“Ethical Responsibilities” in Relation to the Earth Constitution

Glen T. Martin


There are those who say that the Earth Constitution is lacking a list of responsibilities. They claim that what the world needs is a constitution that makes very clear the responsibilities of the citizens of Earth.  They claim that the world needs a document, a constitution, that lists not only the rights of citizens but their responsibilities as well.  For this purpose, they proclaim, the Earth Constitution is not adequate.

This sort of flawed thinking both fails to understand the concept of democracy and, furthermore, confuses responsibilities in the ethical sense from responsibilities in the related (but not identical) legal sense.   A list of ethical responsibilities would have no place in a genuine Earth Constitution since a constitution is a legal document specifying the mechanisms by which decisions are made and who gets to make them (through elections, appointments, etc.).  Obviously anyone elected to any office within the Earth Federation Government has a responsibility to perform that office to the best of their ability, with honesty, integrity, and transparency.   Responsibility in this sense is intrinsic to the entire Constitution. The Constitution makes this very clear. This means that the entire document is a document outlining the responsibilities of those who govern.

               Indeed, the very concept of democracy, from which the Earth Constitution springs, is a social and ethical conception that already includes both rights and duties.  As American philosopher John Dewey puts this: “Democracy signifies, on the one side, that every individual is to share in the duties and rights belonging to the control of social affairs, and, on the other side, that social arrangements are to eliminate those external arrangements of status, birth, wealth, sex, etc., which restrict the opportunity of each individual for full development of himself” (1963: 497).  Rights and duties are built into the very concept of democracy and do not need to be listed separately except for educational purposes that unpack for learners the depth of the meaning of the concept of democracy. It is the function of proper education to perform this task.

What of those citizens not under the responsibilities outlined for the governors?  A list of exhortations about what people who are not in governmental roles should be doing would destroy the excellent character of the Earth Constitution and turn it into another practically useless set of ideals like the Earth Charter or the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both these documents give us only ideals and exhortations, not mechanisms for governing the Earth. 

How then to we get a list of responsibilities for citizens?  The obvious answer that these critics overlook is that citizen responsibilities can and should be legislated as duties under world law.  A constitution cannot have a list of these because it is up to the World Parliament to establish laws that articulate the responsibilities of citizens.  Are citizens responsible to vote?  To participate in politics?  To participate at the local, regional, and global levels?  To interact with the agencies of government?  To learn about the nature of world democracy and their role in the self-government of humanity?  A list of moral exhortations for these things should not be part of any constitution worth its salt, but the World Parliament can endeavor to answer these questions through creating good laws (in some countries, for example, voting is a legal requirement for citizens).

The philosophical basis for this distinction comes from philosopher of law Lon Fuller. In his well-known book The Morality of Law, Fuller distinguishes the “morality of duty” from the “morality of aspiration.”   The role of lawmakers is to articulate wisely, clearly, publicly, and responsibly, the morality of duty: that is, the basic minimum requirements that each citizen must follow in order to create the “reasoned harmony” that is the function of law among the citizens. 

These responsibilities of citizens and lawmakers do not exhaust the whole of morality, for Fuller, for there is also the “morality of aspiration” in which citizens identify the good or goods for their lives and pursue these goods.  Part of this morality of aspiration may be making exceptional contributions to the common good through practicing exceptional citizenship and making extraordinary contributions to society.  But lawmakers cannot legislate for this and it would be a mistake to attempt to do so.  This is the role of education and reasoned dialogue, not the job of a Constitution, nor of lawmakers.

The Earth Constitution provides a constitutional framework for the morality of duty on a planetary scale.  It presupposes both the duties of lawmakers and the responsibility of citizens to actively participate in their world democracy.  It provides for a law-making capacity in which the duties of citizens may be further detailed and elaborated.  The Constitution is entirely complete in this respect.

Hence, the Earth Constitution is not only properly formed as it is, it is the ultimate vehicle for activating responsibilities among the citizens of the Earth Federation.  There is no other way to legitimately do this.  If moral exhortation is what is wanted, then the world parliament can create an agency whose purpose it is to encourage the citizens of Earth to take responsibility for governing and participating in government. Some of this has in fact already been done by the Provisional World Parliament, including World Legislative Act number 26 (the Education Act) in which school children worldwide will be educated to take responsibility within the Earth Federation government.

Under this law passed for educational institutions worldwide insofar as they receive support from the Earth Federation government, students will study not only the Earth Constitution itself, but the nature of democracy, the responsibilities of world citizenship, and the fundamental world problems that the Constitution aims to address. Hence, the Earth Federation Government will emphasize responsibility at every appropriate occasion. Nevertheless, to repeat: moral exhortation has no place in the Constitution itself. 

Responsibilities can and should only be legislated by law if the document is to be a legally binding document.  And the mechanisms for legislating responsibilities are very clear in the Earth Constitution. Education of the citizens of the Earth for taking responsibility in the sense of the morality of aspiration will come from the educational function of the World Ombudsmus and other government agencies as well as from educational institutions worldwide under World Legislative Act number 26.

