Glen T. Martin, Radford University
Global Symposium, Lucknow, India and International Philosophers for Peace, Kolkata, India
This paper argues that the economic transformations articulated by the Constitution for the Federation of Earth[i] form part of an infrastructure that provides the people of Earth more than freedom from want, deprivation, and exploitation. It argues that there is a higher meaning to freedom (connected with our fundamental human project) that involves the possibility of genuine communication directed toward mutual understanding within a global, public political space. This higher freedom is not a product of our isolated individual natures, but of our common human nature, and cannot be actualized under our current global fragmentation dominated by sovereign nation-states and monopoly capitalist structures. The economic transformations under the Earth Constitution, therefore, have a greater meaning than the elimination of poverty and the creation of economic justice and equality. For they provide the necessary infrastructure for the actualization of our higher human destiny: the planetary public political space empowering, for the first time in history, all human beings everywhere enter into communicative political dialogue concerning our fundamental relationships and the meaning of our common human project. A higher freedom, therefore, connected with our highest human possibilities, emerges with the recognition of the Earth Constitution by the people of Earth.
What is the meaning of our common human project? What is the significance of being human? One fundamental way of understanding the human project is through the concept of “freedom.” Human beings emerged out of prehistory, and out of nature, bringing freedom into the universe. Within this emergent evolutionary perspective, human beings live as an historical cosmic project through which freedom emerges from necessity within nature, dignity and virtue emerge from blind instinct and compulsion, and civilized political equality and dialogue from mute power relations of domination and tyranny. Freedom finds its foundation, as political philosopher Hannah Arendt states, in “a body politic which guarantees the space where freedom can appear.”[ii]
But freedom remains a struggle, a goal implicit in our emerging human project. With freedom and its struggles within history, we also bring into existence the entire range of ambiguous and philosophically problematic moral opposites such as good versus evil, peace versus war, justice versus injustice, democracy versus totalitarianism, and human dignity versus dehumanization and abasement. In this paper, I argue that free communicative discussion directed toward mutual understanding, which includes all these great issues of human life, is fundamental to the meaning of our human project. This is also the basis for democratic world law under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.
Freedom, I contend, is directly related to language and the possibility of communicative speech among political equals. In our world today, everywhere freedom is under attack and compromised through the colonization of speech by the voices of hatred and unreason, on the one hand, and the voices of manipulation, propaganda, and domination, on the other. The latter are overwhelmingly more powerful. The propaganda of giant capitalist power systems and massive imperial nation-states dominates the minds and public discourse on behalf of tyranny, injustice, and the subversion of freedom.
The struggle for freedom in our time is simultaneously the struggle for authentic public speech. It is the struggle to establish a regime in which authentic speech is possible. My thesis is that such a regime cannot be established under the rule of global capitalism and the system of autonomous nation-states. It can only be reasonably established in a universal federation premised on political freedom with reasonable economic equality as envisioned under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.
The idea that the presupposition of the very possibility of language involves communicative interaction directed toward mutual understanding is a discovery of the great contemporary German philosopher, Jürgen Habermas, among others. Habermas has shown that the strategic and instrumental uses of language endemic to capitalism and its concomitant political systems of control and domination are parasitic and secondary in relation to the communicative core of language. This communicative core of language requires certain formal assumptions that point to the possibility of a liberated world order characterized by equality, democratic freedoms, and political arrangements directed toward genuine mutual understanding. Habermas states that:
Freedom, even personal freedom, freedom of choice in the last instance, can only be thought in internal connection with a network of interpersonal relationships, and this means in the context of the communicative structures of a community, which ensures that the freedom of some is not achieved at the cost of the freedom of others…. The individual cannot be free unless all are free, and all cannot be free unless all are free in community.[iii]
The Oxford English Dictionary provides eleven different overlapping definitions for freedom. Of these the first four stand out as central to our human project and central to the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The four central meanings given by the Oxford Dictionary are (1) exemption or release from slavery or imprisonment, (2) exemption from arbitrary control; independence; civil liberty, (3) the state of being free, and (4) the quality of being free from the control of fate or necessity; the power of self-determination.
