In Defense of World Governance

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118 Responses

  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    World governance might be desirable, in the abstract sense. It may be possible, in the very long term. But I don’t see it as being anywhere close to possible now, in the short term, in the medium term, or the foreseeable long term. It’s difficult without a much broader degree of integration than occurs, worldwide. and requires a greater commonality of interests. Right now, the world as a whole hasn’t decided on the democracy question. If we haven’t decided on that, I’m not sure what all we can decide on.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      When I grew up, world government was kind of seen as something sort of inevitable. Instead, there are more individual countries now than there were then. We can have world government with more countries, though, odd as that sounds. A lot of things depend on what we mean by “world government”… it would have to be rather confederated, for a long time, while the societies integrate. Of course, two confederated, and countries come and go at their convenience….Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      We could decide that genocide is a bad thing, and actually enforce that. Just a rather optimistic thought.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If you set it up as any counter-argument has to be better than annihilation, then you can get away with defending anything.

    Sterilization of the poor? “Well, is it worse than the destruction of the planet?”
    Re-institutionalized racism? “Well, is it worse than the destruction of the planet?”
    Big Brother? “Well, is it worse than the destruction of the planet?”

    It seems like a not-terribly subtle way to say “Ha! Now the burden of proof is on you and you have to disprove my position rather than me having to defend mine!”

    Now you may object to my saying “no, the burden of proof is still on you”… but are your objections really worse than the destruction of the planet?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      More pertinent to the question at had… would we consent to Chinese rule (for instance) to avoid whatever chance exists for nuclear annihilation? If nuclear annihilation were certain if we didn’t? Of course I would agree to that. Which tells me that either (a) I’m not thinking this through, or (b) I don’t consider nuclear annihilation to be a sufficient likelihood. It would probably take a lot to convince me that it is.

      And likewise, other nations are likely to object to submitting to US or European rule. Those most likely to object are among those most likely to be in conflict with the US and Europe, thereby failing to neutralize the threat of nuclear war. It seems unlikely that we are going to be able to avoid war with Russia by joining with it into a world government. If we could join with it in a world government (of substance), it might actually be indicative that we don’t need to (to avoid nuclear annihilation, anywayReport

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        If other nations were willing to submit to European rule, they’d have accepted their place in the various empires. If European nations were willing to continue having them, which they weren’t after the world wars for complex economic reasons based in no small part on the subject nations’ failure to accept subordinate status within the empires.

        Which is why it looks to me like we can’t get to world government from here. If we’re going to undertake global-scale challenges like a comprehensive reversal-of-climate change strategy, it’s going to have to be done on a treaty basis rather than by way of enforcement of super-national laws.Report

        • That’s why the only form of government that could possibly have international legitimacy would be one based on democratic principles, with representation for all. No one’s submitting to European rule, or Chinese rule.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Representation for all is a tricky concept. Take our debates over the senate and multiply it greatly. Or go strictly by population, and suddenly China and India have an extraordinary amount of influence. Then there’s the wealthy nations versus the unwealthy, and asking the powerful nations to (at least potentially) submit to the will of the less powerful when they’re outvoted…Report

          • Avatar Autolukos says:

            This mostly just restates the problem. Given the prevalent political cultures in the region, I’m not thrilled by the idea of living in a democracy where half the voters are in this circle.Report

            • Avatar Autolukos says:

              I suppose the other problem is that democratic legitimacy is hardly a universal point of agreement at the moment.Report

    • The analogy from when I was growing up was “Better dead than Red”, which was used to justify things like more and bigger nukes, HUAC, and the Vietnamese War. Because anything at all: nuclear annihilation, a police state, or endless war, was better than the completely illusory threat of a communist takeover.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Here’s the logic:

      1. In a multinational world, war between fully autonomous nation-states is inevitable.
      2. Sooner or later warring states will resort to exchange of nuclear weapons.
      3. The deployment of unclear weapons will destroy humanity.

      Each of these assumptions is, in my opinion, possibly true but deeply uncertain. Data exists suggesting that none of these assumptions are true. We can name dozens of states that have not been at war in the past 70 years. No state that has nuclear weapons as deployed them in war during the past 70 years. To date, only one nation has ever used nuclear weapons in actual combat. And, nuclear weapons testing is not functionally different from nuclear weapons deployment in the sense of environmental harm. There have been hundreds of nuclear weapons tests throughout the world, with principally localized and, nuclear weapons testing or certain kinds of power plant malfunctions not functionally different from nuclear weapons deployment in the sense of global environmental harm. There have been hundreds of nuclear weapons tests throughout the world, with mainly localized damage and little direct effect on systemic survivability.


      War is an unquestionably bad thing. It may be worth sacrificing small amounts of national autonomy to substantially reduce the chances of its recurrence.

      Nuclear weapons wreak long-persisting environmental havoc and remain the most potent means in a nation’s arsenal to inflict destruction and death. It is well we place inherent moral weight and steep legal cautions on their use. It may be worth sacrificing small amounts of national autonomy to substantially reduce the chances of their detonation.

      Weaknesses in a treaty-based system of nuclear weapons controls suggests that other problems of global scope, such as climate change, cannot be reliably or sustainably addressed other then buy a single governmental entity with power to enforce its laws over a spectrum of currently autonomous nation-states.other then buy a single governmental entity with power to enforce its laws over a spectrum of currently autonomousReport

      • Avatar Kim says:

        It truly doesn’t take war to cause people to use nuclear weapons.
        If I had to put money on the active use of nuclear weapons in the next 20 years, I know which country is most likely to launch them… and it won’t be at war.

        If I had to put money on the intelligent use of nuclear weapons in the next 50 years, I know which country is most likely to launch them… and it still won’t be at war (though it may declare war moments before they hit).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Oh, I *UNDERSTAND* the logic. I just don’t agree with the shifting of the burden of proof prior to the presentation of a kick-tuchus argument that concludes with “Q.E.D.” when the quod was actually eratedly demonstrandumed.

        I’d rather be able to argue against the problems of the one world government without first having to demonstrate that the problems I’m arguing against are worse than the destruction of the planet.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:


          Burden of proof issues strike me as the least of the worries here. That’s why I wrote the comment below: even if we grant the premise (that the survival of the planet and human race is at stake!) the conclusion (one world gummint) doesn’t follow. Seems to me anyway.

