Dr. Glen T. Martin
Dept. of Philosophy, Radford University, Radford, VA, 24142, USA
President, International Philosophers for Peace (IPPNO)
25 May 2003
1. Today’s global system of violence. The English word “violence” comes from a Latin root which means “to violate.” The dominant world system today is predicated on the violation of both human life and nature. It is a system of death, not life. It is a system that violates the dignity and integrity of human beings worldwide through forcing twenty percent of the world’s population to live in the horror of what the UN calls “absolute poverty.” This world system revolves around a legal category called “private property” or “capital” that allows the rich to exploit the poor in order to increase their private wealth. The powerful nations who sponsor this world system force the other nations of the world to participate in a global “free market” that eliminates trade restrictions designed to protect local producers and encourage local or regional economies. Economically destitute countries are forced to sell their products on a “global market” and purchase their basic necessities from abroad, even when these basic necessities could be easily provided locally. Economically destitute countries are forced deeper and deeper into “international debt” to lending institutions located in first world countries who then dictate the internal economic, environmental and social policy of the debtor countries. For decades, according to UN figures, there has been a steady transfer of billions of dollars in wealth from the poorest nations of the world to the richest nations.
The violence of poverty is exacerbated by an uncontrolled population explosion. The population of the earth has doubled in the mere 100 years since the early 20th century. Conservative estimates tell us that the population of earth is likely to double again in the next 25 years. Yet the world system of economic violence in which the rich prey upon the poor is entirely unable to sustain the well being of the current earth population of six billion people. By all accounts, the impact of this many people will be devastating on the global environment, on people themselves in the form of wars, rebellions, and repression, and on the possibility of a decent future for subsequent generations.
The violence of this system is simultaneously destroying the planetary environment that sustains human and other forms of life on this planet. Every human being impacts the environment through consumption and waste products. An exploding population will devastate the life support mechanisms of the planet, to be sure. But this population is forced to struggle within a global economic system that rapes the resources of the earth in the voracious drive for private profit and power. The rainforests of the earth and phytoplankton beds of the oceans are rapidly being depleted, the rainforests disappearing at the rate of an area half the size of Finland every year. These forests and plankton beds produce the oxygen required for life and bind the carbon dioxide produced by human activities, yet these “lungs of the earth” are the subject of massive violence in the anarchic, competitive drive for private profit and the struggle of the poor to find fuel for simple cooking. At the same time global warming is also demonstrated scientific fact. Glaciers are rapidly melting at the poles, the oceans are rising, and the extent of deserts are increasing worldwide, indicating a planet that is in the process of losing its fertile agricultural lands and displacing untold millions living in coastal areas. Fresh water resources are rapidly being polluted or exhausted, making the violent struggle for water in the coming century a surety. Over-fishing has exhausted many fishing areas of the planet. The ozone layer is thinning or has disappeared from large areas of the atmosphere that protects us from deadly ultraviolet solar radiation. These phenomena all intersect with one another, giving a picture of a planet whose ecological life-support structure is in the process of immanent collapse.
The above described order of death and violence that characterizes our planet at the dawn of the 21st century could not be maintained without massive military and police violence against the peoples of the world and in defense of the wealthy classes of exploiters and polluters who control the world system. The world spends a trillion dollars per year of its precious resources in military expenditures, half of this by the United States alone, in order to maintain its global system of domination and exploitation. Yet every nation requires massive police and military force to protect the system of injustice and inequality within its borders (the system of private capital) and to ensure that other nations do not encroach upon their resources in the global competition among the nearly 200 national units of the world for survival and ascendency. The powerful nations give billions of dollars in military aid to elites within weaker nations to protect their system of exploitation, resulting in massive human rights abuses around the world every year. At the same time, the production of machines for repression and death is extremely lucrative, as well as efficient, for the global elite intending to protect its privilege and power. In the year 1999 alone, the weapons industry in the United States sold 9.8 billion dollars worth of weapons to other nations around the world. The ruling classes and ruling nations understand very well that only this systematic and carefully designed violence of militarism can maintain a world order so inherently violent, unjust, and self-destructive.