We shall see that the Earth Constitution stands as a beacon and milestone for our common human project to actualize freedom upon the Earth. Its conceptual foundations, establishing for the Earth a peace system, a justice system, and a prosperity system, also combine to establish for the first time in history a genuine freedom system for our planet, that is, a planetary community that includes the political space for genuine communication directed toward mutual understanding. The Constitution includes these four central meanings of freedom that merge together, within its framework, into this fifth and higher meaning for human freedom. “The state of being free,” in this reading, cannot fully exist apart from membership in a universal human community. The establishing of worldwide peace, justice, and economic prosperity for the Earth, therefore, lays the foundations for the actualization of this deeper and higher meaning to human freedom.
The present global economic system, like the system of sovereign nation-states, has evolved out of European civilization since the Renaissance, slowly becoming the official doctrines concerning what is “natural” politically and economically. The so-called “natural” political organization of sovereign states was recognized at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and the so-called “natural” system of economic laws was described in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations that appeared in 1776.
The capitalist economic system includes a principle of unending growth toward vast accumulations of private wealth and power that inevitably colonize the political processes of government on behalf of its special interests. Speech becomes distorted and degraded into lobbyist propaganda and legislation whose arcane language veils special interests at odds with freedom and the common good. The system of sovereign nation-states includes a defacto war relation with all other such nation-state entities and all groups who would challenge systems of imperial domination and hegemony, distorting language into propaganda, political manipulation, and social engineering of public opinion on behalf of war and power politics.
In both cases, these systems born in Europe emerged to dominate the world. The imperial arrogance of Europe and North America began the process of imposing these “natural” systems on the rest of humankind. For centuries we have seen the triumph of the nation-state system as a system of perpetual wars, violence, and chaos. Today, we also witness the triumph of the system of monopoly capitalism in the form of immense poverty, scarcity, and misery for at least 60% of the people on Earth simultaneous with unimaginable wealth and power for a mere 1% of the Earth’s population who own 40-50% of its wealth.[iv]
Astute observers have pointed out that these few use the chaos of the present system of sovereign nations to further consolidate their wealth and power. Only by democratizing the world system can we change this horrific condition and create a prosperity system for the Earth. Authentic democracy cannot function when the few control such wealth and power. This can only be transformed when government becomes premised on behalf of the universal rights and dignity of all the people of Earth and no longer on behalf of the ruling classes of the massive imperial nations who dominate the rest of our planet’s 192 so-called sovereign nations.[v]
A major cause of the violations of political human rights today is because people worldwide are denied their economic and social rights: the right to a living wage, to healthcare, to social security, to adequate leisure time, to educational opportunities, etc. These are all features intrinsic to genuine democracy. When people are economically exploited and destitute, it is pointless to speak to them about respecting political rights. The Earth Constitution transforms this situation through the simple mechanism of presenting two bills of rights, Articles 12 and 13. Article 13 guarantees economic, social, and environmental rights to every citizen of the Federation creating a world where economic exploitation and chaos (due to a denial of economic and social rights) do not and cannot lead to a corresponding massive violation of political rights.
The purpose of economic and political rights is freedom, and freedom most essentially means the freedom of communicative speech within a framework of reasonable equality. Manipulative language, propaganda, ideology, hate speech, and exclusivist speech assuming incommensurability among human groups all exist as the language of domination and can never lead to freedom. For the first time in history, the Earth Constitution by law creates universal legal citizenship and provides the economic and social conditions for making universal equality and political freedom a reality.
The conditions for freedom must necessarily be universal because any fragmentation within the human community due to purportedly incommensurable national borders, religious ideologies or ethnic differences inevitably inhibit genuine communication directed toward mutual understanding. The only force that can make possible such communication, and hence the fullness of human freedom, is a universal public space recognizing all persons as legal citizens within a framework of reasonable equality.
