Report to World Federalists on the Inaugural Conference of the Post-Cold War Movement for World Government

Posted: 30 August 2016

Joseph P. Baratta

Worcester State University ​

The following is Professor Baratta's summation of the World Government Research Network's inaugural conference in Brisbane, Australia in June 2016.

​Consider the titles of books and leading articles in international relations written since Alexander Wendt, “Why a World State Is Inevitable,” European Journal of International Relations, 9 (2003): 491-542:

​Cabrera, Luis. Political Theory and Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Case for the World State. London: Routledge, 2004.

-------. “World Government: Renewed Debate, Persistent Challenges.” European Journal of International Relations, 16, 3 (2010): 511-30.

-------. The Practice of Global Citizenship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Caney, Simon. Justice beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Craig, Campbell. Glimmer of a New Leviathan: Total War in the Realism of Niebuhr, Morgenthau, and Waltz. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Deudney, Daniel H. Bounding Power: Republican Security Theory from the Polis to the Global Village. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Falk, Richard A., and Andrew Strauss. “Toward Global Parliament.” Foreign Affairs, 80 (Jan.-Feb. 2001): 212-18.

Heater, Derek. World Citizenship and Government: Cosmopolitan Ideas in the History of Western Political Thought. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

Held, David. Global Covenant: The Social Democratic Alternative to the Washington Consensus. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004.

Patapan, Haig. Globalization and Equality. 2004.

Pogge, Thomas. World Poverty and Human Rights. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002.

Rodrik, Dani. “How Far Will Economic Integration Go?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 14 (1) (2000): 177-86.

Scott, Shirley. International Law, U.S. Power: The United States’ Quest for Legal Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Tamir, Yael. `Who’s Afraid of a Global State?’ in Kjell Goldmann, Ulf Hannerz, Charles Westin (eds). Nationalism and Internationalism in the Post-Cold War Era. New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 244-67.

Talbot, Strobe. The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Thompson, James. Making North America: Trade, Security, and Integration. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014.

Trachtman, Joel P. The Future of International Law: Global Government. Cambridge, 2013.

Weiss, Thomas G. “What Happened to the Idea of World Government?” Presidential Address, 50th Convention of the International Studies Association, New York, N.Y., 16 February 2009; International Studies Quarterly (2009): 53, 253–271.

Zolo, Danilo. Cosmopolis: Prospects for World Government. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997.

​Also these histories of world government:

​Baratta, Joseph Preston. The Politics of World Federation. Vol. 1: United Nations, U.N. Reform, Atomic Control; Vol. 2: From World Federalism to Global Governance. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004.

Boyer, Paul. By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. New York: Pantheon, 1985.

Mazower, Mark. Governing the World: The History of an Idea, 1815 to the Present. NY: Penguin, 2012.

Wittner, Lawrence S. The Struggle against the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, Vol. I: One World or None, through 1953; Vol. II: Resisting the Bomb, 1954-1970; Vol. III: Toward Nuclear Abolition, 1971 to the Present. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993, 1997, 2003; and summary, Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement. Stanford, 2009.

Wooley, Wesley T., Jr. Alternatives to Anarchy: American Supranationalism since World War II. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988.

​What happened at the Brisbane conference and is happening within the ranks of international relations scholars is the emergence of a school of thinking about world politics that goes beyond global governance (itself dating only to 1995) to that of global government. Books like those above mark a historic beginning of renewed efforts to restore the ideal of world government to respectability among international relations scholars, historians, and national government officials. Historically, the ideal of world federal government was at a height at the end of the Second World War — when the Baratta, Inaugural Conference of the Post-Cold War Movement for World Government 2 liberal and socialist democracies were united and the United Nations to keep the peace was established — but the breakup of the grand alliance and the coming of the Cold War seemed to end the prospects of a democratic and constitutionally limited world republic. Nevertheless, the end of the Cold War (1990) opened a historic opportunity to craft a new world order, as President George H.W. Bush said.

Was the opportunity squandered in an American “unipolar moment”? Not definitely. Economic globalization has overcome any brief U.S. unilateralism in international relations today. Globalization is the present reality, as President Bill Clinton said in 2000. Hence, theories of world politics are giving way from Realism to Liberal Internationalism, Constructionism, Cosmopolitanism, Functionalism and the like. After publication of Our Global Neighborhood in 1995, advanced theorists began searching for a term to cover increasing functional cooperation among states without directly implying the merging of sovereignties as in the former federalist movement. They came up with the term, governance, which now is in common usage in a wide variety of contexts, international and domestic. Most writers shy away from global “government,” for it sounds premature; but they will say “governance.” Something more than cooperation.

