Democratic World Government - An Outline Structure Essay

This essay has a total of 4239 words and 20 pages.

Democratic World Government - An Outline Structure

Democratic World Government - An Outline Structure

Introduction - problems and benefits of World Government

The idea of world government has not received a good press for many years. It
tends to make most of us think of Stalinist dictators and fascist domination of
the globe. I wish to argue, though, that there is a viable form of democratic
world government which could bring many benefits.

A democratic world government that really worked would lead to a major increase
in the freedom enjoyed by all people on the planet. It would also make more
equitable the international balance of power which currently so heavily favours
the rich developed nations and their citizens at the expense of the much larger
numbers of citizens in the underdeveloped world.

The billion-dollar question is, though, whether there could be a form of
democratic world government which was workable and sustainable, not inefficient
and expensive, and above all which was fair?

Conventional ideas about world government, which typically picture it in the
form of a global parliament passing universal laws in order to create an
identikit legal framework for all world citizens, suffer from three severe
problems. Firstly, the near-impossibility of persuading all of the world's
countries to hand over their sovereignty to a global government of this sort.
Secondly, the risk - of which we are, and must always be, very aware - of
permitting a future global dictatorship of a particularly intransigent kind
(imagine how difficult it would be to dislodge a Hitler if he was in possession
of the kind of absolute power available through such a form of government). And
thirdly, as we see sometimes today in the European Community, the tendency of
such a large-scale government to create detailed, uniform laws for the entire
area it governs; the impetus would be towards a sort of global standardisation,
almost certainly based in the cultural attitudes of the West, which would
massively erode the rich cultural variations which exist in the world.

A preferable system of world government, if such could be invented, would meet
all of these objections, as well perhaps as providing a global framework
designed to encourage the democratic possibilities of all nations. Perhaps such
a system might look something like the one I shall now describe.

New form of World Government - outline structure

The new World Parliament would be a single elected chamber, possibly similar in
format to the House of Commons in the UK but with places for up to 1000 elected
representatives - Members of the World Parliament, or 'MWP's. The MWPs would be
elected from national or supra-national constituencies, one per so many head of
population (but probably with a minimum of at least one per nation, at least in
the early decades [There are approaching 200 nation states in the world at the
moment, with populations ranging from 50,000 - St Lucia - to 5,000,000,000 -
China. This represents a variance of a factor of 100,000, so the disparity in
representation could not be tolerated indefinitely. In due course some notion of
communal MWPs, shared by small countries of reasonably alike culture, would have
to be introduced.]). They would be subjected to re-election every 5 years. The
world government envisaged here would have no army and would require only
minimal administrative support. As a result, its costs would be small. It would
not be allowed to raise any taxes, instead being funded in a similar way to that
in which the United Nations is today, by contributions from the nation-states
which make up its membership. Such nation-states would continue to exist in the
new system just as they do now, forming an essential balancing power to that of
the world government, and would be without significant loss of sovereignty.

Membership of the new system which the world government represented would be
voluntary for each nation in the world, just as membership of the United Nations
currently is [Some democratic nations choose not to join the United nations even
today, Switzerland being a prime example.]. Becoming a member would involve them
adding their signature to a world treaty, which decision would need to be
ratified by the population of the country in a referendum. Only upon so joining
the 'club' would a country's people have the right to vote into the world
government one or more MWPs, and in turn the world government would only have
the right to instigate actions which related to countries within its membership.
Once in the system a country would be able to extricate itself only by majority
vote of its population in another referendum.

The world government's purpose would be to enact laws by normal majority voting
within its chamber, but laws which were couched in general terms. Because
presented in general terms, the laws would permit individual countries to retain
or create their own culturally-based detailed laws and social practices as long
as these did not conflict with the general world-law.

The laws, although couched in general terms, would be very real. A World Court
would exist, providing a top-level of appeal for individuals once they had
exhausted their domestic forms of justice and where they thought they were
innocent under the general world law (much as we in Europe can now make an
ultimate appeal to the European court).

But what would the powers of the world government be? The new system must not
permit the world government to enforce its desires in an absolute way upon the
world population because that would immediately raise the twin dangers of global
dictatorship and imposed cultural uniformity.

World Government's only power - enforced referenda

Instead, nations would be allowed to transgress world-laws - to pass local laws,
or otherwise operate, in contradiction to them - but only where the population
of that country was in agreement with its government in that course of action.
The principal element of the new world constitutional system would be the
provision of just such a check that any country which went against a world-law
was expressing the will of its people. So the world government's one and only
direct power would be that of requiring any nation within its membership to
undergo a binding referendum on any issue, and ultimately if necessary a general
election, which would be conducted according to a set of internationally agreed
standards. These standards, written into the world treaty, would include the
fact that the world government must be given equal opportunity to present its
arguments to the country's people as the host government.

So say, for example, that a generalised human rights law had been passed by the
World Parliament. At some later point in time a majority of MWPs might come to
consider that a particular member country was violating this law, either in its
current activities or in a new law which it had enacted locally. Then the world
government could require a binding referendum to be held in the offending
country, so that the people of that country could have a democratically-valid
opportunity to decide whether they wanted their national government to adhere to
the world-law on this point.

