Holism and Self-Transcendence Investigating Our Planetary Destiny

Holism and Self-Transcendence

Investigating Our Planetary Destiny

Glen T. Martin

12 May 2018

Each of us carries within ourselves the capacity for perpetual self-transcendence. I want to try to summarize this idea, which is fundamental to my forthcoming book called Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence (Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2018). The book is in many ways about the glory and ecstasy of being human. It places the ordinary “development” model of human growth into the dynamism of so-called integral evolutionary mysticism.

Standard accounts of personal growth describe a movement from the egoism of childhood and youth, to the group oriented egoism of the ethnocentric stage (when we identify with our group, nation, culture, race, or class) to the maturity of a world-centric orientation in which we identify, with compassion and grace, with all humanity and the Earth’s other living creatures. Scholars of human self-transcendence, such as Ken Wilber (2007), identify any number of further levels of spiritual development into an awareness that is often called “kosmocentric” or “integral.’

At the higher, “kosmocentric” levels, the masculine and feminine elements in us harmonize, and we continue to live with an ever-greater direct awareness of the holistic, ineffable depths of existence. Many of us understand that this movement can be enhanced through meditation and mindfulness in everyday existence. Meditation and mindfulness, however, are often taught in terms of a dualism between mind and body, between temporal and eternal, or between finite and infinite. In my forthcoming book, on the other hand, I attempt to elucidate dimensions of the process of a more holistic self-transcendence that are not necessarily emphasized in these dualistic meditative traditions.

This new holism includes the dynamics of human temporality—the fact that each of us lives within a dynamic present that brings a remembered past to bear on a future toward which we orient and project ourselves. As I said above, many of us who take the meditative traditions seriously develop a kind of ontological duality between the eternal One, outside of time, and the finite self, bound in time between past, present, and future. We often feel a tension and struggle between these apparent two sides of our existence. I am suggesting that this tension may often be needless and ill-conceived. We do not need to marginalize our temporal existence of moving from the past toward an ever-better future. We can live as a single, holistic reality that includes both time and eternity.

Consider the choices each of us makes daily. We exist as a consciousness that uses its memory of the past within a dynamic present to project itself toward a future that it envisions as better than the past and the present. We decide to do more physical exercising because we think it will be better for us. We decide to take a break by going to the countryside for rest and relaxation. We decide to embark on a course of study to establish a better future of knowledge, understanding, or opportunity. We may decide to take political action because we wish to change society for the better.

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. 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. The future animates our lives from within. It operates as a fundamental component within our present reality. As we grow through the worldcentric level of identification with all other persons and the Earth’s other sentient beings toward the kosmocentric level in which we intuit the holism of the cosmos and begin living as embodiments of that holism, we can discover the horizon of a future that calls to us from the kosmos itself, or if one prefers, that calls to us from the Ground of Being or God.

Spiritual thinker Marc Gafni speaks of a similar dynamic of the “return of the self” in “integral evolutionary mysticism.”  The meditative traditions often focus on liberation from the self; in Buddhism one must experience anatta (no self).  Indeed, we must awaken to our false selfhood, move beyond our false ego-identifications, and discover our deeper “true self.” But our unique selfhood does not disappear, it simply becomes distinguished from what is false in us. The great depth psychologist Carl Gustave Jung spoke of overcoming the ego-self through integrating and centering toward a deeper selfhood that embraces the unconscious as well as consciousness. Indeed, however today we are beginning to discover the emergent holism of the universe itself as it manifests in the human phenomenon.

Gafni writes: “What I termed Evolutionary Unique Self is the personal face of the process living in you, as you, and through you” (2014, 99). Here is the source of the glory and ecstasy of being human, the “process” lives in us, as us, and through us. Similarly, spiritual thinker Raimon Panikkar declares that, “Man has suddenly found himself bound to the Earth, joined with it in a communal destiny, playing his part in a cosmic whole of which he is the awareness” (1979, 452). In these thinkers, we find the insight that I attempt to express in my book concerning human self-transcendence. Our part in the universe is to live each of our lives as a unique awareness of the cosmic whole.

Human beings are self-aware manifestations of the cosmic whole. We are manifestations of the holism that contemporary science has discovered so profoundly through relativity and quantum physics, made clear to us by thinkers such as Ervin Laszlo (2016). The universe has become self-aware in us, and therefore we live as a key to its evolutionary and self-transcending character. As Teilhard de Chardin put it, we are “the axis and the leading shoot of evolution” (1959, 36).

One of the great divides between “East” and “West,” it has been said, is the following: the Western religions (such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) maintain a radical distinction between the world, God, and human beings (who are made in God’s image). The Eastern religions (such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism), on the other hand, see the oneness and identity at the heart of all things, including God, the world, and human beings. The new emergent evolutionary holism understands that both traditions are correct. Time and eternity, finite and infinite, body and spirit are emergent, temporalized expressions of the holism of all things, the unity in diversity of the dynamic, living now of things, of which we are “the axis and the leading shoot.”

Love, in all its dimensions, animates this holism. As I declare in  Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: “From within the mysterious divine source, associated with the quantum plenum, the cosmos flows out in an astonishing, extending evolutionary flaring forth, a world holistically integrating all its particulars, and all the while retaining its primal unity.  We experience this “swinging outward” as emergent process, order, and structure.  Many wisdom thinkers have called this “love.” Teilhard speaks of “love, the higher, universal, and synthesized form of spiritual energy, in which all other energies of the soul are transformed, and sublimated, once they fall within ‘the field of Omega’” (1970, 122-23). The “field of Omega” is the emergent holism of the kosmos actualized in us.