          Nuke acquisition by “defectors” under such a scenario would be incentivized (just as it is now); AI, if it emerges, will result from purely market driven forces which won’t be imnfringed to prevent the possibility of Skynet destroying us; AGW is the paradigm of a collective action problem, but so is One World GUmmint.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            We have self-modifying artificial intelligence now… it’s just still learning.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I’m under the impression that we’ve pretty much solved the nuclear annihilation problem.

            Now, my baseline for “worrying about the bomb” is “The Day After” so my calibration might be off but I don’t see MAD happening anymore.

            The only people who might use a nuke would be non-state actors (terrorists?) who are not nukable in response. (Well, there’s one other region in the world that might use them… but, ironically, they’d be using the justification of “the choice was between using nukes and total annihilation”.)

            As such, I’d see even arguments like “we need to give up our liberty in service to security in the face of Global Climate Change!” as having more grounding than arguments threatening the nuclear apocalypse (or the paperclip one).Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              but I don’t see MAD happening anymore.

              Tell that to Pakistan and India.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Even there, I’m not so sure.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Given the superiority of India’s numbers, and military, MAD seems particularly relevant there.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The solution to the last time was “give everybody too much to lose”. It seems to me that India has waaay too much to lose by putting Pakistan in a situation where they’d say “we’d rather destroy us both than see you win”.

                Pakistan seems to be on an upward path as well (if taking a more drunken path than India).Report

              • We were close to nuclear war because of MAD really, only once (the Cuban Missile Crisis.) We were close many times because of a false alarm that one side or the other had already launched. I suspect that, as many of these as have come to light, there were even more that haven’t. One of the reasons that we’re all still here is that Russia is thousands of miles away, so there was time for cooler heads to prevail. The distance between India and Pakistan is zero.Report

            • It’s pretty myopic to assume that these trends will persist indefinitelyReport

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Will the one-world government persist indefinitely?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Hey, if you don’t like it, move to Mars.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


                Will it be a god-awful small affair for the girl with the mousy hair?Report

              • Avatar Notme says:

                Probably as long as the flat earthers will. Dont forget that with the one world govt we will have to learn esperanto. We really should discuss more relevant things like a memorial day post or if obama will ever develop a strategy to deal with isis.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I think his current strategy of leaving it mostly to the locals who ISIS actually represents a problem for and contributing low footprint bombing and raids on a case by case basis is an excellent one.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I don’t know if it’s an excellent one, but I can’t think of a better one that doesn’t involve a significant troop presence. Recall that ISIS is spread across two countries, one of which is a huge god awful shitty mess, and the other of which is Syria (oh, and Libya, and Lebanon, and…). The logistical footprint alone would be huge, were we to put boots down on the ground.

                The next best alternative would, presumably, be to arm and train locals. We’re doing that to a limited extent in Syria, and we’ve done so in Iraq, but this creates all sorts of messy situations, and it turns out that most of the people we could train and arm in Syria have different goals (they’re more focused on the regime than on ISIS).

                Or we could arm Assad and partner with Iran. I’m sure that would make notme happy. No, you say? Well then.

                For better or worse, the fight against ISIS is going to be drawn out, and they’re going to have time to do a lot of awful things, because there is no good option for getting rid of them quickly. The offensives this summer will give us a good indication of just where we are, I imagine, and how far we can count on the Shia and Kurdish militias, and the Sunnis in the Iraqi army, while not creating a Syria-like mess in Iraq. Syria’s going to be a god awful shitty mess well into the next administration, and perhaps beyond.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yes, in the context of my statement I would define his strategy as “excellent” in that it is the most pragmatic and practical option with the fewest potential downsides out of the various unpalatable options he has to deal with this particular problem.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I would just say that it balances our interest in the outcome there with our expenditure of resources to influence it, discounted by the amount of effect those resourcs are likely to have, best among available strategies.

                The U.S. has an interest in not seeing the region uterly fall to ISIS, but only a limited one. Moreover, short of a massive influx of U.S. resources, what U.S. resources can do to influence the situation is pretty circumscribed. Also, a significant part of the U.S.’ interest in working against ISIS in the region is reputational: it would be a serious black eye internationally for the U.S. to blatantly turn its back on Iraq in the face of a cult like ISIS after itself precipitating the situation, so a token effort is being made. The strategy, more than anything, is one of resource management: don’t overcommit to an uncertain effort whose success depends almost completely on uncertain allies (i.e. the Iraqis themselves: per the SECDEF, there is literally nothing we can do if the Iraqis won’t fight for their country).

                So we offer to fly sorties, field small training and spotting units, and advise the Iraqis to gird themselves to fight once again to pull their country back from the brink of dissolution. What other strategy can there really be that’s not insane?Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              Yeah, localize theatre tactical nukes are still a concern but I’d be very surprised to see a Paki/indo theatre exchange spread to GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Agreed, India and Pakistan are problematic but that can’t destroy the world themselves; just themselves. I see no scenario at all where India and Pakistan hurtling nukes causes the world cracking nuclear powers to start lobbing theirs.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                The issue isn’t India and Pakistan’s nukes, its everyone else’s wants nukes start to fly. If India and Pakistan came to nukes, there would be a moment when the rest of the world hung in the balance, not because either of those countries would launch theirs elsewhere, but because the rest of the world has allegiances that create suspicions and hostilities that can, with one wrong turn, result in global annihilation. See also: Israel.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                For fun, remember that Pakistan is the most politically unstable country with nuclear weapons. Let some Islamic crazies take over…
                There’s no guarantee that it’ll be India they’ll be nuking.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I struggle to imagine Russia lobbing nukes on behalf of either player. I know for a fact the Chinese never would, Pakistan is up-water from them. They don’t want ANY nukes being slung about in their watershed region. I have no doubt that the US would abstain from jumping in to throw nukes (at least as long as Obama is President, maybe Bush Minor would have considered it). Britain’s nukes are on second strike submarines, no launching there. France doesn’t really have a vested interest in the area. I just don’t see those two triggering a conflagration- the nuclear dominoes have a lot of blocks and space between them now. Once upon a time I could very much see it but the cold war is long over and all the powerful nuclear actors have too much to lose.Report

              • Certainly Germany, England, France, Russia, and the US would never go to war just because of an incident in some Balkan backwater.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Mistakes were made and lessons were learned! (kinda)Report

              • Avatar North says:

                We’re not talking war here, we’re talking about launching their fishing nukes on the spur of the fishing moment. Explain to me how even the most slope fore headed politician says “India and Pakistan are turning the subcontinent into radioactive glass… hmm maybe I should lob and ICBM at Moscow”.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Ever the optimist. Perhaps I ought to ask more plainly.
                What happens when Pakistan nukes Israel?
                Russia and China may oppose the West, in general.
                To the point of launching nuclear weapons? Perhaps, particularly if they’re not hitting critical infrastructure…. a limited nuclear war if you will.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Hmm.. absurd but playing along. Pakistan goes out of their goddamn minds and nukes Israel. Most likely Israel’s second strike capabilities then Nuke Pakistan and very likely Iran. They might nuke Mecca and Medina for good measure.

