I have been encouraging people to read this book for many years because I believe that it has been one of the best arguments for the need to create a democratic world federation. Ronald Glossop, Professor Emeritus in Philosophy at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, wrote this book after the end of the Cold War in order to show why world federation is needed and how to go about creating it. During the Cold War, world federalists were often viewed as utopian and “soft on communism.”
After explaining the proper functions of government, the requirements for vibrant democracy, the difference between international law (treaties) and world law, and the difference between confederation (such as the current United Nations system) and federation (such as the relationship between state governments and the national government in the U.S.), Glossop argues that the main argument for a federal world government is to create and preserve law and order for the world community. This would require a world constitution, a world legislature, a world executive, a world court, world police, and world prisons. A major problem will be deciding whether the number of representatives each country would have in the world legislature should be based on national wealth, power, and/or population. Another problem is deciding how representatives from different nations will be elected or selected.
World laws would apply to individuals, not to nations. Individual violators of world law would be brought to justice. National governments would not need to maintain military forces in order to protect their people from other nations. National governments would only need that amount of police force to keep law and order within their nation. Instead of counting tanks and nuclear weapons to determine how a conflict might be resolved, a democratic federal world government would count votes in a world parliament. Glossop argues that there is no reason why the world federation would need nuclear weapons.
In addition to replacing the current war system with a democratic peace system, Glossop argues that a world federation should be created in order to:
- manage the globally interdependent world economy and regulate transnational corporations;
- avoid ecological disaster by bringing polluters to justice;
- govern the oceans, Antarctica, and outer space;
- deal better with gross violations of human rights;
- control organized international crime such as drug trafficking; and
- promote a sense of world community and world citizenship. In order to promote global communication, Glossop is an advocate of teaching Esperanto as a universal secondary language in addition to learning native languages.
One of the most important features of this book is Glossop’s responses to those who are critics of federal world government. Some critics have argued that governments do not always keep the peace. Glossop’s response is that our current global anarchy is not the solution. Democratic governments on the local, state, and national levels have been successful in resolving conflicts nonviolently. Global democracy would be a much better solution than the current expensive system of coercive diplomacy and war.
Some critics argue that conflicts between nations will always be resolved by force. The world federalist response is that humans resort to violence when there is no alternative way of working out conflicts. When the welfare of a group is promoted by voting and by law enforcement, much violence will cease.
Other critics argue that creating a world federation might cause more war. Glossop responds that a world constitution should be created that would guarantee the rights of nations and the rights of all world citizens. The world constitution could go into effect when at least five-sixths of all nations that contain at least five-sixths of the world population (including nations with the largest populations) agree to be part of the world federation. Glossop believes that most nations will eventually join the world federation when they realize that it is in their long-term interest to get rid of their militaries and war weapons and thus improve their national economies.
Some critics argue that a world government could lead to a world dictator. Glossop argues that a world dictator is more likely under the current system of sovereign nations. He emphasizes that he is not arguing for a world government that would be the only government in the world and would control everyone and everything. He is arguing for a world federal government that is based on the principle of subsidiarity with national governments and on the principle that anyone who violates world laws, even national leaders, should be prosecuted by world courts. Following the example of the U.S. system of a division of powers with checks and balances, a democratic world federation could be created so that a dictator could not achieve world domination. A world parliament could be bicameral, one part based on population and another part based on national governments or geographic regions. A world executive would not be one person but a council of people from different parts of the world with limited terms and a rotating chairmanship. The same precautions would apply to world judges on world courts.
Some critics have argued that a world federation would either be a communist scheme for equalizing wealth or a device for global capitalism at the expense of poor countries. The world federalist response is that once huge military expenditures are eliminated, it will be possible to raise the standard of living in poor countries without harming the standard of living in richer countries. This should ease the pressures of immigration. If the world federation is truly democratic, then rich countries can protect their wealth and property while allowing poor countries to gradually gain equality of opportunity.
Glossop examines several proposals for creating a democratic world federation. The current confederal United Nations could be transformed into a federal United Nations through a system of weighted voting. Another possibility is to create a new organization such as a World Peace Authority or a World Disarmament and World Development Organization. Regional federations could be created that could later unite into a world federation. The democratic nations could federate and then allow other countries to join when they become democratic. Glossop explains the advantages and disadvantages for each of these methods.
A common criticism of world federation is that it is too utopian and unrealistic. Glossop admits that it will be very difficult to create a democratic world federation that is just, that outlaws war, and can solve our many global problems. It might take a long time to create a just and democratic world federation. His conclusion is that since the world community needs a world legal system, then all of us should work together to remove the obstacles which are preventing its creation.