The Dangers of World Government
By James Kalb
Many people believe that ever more comprehensive global governance is needed for the well-being and even survival of humanity. During the Soviet/American Cold War such concerns mostly had to do with the threat of nuclear warfare. Now they’re more likely to relate to ecological catastrophes resulting from economic and population growth. Either way, the system would apparently need all the attributes of centralized government to deal adequately with the threat, whether by limiting human activities that cause pollution, or by resolving conflicts that might otherwise lead to all-out war.
The situation raises several issues. How would the world government work, and who would run it? Also, does the demand for the remedy reflect the urgency of the problem, or does insistence on the problem reflect a desire for the remedy? After all, power wants power, world government would give powerful people and institutions a lot more of it, and those with power know how to organize support for their goals.
The obvious reason for emphasizing the threat of global catastrophe is, of course, concern for the future and the common good. The same could be said, though, with regard to the threat of foreign aggression and domestic subversion, or for that matter the threats of theocracy, dysgenics, or unbridled population growth.
Predictions of disaster ought to be considered soberly on their merits. Bad things happen, and it’s good when they can be foreseen and averted or at least mitigated. Even so, prophecies of doom can be used to sell remedies that are unneeded, cause other problems, or turn out worse than the disease. We should view such matters critically, and take into account circumstances that influence how evidence and arguments are presented, as well as the likely nature of the proposed remedy once in effect.
People who engage in high-end public discussion today have interests that strongly favor global governance. Experts favor regulatory schemes that give their views comprehensive effect. Elite journalists like political tendencies that concentrate discussion and decision in settings inhabited by people they understand who give their word special weight. And governing elites generally would rather answer to their colleagues than their constituents, who often want them to act in ways at odds with their professional outlook and interests. So they are inclined toward global governance, which broadens ruling class solidarity and reduces the ability of the people to hold their rulers to account.
The alternative to management by global authorities is leaving decisions up to money and markets, or the balance of economic, political, and military forces. That approach might be more in touch with important realities, but it seems mindless, and accepts the power of people who may not be well-informed, properly trained, or rightly-inclined. Our rulers don’t like that, because they don’t like rule by nobodies and uncontrolled processes. That is why European governing elites are so absolutely committed to an ever broader and deeper European Union no matter what their people think or what practical problems result.
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