                Then an extremely angry US probably bombs what is left of Pakistan with conventional weapons or sends in Marines and kills every military and political official in Pakistan on sight. The rest of the world is shocked and horrified. But more nukes beyond that? I’m doubtful.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Absurd! Oh, my dear, you haven’t seen absurd… (but do check the seismographs!).

                By that point, you have 30 nuclear weapons used? A large chunk of the middle east too hot to handle?

                (also: if you nuke Mecca and Medina, the Sauds go on the warpath…possibly allied with the Egyptians and definitely with the UAE)Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Other than Pakistan there is no country with nukes. The Saudis and everyone else would probably flip out but they’d not be ending the world and with an angry US snarling around with an ally blasted by a Muslim state I have a feeling the Arabs would get angry very quietly.

                Also I would be fascinated to see what you consider absurd Kimmie.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Here’e my own followup on Jaybird’s criticism:

      1. World gummint wouldn’t solve the problems of nukes because the mere presence of (or attempt to establish) such a gummint would incline defectors to obtain nukes.

      2. AI wouldn’t and in my view couldn’t be contained by a centralized, internationally applicable “AI police”.

      3. A world gummint wouldn’t resolve the problems of AGW either (functionally) but maybe more importantly – on a logical level anyway – is that the existence of a One World Gummint would require overcoming the logic of defecting which prevents real progress on AGW itself. That is, if the logic of collective action undermines AGW treaties, why wouldn’t it undermine a World Gummint Agreement?

      Course, I imagine that the US, under the imagined scenario, would be the dominant voice in establishing the rules of play in such a scenario, yeah? Would Islamistan go along for that ride?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Course, I imagine that the US, under the imagined scenario, would be the dominant voice in establishing the rules of play in such a scenario, yeah? Would Islamistan go along for that ride?

        My thoughts were primarily India and China.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Russia would have their own objections. Also if the world government was adequate to satisfy Europe then the third world nations would by and large be opposed to it.Report

      • 1.) No more so than national government encourage defectors to start hoarding tanks.

        2.) I do not think this, and I’m not even sure I’d want it if it were possible, but I do know the world government prevents the specific failure state of safety being traded for speed in an arms race.

        3.) Not necessarily. People can agree to bind themselves to an impartial arbiter while still not agreeing to any individual cooperative arrangement. The fact that the fishermen can’t agree on how many fish to catch doesn’t mean that they can’t establish a government.Report

  3. Avatar Kim says:

    “I’m guessing they’re going to choose the option where nuclear annihilation is not a going concern.”
    … LOL. Check your seismographs.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I am open to considering this idea. But wouldn’t having an international sovereign tend to encourage an arms race? Also, was Hobbes really right on pre-government? I mean, yes, there are plenty of Hobbesians, but that doesn’t mean he knew what he was talking about. He was using stuff like Thucydides for sources, who is a great writer, but I don’t think Hobbes was doing anything like comparative anthropology to justify his view of humanity.Report

  5. Avatar Kim says:

    OOOH! Can I play too!
    I’ll write a post on how we ought to abolish all corporations, because they might lead to GLOBAL ANNIHILATION! (Seriously, ten steps away… we’re already at bland monoculture. We already have bioweapons that selectively aid particular genetically engineered crops. It’s not too many more steps to open warfare with our food supply. “My bioweapon will kill your crop!”)Report

  6. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    What’s your plan for making sure world government doesn’t turn out to be third-world government?Report

    • I don’t have such a plan. The third world has the most people, they get the most votes. Given the limited power the world federation is permitted, however, I don’t think first world nations have to worry too much. It’s not like it’ll have the authority to implement a global welfare state or anything like that.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        But it will have the power to tax. I don’t think @brandon-berg ‘s concern is trivial at all, given that fact. Perhaps we want to build in a limit to the extent of that power?Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          It’s worth pointing out that we already tried a federation of mostly-independent states that were free to govern their own internal affairs but ceded power over interstate affairs to a central government with limited, enumerated powers. The federal government took over pretty much everything.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Not only is that a fair cop, but there’s every reason to believe that such a government on a global scale with the majority of power concentrated in the third world would expand its own portfolio in a fashion much more rapid and aggressive than the model you’re referring to.

            So as a protection to national autonomy in most affairs, there would need to be either a nation-by-nation veto provision, which would be the same thing as no super-government at all, or explicit provisions for secession, which would tend to lead to the same result.Report

        • Indeed, the original post advocated “some limited power of taxation.” Probably just the authority to levy a sales tax, but I’m no bureaucrat so I don’t know what precise form it should take.

          As for the expansion of federal authority… a sample size of one is pretty small. In any case contra Burt, I think the expansion of federal authority is much less likely in the world case than in the American case. Americans were united by language and culture (mostly). It was only a matter of time before they started thinking of themselves as Americans rather than Virginians. The expansion of the federal government had popular legitimacy because of that. Unless people start thinking of themselves as citizens of the world rather than Americans or Venezuelans, something which I consider pretty unlikely, federal disintegration is a bigger problem than federal expansion.

          Also hopefully we won’t leave around any “General Welfare” or “Interstate Commerce” loopholes for a promiscuous court to drive a truck through.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Why would they not simply vote themselves the power to implement a global welfare state or abolish various liberal policies they dislike? They have the most votes after all.Report

        • The power of the government is constitutionally limited, as I said in the post. I don’t have a specific proposal as to the amendment process, but whatever process we arrive at, it should be designed to prevent that outcome.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            ’cause that “constitutionally limited” gov’t in america has been real restrained and effective ain’t it?Report

  7. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Okay, so having gotten my initial thoughts out of the way, here is my response to the direct proposal at the end:

    With the arguments in favor of it stated, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions. World governance doesn’t mean turning everything into a bland monoculture. It doesn’t mean your patriotism towards your own country will be suppressed by blue-helmet wearing thugs. It doesn’t mean open borders. As empires in the past have attested to, governance structures can work perfectly well while having distinct ethnic or national groups. Moreover, the constitutional authority of a world government could be quite limited. Give them a monopoly on the use of force, a mandate to act in the event of an existential crisis, and some limited authority of taxation, and that’s all you would need. This isn’t the United States, united by culture and language. It’s something weaker than the articles of confederation.