Love is a pervasive context for all our knowing, caring, and being, for through it human consciousness can manifest the creative joy in simply being. Knowing as ecstatic consciousness: “Inspired by the breath of the universe,” Tagore declares, “the heart, like a reed sings” (2011, 158). Love in its multiple forms expresses itself in wonder, pursues understanding and knowledge, unites what is separated, draws us toward a liberating future, and fills our lives through the simple joy in living, a joy that is often at the same time an intuitive awareness, what I have called an “integrative mysticism” (Martin 2005, chap. 5). Love is fundamental to the process of continual self-transcendence that characterizes human life and reflects our infinite dignity.

As the universe has become conscious of itself in us, it has transcended its evolutionary process and actualized human freedom, creativity, and love. As free, creative, loving beings, we no longer simply evolve toward ever-greater holistic harmony.  Our mission is to create harmony, to establish a world of peace, justice, freedom, and sustainability. Our kosmocentric consciousness is not simply awareness of a non-temporal divine ground. It is the promise of human self-transcendence and a transformed future. I call this our “utopian horizon.” The universe has created for us (and itself) a utopian horizon in which an inadequate past and an unsatisfactory present demand loving transformation into the holistic harmony of peace, justice, sustainability and creative freedom.

We no longer need to emphasize a model of escaping temporality through meditative practices that seek timelessness. Our meditative practices and mindfulness, rather, should seek to actualize the divine principles of freedom, creativity, and love that have emerged in us. To do this we must abandon the false self of egoism as well as the collective selfhood of ethnocentrism. We must grow beyond these limitations into a selfhood and individuality that expresses through freedom and love the transformative quest for peace, justice, and sustainability. Each of us should ask his or herself: If I am a unique embodiment of the emergent self-awareness of the kosmos, what should my mission or destiny be as I envision the future? What is my utopian horizon?

To me, the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (www.earth-constitution.org) symbolizes, in many ways, the collective utopian horizon of our common humanity. It can serve as a blueprint as well as an ideal for the transformative struggle of the kosmos to actualize ever-greater freedom, creativity, and love through us.  It establishes a World Parliament predicated on peace, justice, freedom, and sustainability, and it designs the practical procedures for making this work effectively. That is why my book is named “Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence.” The goal of our freedom and love is to unite all humanity as brothers and sisters on this beautiful, resplendent planet. The Earth Constitution represents the next step in human growth and self-actualization. Actualizing this vision and this process in ourselves expresses the glory and ecstasy of being human.

Works Cited

Gafni, Marc. 2014. Self in Integral Evolutionary Mysticism: Two Models and Why They Matter. Tucson, AZ: Integral Publishers.

Laszlo, Ervin, with Alexander Laszlo. 2016. What is Reality? The New Map of Cosmos and Consciousness. New York: SelectBooks, Inc.

Martin, Glen T. 2015. Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Democracy Press.

—. 2018. Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishers (forthcoming).

Pannikar, Raimon. 1979. Myth, Faith, and Hermeneutics: Cross-cultural Studies. New York: Paulist Press.

Tagore, Rabindranath. 2011. The Essential Tagore. Eds. Fakrul Alam & Radha Chakravarty. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. 1959. The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.

—. 1970. Let Me Explain. Ed. Jean-Pierre Demoulin. New York: Harper & Row.

Wilber, Ken. 2007. Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston: Integral Books.

WCPA participates in an IACL Workshop in South Korea on Developing a World Constitution

I would like to congratulate the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) that organized its upcoming World Congress on the theme of “Violent Conflicts, Peace-Building, and Constitutional Law.” I also want to congratulate the organizers of this Workshop on the “Debate on Establishment of the World Constitution,” especially Professor Byung-Yoon CHO, for bringing the question of a World Constitution into focus through this Workshop and for inviting WCPA to participate in the discussions.     Although I am not able to be there physically for the workshop, I want to give some input if people are interested. I have written this short paper and will be happy to be available for a Skype dialogue if this is requested.

In this brief paper, I would like to address each of the eight topic headings suggested in the Workshop announcement from the point of view of my scholarly and activist work toward a democratic world government under the authority of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. By addressing each of these topics, I hope to elucidate for the consideration of the scholars in Workshop #1 both the fundamental work that has already been done by the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and some of the ways that we have addressed the issues identified in this listing of topics.  I have addressed in eight possible workshop topics in a different order from the one listed in the workshop announcement. Each topic is boldfaced.

  1. Universal concept of constitutionalism and (2) World Parliament


Constitutionalism, of course, includes the idea that it is essential to have a written framework that not only defines the powers of government and the role of its representatives but also defines the limits on those powers and holds those in power accountable to the framework of the laws as specified by the constitution. The Earth Constitution establishes a “positive constitutionalism” (Murphy 2007, 7) in which the government is mandated to foster the common good of the people of Earth and in which strict constitutional limits are placed on the authorities within government.

The Earth Constitution is not a direct heir of the separation of powers ideas of Montesquieu, as are found, for example, in the US Constitution. It sets up, rather, a dynamic parliamentary system in which the World Parliament, composed of three houses, represents the highest authority in the world, not countered by an Executive Authority with veto, military, or resistance powers. The World Executive under the World Parliament has no veto, no military, no refusal or police powers. The civilian Enforcement System (World Police) is independent of the Executive, as are the World Judiciary and World Ombudsmus, all agencies dedicated to protecting freedom, equal treatment under law, and human rights.