If the result of the referendum was in the local government's favour then it
could continue to operate as it had chosen, and no further action would follow.
On the other hand, if the outcome favoured the world government's view then its
general law would take precedence in the nation. If in turn that fact was not
promptly acted upon, then the world government could enforce a general election.
The country's population would thus become the final arbiters of the question.

The effects of this sort of setup are fairly clear. On issues where most human
individuals are likely to be in agreement irrespective of their background, such
as on the immorality of torture, the imposed referendum would ensure that
governments tending towards dictatorship would be stopped in their tracks. But
where a putative world government law was based on cultural prejudices the local
population would almost certainly be in agreement with their own government's
decision to ignore the global law and would vote in favour of the local decision.
In doing so of course they would have effectively taken their nation out of the
world system as regards this one issue, and would therefore have to forego
access for themselves to the World Court on the global law in question.

Constraint on World Government

How would the world government be constrained to only pass laws couched in
general terms? Well, if it passed laws which were too detailed they would almost
certainly be rejected by many populations supporting their domestic governments
in internal referenda. Concern about high-levels of such refusals would probably
in itself be enough to restrain the world government from being too precise on
many issues. To buttress this impulse, though, a constitutional mechanism would
be built into the world treaty, sucha that the MWPs themselves would be
automatically subjected to a general world election en masse if more than, say,
10-20% of countries rejected a world law in national referenda.

But how would a world government which had no military power of its own impose
referenda and elections and make them binding? What if a country's government,
perhaps tending towards dictatorship, chose simply to ignore the world
government's requests for it to hold a referendum on some issue?


The answer is simple, and maintains the principle that the world government's
only direct power should be to enforce referenda. Faced with this sort of threat
the world government would be constitutionally allowed to initiate synchronised
referenda of the populations in, say, 5 randomly-chosen nations in order to
sample world opinion at a statistically-significant level. It would put before
those populations its suggestions as to what co-ordinated sanctions should be
used by all countries against the offending nation. The result of the vote would
dictate what collective world action could be taken. The action to be taken
might be initially an economic blockade by all member countries, but ultimately
if the crisis escalated could become a collective invasion of the offending
country. It would be up to the polled populations, acting as a world jury, to
decide on behalf of the whole world whether they were going to allow the
principles of world government to be upheld by voting for such sanctions, or
were going to let the world slip back into its messy and dangerous old ways.

In practice the mere threat of the tight, global economic sanctions which could
be invoked by this method would in most cases very rapidly bring a recalcitrant
member country back into line. But if not such sanctions could quickly be put in
place after the sampling referenda. If they in turn proved inadequate and if a
sampling world vote upheld military intervention then ultimately an invasion
could be carried out. As the world government itself would have no army, this
would be planned and mounted by a collective military force made up of units
from all, or a selection of, the armies of each member country of the world - in
the same way as the UN Peacekeeping forces are today. (Once again, in many cases
the mere planning of such an action would persuade the country to drop its

If however the sampling votes activated in such a crisis failed to back the
world government then at best the world government itself should be subjected to
an immediate election, and at worst the entire system of world government would
be threatened and might start to unravel. The important point here is that
economic and military action would be decided upon by vast numbers of ordinary
people, rather than by governments swayed by all sorts of 'interests' and biases.
In a very clear way a responsibility for the future of the world would reside
with each of us. The fact that it would so reside with the people of the world
would be a safeguard as ultimate as could ever be achieved against the
possibility of a dictator assuming global power through the apparatus of the
world government. The dictates of such a despotic world government would
doubtless very soon cause it to lose such a sampling referenda, and it would not
itself be in possession of any miltary power on which it could call.

The system of global governance, composed of the world government in co-
existence with multitudinous nation states, would thus embody a balanced set of
powers and checks. Nation states would retain much power, although subject to
the general will of the world government. As long as they acted in accordance
with the wishes of their citizens they would be able to implement any policies
they pleased. They could probably also defy the world government without the
backing of their citizens to a small extent with ease, but any larger revolt
would be prevented by the need to carry a majority of the population. If they
pursued their defiance they would face the ultimate threat of economic and then
military isolation in the world.

Or at least, that is how things would be as long as the world government
confined itself to passing humane and unbiased laws. It itself would be subject
to a strong counter-balance to its powers. If it showed any tendency to err from
such a widely accepted moral basis then the continued existence in the world of
a large number of varied and independently-willed nation states would guarantee
that transgressions of unpopular global laws would commence fairly rapidly.
Referenda would follow, in which local populations would almost certainly vote
against the world government line and thus eventually force its members to face

The world government would in fact only be able to operate by sticking to a very
broadly accepted seam of morality. Indeed it is more than likely that after an
initial phase of establishing a basic canon of general world-laws, the main
emphasis of the world government would turn to reviewing the practices of
nations of the world. There would of course always be occasional requirements
for new general laws, or amendments to existing ones, but much of the work of
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