2. The nation-state system and global capitalism. The above description of our inherently violent world order revolves around these two institutions that have dominated the modern world since the European Renaissance. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the European nations began to encounter the indigenous peoples in other parts of the world just as these nations were emerging out of the land-based economic system of feudalism to a new economic system based on massive accumulations of fluid capital. These centuries saw the development of the modern idea of the “absolute sovereignty” of nation-states which became the basis of so-called international law. European nation states understood themselves to be in a global competition for the gold, resources and slaves to be plundered from the peoples of the world whose lands they presumed to have “discovered.” From the early “doctrine of discovery” that attributed a sovereignty to the indigenous peoples who were “discovered” that was legally secondary, allowing for their domination and exploitation, to the modern idea of interference in the internal affairs of nation states to protect human rights or business interests, the concept of sovereignty has always been an instrument basic to the violence of the modern world system.[i] Hence, in the late 1990s, the states of NATO, led by the US, who assume for themselves a superior sovereignty that no other countries would dare to violate, took it upon themselves partition Yugoslavia and finally to bomb that country into submission. In doing so they created a humanitarian crisis all out of proportion to whatever was happening within Yugoslavia, but they also helped the US establish a massive military base in Kosovo to protect its interests in the oil pipeline being built from the Caspian Sea. They presumed to violate international law by acting independently of the UN Security Council, to violate international laws against the bombing of civilians, and to assert their superior (imperialist) sovereignty over against the lesser sovereignty of a weaker nation.[ii]
Throughout modern history the concept of national sovereignty made it possible for the stronger nations to use methods of economic exploitation, colonialism or hegemony to exploit weaker nations in the drive for capital accumulation for both governments and the ruling classes. The supposed “sovereignty” of the weaker nations had a lesser legal force than that of the stronger nations or was almost non-existent in the case of colonialism. In India, for example, the East India Company was a supposedly private enterprise but was promoted and protected by the government of England, exploiting the people of India for the benefit of both the government and the wealthy investors of England. Similarly, today the embassies of the United States worldwide are charged with promoting US business interests, and the military and economic hegemony of the United States is used to create a “stable investment climate,” regardless of human rights abuses, poverty, or environmental destruction in the host countries.[iii] The global economic system in which the elite controlling capital and assets may legally exploit the poor for the increase of their own wealth has always worked hand in hand with the system of sovereign nations in which a “core” of powerful, wealthy nations have used their national militaries and protective isolation to dominate and exploit the resources and labor of a “periphery” of weaker, poor nations who are destined to forever play a “service” role in the world economy.[iv]
3. The 1995 Report of the Commission on Global Governance. In 1995 this blue ribbon commission of world leaders published a 410 page report on the state of the world entitled Our Global Neighborhood. Using the considerable research resources at their disposal, the Commission compiled extensive information about the state of the world as of 1995. Their report documents the massive on-going destruction of the environment worldwide, the population explosion and the prospects for humanity if this goes unchecked, the extent and nature or global militarism, and the growing affliction of massive poverty among the peoples of the world that I have described above. As such, the report is a valuable resource documenting the extent and nature of our multifaceted global crisis and the extreme inadequacy of the current mechanisms of “global governance” in place to deal with this crisis.
The report insists that there is an immediate imperative for leaders to come forward to deal with the global crisis before it is too late. “The world needs leaders,” they write, “made strong by vision, sustained by ethics, and revealed by political courage that looks beyond the next election.” The report urges the nations of the world, the multinational corporations, ethnic and religious groups, and global civil society to adopt “a global civil ethic” that includes the “neighborhood values” of “respect for life, liberty, justice and equality, mutual respect, caring, and integrity.” The report recommends a number of changes in the UN system to complement the needed spiritual change of attitude worldwide, but most fundamentally it pins its hope on a revolution in values, quoting with approval the address by Vaclav Havel to the US Congress in 1990 in which he stated that “without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in our being as humans, and the catastrophe towards which our world is headed will become inevitable.”[v] The report says that without urgent drastic action worldwide “the alternative is too frightening to contemplate,” and that “the new generation knows how close they stand to cataclysms.”[vi]
These statements reveal a clear awareness of the extent and depth of our global crisis, yet the report contains no significant criticisms of the dominant institutions of our planet that have wreaked havoc for four centuries and continue in the same destructive patterns today. The report urges reforms in the UN that leave in place the basic assumption of the UN Charter – that it is a voluntary agreement among “sovereign nations.” It leaves in place the basic political structure of the UN wherein any permanent member of the Security Council can veto any resolution passed by the majority of the countries on earth, and the report even calls for an “economic security counsel” headed by the world’s largest economies. Hence, the two institutions most deeply implicated in today’s global crisis as described above are given the go-ahead to continue running the world as in the past while being urged to adopt a new spiritual change of attitude before it is too late.
