Human Freedom and the Earth Constitution

Glen T. Martin

Presentation at the World Intellectual Forum Summit  (Hyderabad, India, December 13-15, 2017)

Human freedom lies at the very heart of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. At the very beginning of the Constitution, Article 1.2 declares that the second “broad function” of the Earth Federation is “to protect universal human rights, including life, liberty, security, democracy, and equal opportunities in life.” This broad function of the Earth Federation Government weaves throughout the Constitution. It is fundamental to the operations of the World Police, the World Ombudsmus, the two bills of rights that comprise Articles 12 and 13, and many other articles. Perhaps for the first time in history, human beings really mean “all” when they say “all” (Adler 1991: 90). Everybody on Earth has equal rights to “life, liberty, security, democracy and equal opportunities in life.” The advance to such universality, might be considered the very meaning of human civilization.

The fundamental text of the Constitution was written in 1972 by five primary authors, all experts in law, political science, and international affairs (Martin 2010: 22). It was finalized and declared ready for ratification at the Fourth Constituent Assembly in Troia, Portugal in 1991. In 1963, Pope John XXIII had published Pacem in Terris, affirming very similar principles in which he asserts that the moral order demands a global public authority (sect. 137), based on the truth that: “human society thrives on freedom, namely, on the use of means which are consistent with the dignity of its individual members, who, being endowed with reason, assume responsibility for their actions” (sect. 35).

In his book Development as Freedom, global thinker Amartya Sen distinguishes “freedom as process” from “freedom as capability” or opportunity.  Freedom is concerned with both “processes of decision making” as well as “opportunities to achieve valued outcomes” (1999: 291). If social conditions are such that people can achieve valued outcomes that are largely independent of their income level (for example, working at meaningful and satisfying jobs), then they can be said to be substantially freer than if they simply have a high income. The Earth Constitution assures “to each child the right to full realization of his or her potential” (13.12). Liberty means both the intrinsic value of “each” and the fundamental equality of “all,” within the framework of a democratic community directed toward these ends.

Freedom, therefore, becomes another dimension of human life available for self-transcendence through the collective action of society. A philosophy of “negative freedom,” like that of Michael Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), ignores the capacity of human beings to move to a higher level of freedom through cooperative arrangements, rather than negative and competitive arrangements. Social arrangements that allow for education and development of individual talents and capabilities are essential here. Many thinkers from Hegel to T.H. Green to Earnest Barker to Errol E. Harris have elaborated the concept of “positive freedom” as essential to decent, democratic government (see Martin 2016).

Positive freedom means a social-political-economic framework that enhances human life and growth through a society of cooperate empowerment. In this conception, freedom is not seen as a struggle against the interference of government, but a condition of enhancement and enabling that arises when society functions as a true community, with the vast majority respecting and appreciating the matrix of conditions that empowers all their legitimate life-projects, what Amartya Sen calls “freedom as capability or opportunity.”

The key to the liberating potential of positive freedom is a matrix of conditions that establish good government from multiple, intersecting angles. How does the World Parliament interact with the World Judiciary, World Police, and World Ombudsmus?  What are the roles of the seven agencies with the Integrative Complex designed by the Earth Constitution in coordinating and empowering all the functions of planetary democracy?  Philosopher Alan Gewirth elaborates human rights in terms of two broad categories: the rights to freedom and the rights to well-being (1982: 3). Freedom in the sense of the liberty to successfully pursue goals in life requires not only political liberties, but also the “well-being” provided by healthcare, social security, safe working conditions, basic necessities, etc. These two categories of rights correspond to the rights listed in Articles 12 and 13 of the Earth Constitution, which amounts to a conception of positive freedom empowering people through the most fundamental arrangements of society.

There have been many criticisms of democracy by conservative thinkers during the 20th century. These include the criticisms of Carl Schmitt, the professor of law who was advisor to the Nazi regime in Germany, who declared that democracy lacked the capacity to act decisively. They include those of Joseph Schumpeter, a colleague of Schmitt, who believed that wealthy entrepreneurs, willing to take risks, should have the freedom to operate economically with very little interference by the state. These critics also include US philosopher, Leo Strauss, influenced by Schmitt and Schumpeter.  Followers of Strauss have glorified war, praised “manly” virtues such as bravery and sacrifice for country, as well as the supposed virtues of authoritarian governments that claim to know what is best for their subject populations (see Harris 2008).

Such critics have pointed out the many failures of what is taken as democracy in the modern world, such as the fickleness of voters, the poor criteria on which many voters make their decisions, the rejection of the use of reason by proponents of religions or ideologies, manipulation by the mass media, and the paralysis of democratic bureaucracies in the face of crises. However, their proposed remedies inevitably take us backward in history: Schmitt proposes dictatorship to break the impasse of democracy, Schumpeter proposes a free-wheeling capitalism like that which ravaged the lives of so many workers in the early part of the 20th century, and Strauss advocates more authoritarian forms that preserve the old virtues like courage and honor.

