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Why world federalism is key for more sustainable future

Originally published in The Economics Society, SRCC. Views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of YWF.


All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do? – Buddha

If we reflect on recent history, particularly over the past two centuries, we observe a panorama of scientific and technological advancements, greatly propelled by the Industrial Revolution, as well as periods of colonization and subsequent decolonization. This era has given rise to a world order marked by escalating hostilities between nations. Unfortunately, since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, we have plunged headfirst into a complex array of interconnected crises, ranging from climate change to food shortages, global pandemics, cybersecurity threats, local conflicts on every continent (as well as intercontinental conflicts), the proliferation and stockpiling of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), and more. This is the current state of affairs after nearly three million years of evolution.

It is precisely why concepts such as world federalism have emerged.

Since its establishment in 1945, many held optimistic expectations that the United Nations (UN) would bring an end to international tensions. However, contrary to these hopes, it facilitated imperialistic ambitions, particularly those of the United States of America, supported by the majority of Western nations. The USA, akin to a cat pursuing a rat, seized opportunities in newly decolonized states after the Second World War. Offering financial aid for development, the USA garnered discreet international support while imposing its 'democratic' ideals, burdening nations with substantial debt and suppressing the emergence of socialist nations. Consequently, the fall of the USSR marked the USA as the sole superpower, attaining an enviable position in international politics.

Notably, the UN's shortcomings become evident. It favours certain regions, retains the peculiar veto power, and lacks legislative authority, merely offering advice with the hope of compliance. Superficial in its approach, the UN has made limited progress in addressing the root causes of international tension and hostility. The highest number of existing conflicts since World War II in January 2023 underscores its inefficiency. Is this the world we desire? Are we content leaving such a legacy for future generations? Should we remain indifferent to the moral decline of the world's most powerful nations and passively witness the slow erosion of our common humanity?

If your response to any of these questions is negative, I implore you to continue reading and consider world federalism. Let's reflect on Ancient Greece.



I am a citizen, not of Athens, not of Greece, but of the world – Socrates

What a profound statement coming from someone who lived in a time when international tension wasn’t even that extreme (or maybe it was– Trojan War, I hear you). But the idea that I am trying to convey is that the concept of a global federation isn’t some radical leftist propaganda emerging from a dusty dungeon in some remote corner of the world. It’s been around forever because it is based on the principle of our common humanity and equity for all.


Simply put, a United States of the World (which would also be cool against alien invasions and stuff, but that’s a whole other thing). It would be a governing body- having supranational legislative authority. Now, this doesn’t mean an all-mighty and powerful body (that is exactly what we are trying to counter!). It simply means that on matters of international importance, the global government has a say, ergo, the citizens of the world have a say.


The current inter-governmental institutions are terribly undemocratic. The UN gives each government one vote regardless of the size of their populations, and regardless of whether these governments are actually accountable to their governed populations or not. Because the government would have population proportionate representation, and there would be no “founding states” or veto powers — the chances of superpower dominance and power would be negated. This is also exactly why we can’t just reform the UN to make it legislative- because there’s already an intricately woven web of power politics in the UN that is next to impossible to remove.


Thus, a world federation would be truly democratic. As a democratic institution, the federation would not only have population proportionate representation but all political representatives would be directly elected to a law-making assembly by all members.


While the federation would possess significant legislative capacity on the international stage, individual nations would still maintain complete sovereignty over national matters. This precludes the possibility of all-powerful despots within the federation with dictatorial tendencies. The federation would uphold a firm commitment to the rule of law, ensuring that violators are held accountable—a significant contrast to a major drawback observed within the UN.



Furthermore, when I mentioned 'citizens of the world,' it implies that federation members wouldn't be individual countries per se but rather global citizens. Although they would retain their nationalities, at the global level, this wouldn't influence voting on matters. As reiterated, the federation does not legislate on concerns specific to individual nations; rather, its focus lies on global and international issues. Therefore, our mandate would encompass climate change, human rights, disarmament, and notably, a movement to end war.


The process of globalization has highlighted the regulatory gap arising from multinational corporations operating across borders. These corporations manufacture products in one country, sell them in another, and often pay minimal or no taxes in a third country. This leads to a "race to the bottom" among nations, attempting to reduce corporate tax rates, adversely affecting wages and workers' rights. Ultimately, the unchecked globalization model exacerbates poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation worldwide.


World federalism provides a solution to this challenge as well. An economic arm of the Federation could legislate and enforce global regulations for businesses, establish universal tax rates, and set global standards for workers' rights—thereby eliminating the 'race to the bottom.' This approach would champion fair working conditions globally. Additionally, holding multinational corporations accountable for their carbon emissions would influence their choices of production and manufacturing locations. Consequently, the overall quality of life, including worker conditions, would improve, especially in developing countries, driving economic growth.

So, what's hindering progress? It appears to be an ideal model, doesn't it? So, why haven't we embraced a global federation? To put it simply, a significant part of it isn't within my control or yours. Unless national governments, leading corporations, and organizations step forward, not much can be achieved. This isn't cynicism; it's a realistic view. The movement for a world federation has been active since the Second World War, yet here we are today. Some argue that adopting world federalism would require an unrealistically high level of cooperation, which is nothing short of utopian given the current cutthroat competitive political and economic environment. However, the urgency of our times, particularly plagued by the climate crisis, is so extreme that the creation of such an organization will become inevitable in the near future. The United Nations, too, though perhaps considered a utopian system before the war, was adopted due to its dire necessity in the 1940s. If the world continues with existing political and economic systems, where developed countries continue to exploit poorer ones, where climate change remains a threat, where children in Bangladesh don't receive education because they're in sweatshops making your designer jeans, and where wars are waged among "friendly nations," humanity is hurtling towards its end. The need for sustained international political cooperation is ever-increasing.


We hold the key. It is up to us to unlock the door.


One World. One Family.


Citations

1. With highest number of violent conflicts since Second World War, United Nations must rethink efforts to achieve, sustain peace, speakers tell Security Council | UN Press. (2023, January 26). https://press.un.org/en/2023/sc15184.doc.htm

2. Wikipedia contributors. (2023). Foreign interventions by the United States. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_interventions_by_the_United_States

3. One World: Movement for Global Democracy. (2016, November 16). World Federalism, Inequality and Economic Justice > One World. One World. https://oneworld.network/world-federalism-inequality-and-economic-justice/

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