    The Articles of Confederation was a failure, though. It created national responsibilities while retaining too much local sovereignty. And the EU, which is more integrated than you are discussing, isn’t in great shape either. I fear that would the problem with a Confederation of Nations.

    Look at the Ukraine situation. The US is probably not willing to go to war with the Russians over the Ukraine because the Ukraine isn’t “us.” The same probably applies to the EU. But if we were, the chances of annihilation haven’t lessened, they’ve greatened. But Russia would be a part of it and wouldn’t be authorized to invade Ukraine. True! But would they respect that? If we’re willing to go to war over it? Or, with a loose enough confederacy, they can just pull out at their convenience.

    I’m not sure how we get people to commit to a strong enough world government for its determinations to have weight (above and beyond international agreements), and I’m not sure how we can get the sort of weak government that people might (?) agree with to be able to actually avert catastrophe.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      I’m not sure how we get people to commit to a strong enough world government for its determinations to have weight (above and beyond international agreements), and I’m not sure how we can get the sort of weak government that people might (?) agree with to be able to actually avert catastrophe.

      We *already* have a weak world government. It’s called the UN. And it *already* has a legal monopoly on force between nations…it just can’t enforce it.

      Someone wake me when the *actual* countries that illegally invade other countries and aren’t problems in other ways don’t hold veto power over the UN. And, sadly, I’m not just talking about Russia. Or China.

      Governments work like people used to: First you have the strongest people running things, and they make all the rules. They fight at first, but eventually peacefully divide the things between them, as long as they can make sure that *they* can do whatever they want.

      The weaker, but still strongest, people start banding together against the strongest. (The completely powerless people are left out.) This is where we get the EU. Sometimes this actually causes a shift of power and we get new ‘strongest’ people, and maybe some more fighting.

      For the actual *weak* ‘people’ to get power (As opposed to the nobility banding together and demanding more power for *them*), you have to change the paradigm. You have to convince everyone that people have rights. That countries have rights.

      We tried that. The US tried having rules against invading other countries and making war, where it wasn’t legal to do that to even weak countries.

      And then we spent quite a lot time completely ignoring that rule. First via proxy wars, and eventually Bush just decided that the rule was stupid because he wanted to fight in Iraq.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        “And it *already* has a legal monopoly on force between nations…it just can’t enforce it.”

        If it doesn’t have the power to enforce anything, it doesn’t REALLY have any authority or power does it?

        How many divisions does the pope have?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      The Articles were a failure at governing a nation, which influential founders had envisioned for this land, and which in any case was emerging from the several American states at the time irrespective of anyone’s wishes, whereas another structure was it was amazingly quickly realized, a better choice for governing this nation.

      The EU is having trouble IMO largely because it’s a structure that would be better suited (though not perhaps well-suited) to governing a nation (a more politically and culturally diverse nation even than America), yet the political community in question is not (yet) a nation, though there certain trends in that direction on the continent.

      I don’t think anyone would be under any illusion that a world federation would ever even ostensibly, even in anyone’s wildest imagination, be governing a world nation. Barring the dissolution of nations entirely, I think the only plausible structure for world government would be a confederation of nations. That doesn’t mean the enterprise would have a successful fate. But IMO if it did not it would be because of the basic impossibility of getting the sovereign states of this world to submit to actual world government, even in confederate form. To me that would be a fundamental political problem, not a problem that was a result of a wrongly chosen structure.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        But IMO if it did not it would be because of the basic impossibility of getting the sovereign states of this world to submit to actual world government, even in confederate form. To me that would be a fundamental political problem, not a problem that was a result of a wrongly chosen structure.

        I don’t think the two are really separable. The fundamental political problem is what a chosen structure needs to accomplish, and nowhere on the spectrum do I see a structure that can accomplish that. Can the CoN compel nations to join and submit to its decisions, or can’t it? That’s not just a political question, but a structure question. If so, then we’re talking more about a true world government but one that is not politically attainable. If not, then we’re talking about what we have now, more or less.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          The fundamental political problem is what a chosen structure needs to accomplish, and nowhere on the spectrum do I see a structure that can accomplish that.

          Right, that’s what I’m saying. Because you addressed the past problems of the confederal structure specifically, I thought you were making the argument that it would be the structure that would be unequal to the task, but that you weren’t sure if another structure might be equal to it – not that it’s a fundamentally infeasible task regardless of structure.

          But you were saying what you say there, so we agree.Report

    • Well, the proposal is stronger than the Articles of Confederation in one respect, and that’s the power of taxation. Which I understand was the main problem with the AoC; the federal government was literally dependent on voluntary donations from states in order to function. This led to some obvious free rider problems.

      As for the Russian and Ukranian example, I can only say that in the hypothetical they already would have dismantled their militaries severally. The hope being that they ultimately realize that international anarchy is in no one’s long-term interests. I don’t have any better idea than you of how we get from here to there – but I do know that we’ll never get there while world government is considered a crackpot idea with little support in the developed world.Report

  8. Avatar DavidTC says:

    Avoiding the world government question for now, there’s very little reason we can’t stop our nuclear arms race.

    Just…stop. Period. Unilaterally. Start taking them apart, without demanding anything from anyone else.

    As long as we have at least a dozen nukes, no country is going to actually risk nuking us.(1)

    In fact, I’m unsure why either Russia or China would nuke us even if we had *no* nukes and couldn’t respond (It would pretty much destroy the economy of the entire planet), but let’s do this in stages.

    The biggest danger of nuclear weapons is that non-state actors will get a hold of them, and yet we built more of them despite the fact that having more of them is not only not able to stop that threat, but is *contributing* to that treat.

    Nuclear weapons haven’t been justified since the 80s. Hell, they weren’t even justified then…the only reason we had them then was because various countries kept playing ‘we are crazier than you’ chicken with each other.