That the competition among the nearly two hundred autonomous units of the world today is unsurmountable by the UN is never mentioned, premised as the UN is on the absolute sovereignty of nation-states. That the universal greed and ruthlessness of the current global economic system has much to do with the destruction of the environment, massive absolute poverty, and continuing militarism of the world is also never mentioned. This report explicitly rules out the one effective route open to human beings to pull themselves out of their current suicidal trajectory – non-military democratic world government. Only if the authority of sovereignty is shifted from territorial units to the people of the earth as a whole can there ever be a reasonable hope of a peace and justice for humanity. Only if there is some body that can legislate for the good of the whole of humanity and take into account the environmental integrity of the entire planet that sustains all life will there be a reasonable hope for a decent future for humanity.
4. The moral imperative to create world government. Throughout western philosophy from the time of Aristotle’s Politics, thinkers have argued that viable governmentrequires a division of governmental functions into effective legislative, judicial, and executive branches. Such a division is basic to the social contract theory of John Locke, upon which the political system of the United States is based. In the thought of Immanuel Kant, in addition, there is an absolute moral imperative for human beings to live under the social contract of “republican” government so that their relations among one another can be regulated by objective law. In the well-known argument put forth in his Metaphysics of Morals, any persons not under government (that is, in a “state of nature”) exist in a defacto condition of “war” with one another, and have the moral obligation to escape that condition as rapidly as possible. For, as Kant has pointed out in his Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, the foundation of all moral obligation is the requirement to act under universal law and not merely in accord with ones personal inclinations or impulses. In his Perpetual Peace, Kant reiterates this doctrine and points out that sovereign nation-states worldwide are in exactly this condition. They recognize no law above themselves. They have no legislative, executive, or judicial authority above themselves to regulate their relations. Hence, they are perpetually in a defacto state of war, a barbaric condition that they are morally obligated to overcome. Similarly, contemporary German philosopher Jurgen Habermas argues that the moral imperative inherent in all language, and incumbent on all language-using beings, is to develop “universal” principles that address the interests and needs of every human being.[vii] This universal dialogue cannot take place, I am arguing, nor can our moral obligation to live under universal laws be satisfied, outside of democratic world government.
The fact that all individuals live under a territorial governments today is insufficient to regulate human conductor end the inherent violence of the international defacto state of war, since the anarchy of a plethora of sovereign nation-states impacts the lives of individuals within those states. Global environmental destruction impacts the lives of innumerable people on the local level. Global economic competition among nations impacts the lives of billions whose poverty is a consequence of this defacto state of war. Global militarism impacts the lives of countless individuals in the form of human rights abuses, civil wars fueled with weapons from abroad, political repression and enforced conscription. Within the imperialist nations, citizens are forced to pay taxes to support the military and economic devastation of those in other countries. By living within territorial sovereign governments, human beings do not meet Kant’s requirement of escaping the state of nature and regulating their behavior according to law. The global situation, beyond their political control, impacts their ability to live in peace in innumerable ways. The absolute moral obligation to eschew war and embrace the rule of law applies not only to nation-states who recognize no law above themselves but to the individuals of our planet who cannot live free of violence and war without recognizing the sovereignty of the whole of humanity and placing a democratic authority over everyone that can free us from the economic and political chaos of the present world system.
5. Non-military democratic world government under the “Constitution for the Federation of Earth.” Of the several world organizations working for world government, only one has fully recognized the extent of our global crisis and the full force of the moral imperative to create democratic world government over everyone. Since 1958, the World Constitution and Parliament Association and Global Ratification and Elections Network (WCPA/GREN) has developed a Constitution for the Federation of Earth through four constituent assemblies, and has undertaken a world-wide campaign for the ratification of the Constitution by the peoples and nations of Earth.[viii] Under the auspices of the Constitution, WCPA/GREN has begun holding provisional world parliaments intended to begin addressing our global crisis in the common interests of humanity in a way that is impossible for nation-states who inevitably act out of national self-interest, often at the expense of the common good.
