A world government is a hypothetical entity consisting of a single government with authority over an entire planet. There is disagreement over the Nationstates United Nations (NSUN) and its relationship to the role of ‘world government’. These disputes are both descriptive (is the NSUN a world government right now?) and normative (Should the UN act as the a world government?) The NSUN currently serves as a collective decision-making body for those nations it counts as its member states (currently about 30% of the NationStates World's nations, although this figure is skewed by the large number of puppets ineligible for membership) to debate issues and to determine collective courses of action regarding those issues.
Two rather significant attributes of a possible world government are legitimacy and power. The legitimacy that some see as needed for a world government is sometimes seen as lacking in that the operation of the NSUN is not based on widely accepted democratic principles, such as direct representation (individuals are essentially powerless in the UN decision-making process) or even proportional representation (each country has one vote regardless of population size). Power is lacking because the implementation of its specific decisions is dependent on the goodwill of its members (resolutions do however affect all members' statistics). It has no legal power to directly collect taxes from its citizens, maintain an army or a police force, or directly impose economical penalties on specific national governments refusing to comply with its decisions. Also, membership is voluntary and any nation is free to leave the NSUN at a moment's notice.
- 1 Proponents of world government
- 2 Opponents of world government
- 3 The NSUN and the legitimacy of its claim to world government
Proponents of world government
There are some internationalists within the NSUN who appear to seek the establishment of a ‘world government’ as a way of establishing freedom and a benign rule of law over the world. Others (including internationalists inside or outside of the NSUN) have concerns that a world government would need to respect the diversity of the nations or peoples it includes. A large group of nations (usually non-members) regard such a global government as a nightmarish possibility, creating a totalitarian state without the prospect of escape or revolution. But which ideologies actually favour such a world government? And do they have the power to bring such a thing about?
States do not always ascribe to a single 'ideology' as described below. For example a state might be economically left-wing (striving for economic equality) while they are also proponents of the more authoritarian social order generally associated with fascism. Other states may favour a neoliberal 'economic order' while also advocating Social Justice policies generally considered to be characteristic of left-wing states.
First of all, there is the ideology of fascism, stressing the need for one strong leader and greater social order. Combined with an imperialistic foreign policy, there have been many nations in NS that have made attempts at global domination tantamount to an endeavour to create a world government. So far, however, no single nation has been successful in this and given the size of the NS world it seems highly unlikely that any single force ever will be. Even a completely united NSUN could not conquer by military force the other nations of the world. Attempts have been made to implement fascist policies through the NSUN, but did not meet with any success.
Neoliberals do not advocate a world government in the classical sense of the word, preferring instead a single world-wide economic order of free market capitalism. Their aim is the eventual integration of all countries into this economic order, with the removal of all trade barriers and (ideally) the removal of all regulations on capitalism. Policies that could be categorised as neoliberal are pursued by a few remaining nations in the NSUN. Their views are generally opposed by the members of the anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation movements. While several attempts have been made, no neoliberal NSUN resolutions have been passed, although one resolution has been passed in the free trade category.
Sometimes left-wing movements in the NSUN cooperate towards a shared ideal of world government emerging from the voluntary co-operation of (communist , anarchist, socialist, progressive) countries in the pursuit of their respective and common political objectives. However, in the past, many of these states – even those inside the NSUN - showed distrust or even outright hostility towards each other and have serious differences of opinion on what a perfect NSUN utopia would look like. Still, the largest number of resolutions in the NSUN have been aimed at improving domestic conditions in the NSUN member states in the interest of Social Justice and the environment. Such resolutions increase the power of a potential 'NSUN State'. This group, because of their larger numbers and other factors, has the best chance of taking and maintaining the power of the United Nations and using it to further their cause.
Opponents of world government
As mentioned above, there are ideologies that reject the notion of a a ‘world government’ for wildly different reasons, usually relating to sovereignty.
When unable to control the world, fascist states often turn inwards and deny the right of any other state to judge them for any reason. For instance, a state may engage in genocide and claim this is a matter of purely domestic jurisdiction.
Nationalism is the strong belief that the interests of a particular nationstate are of primary importance. Also, it is the belief that a people who share a common language, history, and culture should constitute an independent nation, free of foreign domination. Many nations accept international standards in areas like human rights but oppose interference in their national sovereignty. They prefer nationalism to internationalism. Different states draw this line in different places, but the defence of national sovereignty is the most common argument given by states leaving the UN.