The World Parliament is itself designed for constitutional checks and balances among the three houses and for a maximum of diversity of representatives from every corner and constituency on our planet. The House of Peoples has 1000 representatives by population from around the globe.  The House of Counselors has 200 representatives chosen for their intellectual stature and wisdom. This House has special nominating and advisory functions that add a dimension of wisdom and knowledge to the broad diversity of representation in the Parliament. Third, the House of Nations has 1, 2, or 3, representatives from each nation depending its population.

The World Parliament, of course, is also constitutionally limited. As philosopher of law H.L.A. Hart declares, “A written constitution may restrict the competence of the legislature not merely by specifying the form and matter of the legislation…but by excluding altogether certain matters from the scope of its legislative competence” (1997, 68). The broad functions of the Earth Federation Government under the World Parliament constitute a broad conception of a common good for the people of Earth. This includes ending war and disarming the nations, protecting universal human rights, diminishing poverty and social differences, and protecting the planetary environment (Article 1). The structure of government specified by the Constitution is designed to actualize these common goods with maximum diversity, democratic participation, and effective action. One of the ways the World Parliament is constitutionally limited is that the Constitution specifies a federalist framework in which local matters are the province of local government, internal national matters the province of national governments, and global matters the province of the World Government.


  1. The creation of a world assembly of peoples: the legitimacy and power of popular sovereignty.


As I argue in my forthcoming book, Human Self-Transcendence and Our Global Social Contract (2018), the “sovereignty” of governments is derived from the people of Earth, whose delegation of authority for their own common good is the only legitimate source of governmental authority. As Immanuel Kant (1957) affirmed, governments do not have “dignity,” they claim a spurious “majesty” linked to their military power, but only human beings have dignity.  The authority of government represents the popular sovereignty of the people of Earth, for only people have the dignity that is the premise for governmental authority.

That is why governmental authority derives from popular sovereignty. The positivist view is misguided. The fact of simply being in power proffers no legitimacy.  The right of governments to their authority is a moral right, and this moral right is derived from their protection and respect for the citizens of the state. As philosopher Alan Gewirth asserts, “the primary justification of governments is that they serve to secure these rights” (1982, 3). As philosopher of law Ronald Dworkin affirms, the legitimate framework for governing is “concern and respect” for the rights and common good of the citizens (1978, xv). Similarly, law professor David Luban states, legitimate governing requires “respect for the governed, respect for the autonomy of the governed, and trust in the governed” (2007, 112).

The many initiatives to create an assembly of peoples going back to the very beginning of the UN system in 1945 are misguided insofar as they attempt to create another powerless body, like the UN General Assembly, that cannot delegate sovereignty, or represent the sovereignty, of a real world authority capable of protecting their common good and that of future generations. We cannot evolve the UN into a world authority or world parliamentary system because the UN is premised on the false notion of the sovereignty of its member nations. Many thinkers, since the “Westphalian system” was created in the 17th century, have pointed out that the system of sovereign nations recognizes no enforceable laws above the nations and is, therefore, inherently a war system. Kant pointed out that it is “war” even when they are not fighting one another. We can integrate the UN into the Earth Federation by replacing its charter with the Earth Constitution.

If we want to survive and prosper as the world civilization of unity in diversity that we surely are, then we must create a World Parliament of peoples under the authority of a genuinely constitutional system, which is what the Earth Constitution does. The threats of nuclear war and on-going climate collapse do not give us the leisure for such innocuous experiments like trying to reform the UN. It does not matter who wrote the Earth Constitution (though in fact it was written through a powerfully democratic as well as scholarly process), for it can only be ratified through the democratic criteria specified in Article 17. Ratification by the people of Earth would transform our broken world disorder overnight.

As a matter of fact, the Provisional World Parliament, at its Eighth Session in Lucknow, India, in 2004, passed World Legislative Act #29 for a Global People’s Assembly. This legislation sets up grassroots institutions worldwide to facilitate the people of Earth in communicating with their representatives in the World Parliament. The World Parliament is already grassroots in that the people of Earth, from 1000 electoral districts worldwide, directly elect representatives to the largest House of the Parliament. Nevertheless, the Global People’s Assembly intensifies and facilitates that process. By contrast, more “World Social Forums” or another powerless assembly within the UN system, we not even begin to address our lethal problems on this planet.


  1. The need and methodology for the establishment of the World Constitution


I would respectfully submit that we need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and a perfectly good wheel is already available to the people of Earth in many editions and many languages. One of the strengths of this Constitution is that the Fourth Constituent Assembly, meeting in 1991 in Troia, Portugal, declared it finished and ready for ratification. By contrast, if we try to bring in all interested parties today into a methodology for drafting and establishing a World Constitution, the components of the resulting document would be so watered down as to make no significant difference in transforming the World System to one ensuring the common good of ending war, protecting universal human rights, diminishing poverty, and protecting the global environment. The world has passed repeated tipping points in the collapse of its biosphere and scientists agree that we are living far beyond sustainability. We are daily diminishing the capacity of the Earth to support future generations.  Daily we encounter the possibility of nuclear war that will end all life.

