The Idea of World Government is a book in the “Routledge Global Institutions” series edited by Thomas G. Weiss and Rorden Wilkinson.  Economics professor James Yunker was selected to write this text because of his long-standing interest in the topic and his having already authored several books and articles about it.  In it Yunker provides an excellent overview of the long history of the idea that having one effective government over the whole world community is the way to have a world without war.

On page 2 Professor Yunker poses a central question that stimulates his interest in the controversial issue of world government.  “Why do most people believe that relatively strong governmental authority is impractical and inadvisable at the global level” even though most people believe that relatively strong governmental authority is “necessary and beneficial to human welfare at the local, regional and national levels”?  His own view is that what has been lacking up to now is “a properly designed world government.”  He also says, “Conscious or unconscious identification of world government as a form of imperial government is an important reason why the idea of world government is currently rejected by a large majority of the world’s population” (p. 15).

Professor Yunker’s introduction discusses the important events from the beginnings of the notion of peace via one-person rule in ancient empires to more recent views about how nations should work together to create a super-national world federation.  The book as a whole provides a detailed historical account of the evolution of governments and political thinking with respect to the problem of war accompanied by Yunker’s insightful observations about how these developments are relevant to the world government issue.  The six chapters are titled: “Historical antecedents;” “From Perpetual Peace to the Great War;” “From the Treaty of Versailles to the nuclear age;” “The postwar world government boom;” “The post-Cold War era; and “Is there a future for world government?”

Yunker thinks that humanity is slowly moving toward world government.  Nevertheless difficulties being confronted by the European Union, sometimes viewed as a model for the world, show that any such integration at the global level remains a huge challenge for humanity.  Yunker mentions language differences as a particular problem for European integration but notes that the use of English as a de facto common language both in Europe and globally may help overcome this problem for future integration.

In the last chapter Yunker provides his own detailed proposal for a “properly designed” global political system.  He calls his proposal “the Federal Union of Democratic Nations” (FUDN). It is intermediate between the confederate United Nations and an “omnipotent” world federation. He thinks that the European Union provides a good model for how the global community might proceed, but the global organization would need a “dual voting system” where neither the richer countries nor the poorer countries could make policies unacceptable to the other group.  In his FUDN countries would be free to maintain their national military forces (including nuclear weapons) and would be able to secede from the global organization if they want.  He hopes that as such a limited global organization displays its usefulness these rights to maintain armed forces and to secede would lose their importance.  A true world federation would gradually have evolved.