Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Case For A World Republic: Bad Idea

The Annals of Government

In an article, "The case for a world republic," in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Ted Daley favourably reviews Laurence Wittner's 2009 book, Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement:
Wittner describes how, in the late 1940s, the movement for world government was every bit a force as the remarkable movements that would follow, like the environmental, civil rights, and women's movements. The "United World Federalists," who aspired "to strengthen the UN into a world government," marshaled 720 chapters and nearly 50,000 members. Its president, Alan Cranston, would become a four-term US senator (as well as a Bulletin contributor and mentor to this author). University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins assembled leading intellectuals and anointed them "The Committee to Frame a World Constitution." The 1947 National Debate Tournament topic for all US high schools was "Resolved: That a federal world government should be established." And theBulletin's June 1947 cover—the first to display the Doomsday Clock—highlighted an article by Harrison Brown (future Bulletin editor-in-chief) titled "The World Government Movement in the United States."
Many of the foremost figures of the day also challenged the assumption that humanity must forever remain armed against itself: Albert Einstein, E.B. White, Dorothy Thompson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Arnold Toynbee, John Steinbeck, Bertrand Russell, Senator J.W. Fulbright, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Also on board at the time were three already-prominent young men with even more prominent futures awaiting them: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. They insisted humankind could govern itself on a global level just as it does on every lower level —through a legislature, an executive, a judiciary, and police to enforce the law.
Such was the fanciful and idealistic thinking when the U.S. was the sole superpower, coming on the heels of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and thus might explain the reason future presidents such as Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan were "on-board," as the article suggested. The world's balance of power changed a couple of years later. When the USSR tested its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949, it joined the nuclear club and deepened the Cold War. 

As for a world republic, I think it's a remarkably bad idea for many reasons. For one, knowing what we know of the U.N. and its inner workings, inefficiencies, corruption and moral failings, it's a good thing that it did not eventually become the framework for a world government. Its problems are both varied and deep. Can anyone really defend the U.N.? It operates so far from its Charter that it has become irrelevant. I shudder to think of all the horrible outcomes that would have taken place if there was a world republic, notably one modeled on the U.N. No, it's a bad idea all around. 

Moreover, no nation would (or should) gladly give up its rights to self-government based on an unproven ideal. More important, there is no need for it, since no sane person or nation wants a nuclear war, and thus far international negotiation, treaties and, if necessary, sanctions have worked. It's far better to work within the existing system of independent and sovereign states. It's a far better idea, one so well-worked out that there is a high degree of confidence that it ensures the continuity of democracy.

You can read the rest of the article at [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]


  1. There are too many powerful hatreds in the world to allow a world republic to function in a just and merciful way. Anti-Semitism is number one.

    1. I agree and I am glad that you raised the issue of anti-Semitism as a reason against the idea of a world republic.


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