Why we dally and vacillate is beyond both me and many of the tens of thousands of thinking people around the world within WCPA. If there are tenants in the Earth Constitution that any of us would want changed (and this is the case even with the officers of WCPA), then the Constitution offers ample space for the World Parliament to make these changes. We will never reach universal agreement on the details of a World Constitution. Our moral obligation, it appears to me, is to get this brilliant document ratified so that the world has the hope of a decent future, and, once weapons of mass destruction are eliminated and climate collapse is brought under control, we can then tinker with the secondary details.


  1. Universality of human dignity and (6) Global democracy: consider a more democratic global system

My forthcoming book, Human Self-Transcendence and Our Global Social Contract, has an entire chapter on human dignity. It cites many sources for this idea and goes into the dynamics of human self-transcendence, self-awareness, freedom, and moral responsibility that form the basis for human dignity. It is not possible to go into this detail here, but as I affirmed above, human dignity is the moral basis for the ideal of popular sovereignty and the foundation for all legitimate government authority. A consequence of this, as philosophers Errol E. Harris (1966) and John Finnis (1980, 129-30) have argued, is that all present day governments are increasingly illegitimate because they cannot possibly protect the common good of their citizens in a globalized world in which conditions are out of their hands. Harris declares, “The national state no longer has the right to exercise sovereign power and the conditions from which its authority originally derived are now obsolete, because they consisted in the pursuit of common purposes which can no longer be achieved within the limits of the nation-state and are attainable only in common with other communities beyond its borders” (1966, 186).

Human dignity is a universal concept, and nation-states are mostly militarized and often hostile to other nations. They are legally not responsible (under the UN sovereign state system) to protect human rights anywhere in the world. Even protection of human dignity and rights within their own borders is considered a voluntary moral obligation by the UN, since there is no global public authority to legally require this. If democracy means governmental authority arising from the dignity of the people and constitutionally organized to promote the common good of the citizens, then it cannot be a matter of “considering a more democratic global system” because there is nothing at all democratic about today’s global system. Without the rule of enforceable law over nation-states, there remain most basically power relationships, as Hans Morgenthau (2006) emphasized. Decisions for the rest of the world are not only made by the most powerful nations, but transnational corporations of immense wealth and power also determine the fate of billions. The world is a nightmare of oligarchical and imperial domination.

Real democracy today is only possible at the global level. The reason why it has failed in so called “democracies” worldwide is because under the fragmented system of sovereign states and transnational banking cartels and corporations there can be no democratic control of the internal affairs of any country. The Earth Constitution alone (or some very similar document) can establish effective democracy for the 21st century. The affairs of people within each and every country are no longer independent of global forces—from nuclear weapons, to climate collapse, to imperial powers, to global banking cartels. Only an effective global authority with enforceable power above these entities can bring democracy, justice, peace, and sustainability to our planet.

  1. Constitutional Education of Human Dignity for the Establishment of the World Constitution

and (8) Governing the whole world

I think it is very important to educate people concerning human dignity and human rights. As I have argued in a number of publications, human rights since the mid-twentieth century have included the right to planetary peace and the right to a protected, viable global environment. No nation-state nor treaty of nation-states can actualize these planetary rights, only a World Government could do this and the Earth Constitution is the gold standard for making this possible. WCPA has educators and educational institutions in a number of countries that teach about human dignity in relation to the Earth Constitution, because the Constitution is premised on this dignity.

The world today appears ungovernable because it violates dignity, equality, and justice everywhere on Earth, because environmental collapse is causing crises everywhere, and because the powers that control things (imperial nations, banking cartels, and transnational corporations) are themselves not in the slightest committed to peace, justice, or sustainability. Governing the whole world would not be difficult given computer technology and global communications used by a World Parliament perceived everywhere to be concerned with the common good. But to make this happen requires fundamental system change from the unworkable system of militarized sovereign nation-states and ungovernable transnational corporations to a genuine constitutional system predicated on human dignity, and hence on peace, justice, and sustainability.

We need to found a decent world system, rather than trying to evolve the current anachronistic and outdated world system, because human beings by this time in history are maturing to a worldcentric level in which we understand that our problems and their solutions are global in scope, and the present world system intrinsically violates this scope. This is demanded not only by our universal human dignity, but even for survival. The easiest and most rational way to found this global democratic system is through ratifying the Earth Constitution through the criteria specified in Article 17. Not only Albert Einstein, but Carl Jung and many other great thinkers and psychologists have pointed out that our apparently intractable conflicts and problems will be not so much solved, but dissolved, when we move to a higher level of understanding and maturity. That is what the Constitution for the Federation of Earth does. It brings the world into a unity in diversity of mature democratic globalism in which many of the apparently suicidal conflicts of the present system will disappear like the morning dew.  I urge the participants in this forward thinking workshop to study and seriously consider promoting the Earth Constitution.

Works Cited

Dworkin, Ronald. 1978. Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Finnis, John. 1980. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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

Global People’s Assembly, WLA29, found at: http://www.radford.edu/gmartin/PWP.legis.acts.list.htm

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

Hart, H.L.A. 1994. The Concept of Law. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kant, Immanuel. 1957. Perpetual Peace. Ed. Lewis White Beck. New York: Macmillan.

Luban, David. 2007. Legal Ethics and Human Dignity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, Glen T. 2018 (forthcoming). Human Self-Transcendence and Our Global Social Contract. London: Cambridge Scholars.

Morganthau, Hans. 2006. Politics among Nations. Seventh Edition. New York: McGraw Higher Education. (Orig. Pub. 1948.)