Many libertarians regard the notion of world government as dangerous for individual rights and liberties. Existence of independent states makes it significantly more difficult for the government to deprive the citizens of their liberties. Most notably, citizens have easier access to independent sources of information, rather than government-controlled and censored ones, as well as a possibility to emigrate. Also, many states feel strongly about their international prestige, which, again, discourages them from introducing some totalitarian institutions.
Anarchists reject all forms of authoritarian government, leading many to reject not only national, but also a super-national world government. The individuals themselves are seen as sovereign, and only voluntary association is acceptable for larger groups.
The NSUN and the legitimacy of its claim to world government
The current NSUN claims
There are many international functionalist institutions under the umbrella of the NSUN, with powers derived from its resolutions. While none of these organisations directly claim sovereignty over any part of the world, they do claim sovereignty as an institution over certain policy areas. In addition to this, NSUN resolutions create a body of international law that is made and ratified by the Compliance Ministry. The consensus-building typically associated with international organisations is not needed when a proposal can be accepted even if 49% of NSUN members vote against it. (This is a scenario that has actually taken place with the euthanasia legalisation resolution). Nor do game mechanics permit consensus-building or compromise once a resolution is submitted.
In some cases, the content of NSUN resolutions attempts to extend even beyond its member states. States outside of the NSUN usually do not accept this practice as NSUN rules are not binding on them. Examples of the UN extending its authority beyond the territories of its member states to the global commons are the colonisation of the Moon and the Law of the Sea. The idea that the NSUN has legislative authority of a world government is not made explicit, but is implied.
There are no formal laws that limit the content of decisions made in the NSUN. The charter confers the theoretical authority to function as a world government that micromanages any possible political issue thay may arise. While some NSUN resolutions have attempted to respect the sovereignty of member states through various means, there have been many others that address issues directly inside the national borders. (For example ‘The 40 Hour Workweek’, ‘Mandatory Recycling’, and the initial ‘Required Basic Healthcare’) In this sense, the NSUN is assuming a role of world government through these resolutions. The debate over the propriety of such resolutions generally rests on where each state draws the line between internationally-accepted standards and national sovereignty.
A democratic legitimacy argument
Most democracies and some constitutional monarchies are based on the concept of popular sovereignty: ultimately, sovereignty is vested in the people, who freely grant the exercise of it to the government. A key element of sovereignty in the legalistic sense is that of exclusivity of jurisdiction. Specifically, when a decision is made by a sovereign entity, it cannot generally be overruled by a higher authority. The NSUN is such a higher authority with the power to overrule any decisions made by bodies inside NSUN member nations. In this sense, the NSUN is inherently anti-democratic in the sense that the legitimacy of its decision-making process is not necessarily based on any sort of representation of the sovereign individuals inside the realm of the member states of the NSUN. In a democratic state, joining the NSUN would ultimately be a democratic choice made by the people. In a non-democratic state, the sovereign individuals might very well not have any say in the matter.
It is argued that NSUN membership is no violation of the principle of popular sovereignty. Some argue that all NSUN decisions implemented in a nation are legitimate simply because the government voluntarily joined the organisation. This essentially makes joining the NSUN a ‘package deal’ in the sense that upon joining the nations are implicitly agreeing with every resolution it has ever made and every resolution that it ever will make, regardless of domnestic support inside a nation regarding that specific decision and regardless of the opinions of the ‘UN people’ as a whole. Indeed, such a ‘love it or leave it’ attitude has been adopted by some nations who are active in the policymaking process. Despite attempts that may be made to gain broad support for a resolution, this is the ultimate fallback position of those defending the “democratic legitimacy” of NSUN decisions. The idea of ‘popular sovereignty’ of the NSUN is not made explicit in such arguments, but it is implied.
This position that the NSUN as a world government derives is democratic legitimisation from the fact that membership is voluntary is criticised by opponents of some NSUN resolutions, however, in that it ignores more advanced democratic concepts then ‘Tyranny by majority’ on an inter-state level. More specifically, it ignores democratic concepts that evolved in a liberal-democratic state. First of all there is the matter of the the protection of minorities. An aspect of Tyranny by Majority is that laws are passed that have only marginal benefits for a majority can have disastrous effects on a minority. In a liberal-democratic state, a constitution protects the rights of individuals and minorities even against the wishes of a majoritry. The NSUN does not have such a safety-valve. Another principle is that democratic legitimisation for a decision ought to be there on the level where the actual decision takes place. While a certain democratic gap in intergovernmental decisions is unavoidable, the parliamentary ratification of treaties provides a safety valve. The NSUN, however, has taken the form of an insitutionalised body of open decision-making that has powers beyond those of most of its member governments.
The divine rights of Kings argument
The Divine Right of Kings... (more to follow)