Indeed, the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) has not waited for the future implementation of the World Education Act. At its events worldwide, the WCPA passes out a card that details “Ten Principles of a Global Ethics.”  The list, that we continue to disseminate widely, and that can be found on my web site, illustrates the futility of trying to formulate a list of specific duties that might be somehow embodied in a legal document like the Earth Constitution.  These are the principles of a global ethics as promoted by the WCPA: 

  1. Dialogue. A World Citizen develops the capacity for dialogue directed toward mutual understanding. A World Citizen has the ability to listen carefully to others, to thoughtfully understand their point of view, and to respectfully dialogue in a process of increasing mutual understanding and learning.
  • Nonviolence.A World Citizen affirms the principle of solving conflicts nonviolently.  As Mahatma Gandhi stated, there are dozens of ways to solve conflicts creatively and intelligently, respecting everyone involved.  World Citizens promote creative, nonviolent problem-solving.
  • Human Rights. World Citizens affirm universal human rights and dignity. All people have dignity because all people participate in the miracle that is human life.  We human beings are self-aware beings capable of freedom, creativity, compassion, and justice. We have dignity that must not be violated. World Citizens stand by the rights enumerated by UN Universal Declaration and the Earth Constitution, Articles 12 and 13.
  • Democratic Laws. World Citizens affirm the rule of just, democratic laws based on protection of civil liberties and human rights.  They support equality, freedom, and equal due process for everyone before the law.
  • Compassion and Kindness. World Citizens understand that reason and dialogue must be complemented by compassion and kindness.  World Citizens are sensitive to the suffering of other people and animals. They act toward others out of kindness and compassion. In Buddhism this is called karuna. In Christianity, it is often called agape.
  • Unity in Diversity. World Citizens understand that the world is a wonderful manifestation of unity in diversity that must be respected and encouraged. We are all one as human beings and as children of the divine, and we are all different from one another in races, cultures, beliefs, nations, and religions. World Citizens affirm this principle of unity in diversity for the entire Earth.
  • Justicemaking. World Citizens insist on promoting equal treatment and due process of justice for all persons before the law. If laws are unjust, World Citizens work to change them to protect everyone equally. Where people are being marginalized, hurt, or discriminated against, World Citizens side with the victims.
  • Sustainability. World Citizens are committed to transforming the process of living on the Earth to sustainable, ecologically friendly forms of economics, production, consumption, and patterns of living.  World Citizens are committed to making the Earth a decent place for future generations through protecting and restoring our planetary environment.
  • Global Education. World Citizens are committed to promoting global education with respect to all these ten principles. People everywhere should be developing global consciousness and a sense of global responsibility.
  1. The Earth Constitution. World Citizens understand that none of these 10 principles can be successful for the Earth without the rule of democratically legislated, enforceable law for everyone under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth:   http://www.radford.edu/~gmartin/CEF.pdf

The first thing that will strike the reader of these principles is that they are all open-ended because they are all aspects of the morality of aspiration and would be inappropriate for a morality of duty as required by law-makers and governments. You cannot require people by law to engage in dialogue directed toward mutual understanding, for example, you can only require them to negotiate, engage in diplomacy, or mediate. However, dialogue directed toward mutual understanding requires an ethical good will and discernment on the part of the participants that cannot be evaluated by the law. The law can only dictate external behaviors, including external manifestations of responsibility. It cannot dictate the ethical dimension of good will, discernment, love, or compassion that are essential to ethics and genuine responsibility.

Hence, the realm of moral responsibility requires a framework conductive to ethical growth and inner transformation toward a good will to do what is right. That is why in the recent Building the New World Conference at Radford University, the WCPA initiated collaboration with the inter-spirituality movement and the ethical growth movement so widespread today among concerned citizens and leaders like Barbara Marx Hubbard, the Shift Network, and other visionary movements (see www.btnw.org) . Government can help create this framework, indeed, with good educational policies both for children and for all citizens.

But to try to place any such stipulations within a constitution would be inappropriate and irresponsible.  This is true of all the principles listed here as components of a global ethics. Yet they are all valid principles that demand our attempt to participate in, and fulfill, these principles.  They demand our inner transformation toward ethical awakening and responsibility, which cannot be legislated nor demanded by government.  Both WCPA in the present and the Earth Federation Educational System in the future can and will promote these values, but the attempt to make them into law would be both totalitarian, futile, and self-defeating.

Those who claim that the Earth Constitution or the WCPA need to be more articulate about “responsibilities,” rather than just rights, do not know what they are talking about. The critics need to stop pontificating about “responsibility” and begin taking responsibility for the future by working on behalf of the Earth Constitution. At this point in history, there is no clearer responsibility, as the last of these ten principles also clearly asserts. 

The threat to the future is so immanent and so great (including climate collapse and the threat of nuclear war) that affirmation of the Earth Constitution becomes more of a moral imperative with each passing day.  World federalists of all sorts betray the future of the Earth and coming generations with their refusal to endorse the Earth Constitution and take responsibility here and now to start governing ourselves under that Constitution.  Here lies the essence of responsibility: not talking endlessly about it, but taking it upon ourselves in concrete action for democratic world government under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.


  1. Dewey, John (1963). In Social and Political Philosophy, Somerville and Santoni, eds.  New York: Doubleday Books.
  • World Legislative Act 26 (The Education Act):


  • Ten Principles of Global Ethics online: