Sunday, July 16, 2006

On World Government and Being an Oddball

"Hope and hardship and a worthy task
That's all I offer and it's all I ask"
--Echo's Children, "The High Frontier"

Yesterday, I came to the annual meeting of the Southern California chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions, which went rather better than I expected. CGS is a descendant of the World Federalist Association, which itself used to be known as the United World Federalists. During the movement's 1940s heyday, it counted Albert Einstein and E.B. White as supporters; Isaac Asimov was a world federalist until the end of his life.

Today, global government is not a mainstream issue. The overwhelming majority of people are neither for it nor against it -- they've simply never seriously thought about it. The basic idea is simple. World federalists believe we need a system of democratic global governance on top of (not instead of) national governments. Such a system would provide enforceable legal mechanisms for resolving conflicts, protecting human rights and safeguarding the environment. Present-day countries would be in a position similar to that of US states or Swiss cantons.

The idea may be simple but its consequences would be profound. The two that resonate most deeply with me are abolishing war and allowing freedom of movement. When speaking on the subject, my good friend Tad Daley likes to say, "It is within the power of the human imagination to envision abolishing war itself". Why not? When formerly independent, sovereign entities unite politically, armed forces beyond police become unnecessary. Their borders no longer need to be defended and people are free to come and go. It is from this freedom that World Beyond Borders, the global government website I co-founded with Eli Williamson-Jones, takes its name.

Although technology is bringing the world closer together, global government is a long way off -- a couple of decades at best, centuries at worst. Much of the work to be done is simply raising awareness -- trying to get the idea of global government into the public eye. The rest consists of changing international institutions such as the UN and working toward the basic levels of democracy and economic development that will allow a stable world democracy to exist.

Working on such a generational project is not for everyone. It takes courage, imagination and the ability to stand alone. I am reminded of physicist Charles Sheffield's words about space exploration:
"If you want to be on the leading edge of anything, you have by definition to be a couple of standard deviations away from most people. That makes you an odd-ball. The trick is to learn to accept it, then to like it -- and keep on making lots of noise for what you believe in."


Gary Yeritsian said...

Hi Jane,
If you remember, I sat to your left during Tad Daley's presentation at the CGS meeting Saturday. I just wanted to encourage you to keeep up the good work! I've found your website and blog both intriguing and informative.
Best wishes,

Jane Shevtsov said...

Hi Gary,

Yes, I remember you and have put in a link to your blog. I'd really appreciate it if you linked to me -- I'm trying to build an audience.


Future Geek said...

I think the world government idea is fascinating. I might like to post a Q&A with you on my blog sometime about the topic.

I tend to believe that change will come from the other direction - from the bottom up. I'm starting to get some of my ideas about this online, here.

Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your thoughts about world government.

Jane Shevtsov said...

Hi future geek,

I'd love to do a Q&A on your blog! And there's definitely more global government stuff in the pipeline, after I get one or two ecology posts up.

The creation of a global government is definitely going to be a bottom-up process -- no way national governments are going to voluntarily give up power without feeling a lot of pressure. And having democracy at the world level will open up all kinds of new opportunities for grassroots action. I currently live in Los Angeles, so I vote for people to represent me in the LA city and county governments, in Sacramento and in Washington, DC. But who represents me at the world level? It's not John Bolton -- I didn't get a vote on him.

In any system with multiple levels of organization, both bottom-up and top-down effects are important. I'll definitely post more on this idea later.

Tony Fleming said...

Hi Jane -

Long time no chat. Nice to see your blog. I've linked it in my feedreader so I can keep up. If you're inclined, check out mine at

Tony Fleming
(formerly of WFA, haha)

Jane Shevtsov said...

Hi Tony!

Good to hear from you! How did you find this blog?

I've added you to my feedreader and blogroll.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane -

I cannot recall how I came across it - probably a search of blogs on world government, CGS or WFA or the UN.