But by Brisbane, there was unembarrassed and plain spoken consideration of world government. Governance does not come to grips with the interstate anarchy, provide effective solutions to global problems beyond the capacities of nation states to solve alone, like climate change or mass migrations, or solve the weaknesses of the United Nations. World government is a myth, as G.A. Borgese used to say, “incorporating the faith and hope of its age, mediating between the ideal and the real, and calling the mind to action.” In 2016, it was significant, to my mind, that this inaugural conference on world government was held in Australia — generally regarded as on the far side of the Earth — in order to provide a starting point for the global integration of humanity in pursuit of peace. Where else could it go but up? 

But the new scholarship on world government is not the image of the old world federalist movement. The new thinking does not see the people as actors superior to states. It sees strengthened norms and laws (even laws reaching to individuals as in the International Criminal Court) emerging in international negotiations by representatives of sovereign states. One main field of action is the World Trade Organization. Another is the European Union, which has a parliament elected by the people, but, since the Spinelli plan, states have remained in control of their integration. Scholars see no alternative to national leadership in advancing the common cause. Similar cases are novel forms of national cooperation like NAFTA or the disputed Trans-Pacific Partnership. The United Nations remains most relevant at the world level.

The new scholarship on world government envisions a new world order of justice and even morality, but not by deliberate delegations of power to an emerging world state. It does not see the process of integration as revolutionary, as in the American and French revolutions. The latter particularly led to the era of nationalism, which centralized the rule of law but too easily slipped into modern mass warfare. What is wanted is a universal sense of belonging to humanity, nature, and fellow world citizens. The new scholarship wishes to be guided by the ideals of democracy and human rights, without putting our future reliance on a single, elected world legislature, as in the Clark and Chicago plans. But for now the people of the whole world are still adjudged not ready to make the world laws. A popularly representative Second Chamber alongside the General Assembly of states in the United Nations is as far as current thinking permits. International courts for the enforcement of human rights may be the most effective mechanism for developing the rule of world law, as Hans Kelsen argued. No punishment for violations of law is envisaged, as in the ICC, which is seen as a nonstarter in today’s world. Democracy, for the time being, is being developed in national states, particularly in the often fragile states emerging from imperialism. At the U.N. level, democracy is barely beginning. World citizenship is an ideal, but in practice it must wait a long time for a real world state to guarantee human rights.

The new scholarship is the beneficiary of a slow resolution of the issues that divided the old world federalist movement. Those were membership (universal or democratic), representation (voting proportional to population or weighted by political experience, power, wealth, and education), powers (minimal to ensure peace or maximal to achieve peace and justice), and the transition (gradual or revolutionary). Today, democracy is the agreed standard for more perfect unions, as in the E.U. and NATO. Little is said about voting, but weighted voting is an established practice at the World Bank and IMF, and consensus voting is common, as in the WTO and negotiations for the Law of the Sea. Almost all internationalists are now maximalists, in the sense that no one is satisfied with a world organization that merely prevents war, while great economic, social, and environmental problems beyond the powers of national states to solve alone remain endemic. And gradual U.N. reform seems the only acceptable transition, since the Peoples’ Constitutional Convention ended badly in the past and popular revolution is unlikely to remain guided by wisdom.

As for war, states will continue to gradually observe the 1945 norm of nonaggression, and to reduce the lethality if not the incidence of war. But for the foreseeable future they will remain fully armed in their defense. This point the Realists have won, until the organization of power is more advanced. Hence, large regions of the world, though highly armed, are now peaceful, as in the E.U., potentially in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Latin America, and economically in East Asia. General and complete disarmament under effective international control (the goal of the NPT) could only come about if the world becomes so integrated that threats of armed attack, even by fanatical non-state groups, are remote, as in well governed national states. 

In short, the process of forming a world government — the rule of law in place of the present international anarchy — is envisaged as gradual, preservative of the historic states, patient as all states become effectively governed (eventually as members of a working, safe federal union), focusing for the present on economic justice within the large processes of globalization, and awaiting the still unimaginable final political steps to the world state. The globe is far more diverse than any of the thirty historic federations that united diverse peoples, like the United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the U.S.S.R. We are faced with a novel task of world statecraft, never before attempted in history.

