them any weapons. What will happen? Will they fight or will they live together in harmony?

Almost all thinkers, from Hobbes^[Hobbes, Of the First and Second Natural Laws, and of Contracts, Chapter XIV] to Freud^[He called it Eros, the love and life instinct.], agree that our most basic human instinct is self-preservation. This means that those people will do anything they can to stay alive, including killing other people. But of course, they can also decide to live together in peace for a collective self-preservation. Some philosophers like Hobbes believe “that every man, ought to endeavour Peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of Warre.”1 This is called the Law of Nature.

The truth is, we don’t know what will happen in this scenario. So let’s make it more realistic and introduce a new parameter: scarcity. Scarcity means that not everyone can have everything he/she wants. What happens then?

Basic psychology shows us that our desires are never ending, and we want to own what we desire. Unlimited desires and scarcity don’t go well together. We want to take what we desire from other people who have it. And we use power to take it from other people. We have a name for that: war.

Of course, the person with the resources can give away for free said resources, for the sake of obeying the Law of Nature. But for how long? Without anything in exchange? There’s a sentiment of “losing” in the transaction, which cannot be easily accepted by our ego. A better solution would be to gain power, even if we are not inclined to attack anybody, but just for defense.

And this is a state of war. Everyone will be ready to fight if they need to and will live in a state of “continuall feare, and danger of violent death”2.

State of Civil Society

Two ingredients characterized the state of civil society:

  • “A standing rule to live by,” in Locke’s memorable phrase, which is a law laid down by the people in a form that all could agree upon.
  • An enforcement system (police, justice) which makes sure everybody is obeying the law.

The state of civil society is the state in which almost all human beings live today unless it be the inhabitants of the dark streets of Sao Paolo or San Pedro Sula. The law of nature prevails over there and there is almost no protection for the weak against the strong.

From People to Nations

But where do nations live? In the state of nature or the state of civil society?

Let’s see. The United Nations has a charter, a kind of constitution, to which all the members of the organization promise allegiance. There is also this concept of international law which every country accepts.

The rule is there, for all to see, but the machinery for enforcing it does not exist. A judgment handed down by the International Court of Justice, with its seat at The Hague, is essentially unenforceable.

Dog nuke

The International Court of Justice has been effective in arbitrating quarrels about things such as international fishing rights. But seriously, fishing rights? Criminal courts deal with more important matters: murder, armed robbery, fraud, commercial cheating etc. All those actions can and do occur among nations.

In a state of civil society, a murderer cannot walk away free, on the grounds that he does not accept the jurisdiction of the court. Nations can and do precisely that. This is why it is correct to say that nations live in a state of nature; that is, they live in an international jungle.

What is the risk today?

The outlaws, drug dealers and street gangs that live today in the state of nature, they have a common point. They carry weapons. Why? Because the only metrics used in the state of nature is power, and an automatic gun gives you some kind of power.

Do nations have weapons? Of course they do: the army. That’s how since the history of time every nation showed their superiority over another.

The risk is all the more significant today because a new kind of weapon is here, the nuclear weapon. The first weapon that humans created which can destroy humanity itself.

So how to prevent that?

What the world needs more than anything else is a state of civil society for nations. This means a world government to which the nations of the world would agree to give up their sovereignty, and a global justice machinery (to be defined) which enforces this international law for all nations.

By giving up the sovereignty, nations would lose the honor to use force to right their own wrongs. If a criminal murders my wife, I may not take the law into my own hands and avenge myself against the attacker. Only the state may avenge me. It may do it in what to me seems an unacceptable way, but I may do no more than complain. Yet, there are few people who do not agree that this is a better way than to allow individual citizens to commit crimes in response to crimes.

Why do we not accept that among nations? Why do we continue to insist on this dubious right to national self-defense, when we don’t insist it in our own personal lives?

Patriotism, of course. Imagine if a US president proposed that his country should give up its sovereignty to a government of the entire world. This government would undoubtedly be democratic. Which means that it’ll be dominated by a majority of non-Americans, non-Christians, and non-whites. Hardly imaginable today.

And yet, if some president does not propose this some day, we will continue to live in the fear of the next great war. That one will definitely make use of the nuclear weapon which too many nations today possess.

  1. Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. 14 

  2. Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. 14