    1) Before anyone says ‘We need overkill so we can respond, because of hypothetical missile shields’, I have to point out that we actually have *stealth bombers*. And submarines with nukes that, if we’re at war, can force their ways to coastal cities and launch nuclear weapons that will go *straight up* to a detonation location.

    ICBMs are possibly the *dumbest* way to conduct a nuclear war.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      no SANE country, you mean. Bearing in mind that mental illness is a survival trait among certain political classes…Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “ICBMs are possibly the *dumbest* way to conduct a nuclear war.”

      So, let’s say I’ve got stealth bombers, and I hate you. Have I sent a stealth bomber to attack you? Right now?

      Oh, “no of course not”? How do you know that’s true? After all, you can’t see them coming (that’s the whole point of stealth bombers, after all.)

      So maybe I’m sending a bomber. Maybe I’ve already done it. Maybe the bombs are already falling and you’re a dead man reading. Defenses won’t help, my stealth bombers are too good–and both of us know it.

      How do you guarantee that won’t happen? Well, maybe you just hope that I’m a nice guy who won’t bomb you.

      Or maybe you build your *own* bombers and kill me *first*.

      Note that this isn’t some Oh That DensityDuck, He’s A Card thing. It’s actually the only thing that works, and that’s a mathematically-provable statement under game theory.


      Or maybe you and I sign a treaty saying that our only house-bomber weapons will be easy to see coming, take a while to arrive, and be impossible to stop. So that we both *know* whether there’s an attack coming, and we both *know* that there will be time to retaliate in kind. And so we don’t *need* to launch preemptive attacks.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Erm, I’m pretty sure you just demonstrated that the world would be safer if stealth bombers *didn’t exist*, not that they aren’t a better way to operate a nuclear war if they *do* exist.

        As they do, in fact, actually exist, your point is a bit moot. (And if we’re wishing for hypotheticals, let’s try wishing for a world without nuclear weapons, period.)

        Or maybe you and I sign a treaty saying that our only house-bomber weapons will be easy to see coming, take a while to arrive, and be impossible to stop. So that we both *know* whether there’s an attack coming, and we both *know* that there will be time to retaliate in kind. And so we don’t *need* to launch preemptive attacks.

        Oh, yes, those hypothetical treaties that only let us use ICBMs and not stealth bombers to nuke someone. I’m sure those would work. Why, if we were to nuke a country the wrong way, they could launch some trade sanctions against us and get us back on track!

        Strictly speaking, and this has been pointed out by various people before, possessing and aiming nuclear weapons at cities (Which is where all ICBMs are aimed) is, technically, a war crime. Specifically, it’s planning and threatening to deliberately kill civilians.

        It’s exactly as legal as if, having captured a city, the enemy commander pulls a gun on a civilian and threatens to kill him if the enemy attacks…aka, it’s completely and utterly illegal. You *cannot* blow up cities. You cannot even threaten that. The fact it’s been done several times in war doesn’t make it more legal.

        So, in fact, it’s ICBMs that are an *existing* treaty violation. Already. Right now. In violation of the Geneva conventions. They have basically no legal purpose in war, they are much too powerful, and too slow to plausibly be used against military units found out by themselves. Targeted nuclear bombs *might* be legal, but not ICBMs. (Maybe you could hit Area 51 with an ICBM, that might be legal.)

        Of course, it’s pretty clear at this point that we don’t actually *mean* anything by those treaties we sign about war. I mean, just threatening and planning to kill civilians (Without actually doing so) pales in comparison to waging a war of aggression and torture.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “I’m pretty sure you just demonstrated that the world would be safer if stealth bombers *didn’t exist*”

          You’re right! There’s a *reason* their existence wasn’t publicly announced until 1988 (and why there were extensive discussions about whether to announce it at all.)

          “It’s exactly as legal as if, having captured a city, the enemy commander pulls a gun on a civilian and threatens to kill him if the enemy attacks”

          Except nobody’s captured any cities. And both sides are holding civilian hostages and threatening to kill them. So, um, who’s the bad guy, again?

          “You *cannot* blow up cities. You cannot even threaten that.”

          I…guess that the Allied powers were way worse war criminals than Hitler, then, because German troops only blew up a couple of cities (and then only because they were actively fighting in them) whereas the Allied powers incinerated a number of places (it was a particularly favored tactic in the Japanese theater).

          Congratulations, you’ve just argued that Hitler wasn’t so bad really. Maybe you want to go back around and try that one again?Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            Except nobody’s captured any cities. And both sides are holding civilian hostages and threatening to kill them. So, um, who’s the bad guy, again?

            Is this is a trick question?

            *Both sides*. Both sides are the bad guy.

            You can tell because they’re holding civilians hostage.

            I…guess that the Allied powers were way worse war criminals than Hitler, then, because German troops only blew up a couple of cities (and then only because they were actively fighting in them) whereas the Allied powers incinerated a number of places (it was a particularly favored tactic in the Japanese theater).

            I’m pretty certain that I didn’t mention anything about where ‘genocide’ was morally vs. ‘destroying cities’.

            Hint: Genocide is *also* killing civilians, so would also be under my condemnation of ‘killing civilians’…except it’s done in a far more deliberate and cold-blooded manner, for eviler purposes, so is, uh, worse.

            This does not mean incinerating places *wasn’t* a war crime.

            Congratulations, you’ve just argued that Hitler wasn’t so bad really. Maybe you want to go back around and try that one again?

            No, I’m pretty certain you just tried to argue that war crimes aren’t that bad because Hitler was worse!Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              Just a suggestion for both @densityduck and @davidtc :

              If one dispenses with the argumentum ad Hitlerum, one’s remaining argument will tend to be stronger than it was when it included the argumentum ad Hitlerum. Argumenta ad Hitleria rarely, if ever, persuade at all, much less serve as the trump cards whose positions they hold.

              Admittedly, this is a closer case in that the back-and-forth included an assessment of Hitler as an object of comparison, but entirely typically, the invocation of Hitler brings more heat than light to the discussion.

              Just a thought.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                lol. Complaining about Hitler arguments is the new Hitler argument.

                “*Both sides*. Both sides are the bad guy.”

                So you’ve got this idea, here, that threatening civilian populations means you’re the Worst Person.

                How do you stop someone threatening *your* civilian population?