* * *

What then is the task for world federalists? We must find ways to pursue our ideals within the changed international conditions. There are limits to functionalism, even neo-functionalism. David Mitrany, the founder of functionalism — the view that international cooperation on functions like the mail, telecommunications, trade, human rights standards, and collective security — admitted in A Working Peace System (1943) that the process amounted to “federation by installments.” Near the final stages of global integration toward world government, there will necessarily be a political stage where the insights of the world federalists should provide guidance. The rule of world law reaching to individuals cannot be achieved without involving the people, who must elect representatives to some sort of world legislature (even a second chamber of the U.N. General Assembly) and who must be willing to obey the world laws as the most just achievable under the circumstances. In short, the form of the world government must be based on the consent of the governed. That’s democracy. The recent Brexit vote in Britain demonstrates the folly of not involving the people earlier in the processes of integration (making the European Parliament directly electable by the people, then leaving the Council of Ministers with sovereign powers). Moreover, federalists have avoided the barren expression, “world government,” which sounds like abolition of the Baratta, Inaugural Conference of the Post-Cold War Movement for World Government 6 historic national states and is easily misinterpreted as a step to world tyranny. They favor a world federal government. “Unity and diversity” is the watchword. Checks and balances, in addition to eternal vigilance, will preserve liberty.

It is a mistake to continue to try to mobilize millions of people for a revolutionary situation after a massive crisis on the scale of World War II — like an environmental collapse or banking meltdown — though that is conceivable. For after such a crisis, as was said at the conference, what is likely to emerge is not world democracy but a worse national security state or even a world empire achieved by a knock-out blow, as Arnold Toynbee warned. Rather, a World Federalist Institute or Foundation should aim, like the Brookings Institution or the Cato Institute, at close studies of current trends and at making informed, realistic critiques and proposals to improve relations incrementally. For such an institute, we will need funds, a journal (The Federalist Debate is looking for a multilingual editor), and, more than that, the kind of adherents who could write informed and critical articles for the journal beyond our tiny groups in Cambridge, New York, Carbondale, and San Francisco. Can we keep a serious journal going?

One of the speakers at the conference, Shirley Scott, delivered a paper on the topic, “From International Rule of Law to Rules-Based International Order: The Recent Shift Away from the Trend towards Global Integration via International Law.” Can you perceive the difference? Her paper seemed pessimistic, and indeed it was very critical of U.S. policy, particularly as limited by the Senate, which has failed to advance the Non-Proliferation Treaty (“the NPT may fail”), ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban, sign again and ratify the Rome treaty for the International Criminal Court, ratify the Law of the Sea, ratify the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and so on. The Iran Deal was not a treaty, the maneuvers in the South China Sea were not rooted in the Law of the Sea, and the arrangements on climate change at Paris were a legal “charade.” Yet Scott was sanguine about the future dominated by the U.S.A. It was moving to an alternative “rules-based” international order, rather like Baratta, Inaugural Conference of the Post-Cold War Movement for World Government 7 recourse to coalitions in place of the United Nations or, as Joel Trachtman said, to the “low politics” of trade negotiations. The U.S.A. is still a hegemon, but it is resistant to use of force. It is creatively using its power to form some new kind of world legal order. Here is where world federalists should be working.

It would be a mistake not to work within American leadership under present world conditions. Anyone who ponders the daily news will perceive that there is some truth in the view that the U.S.A. is “exceptional” and the “indispensable nation.” Would the European Union have formed without the blessing of America and without its commitment to the common defense in NATO? How could the agreement with Iran have been negotiated, avoiding war, without American leadership? America still upholds the promise of liberty under law, which continues to draw immigrants here. It is not our military power that makes us great, but our economic power, and ultimately our political power as a democracy under a balanced and wise constitution. American power is reshaping the world, and world federalists must keep alive the federalist ideals from our founding. The scholars of world government tend to cite for intellectual guidance Hegel’s Philosophy of History and Max Weber’s Theory of Social and Economic Organization, which reduced the state to the monopoly of force. Passing mention is made of Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace. Rarely do they cite Madison, Hamilton, and Jay’s The Federalist. We should remedy that. A good place to start is with Nos. 1, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 21, 23, 39, 46, and 51.

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