Our four central dictionary meanings of freedom are directly relevant to the creation of a planetary prosperity system under the Earth Constitution: (1) release from slavery or imprisonment, (2) civil liberties, (3) the state of being free, and (4) the power of self-determination. The most widespread from of slavery on Earth is economic slavery in which the poor must ceaselessly struggle to meet their daily needs. They have neither the time nor the resources to participate as citizens in political discussion and debate. “Civil liberties” are useless without “the power for self-determination” created by reasonable economic prosperity. The capacity for the free political discourse fundamental to democracy is a luxury reserved for the few in today’s world, the few who have the economic means for education and the leisure to pursue political thought and discussion.
A prosperity system for the world will not bring the fullness of democratic freedom into the world unless our planet is united under the Earth Constitution providing a single forum for free political speech regarding the issues confronting humanity. There is no way to address the problems of war, weapons of mass destruction, population explosion, global warming, pollution of the planet, growing scarcity of essential resources, or the issue of political freedom itself, without a planetary political dimension based on the capacity for genuine dialogue. Today’s world disorder entirely lacks a forum for genuine political dialogue by free citizens that can result in common action for the good of humanity. As Hannah Arendt affirms:
Only in the freedom of our speaking with one another does the world, as that about which we speak, emerge in objectivity and visibility from all sides…. The freedom to interact in speech with many others and experience the diversity that the world always is in its totality….is rather the substance and meaning of all things political. In this sense politics and freedom are identical, and wherever this kind of freedom does not exist, there is no political space in the true sense.[vi]
The U.N., by contrast, is merely an assembly of representatives of sovereign governments entirely lacking any mechanisms for common, democratically structured free speech and action. Citizens of the Earth have little or no place within the U.N. system. Speech, within that system, is a function of the ideological and self-interest positions of sovereign nation-states, with gigantic economic forces of self-interest in the background, rather than dialogue directed toward genuine communication. If a peace system, justice system, and a prosperity system are established for the Earth through ratification of the Earth Constitution, then freedom moves to its higher and more profound level. The framework has been laid for genuine communication directed toward mutual understanding from among the immense diversity of persons, cultures, nations, ethnicities, and traditions.
Freedom is then no longer simply freedom from slavery, promoting personal civil liberty and the capacity for self-determination. These are merely the foundation stones, the prerequisites for the deeper fullness of freedom. Freedom now becomes the power of authentic, unconstrained political dialogue between equal human beings. Freedom emerges as this power of unconstrained communication within a planetary, public, political space protected and promoted by the Earth Constitution. The human project begins to actualize, for the first time in history, that civilized political equality and dialogue that transcend the mute (unilateral) power relations of domination, exploitation, and tyranny.
Within the framework of the Constitution, the Earth Federation now coordinates the international actions of demilitarized nation-states through world laws legislated by the World Parliament. Conflicts are settled through the world court system (where due process and the right to speak predominate) and violators are subject to arrest and prosecution by the World Attorneys General and the World Police. Similarly, transnational corporations are regulated through the democratic legislation of the World Parliament.
Corporate charters will mandate that they operate in ways that promote the general economic and environmental welfare of humanity. Their expertise and organizational infrastructures can now be used to promote universal prosperity while protecting the environment, no longer for exploitation of the most poor and vulnerable for cheap labor and resources, and no longer externalizing costs into the environment through pollution and production exclusively for private profit. Their so-called ‘right’ to free speech as corporate persons using their unlimited resources to distort the political process is now curtailed by enforceable world law.[vii]
However, the framework of laws regulating nation-states and corporations will have changed from their present coercive connotation to a connotation of empowerment through systems of peace, justice, and prosperity. Conflict resolution programs and peaceful communication programs will permeate the Earth Federation, bringing representatives of nations and corporations, along with private citizens, into the framework of dialogue and debate directed toward genuine understanding. Politics will no longer involve the pouring of big money into slick sloganeering and advertising campaigns, nor the promotion of the ideological agendas of dogmatic political parties. True freedom through genuine communication with human beings from all around the Earth becomes possible for the first time.