Murphy, Walter F. 2007. Constitutional Democracy: Creating and Maintaining a Just Political Order. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Authentic Global Democracy and the Earth Constitution

Glen T. Martin

The Earth Constitution is the foundation for authentic global democracy. This article explains both the fundamentals of what democracy is and why the Earth Constitution best satisfies these criteria. It not only presents the pattern for a transformed and redeemed world system, but may also be the key to saving human beings from extinction. It founds our world system, for the first time in history, on the global common good.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth, Professor Errol E. Harris maintains in his 2005 book Earth Federation Now!, is by far our best option for accomplishing both of the necessities of saving human beings from extinction and establishing authentic democracy for the Earth.  It is designed to effectively deal with the entire range of world problems: global militarism and wars, global human rights protection, global resource management for the common good, reasonable global economic equality, global environmental protection and restoration, as well as with all other problems beyond the scope of sovereign nation-states (Articles 1 and 4).

The democratic idea that arises from our common human situation, Harris maintains, can only be regenerated through shifting the scale to planetary democracy. The Earth Constitution is brilliantly designed to both deal with our global crises and to establish truly meaningful democracy premised on the equality, freedom, security, and common good of the peoples of the Earth. The most advanced democratic theorists have articulated the conditions for a more mature and participatory democracy beyond a regime based on mere “preferences.” This advanced democracy is structured into the Earth Constitution.

For philosopher John Dewey, the “totalitarian menace awakens us to a deeper loyalty to intelligence, pure and undefiled, and to the intrinsic connection between it and free communication: the method of conference, consultation, discussion, in which there takes place purification and pooling of the net results of the experiences of multitudes of people” (1993: 208).  Democratic government provides the mechanisms for a collective rationality in which people work together for the common good. For Robert E. Goodin, in his book Reflective Democracy, democracy must develop infrastructure that encourages people’s “empathic recognition” of opposing points of view, so that democracy becomes “reflective” even on the level of large societies that transcend the level of face to face discussion and rely on representative “trustees” to deliberate empathically on the issues (2003: 72).

For Benjamin Barber, democracy must become animated through the activation of a citizenship based solidarity that goes beyond voting for preferences to transformative participation in governing: “the creation of a political community capable of transforming dependent, private individuals into free citizens and partial and private interests into public goods (1984: 132, italics his). The Earth Constitution is not only designed to deal with all those global crises that transcend the internal affairs of nations, it is designed to actualize all of these features with respect to living democracy as well.

In its second bill of rights, called “Directive Principles for the Earth Federation,” the Constitution requires that the Federation “assure to each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential” (Article 13.12). Here we see one of the many ways that the Constitution reflects the very essence of democracy, which we have seen above is based on our common humanity and individual potentialities. Our continuous growth as human beings requires that we actualize the potentialities within each of us and within the human community.

The Constitution also reflects Dewey’s insight that communicative forums of all sort magnify our individual intelligence into a collective rationality that can effectively deal with our problems. The Constitution, throughout its structures, agencies, and departments, is based upon dialogue and collective decision-making. The World Parliament, central to the entire system, is comprised of three houses: the House of Peoples, the House of Nations, and the House of Counsellors. Each house dialogues within itself and all houses also meet jointly in a common conversation.

The entire Earth Constitution is constructed on a holistic basis to integrate agencies, departments, and the Parliament itself within a synergistic framework. In addition to this, each agency or branch of the government never headed by one CEO but rather by a group of 5 or sometimes 10 highly qualified persons.  We might modify the popular saying here to declare: “Five heads are better than one.”   Each of the 5 is elected from a different one of the 5 official continental divisions of the Earth Federation.

Hence, the World Executive is headed by a Presidium of five, one from each continental division. The Collegium of World Judges is headed by a “Presiding Council” of five World Judges, one from each continental division, the World Attorneys General is headed by five Attorneys General, one from each continent, the World Ombudsmus is headed by a “Council of World Ombudsen,” one from each continent.  Each House of the World Parliament shall elect a “panel of five Chairpersons,” one from each continent.  Six of the seven agencies of the Integrative Complex shall be headed by a “ten member commission” (in addition to their Cabinet Minister and Senior Administrator), divided among the continental divisions.

Dialogue and discussion are structurally built into the fabric of every agency of the Earth Federation government. In each case, the 5 or 10 members of the “council” or “commission” must reach decisions and act collectively.  In addition, the powers of each agency or branch of the Earth Federation are defined specifically, along with the limits on these powers.  Dialogue is the basis for the action of each agency and that action is carefully limited to the broad function, repeated throughout the Constitution, of “service to humanity.”  In many cases, including for each member of the World Parliament, the leaders must take a “pledge of service to humanity” (Article 5.4.4).

The Constitution requires that “Voter’s Information Booklets” be prepared before each Parliamentary election, summarizing the issues, giving the candidates backgrounds, and allowing the same space for the candidates to speak to the issues.  No longer will big money or deceptive advertising determine elections. People will necessarily have to make their decisions based on thoughtful assessment of the issues, not on blind emotions evoked by deceptive big-money advertising.

The World Executive, head of the Executive Branch and the World Administration, is carefully limited in its powers. It has no military powers, no authority to declare a state of emergency or refuse to administer the budget approved by the World Parliament. It does not supervise the World Police, who are directly responsible to the World Parliament (not the Executive Branch). It has no veto power over any legislation passed by the Parliament. It is restricted to dialogue and reasoning within a framework of transparency. There are no reasons for any national security secrets in the form of classified documents and secret meetings. Democracy is here institutionalized at the global level, which is not only its appropriate level, but the only level on which it can actually work.