                Keep in mind that building defenses encourages proliferation.Report

              • Avatar Notme says:

                Easy answer is that you threaten their civilian population. It is called mutual assured destruction. See too easy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                How do you stop someone threatening *your* civilian population?

                By flooding rice fields?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Not all defenses encourage proliferation of large amounts of weapons.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                So you’ve got this idea, here, that threatening civilian populations means you’re the Worst Person.

                No, I have this idea that threatening civilian populations is a *war crime*.

                Which is it. Really. It really is.

                You’re the person who just decided to *invent* comparisons to other people who commit war crimes and pretend I had said the war crime of threatening civilian populations were worse than the war crime of genocide, when obviously the second is worse. That doesn’t make the first *not* a war crime, though.

                I basically said ‘That woman just stole a car, which is a felony.’, and you were like ‘A felony? So in your eyes, she’s worse than John Wayne Gacy!’, which not only doesn’t even make sense (At most I would be trying to call her *the same* as Gacy), but isn’t what I said at all.

                You don’t like the idea that the US is committing war crimes, well, you’ve got two choices…either rewind a century of progress on how to conduct war so you can define what the US does as ‘not a war crime’, *or* get them to stop having ICBMs. (Also, probably want to do something about the *other* war crimes we’ve committed recently, like, uh, inventing new categories of prisoners so we can torture them, and invading a country for no actual reason.)

                How do you stop someone threatening *your* civilian population?

                The same way a rational person responds to bank robbers taking hostages…find their hometown, plant enough explosives to blow *that* off the map if they kill their hostages.

                Or like how the police fight crime…we put one of their people in the hospital, they put one of ours in the morgue.

                Wait, no.

                Here’s the important fact of war crimes: There is basically no ability to claim ‘self-defense’ or ‘necessity’. That’s just how they work. You can’t commit them just because the other guys does it too.

                You can kill civilians incidentally and/or accidentally, but you must make the effort to avoid it. In fact, you’re not even allowed to target civilian-only *infrastructure*, because it turns out doing that results in the death of civilians…modern societies need their infrastructure or people start dying.

                Starting 100 years ago, and finalizing 70 years ago, the world decided that good reasons just…don’t count. You can’t justify most war crimes at all, in any manner. You can’t do them because you have a ‘good reason’. You can’t do them even if your country will be destroyed otherwise.

                Why? Because *THERE IS ALWAYS A GOOD REASON* people can come up with.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                If one dispenses with the argumentum ad Hitlerum, one’s remaining argument will tend to be stronger than it was when it included the argumentum ad Hitlerum. Argumenta ad Hitleria rarely, if ever, persuade at all, much less serve as the trump cards whose positions they hold.

                Man, I’m not the one arguing that. I, quite correctly, called something a war crime, which is factually is under international treaty. DD is just pretending to think that means I said it was worst than Hitler.Report

  9. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am going to agree with Will here but for different reasons. World government might be great in the abstract but it fails in the reality and of trying to piece everything together. Some thoughts and concerns:

    1. Most of the people you mentioned above are from the West. Furthermore, many of them are from what could be called the modern civil-liberties and secular oriented liberal-left of the spectrum. There are still lots of places in the world that are extremely conservative and reject the views of secular liberals and leftists when it comes to separation of church and state, LGBT rights, or civil liberties at all. Even nations with strong traditions of civil liberties differ greatly on those issues. The U.S. has much stronger free speech rights than many European nations. Also stronger gun rights. Europe has much more liberal attitudes on abortion though. How are you going to merge all these attitudes?

    2. The same applies to the Welfare State? A good chunk of the U.S. is still opposed to any form of the Welfare State. How are you going to meld this with Europe and Canada?

    3. What about movement? How are you going to flatten the economy and make sure we don’t have a world where everyone or almost everyone wants to live in Western countries with developed economies.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Saul, to be fair, he’s not talking about open borders or melding immigration. He doesn’t seem to be talking about enforcing civil rights, either. He’s mostly concerned with use of military force and the solving of collective action problems like climate change.

      There are some questions on the latter, part, about how decisions would be made (who would be making them).Report

    • 1.) There’s no need to merge them because the world federal government doesn’t have the constitutional authority to interfere with them. Again, we’re talking 1.) monopoly on the legitimate use of force, 2.) authority of taxation, and 3.) mandate to act in the face of existential threats. That’s it. There’s no reason for the global federal government to poke its nose into Ireland’s internal politics.

      2.) Ditto. America will keep its welfare state, Europe will keep its.

      3.) Open borders aren’t a prerequisite for world federalism, either.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, if we can be reasonably certain that the government won’t exceed it’s constitutional authority…Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        The authority of taxation is directly related to internal politics. Your ability to authorize and raise taxes is directly related to your ability to have a welfare state. So there is going to be a lot of resentment if developing nations raise taxes on North America and Europe and the money just goes to those nations.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    I agree with Will. There are some foundational problems that have bedeviled the United Nations (our last and ongoing attempt at World Government). I think they can be basically summarized:
    -Global quality of government is too unequal. A large part of the world is governed by relatively non-corrupt responsible government. Another large part of the world languishes under non-responsible and/or enormously corrupt governments. The former would never be willing to be governed (even partially) by the latter and the latter would surrender to a government that was acceptable to the former only by force of arms.
    -Global economics are too unequal. First world economies are primarily focused on environmental and humanitarian issues (after national interest of course) while developing world economies are focused foremost on economic development (which brings with it as a salutary side effect humanitarian benefits). The former would balk at the redistribution necessary to make the latter accept environmental and humanitarian regulation. The latter would (understandably) fight against that same regulation unless they were given redistribution sufficient to compensate for their lost development opportunities.
    -Nation states imperfectly reflect human cultural groupings. If you institute a Global Government powerful enough to arbitrarily break up nations into new nations, well that’s more powerful than you propose and more powerful than most nations would accept. If you don’t, however, then the Global Government tends to seal the existing nation states in amber which presents serious concerns where you have nation states that are the legacy of past historical errors that lumped too many people into too few nations (See most of Africa, most of the Middle east, significant chunks of Asia and the uncomfortable legacy of the nations of North America).

    Frankly I think a call for global government is somewhat superfluous. We have a trans national organization: the UN. If globalization and free trade continue close the gap between the developing world and the developed one and if the imperfect wobbling trend of liberalization continues on it’s way then eventually the problems I identify will sort themselves out and our existing Trans-national government will function more effectively. Absent those developments I am dubious that any new global government would have much more success than the UN has.Report

  11. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Besides from what everybody else said, I’m also going to note that world government suffers from problems of scale. Forming a responsible, democratic government for seven billion people is going to be a herculean task. One of the biggest problems in structuring a democracy is the size of the legislature. If the legislature is too small than it is unrepresentative but if it is too big than it becomes a rubber stamp of the executive like the old communist countries. Its why very populous democracies that cover large geographic areas like the United States, Brazil, India, and Indonesia often have legislatures that seem lack luster compared to small and medium seized democracies in out put. A world government is going to need a legislature that is representative and responsible for billions of people. Getting the number right but avoiding a rubber stamp legislature is not going to be easy. The judicial power is going to be difficult to formulate.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      You’re starting to sound Hayekian, Lee. 🙂Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Possibly, I always had a fond spot for the late Hapsburg monarchy and that was the milieu where Hayek grew up in. I think the problems of scale, world government, and democracy should be so bindingly obvious that I often stagger when many people on my side display on mid-20th century love of the United Nations. Its one of my least favorite parts of my political tribe.

        I also think you can take the Hayekian criticism of government responsiveness and apply it to business. A small or limited business with a limited but decent customer base is going to be more responsive to its customers than a large business with a big customer base, who can afford to screw over a pissed off customer more. I just think that the economy of scale would lead to large businesses dominating the economy. Making sure that businesses do not get to big and countering their influence is an important task of government.Report

    • This is absolutely correct, which is why the power of the world state should be as minimal as it possibly can while still protecting against existential threats.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        You can’t protect against existential threats with minimal power. Climate change is potentially the biggest existential threat humans face currently. What we know is that the current minimal power of the United Nations isn’t enough to get people to even pay lip service of an existential threat. Doing something meaningful about climate change is going to require some rather radical life style changes to the meat eating, car driving suburban lifestyle popular in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It will require denser and less car-oriented settlement patterns and less meat eating. Look at the mini-uproar you get by even suggesting more density and transit usage in the United States would be a good thing.Report

        • Avatar Paul says:

          The alternative to major lifestyle changes would be geo-engineering, which theoretically could be within the reach of major nations even now for things like oceanic iron fertilization. The consequences and responsibility for costs and side effects would still pose a collective action problem of course.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    I can only say, before you find these objections sufficient, that they have a very, very high bar to clear. In order for establishing world governance to not be a good idea, each of these objections, individually or collectively, has to be worse than the annihilation of the human species.

    I plan on using this for every claim I make ever.Report

    • Except that in this case world annihilation really is on the table.

      If the worst thing you can say about an argument is that it’s so strong that it breaks breaks the norms of discourse, well…Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Well, no it’s not really. I mean, it is in the sense that it always is, but you haven’t laid it on the table in a way that makes your position depend on it. You haven’t really even offered a way to take it off the table in the sense that it always is on the table, except in a most abstract and not at all actionable much less intellectually defensible way.

        Here, we’ll do it like this: put me in charge of everything. I’ll get rid of the nukes altogether, I will build a military fiercely loyal to me and therefore impenetrable to corruption, I will take immediate and aggressive steps to counter climate change, and I will treat all people fairly and equally. You don’t like this idea? Well, any objections you have must be worse than the annihilation of the species, which my plan prevents.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I see that no one has produced an argument against me being world dictator for life. We should probably start taking steps to make this happen.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Well, as absolute global dictators go, we could do a lot worse than @chris . So as long as we’re losing our political autonomy… Also, I suspect that I personally have the potential to benefit from my proximity to the new Supreme Leader; I was contemplating indicating that I could well serve the Global Domitiate of Chris as a judicial expounder upon the manifold benefits as well as the logical necessity of the doctrine of sovereign immunity. 😉Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Burt, as I recall, I’ve defended some of Chris’s more contentious claims here at the LoOG. Or, rather, not contentious, of course, perfectly reasonable claims actually. Just opposed by folks who haven’t understood ’em, poor souls. I’ve helped spread the Good News that is the word of Chris.

              I don’t ask for anything in return for support that came early and often. Tho, I have had my eye on Chaffee County, CO recently as a place in serious need of political leadership and a very large new home….Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Kidding add will get you no… Oh who am I kidding? It’ll probably get you your own continent.Report

            • Avatar Road Scholar says:

              Can I be Transportation Secretary? Purty please?Report

          • I see that no one has produced an argument against me being world dictator for life.

            You’re a Braves fan. Enough said.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Oh, please! World annihilation is on the table in So Many ways! And with so many means!Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I discussed a similar concept with regards to people who steadfastly support the right to bear arms but who also strongly oppose other nations holding nuclear weapons. It seemed to be inconsistent application of a principle.

    This reminds me of that. In theory, I agree with you. Though I think the devil is in the details, both in terms of what this looks like (what would the world government organization have authority over and what would it not?) and how we get there.

    To connect the two ideas, the people who seem most critical of what was happening in Baltimore overlaps heavily with the people who most strongly advocate for military intervention internationally. They want the people of Baltimore to work within the system (because that system tends to empower them) but they do not want to create a system for them to work within when it comes to Iran (because that system would likely disempower them).

    So when judging people’s response to this plan, my first question would be this: Are they the types of folk who are going to gain or lose power if we follow it through? Track that answer to people’s support or opposition to it and I think we’ll have some very interesting correlations (in both directions).Report

  14. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    There is world governance. It may not go as far as you want it to or have enough power to eclipse sovereign nations’ governments so as to be a world government. But institutions of world governance abound. There are even institutions of world governance that are on the cases of avoiding global nuclear holocaust and the destruction of the biosphere by the destabilization of the climate! Global governance is addressing those things!

    No, this isn’t a global government. We may give up certain advantages for that fact, though in my view we avert far more headaches for it (besides it just being a moot point, as there is no viable political path to world government from where we are now). But to say that it’s global government or the highway because without global government, no global governance on issues of nuclear annihilation or climate change, and thus very likely armageddon, is simply a falsehood. There is global governance on those issues. It works (not perfectly) in concert with the system of national governments we have in place, whose relations among each other, by the way, are also regulated under systems of global governance. This governance has significant effect for good (mostly by averting harm) on the real world.