As important as protecting the environment and promoting the general economic welfare of humanity may be, what emerges within the framework of the Earth Federation is this higher and more profound level of freedom. It not only characterizes the dialogue within the three houses of the World Parliament, but potentially informs the dialogue of every citizen within the Earth Federation, encouraging not only ordinary citizens but representatives of nation-states, corporations, dissident groups, religions, cultures, and racial groups to enter into genuinely communicative relationships.
Economically, the Earth Federation will have a common currency valued the same everywhere, ending speculation in currencies and the domination of “hard” over “soft” currencies. It will institute the principle of “equal pay for equal work,” ending the exporting of production to low-wage areas of the world in order to maximize the rate of exploitation and profit. It will encourage in numerous ways worker investment and cooperative management in the firms within which they often spend their working lives. It will distribute the work burden among the working population more equitably, and empower people at the grassroots level worldwide through such democratic innovations as microloans, infrastructure development, education, and healthcare.
The Constitution (under Article 13) also guarantees everyone on Earth a living wage entirely sufficient to live with dignity and freedom. It ensures sanitation systems, essential resources, and educational systems for everyone. It provides every person on Earth with free health care, free education, and ample insurance in case of accident or old age. Provisional world legislation enacted by the Provisional World Parliament under the authority of Article 19 of the Constitution provides every person over age 18 with a guaranteed annual income sufficient to eliminate extreme poverty and starvation from the Earth (WLA 42[viii]).
The present apparent irreconcilability of attitudes, ideologies, religions, and nation-states is a direct function of a world disorder that does not include an effective constitutional framework making possible the reconciliation of this fragmentation through communication directed toward mutual understanding. The deeper purpose of this equitable economic and social infrastructure, beyond even freedom from economic slavery and freedom for self-determination, involves the actualization of public dialogue and a protected public space encouraging communication directed toward mutual understanding.[ix]
Within nations, or within the current global economic system of slavery for the majority, there can be no authentic dialogue and hence no genuine freedom. An institutionalized universal framework making possible dialogue directed toward mutual understanding makes possible, for the first time in history, the actualization of what Marx termed our ‘species-being,’ or what Jesus understood as a commandment from God: the brotherhood and sisterhood of all humanity. I am not promoting here an impossible utopia, but the actualization of our fundamental possibility as language-speaking beings.
Dialogue today within any nation-state, even by the few who have the leisure and education to engage in this, will always be distorted and undermined by our present global condition of military and nation-state terror. It will be distorted by the global destruction of our planetary environment and the global system of economic exploitation, along with the corrupting presence of big money everywhere on Earth. For within our present planetary fragmentation, all these things reach beyond the democratic consensus and action that can be attained through merely localized mutual understanding.
Understanding these issues, and finding ways beyond them into a viable future, requires dialogue among those affected in every corner of the globe. Localized mutual understanding will always remain limited and fragmented. The global issues cannot be addressed because all those affected, namely every person on Earth, are not potentially included in the debate. Under our current fragmented condition, freedom is strangled at its very roots.
The Earth Constitution removes these major impediments to human freedom and flourishing endemic to the present world chaos and prevents their recurrence by the integrated functions of the Earth Federation under the Constitution. For example, ultimately there will be no more national security state, world militarism, authoritarian regimes, rogue militarized terror groups, corporate violations of the dignity of employees, extremes of poverty and deprivation, lack of literacy and education, or lack of adequate health care. A global sense of community emerges that does not obliterate diversity but embraces diversity within a global public space directed toward genuine communication. The Earth Constitution overcomes the ignorant assumption of the incommensurability of peoples and ideas. It is precisely from the point of view of their individuality and diversity that genuine dialogue can now take place.