The same arrangements apply to the World Police and Attorneys General. The “means of enforcement” in Article 10.4 encourage continually reducing the need to use lethal force and finding alternative methods of enforcement.  The Police are required to continually develop the means of non-violent conflict resolution and fair hearings for all peoples. The Police and Executive are watched over by the World Ombudsmus (again directed by a group of 5, one from each continental division) who has responsibility for seeing that human rights are protected, that Article 13 “Directive Principles” are implemented, and that government operates transparently, efficiently, and democratically.

Article 10.1 states that “The enforcement of world law and world legislation shall apply directly to individual, and individuals shall be held responsible for compliance with world law and world legislation regardless of whether the individuals are acting in their own capacity or as agents or officials of governments at any level or of the institutions of governments, or as agents or officials of corporations, organizations, associations or groups of any kind.”  Here we discern a key to a democratic world system transcending the nation-state war system. There is no immunity: no more “diplomatic immunity,” no privileges of corporate power or nation-state government immunity from prosecution, no more military personnel claiming they are “only obeying orders.” These non-democratic features are rife in our present world system.  Democracy can only exist when law is enforceable over all individual persons, and this can only be effectively realized at the world level.

Article 10.1.5 states that: “Those agents of the enforcement system whose function shall be to apprehend and bring to court violators of world law and world legislation shall be equipped only with such weapons as are appropriate for the apprehension of the individuals responsible for violations.”  Just as all individuals are responsible to the law, so there is no need for weapons that target whole groups or communities (hence no military weapons).  A military is only necessary where democracy does not exist, when whole nations or groups can be targeted outside of due process of law and outside of recognition of their universal human rights to “life, liberty, and security of person.”  Under global democracy the role of the police is transformed. It is not in the least military, but rather, foundational to genuine democracy.

The mandate of the police includes article 10.4.4: “A basic condition for preventing outbreaks of violence which the Enforcement System shall facilitate in every way possible, shall be to assure a fair hearing under non-violent circumstances for any person or group having a grievance, and likewise to assure a fair opportunity for a just settlement of any grievance with due regard for the rights and welfare of all concerned.”  Here, again, we find a fundamental feature of democracy. The mandate of the World Police, like that of the World Courts and the World Ombudsmus, is precisely this institutionalization of fairness, justice, and nonviolence.

Democracy eliminates violence because its goal is justice and the “welfare of all concerned,” not the welfare of the rich, nor of any sovereign government, nor of corporate power. “All,” as Mortimer Adler declared, “is the most radical…term in the lexicon of political thought,” and for the first time (under the Earth Constitution) “we are beginning to mean ‘all’ without exception when we say ‘all’” (1991: 90). Thomas Jefferson declared that “All men are created equal,” at the same time excluding slaves and women. Only under democratic world law can we really mean this as a fundamental moral principle. Under nation-state absolute sovereignty, the slogan has little meaning.

The World Ombudsmus is an entire agency dedicated to realizing this principle. Part of its mandate is “To promote the welfare of the people of Earth by seeking to assure that conditions of social justice and of minimizing disparities are achieved in the implementation and administration of world legislation and world law.”  It must protect the two bills of rights: the great range of civil liberties in Article 12 and the rational ideals of a transformed world system in Article 13.

Among the many wonderful freedoms guaranteed by these Articles, I will only mention three: (1) “Freedom of assembly, association, organization, petition and peaceful demonstration.” (12.4), (2) “Freedom for investigation, research and reporting.” (12.8) and (3) “Encouragement for cultural diversity; encouragement for decentralized administration.” (13.16)

The World Police, the World Courts, and the World Ombudsmus are mandated to provide the citizens of Earth with the freedom of assembly and association necessary to rational dialogue and debate, with the power of investigation and information necessary for informed dialogue and debate, and to respect the diversity and decentralized citizen participation necessary for vibrant participatory democracy.

The Earth Constitution, as our global social contract, puts humanity for the first time ever on the foundation of true democracy. This is because the three fundamental functions of democracy, outlined above, can only be actualized on the global level when the citizens of Earth have given up their obsession with violence and war and come together to create a society in which each child is assured “the right to the full realization of his or her potential.”

These structural arrangements for empowered democracy are enhanced through the elaborations that have been made by the Provisional World Parliament meeting under the authority of Article 19 of the Constitution. Article 19 calls for the people of Earth to begin the Earth Federation now, even while they are waiting for full ratification to take place by the peoples and nations of the Earth.  The Parliament has met 14 times between 1982 and 2015 and has passed some 67 World Legislative Acts (WLAs) that have enhanced, enabled, and promoted the letter and spirit of the Earth Constitution.

On the level of dealing with world problems (the addressing of which is defined as “broad functions” of the Earth Federation in Article One) the Parliament has passed World Legislative Acts further protecting the environment, outlawing weapons of mass destruction, dealing with resource depletion, addressing global economic equality and poverty reduction, and protecting human rights. On the level of establishing an empowered, vibrant democracy for the Earth, the Parliament has also passed a number of acts directed toward this goal.

It has passed WLA 26, the Education Act, in which all schools under the authority of the Earth Federation will have students progressively study (1) global issues, (2) the Earth Constitution, (3) issues with respect to quality of life, (4) the requirements for world peace, (5) unity in diversity, and (6) requirements for good government. Through such a curriculum students will be empowered to become active world citizens contributing to planetary democracy and the common good, and they will receive training in that “empathic recognition” that Goodin affirms as essential to representative, trusteeship, democracy.

