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World Governance: Can it Happen in a Good Way? Not Likely!

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Abstract:

For those of us who have our doubts about government as such, at whatever level, the prospect of world government is likely to be looked at with something approaching stark horror. Is there good reason for this aversion? I think so. World government inherits the problems of government generally, but it adds a serious further level of problems. And the alternatives are at least better, if not very good. That is the general thesis for which I will try to provide some basic support in this essay.

It is tempting to think of world government as a noble ideal, and very easy to succumb to that temptation. Think of all the great things such a government could do! —So enthusiasts are likely to say. But those who do think that are thinking of government as it ideally might be, in their views. Most of us, I daresay, are benevolent despots at heart: if we were in charge, things would be terrific! Each such theorist thinks about the subject through his or her own particular shade of rose-colored glasses. The problems begin right there. The various ideal visions of world government are mutually incompatible, and how would agreement be achieved among them, and at what cost? In any case, however, what matters even more is that no such vision is remotely likely to be achieved. We must think, not about what conceivably in the best case could be or should be, but rather, about what to hope for and expect given what we know about people, their states, and their histories. It is in that spirit that the following reflections are set forth.

Obviously all this assumes certain things about the purposes of government. I am one of those who has doubts that governments can actually serve any of the good purposes for which they are presumably supported, or at least tolerated, by those subject to their powers, but at least it will be useful to consider whether a world government could be expected to achieve all or any of them even as well as, let alone better than, a collection of disparate, separate countries with assorted mutual connections and relations, bilateral or low-number-multilateral treaties and other agreements.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5848/CSP.2302.00007

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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