Freedom is now no longer a characteristic of isolated persons having become free of slavery and having the power of self-determination. Freedom emerges as a phenomenon of our human community, a fulfillment of the human project. This is because public dialogue directed toward mutual understanding cannot exist as a property of individuals but only of communities, and ultimately of the human community. If this political dimension, arising as the fulfillment of the human quest for freedom, is to be actual, then it must also be universal, a freedom potentially involving every person on the planet.[x] British philosopher Errol E. Harris writes:
Accordingly, individualism disregarding social intercourse in out of the question. Individual personality is a social product, and the interests and rights of the individual cannot be separated from those of the community…. As in physics observer and observed cannot be divorced from each other, so in sociology and politics individual and society are interdependent, and the social whole cannot be dissipated into a mere collection of persons.[xi]
This is the basis and source of moral obligation, the social equivalent of which translates into the principle of political obligation. Its ultimate aim is a coherence and wholeness of life, the implications of which, when fully unfolded under conditions prevailing today in which common interests include the preservation of the planetary ecology and the maintenance of world peace, disclose the demand for a universal community of mankind and a concomitant universality of moral principle.[xii]
The Earth Constitution provides the necessary framework for this “universal community of mankind and a concomitant universality of moral principle.” Scholars sometimes speak of the defense of traditional, first generation political rights as “negative freedom” – the removal of impediments to individual self-determination. Beyond this, however, the Constitution establishes the “positive freedom” for actualization of our higher human potential within an empowering community premised on unity in diversity.[xiii] The supporting matrix of a community of rights and responsibilities premised as well on so-called second and third generation economic and social rights provides the framework for the creative actualization of our individual and collective human potential.[xiv]
The protection of “life, security, and equal opportunities” on Earth, institutionalized through a global community of freedom (as specified in Article 1 of the Constitution) will vastly empower the people of Earth. Freedom will no longer merely be a “freedom from” but will become the positive fullness of “freedom for.” The Earth Constitution, through its peace, justice, and prosperity systems, establishes a dynamic and powerful freedom system for our planet.
Freedom, therefore, is not a property of individual persons, as if “free will” were a faculty inserted by an anthropomorphically conceived God in some mythical Garden of Eden at the beginning of time. Contemporary social theory, political theory, and linguistic theory have discovered quite the opposite. Freedom is a progressive realization of our interactive social nature, of the human community itself. This social nature is the matrix and presupposition for the individuality of each of us.
Freedom, moreover, is a universal feature of our humanity, since all human beings are language-using beings, capable of speech directed toward mutual understanding, and every language is translatable into every other language.[xv] The deeper, more fully human meaning for freedom for humanity can only emerge, therefore, once we have established a peace, justice, and prosperity system for the Earth. The economic and political transformations within the Earth Federation under the Earth Constitution are absolutely essential for the actualization of human freedom and the global political space making possible dialogue directed toward genuine communication.
For only then will we as human beings become empowered to enter into authentic political dialogue with one another within a global public space, in relative equality – a dialogue concerning our mutual fate, relationships, and future upon this planet. Freedom emerges from this common bond between humans, from our capacity for communication directed toward mutual understanding. One important aspect of our higher destiny as human beings, the deeper meaning of our human project, is actualized through this freedom. Universal communicative freedom, worldwide economic prosperity, and planetary democracy under the Earth Constitution represent today the most rationally compelling and practically applicable presuppositions for human liberation.
[ii] Arendt, Hannah, On Revolution, New York: Penguin, 1963, p. 116.
[iii] Habermas, Jürgen, Autonomy & Solidarity: Interviews with Jürgen Habermas, Peter Dews, ed. London: Verso, 1986, p. 146. See also Habermas, On the Pragmatics of Communication. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1998.
[v] Martin, Glen T., Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010. See also Martin, Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democratic Press.
[vi] Arendt, Hannah, The Promise of Politics. New York: Schocken Books, 2005, pp. 128-129.
[vii] See the “Bill on Corporate Responsibility” introduced into the 12th Session of the Provisional World Parliament, December 2010, prohibiting recognition of human rights accruing to corporate personhood.
[ix] Habermas, On the Pragmatics of Communication.
[x] Martin, Glen T. Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2008.
[xi] Harris, Errol E., Apocalypse and Paradigm: Science and Everyday Thinking, London: Praeger, 2000, p. 103.
[xii] Ibid. p. 102.
[xiii] See Martin, Triumph of Civilization.
[xiv] Wacks, Raymond, Law: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 149-150.
[xv] Pinker, Steven, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007.