In doing this, they miss the individual and collective dynamic of human self-transcendence. Human beings are fundamentally temporal creatures, structured to envision and pursue a future that transcends the past. As philosopher Martin Heidegger (1962) and many others have pointed out, a human being lives temporally within a dynamic present continuously integrating her relationships between a remembered past and a projected future. The past is completed. It is “already,” but is subject to an on-going reinterpretation of the meaning and coherence of its events. The future is “not yet,” and is similarly subject to an on-going reinterpretation of its relation to past and present. Our envisioned future expects to be better than the past. We pursue the good in relation to a past and present that need improvement and transformation.

A human person lives in relationships with other persons and within an infinite number of relationships that ultimately signify the environing universe as a whole. Because the openness to the future and the wholeness of the universe transcend all possible determinant relationships and experience, a human being moves perpetually within a field of transcendence. To be self-aware with regard to this multiplicity of relationships is already to transcend one’s finitude. Human existence is “multidimensional.” It participates in both finitude and infinitude as Paul Ricoeur (1967: 7), Immanuel Levinas (1969), Earl Harris (2000), and others affirm. Both our experience and relationships continually move into a beyond, an “evermore,” that cannot be reduced to any amount of past experiences or relationships (see Kirchhoffer 2013: 178).

Many thinkers have pointed out, therefore, that the temporal structure of both our personal lives and human civilization includes an “eschatological” or “utopian” dimension. Both personally and historically, we are always acting to create a future that is better than the past. Each willed action that I take includes both actual and ideal dimensions, because each willed action is not only a fact of my life but pursues some good that transcends the facts in pursuit of its ideal.

My small actions that I take each day may also be part of a larger life-project in which I seek ever-greater satisfaction, happiness, truth, or love. I strive to be a just or loving person precisely because this ideal transcends what I am in the living present in accordance with these higher, future possibilities. I may also categorize even the simple act of self-maintenance under a larger ideal that it serves, perhaps as part of serving my family, or community, or God. I may orient my life to serving humanity perhaps because I sense the transcendent value of humanity, or wish to obey the commands of God, or want to ease human suffering. In each case, my concrete willed actions contain both factual and ideal dimensions.

Philosopher David Kirchhoffer (2013) calls this ideal futurity our “eschatological proviso.”  Philosopher Ernst Bloch calls this “our utopian conscience and knowledge” (1970: 91). Philosopher Emanuel Levinas calls this “the eschatological vision”: “The eschatological as the ‘beyond’ of history, draws beings out of the jurisdiction of history and the future; it arouses them in and calls them forth to their full responsibility” (1969: 23). Our responsibility and our deepest ethical conscience are not to regress to authoritarianism, or limitations on the democratic ideal, earlier barbaric forms of capitalism, or nostalgia for lost traditional “virtues.” Our responsibility is self-transcendence—to move to a higher level of human civilization and organization in which the old problems are not so much solved, but dis-solved, since they will no longer appear at the higher level.

That is what the Earth Constitution represents. Ratification of the Constitution will move human beings to a higher level of existence that institutionalizes concepts that today appear merely idealistic such as universal human rights, universal recognition of human dignity, the ending of extreme poverty and economic bondage, the sustainable protection of our planetary environment, and the elimination of war along with the demilitarization of the world.  All these concepts serve as ideals arising from our common temporal existence. We remember a past that violated all these goods within a present that continues to violate them but shows directions we might pursue toward transcending them. The future that we envision, one coherent democratic world under the Earth Constitution, will transform these temporal ideals into future actualities.

The failures of contemporary democracy are not merely “adjusted for” under the Earth Constitution. They are transcended. Today’s worldwide structure of global capitalism and warring nation-states, both of which destroy the potential of democracy, is transcended under the Constitution, and the global community is moved from a “negative” concept of freedom to a truly “positive freedom” built upon a genuinely peaceful, just, and sustainable world system. The promise of Article 1.2 to all persons for “life, liberty, security, democracy, and equal opportunities in life” attains actualization under such a transformed world system. “Liberty, equality, and fraternity,” the three pillars of all classical democratic theory, find their true meaning within this new system. As philosopher Errol E. Harris declares: “Liberty…cannot be realized by some persons while it is withheld from others…. It must be realized by everybody” (1966: 244). It is precisely the democratic universality of the Earth Constitution that allows it to transcend the failings of inadequate, nation-state attempts at democracy.