Among the many other acts of the Provisional World Parliament directed to enhancing vibrant global democracy under the Earth Constitution, let me mention just three more. First, the Parliament as passed WLA 57 establishing the “Collegium of World Legislators.” This requires all of those elected to the World Parliament, including the 1000 in the House of Peoples, the 200 in the House of Counsellors and the approximately 300 in the House of Nations to undergo training in “dialogue directed toward mutual understanding” and “nonviolent communication skills.”  The clear purpose is to enhance the quality of dialogue and debate within the World Parliament, helping the Parliament to become the collective intelligence for the trustees of humanity and not a mere place for promoting partisan interests.

Secondly, the Parliament has passed WLA 59, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Act. This Act requires the government to set up such commissions wherever in the world there are serious disagreements that may lead to violence or significant social harm. Procedures for these commissions require local empowerment with local participants taking the lead in the process of truth and reconciliation through non-violent communication and mutual dialogue. The act prohibits the government from using these for any spying or undercover work, and requires that governmental authority provide the framework, sanction, and empowerment for the reconciliations that take place.

Vibrant democracy operates in just this way. It means that mechanisms for communication and understanding and collective intelligence provide a foundation for citizen participation, so that violence, whether overt or structural, is avoided, and human flourishing can take place within a safe and supportive framework.  None of this is seriously possible under the present regime of militarized nation-states and whose lawless and violent behavior is both mimicked and mirrored by global terrorism. This global chaos of violence continues unabated while the planetary environment is collapsing all around us.

Thirdly, the Parliament has passed WLA 29 that creates a “Global People’s Assembly,” creating a worldwide system of meeting places for civic dialogue and debate through which citizens have a direct link to the government offices of their representatives in the House of Peoples. This displaces the current  lobby system, such as that in the U.S., in which wealthy and corporate entities hire professional lobbyists to promote their privileged, non-democratic interests. The Global People’s assembly will encourage dialogue and debate about global issues and democratic living worldwide. It provides a direct, grass-roots means for people to communicate with their elected representatives in the House of Peoples.

As Harris, Dewey, and Habermas understand it, democracy emerges as our fundamental mode of human association. Its development must therefore be moved to the planetary level, since democracy is defeated at the national level by world crises that are beyond the control of the nations. At the planetary level it can really flourish for the first time because democracy is precisely about our common human dignity and about developing our common human and individual potential. It cannot intelligibly be said to stop at arbitrary territorial borders.

The Earth Constitution serves as a global social contract that recognizes our fundamental human condition as persons within community. It is designed not only to establish world peace and environmental sustainability while eliminating global poverty and misery. It is also designed to empower planetary citizenship everywhere, creating a framework for dialogue and debate such that our collective human intelligence will be immeasurably enhanced and our human potential significantly actualized.

For the first time in history, a framework will be in place in which all individual persons can develop to the fullest of their capacities, assuring “each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential.” At the same time, it will enhance, empower, and “complete” our global community, that vibrant and harmonious community that can only be, and indeed must be, the essential framework for both our global consciousness and individual human flourishing. Let us join together to establish real democracy on the Earth for the first time. It is high time to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.






Adler, Mortimer J. (1991). Haves Without Have Nots: Essays for the 21st Century on Democracy and Socialism. New York: Macmillan.

Barber, Benjamin (1984). Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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

Burke, Edmund (2001). Reflections on the Revolution in France. A Critical Edition. J.C.D. Clark, editor. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Daly, Herman E. (1996). Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press.

Dewey, John (1993). The Political Writings. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro, eds. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.

Finnis, John (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Goodin, Robert E. (2003). Reflective Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Habermas, Jürgen (2003). The Future of Human Nature. William Rehg, et. al., trans. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.

Harris, Errol E. (2005). Earth Federation Now! Tomorrow is Too Late. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

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

Hart, H.L.A. (1994). The Concept of Law. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Held, David (1996). Models of Democracy. Second Edition. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Locke, John (1963). “Second Treatise on Civil Government” in Social and Political Philosophy. John Somerville and Ronald Santoni, eds. New York: Doubleday, pp. 169-204.

Mill, John Stuart (1956). On Liberty. Currin V. Shields, editor. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company.

Locke, John (1963). “Second Treatise on Civil Government” in Social and Political Philosophy. John Somerville and Ronald Santoni, eds. New York: Doubleday, pp. 169-204.

Nusbaum, Martha (2013). Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1947). The Social Contract and Discourses. G. D. H. Cole, trans. New York: E. P. Dutton & CO.


Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy and Chair Emeritus of Peace Studies at Radford University and President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA).



The Socialist Imperative and Our Global Social Contract

  1. Human Beings Growing Toward Moral Maturity


Humanity is struggling to emerge from a long history of cruelty, barbarism, and savagery. As Jonathan Glover shows in his book Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, we are not very far along in the quest “of the human species as it struggles to escape from its brutal past.”  The use of technology in mass exterminations, the dehumanizing of “enemies” and closing of our hearts against the “others,” the lack of compassion for those of different nations, races, or religions have been rampant phenomena throughout the 20th century to the present. Glover is not optimistic that “either torture or cruel punishment is certain to fade away as the human race grows up” (2000: 41 & 39).


