Tag Archives: world government

Two Cheers for the System of States!

There used to be a time when critics who wanted to abolish the international system abounded. They wanted to replace the anarchic system of states with central direction, often a world government of some kind.

Such critics usually hailed from the Left, ranging from Communists to “world order” proponents, but also included Realists, who sometimes entertained the idea of world government as the only way to secure peace. In the 90s, the idea of a centralized “cosmopolitan democracy” was fashionable for a while.

But now, it seems, this sort of criticism appears to have subsided. The critics have made their peace with the states system.

The probable reason is that the system of states has proven to be a highly flexible and resilient institution. Probably most importantly, as international war has subsided, it has become clear that peace and the states system are entirely compatible.

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Will There Be a World Government?

I am against world government on precautionary grounds – we simply do not know what its actual results would be. We may hope that if we get a world government it will be a good one, but we must expect that it could be a tyranny. Only a minority of currently existing governments are competent, low in corruption, accountable, and constitutional. A world government would be more likely to reflect the inadequacies of the majority of governments.

But, how likely is a world government?

First, it is not necessary. The classic argument for world government is that it is needed to secure world peace, to stop us destroying ourselves. But this is no longer relevant. The world has entered a period in declining war. If world government is not necessary for world peace, then its chances are much diminished.

Second, there is no real trend towards more centralized power on a the world scale. The United Nations is not steadily accumulating more power.

So, world government is not on the horizon. Now, I admit that may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think it is solidly based.

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