Social Scientists Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn call this human futurity the drive for a “practical utopia” in which our vision of human possibilities serves as a goal against which “to organize criticism” and “to direct progress.” (2000: 9). Human beings grow and become transformed though this process of temporal self-transcendence. Psychologists and spiritual thinkers, such as Lawrence Kolhberg, Carol Gilligan, and Ken Wilber, describe the process of growth toward maturity as beginning with the egoism of childhood, moving to the “ethnocentric” level of accepting the conventions of our own culture as truth, then growing to the autonomous, mature level of a “worldcentric” vision, (which sees the complementary universality of values and human ideals), and, finally, to higher “integrated” levels of spiritual awakening and insight (Wilber 2007).

By embracing the dignity, equality, freedom, and interdependence of all humanity under the Earth Constitution, we thinkers and visionaries of human liberation encourage and enhance human responsibility for the planet and our collective future. The magnificent bestowing of responsibility to the people of Earth to elect representatives to the House of Peoples, the House of Counsellors, and, indirectly, to the House of Nations, itself lifts humanity to greater levels of freedom, reason, and mature accountability. The Earth Constitution, therefore, is both means and ends. It provides the practical utopian end of rising to a higher level of existence, something human civilization must do if it is to survive much longer on this planet. It also provides the grounds for criticism and directing progress in the present. It shows us the direction, and the means we must embrace, to achieve human liberation.

The embrace of genuine unity in diversity by the Earth Constitution also solidifies a unity that was never fully there previously. Rather, humanity has always been fractured by nation-states, classes, race differences, cultural fragmentation, gender prejudice, and other forms of division. In my book Ascent to Freedom (2008), I defined a human being as “rational freedom oriented toward wholeness.” It is important not to fracture humanity in any way, which would be a profound mistake. This global social contract under the Earth Constitution actualizes our newfound unity. Our unity in diversity as a planetary civilization requires that our diversity affirm itself in and through our political, economic, and civilizational unity. We must actualize the conditions that make genuine unity possible. As Buckminster Fuller (1972) declared, a great human “synergy,” a great leap forward in human creativity and energy, awaits us through this profound identification of our sameness.

The Constitution establishes, for the first time in history, a global public authority representing the common good of all humanity.  That common good is clearly defined in Article 1: ending war and demilitarizing the world, eliminating extreme poverty, protecting universal human rights, and protecting “the environment and the ecological fabric of life.” Our planetary common good, which must be achieved if we expect human survival, is also the ideal posed for us by our capacity for self-transcendence. We seek the means to realize the ideal and find that the means involve ratification of the Earth Constitution, which embodies the ideal and makes possible its actualization for all humanity.

Amartya Sen declares that freedom includes both the “process” of how we make decisions and the “opportunities to achieve valued outcomes,” that is, to actualize the ideals arising from our futurity and capacity for self-transcendence. The Provisional World Parliament has passed World Legislative Acts (WLA) that require training in dialogue directed toward mutual understanding for all legislators in the World Parliament (WLA 57), that encourage active participation of the citizens of the Earth with their representatives around the world within a Global People’s Assembly (WLA 29), and that define a liberating curriculum in freedom and responsibility for educational institutions worldwide (WLA 26). Together with the integrating framework provided by the Earth Constitution, the groundwork is thereby established for genuine human transcendence. The means and the ends interconnect, the empowerment of human freedom in the present by affirming the Earth Constitution, points forward to a more mature and world-centric human freedom within the future Earth Federation.

Works Cited

Bloch, Ernst (1970). Philosophy of the Future.  New York: Herder and Herder

Boswell, Terry and Chase-Dunn, Christopher (2000). The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publisher.

Fuller, R. Buckminster (1970). Operating Manuel for Spaceship Earth. New York: Pocket Books.

Gewirth, Alan (1982). Gewirth, Alan (1982). Human Rights. Essays on Justification and Applications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harris, Errol E. (1966). Annihilation and Utopia: The Principles of International Politics. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Harris, Errol E. (2008). Twenty-First Century Democratic Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Harris, Errol E. (2000). The Restitution of Metaphysics. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.

Heidegger, Martin (1962). Being and Time. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, trans. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Kirchhoffer, David (2013). Human Dignity in Contemporary Ethics, Teneo Press.

Levinas, Emmanuel (1969). Totality and Infinity, Alphonso Lingis, trans., Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Martin, Glen T. (2010). Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.,,

Martin, Glen T. (2016). One World Renaissance: Holisitic Planetary Transformation through a Global Social Contract. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Nozik, Michael (1974). Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Basic Books, 1974.

Ricoeur, Paul (1967). Fallible Man. Charles Kelbley, trans. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company.

Sen, Amartya (1999). Development as Freedom. New York: Random House.

Wilber, Ken (2006). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston: Integral Books.

One thought on “Human Freedom and the Earth Constitution

  1. Responsibility is responding to ones abilities. Most of us have the ability to make the world better thanks to the tool Dr. Martin helped deliver, and that tool is the Earth constitution


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