The autonomy and integrity of nation states is protected under the Constitution by creating a federal system in which individual nations have rights protected by law, just as every citizen of the world has rights protected by law. Humankind is raised for the first time out of barbarism through a parliamentary system of three houses, a House of Peoples, representing the people of the earth by population, a House of Nations, representing the nations of the earth, and a smaller House of Counselors, representing the scientific and cultural wisdom of all the peoples of earth. Under the democratic authority of Parliament are the Executive branch, charged with administering the law, the Judicial branch, with interpreting the law, the Enforcement branch, a non-military police and attorney system charged with apprehending and prosecuting individuals who violate the law, and an Ombudsmus branch, charged with protecting the rights of individuals and nations as guarenteed by the Constitution.
With the authority to legislate for the good of the whole of humankind, democratic world governmentwill supplant the current chaotic world system where the powerful, wealthy nations use their “superior” sovereignty to economically and militarily exploit and dominate the weaker, poorer nations of the world for their own benefit. For the first time in human history, democratic world government will be able to protect the planetary environment as a whole, address global population explosion as the planetary phenomenon that it is, deal with global poverty and misery as a single world wide problem, and end militarism from human affairs forever. Disputes between nations or groups will be taken to the world courts. Heads of government who abuse human rights will be arrested and prosecuted as individuals, ending the barbaric practice of economically blockading an entire population or going to war against an entire population in order to stop or punish one dictator or a small cadre of human rights violators.
The Constitution does not dictate any particular economic or social system for the nations of the world, but gives each nation the right to choose its own system consistent with universal human rights as specified in Articles XII and XIII. Hence, the present system of violence in which powerful nations dominate weaker ones economically and militarily will be forever abolished from the earth. The moral obligation to leave the defacto state of war and live under the peaceful rule of law will be realized for the first time in history. If nations wish to promote a local economy in which local goods are sustainably produced and inexpensively distributed to local consumers, that will be their right. No longer will they be forced by a World Trade Organization run by the powerful nations to export their goods and buy back their own or similar products from a world market. Low interest development loans will be easily available from world government with the purpose of really aiding the recipient, not with the purpose of profiting from some exorbitant interest rate while demanding structural adjustment to further conform with the needs of multinational corporations based in wealthy countries.
The philosophical basis of the Constitution, expressed in the Preamble, is the principle of unity-in-diversity. The document recognizes that individuality and diversity arise from, and refer back to, the communities from which they spring and ultimately from the human community as a whole. Individuality and diversity cannot be protected without the common force of the whole of the human community, and conversely, the human community is not a genuine whole if individuality and diversity are restricted or excluded. The autonomy of smaller nations can only be protected by the sovereignty of the whole of humankind, just as the lives of individuals, we have seen, can only be truly lived under the peaceful rule of law if those individuals are citizens of non-military, democratic world government that ends the chaotic impact on their lives fostered by the system of autonomous nation-states. For the first time in history, it will be possible for legislators to consider the common good of humanity and the planet in their deliberations, a common good necessarily fostering individuality and diversity on the planet within the framework of a shared humanity and planetary unity.
6. A specific plan for economic conversion. As we have seen, the current defacto state of war in which nations and peoples are now forced to live is an inherently violent system in which the powerful dominate and exploit the weak. The Constitution for the Federation of Earth will finance initial world government through the untold billions of dollars the nations and people of earth will save through demilitarizing. Very low cost loans will be made available for sustainable development purposes worldwide. The common good of every nation and all persons will be the aim of government by protecting the environment, reducing population growth and ending poverty. But how can conversion to this system take place within the present world order? Any nation signing the Constitution will be immediately economically punished by those who dominate the current world system and have an interest in its perpetuation. Threats, denial of credit, recall of existing loans, withdrawal of investments by multinational corporations, disappearance of markets for locally produced goods, economic blockades – these are the tactics now used against Cuba and others who resist domination by the current world powers, and these tactics would almost certainly be used against any weaker nations considering approval of the Constitution.
