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How World Federalism will likely come into Existence

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Most world federalists over the years have repeatedly split into two warring camps: (1) those who believe (with Emery Reeves) that “[t]here is no ‘first step’ to world federalism,” that “[w]orld government is the first step.” and (2) those who believe that there are short-term goals and functionalist and neo-functionalist approaches (including UN reform) which are worth pursuing on the way to world federalism. If one wanted to attach unfairly one-sided labels to the two groups, one could say that there are “World Federalist Fundamentalists” and “Thoughtful World Federalists.” It should be obvious on which side the author's sentiments lie. I have in fact taken to describing myself, at times, as a “thoughtful world federalist.” And I would indeed submit that if one engages in a bit of “thought” about precisely how world federalism might someday come about, one realizes that it will almost certainly not be some kind of millennial moment of instantaneous creation of a global government (ala the U.S. Constitution), but will instead come about, if at all, more gradually.

If one takes a calm look at (a) the world as it is; and (b) how social change occurs, one almost inevitably reaches the above conclusion. The chances of world federalism occurring at one stroke seem to be pretty close to zero. For those of us who have long thrilled to the messages in the classic world federalist tracts, that is the bad news.

The good news is that if one takes a long view of where we are already heading, and merely projects that a decade or so (or even less time) into the future, one can envision a gradually accreting global constitution, piece by piece, brick by brick, international agreement by international agreement. What I am saying is this: Imagine, if you will, a future in which the United States returns to its “glory years,” when we created the Marshall Plan (rebuilding our former enemies) and started the United Nations (as defective as it is), and, in short, began to act with some little semblance of maturity on the international stage. And what if, then, we finally adopted the ICC (International Criminal Court) Treaty, and the Law of the Sea Treaty, and all the other treaties which only the United States and a few other renegade (if not rogue) nations have refused to sign? What if, finally, we agreed to create, as representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union at one time (1961) agreed to create, what could be called a new International Disarmament and Peacekeeping Agency? Now it is true that in order to create any such agency we would need at a minimum to reform dramatically the United Nations (or bypass it altogether), such that the P-5 (Permanent Five nations) would no longer have their veto power in the Security Council. And it is also no doubt true that eventually (or sooner) we would want to address not only needed institutional reforms (such as the “democracy deficit” in international institutions) but also a whole host of global problems currently being neglected (including the usual list, global warming, poverty, etc.), via a variety of possible reforms to existing institutions or, again, via a completely new superstructure, or, more likely, via structures modeled after those created by the Law of the Sea.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007

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