    It’s your burden to show why the global governance that we do have is so insufficient to the task of averting catastrophe that we have to start breaking our heads against the wall (again) trying to find a path from national government to global government that doesn’t exist.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      …And, not just why existing global governance is so insufficient, but why global government would be more effective.

      I think a case could be made for the former on the cliamte change issue. So say we get ourselves a global “government” that tries to institute a global carbon tax. What happens when pretty much every country says, ever so diplomatically, effectively, “Yeah. No thanks.” The global government tries to collect the tax? With whom? Where? Under what consequences?

      There won’t be a global government. But we can work to always enhance global governance.Report

  15. Avatar zic says:

    I think it depends on what you mean by government; but I think we already have a world government to some degree. I don’t think we’ll get to something more organized quickly unless there’s some perceived threat that demands it. Say a space invasion or severe weather disruption or world plague.

    And a lot of the stuff that might trigger that has the potential to trigger the opposite — diminishing populations to the point that humans aren’t global as they are today, and our social structures focus more inward, and our governments look more like the 1500’s and earlier.

    So my money’s on space aliens, and the need to talk to them with a single voice. And those space aliens could be ourselves, rapidly changed into something else; dogs to our wolves, so to speak. Or the other way around.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      That’s plausible and I agree that most likely it’ll be us we’re talking to. But first, of course, we need to reliably escape the Terran gravity well and that is no small feat.Report

  16. Avatar LWA says:

    I think @michael-drew is on target here, that even now, sovereignty of nations is not absolute, and is riddled with a lot of international treaties that provide some degree of control and leverage on other nations.

    No, it isn’t yet the power of people to tax across national boundaries, but as we see in the debate over TPP, it is already possible to make and enforce agreements across boundaries, and may be possibly sue for grievances.

    I believe a lot of the benefits of world governance can be achieved without an outright world government, just by continuing a path of regularizing and standardizing notions of justice which can then be enforced civilly.Report

  17. Avatar j r says:

    Police keep people from murdering each other, through the criminal justice system.

    This sentence right here reveals the heart of my problem with this proposal. I suppose that it is an accurate enough statement, but it omits so much that it becomes fairly meaningless. Yes, police are one of the things that can keep people from murdering each other, but it is not the only thing and it is far from the main thing.

    You know what else keeps people from murdering each other? The fact that people are overwhelmingly not murderers and tend to have a natural aversion to violence. Even among habitual criminals, the percentage of people who can reliably be expected to wield deadly force is incredibly small. This is why, when people join the military or other organizations that are expected to deploy violence in the service of some larger objective, recruits essentially have to be de-programmed; they have to be trained to lose their natural aversion to violent confrontations and learn to dehumanize the enemy.

    Yes, there are plenty of cases of people who are not normally violent rising to the occasion of murder, because of some specific set of circumstances – otherwise known as the heat of the moment, but since cops cannot be everywhere at all times, the chances of law enforcement stopping such incidents becomes a matter of luck.

    How many people here think that the key reason why the murder rate in places like Chicago and Baltimore is higher than other places is because there are not enough police wielding force on behalf of the state?Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      The same thing applies to nations. Nations have to be *convinced* into war. Or, more specifically, the people of a country have to.

      And there are basically two reasons anyone bothers to convince people into war: 1) The government is unstable and needs an external enemy, or 2) for some *profit-making* purpose.

      The first is hard to figure out how to deal with. No solutions here, because most solutions involve making those countries more stable…but the problem is that a lot of countries are *correctly* unstable because they are not operating how their citizens want them to operate. Propping them up just delays the inevitable.

      The second actually has two versions:
      2a) Some for-profit company has decided that a resource in another country would be good for them to have. Aka, half the stuff we’ve done in Central America.

      2b) The military-industrial complex *itself* is trying to make profits from wars. At least (2a) tended to be aimed at a specific goal, and thus can actually be stopped by someone pausing and asking questions about that. Worst case, we get *one* war.

      But if the profit-making is fighting a war *itself*, it’s pretty easy for an entire industry to war-monger against country after country. Likewise, it’s in their best interest to *make enemies*. It’s even in their best interests to *arm enemies*. The more people shooting at our soldiers, the more money they make.

      And with the amount of money involved, they could even buy enough politicians that they end up with bi-partisan support for this sort of criminally insane behavior. *cough*

      None of this appears to be solvable via world government. With (1), the ‘external enemy’ to fight will become the entire world, which is, incidentally, exactly how North Korea works already. With (2b), the harder the war is, the *more money* the warmongers make. The only thing that might get deterred is (2a), because it’s less likely to work…OTOH, it’s not *their* money the company is spending on the war. They’re just running some PR and lobbying to get *other people* to war.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah, excellent point.

      You also have to ignore the sheer number of innocent people who are killed by the police. (“Innocent of what?” “Well, how’s this? People you’d agree wouldn’t deserve the death penalty for their offense even if you were a staunch supporter of the death penalty.”)Report

  18. I would draw a distinction between “governance” and “government.” As @zic (here)and @north (here, in the last paragraph of that comment) seem to suggest, there’s already plenty of something, or somethings, that we can call “governance.” In theory, a nation state can enter into a state of war whenever. In practice, it cannot always do so without some push back if by doing so it violates some sort of international norms.

    Who makes the norms? Who enforces them and how effectively? Why and in whose interests? Hard to say. Maybe the answers just make for a more sophisticated version of the “Hobbesian” state the OP describes. But I do detect something like “governance” in the multitude of formal governance structures like the UN and EU and the quasi-military alliances like NATO, and the quasi-imperialistic alliances like the OAS. I detect governance in the existence of regional hegemons that seem have a vested interest in retaining a certain amount of order and peace. I also detect governance in the treaties and international law norms, and even in multinational corporations that in some ways must abide by the rules of the places where they do business and in other ways go their own way. And I detect governance in missionary efforts and charitable efforts like doctors without borders or US-sponsored efforts to slow the spread of ebola.

    Before I start sounding like a Thomas Friedman caricature, there’s a lot to decry in the way the governance I “detect” operates. Many of those things operate through force or the threat of force, or are so value-laden that they can be oppressive in their operation. And of course, there isn’t one claimant to the monopoly of force, so there’s no single “sovereign” government. And we do have wars and threats of war. If a new sovereign government attempts to bring about order, how many of those strands of governance will it have to destroy or standardize or bring under its control in order to do so effectively? I think too many, at least in any plausible scenario, and none of the scenarios, I find, are all that plausible.Report