To deal with this brutal reality, in the year 2000 the World Constitution and Parliament Association published a booklet entitled “Immediate Economic Benefits of World Government” to show in what way these consequences can be avoided and almost immediate economic benefits can accrue to nations ratifying the Constitution.[ix] This booklet primarily details the implications of World Legislative Act # 11 adopted by the Third Session of the Provisional World Parliament on June 27, 1987. The legislation provides for “The Earth Financial Credit Corporation” to launch the “planetary finance, credit, money and banking system” mandating that low cost financial credit be available to all nations and enterprises carrying out sustainable development projects for peaceful purposes. Under the Constitution, a universal currency called “Earth Dollars” is created which ends the current unjust and chaotic system of convertible and non-convertible currencies. And it initiates a governmental economic policy designed to serve human needs rather than policy in the service of private wealth or international hegemony. Under this policy, immediate large loans would be made available to governments joining the world federation with a maximum of 2% interest on the unpaid balance. The loans would be repaid in Earth Dollars, obviating the need to obtain foreign exchange currencies to repay. There would be no devaluation of national currencies, no forced privatization, nor cancellation of social programs.
This economic conversion can be accomplished if a mere twenty-five countries agree to ratify the Constitution simultaneously, creating immediately a block of Earth Federation countries that will have immense economic, purchasing and trade power in relation to those countries not yet within the Federation. This combined economic power will ensure that Earth Dollars are recognized as legal currency by non-federation nations. It will give them the capacity to break or avoid possible economic embargoes, especially through trade with other “soft” currency countries who will be very interested in the economic benefits promoted within the new Federation. The immense productive forces already established within the Federation nations by multi-national corporations will be purchased by the Earth Federation (or, if necessary, expropriated) to create greater self-sufficiency and purchasing power within the Federation. The Federation will also immediately assume the external debts of member nations as long as these debts are not accrued from military purposes, to be paid off in Earth Dollars at not more than 2% interest over a twenty-year period.
For the first time in history, production and finance will be directed toward promoting the common good of humanity and addressing those problems beyond the scope of any territorial nation state: the global environment, global poverty, global demilitarization, and population explosion. The reason for this change is not any sudden spiritual altruism on the part of human beings but a detailed earth constitution mandating world government to work for the common good. Private property and private enterprise are acceptable under the Constitution but the World Government itself is directed to work for the common good of humanity and to promote both production to serve human needs and to prevent production of war materials and weapons. Political conversion to democratic world government cannot happen without simultaneous economic conversion, since, as we have seen, the economic and political dimensions of our current world system are deeply interdependent and serve to promote both economic and political violence worldwide. A block of twenty-five countries simultaneously forming the Federation of Earth can change human history forever, saving the planet for future generations.
Our moral obligation as individuals to live peacefully under to rule of universal law is mirrored in the moral obligation of nations to move out of the defacto state of war into civilized global society under the rule of law, with legislative, judicial, and executive powers to ensure the peace and adjudicate disputes. Both as individuals and nations we are morally obligated to work for democratic world government.[x] For as we have seen, genuine citizenship, authentic peaceful living under universal law, is only possible on a planetary scale. The most direct route to global peace is not through a miraculous inner “change of heart” by human beings advocated by those who wish to avoid real institutional change. The most direct route to global peace is through economic and political conversion from our current system of death and violence to the unity-in-diversity of non-military, democratic world government.
[i]. See Ward Churchill, “Perversions of Justice: A Native-American Examination of the Doctrine of U.S. Rights to Occupancy in North America,” reprinted in James P. Sterba, Social and Political Philosophy Second Edition (New York: Wadsworth, 1998), pp. 259-274.
[ii]. See Ramsey Clark, et. al., Nato in the Balkans – Voices of Opposition (New York: International Action Center, 1998).
[iii]. See Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants (Tuscon, AZ: Odonian Press, 1996) and William Blum, Killing Hope – U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since the World War II (Monroe, MA: Common Courage Press, 1995).
[iv]. See Thomas Richard Shannon, Introduction to World-System Perspective (Boulder: Westview Press, 1989).
[v]. Our Global Neighborhood: The Report of the Commission on Global Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 354.
[vi]. Ibid., pp. 356-357. For a more in-depth analysis of, and response to, the report by the present author and others see Toward Genuine Global Governance – Critical Reactions to “Our Global Neighborhood,” Errol E. Harris and James A. Yunker, eds. (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1999).
[vii]. See Jurgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991).
[viii]. The Constitution and other materials can be obtained from the World Constitution and Parliament Association, 8800 West 14th Avenue, Lakewood CO 80215 and is also published on the internet. The Constitution can also be found as the Appendix to Errol Harris, One World or None: A Prescription for Survival (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993).
[x]. For further arguments as to the necessity of world government see my article “A Planetary Paradigm for Global Government” in Harris and Yunker, Op. Cit., pp. 1-18.