But grow up we must, for time is rapidly running out before our savagery, combined with awesome technologies of mass destruction, obliterates the entire hope, beauty, and promise of our human project. The psychologists and philosophers of human development have reached a broad consensus concerning the stages of moral, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive development. Upon reaching adulthood we are capable of continuous growth toward becoming ever-more “worldcentric.”  We are capable of becoming ever-more “integrated” and “integrating” persons, embracing the vast diversity of humanity and other sensitive living creatures with an encompassing love, compassion, kindness, and friendship. We are capable of replacing violence and fragmentation with the harmony of compassionate unity in diversity.


The resources open to us to enhance this growth process include philosophical reflection, meditation, holistic education, and institutional reform. People are more easily led to the dehumanizing of others, to a lack of care for others and hardness of heart, when they are devoid of all or some of these resources. Lack of access to these resources can result in cultures and institutions that promote bigotry, fear, narrowness, ethnocentrism, racism, and the dehumanization of others that accompany these responses.


The socialist imperative is the imperative of our emerging human maturity in which we discover that we are one humanity in whom reason and love must develop to the point where we make the Earth a decent home for all its children. However today, as philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm points out, the only oneness recognized by the present Lords of the Earth is our planet as both a battleground for global wars and a giant marketplace for capital accumulation. Philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm declares that we need a new, worldwide “socialist humanism” in which economics is placed in the service of human flourishing and well-being:


The one world is one, so far, inasmuch as it is one potential battlefield, rather than a new system of world citizenship. We live in one world, yet in his feelings and thoughts contemporary man still lives in the nation state. His loyalties are still primarily to sovereign states and not to the human race. This anachronism can only lead to disaster…. The alternative of socialism or barbarism has become frighteningly real today, when forces working toward barbarism seem to be stronger than those working against it. (1962: 171-173)

For Fromm, we need a new renaissance of worldwide socialist humanism in which our “new technical powers” are used “for the sake of man”:  “it is a new society in which the norms for man’s unfolding govern the economy, rather than the social and political process being governed by blind and anarchic economic interests” (ibid. 173).


The socialist imperative is the moral imperative at the heart of human maturity: our personal individuality is not separable from our common humanity. Our love and compassion have grown to identify with the entire world, its human children and its living creatures. Education, economics, politics, and institutions need to be directed toward making our planet a decent place for all to live. We need one world with a world parliament that has the mandate and the vision to actualize a democratic socialist, loving, and sustainable environment for the entire Earth.


It is not only the new human maturity emphasizing the development of our reason and our love that advocates democratic socialism, the socialist imperative is also the moral imperative found at the heart of all the great scriptures of the world: the imperative for love, compassion, kindness, and friendship. It recognizes the moral demand at the heart of our human situation to recognize our common humanity with others and organize our institutions in such a way that protects and enhances the human dignity of everyone. In Christianity it is the universal love (agape) taught by Jesus. In Vedic religions it is the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).


With the growth of critical self-awareness among human beings especially since the 15th century, and prominently since the “Enlightenment” of the 18th century, the moral imperative found at the heart of the great scriptures of the world is being progressively disentangled from the dogmas, rituals, mantras and institutional frameworks of these religions.  From Immanuel Kant’s 18th century affirmation of human dignity independently of all religion to the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it is now become possible, for the first time in history, to proclaim universal ethical principles independently of all religious scriptures: “recognition of the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”


The democratic revolutions of the 18th century embodied the revolutionary idea of the equality of all citizens and their inherent “natural rights” existing independently of governmental authorities (which might deny those rights).  The U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson (a follower of British philosopher John Locke) declares: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


The first generation of human rights was born: the rights to freedom, civil liberty, religion, assembly, habeas corpus, and due process of law. However, the 19th century with its industrial revolution saw the vast expansion of the capitalist system, with the so-called “right to private property” enshrined in laws that allowed the owners of factories to employ child labor, pay starvation wages to employees, force labor to work for 12 hours per day, and build factories replete with dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. This economic system created masses of extremely poor people living in horrific conditions struggling to survive while being exploited in every possible way to enhance the profits of the owners.


Moral outrage permeates the writings of Karl Marx and many other 19th century revolutionary critics of this horrific system of exploitation and degradation. Scholars such as José Miranda in his book Marx Against the Marxists (1986) show that the so-called “materialist” interpretation of Marx that repudiates the moral dimension in favor of historical forces operating independently of morality is false. Marx was steeped in the Bible and animated by a much deeper moral love and compassion than the “Bourgeois morality” that he repudiated.


The Socialist Imperative recognizes our common humanity, our “species being” as Marx called it, and the imperative of society to organize itself in ways that optimize human equality, dignity, and freedom. In this respect, the socialist imperative is fundamentally identical with the democratic imperative, for democracy is also the organization of society around human equality, dignity, and freedom. Our collective understanding of the moral requirement to recognize our common human dignity, emphasized by Kant in the 18th century, was now expanded in the 19th century with the birth of “second generation” rights: the rights to the conditions that make possible our individual human flourishing and development: education, health care, sanitation, and the basic necessities for life such as food, clothing, and shelter.


The U.N. Universal Declaration of 1948 includes both generations of rights. Article 25 declares: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”  The moral discourse of humanity and our ‘species being,’ now divorced from formal religions and forming the ground for a universal ethical discourse, affirms that economics and society must be organized to preserve human dignity and opportunity for all, even for the least privileged members of society. Human beings continued to grow toward moral maturity.


The worldwide recognition of multiple global crises activated understanding that there is a third generation of human rights. It is not enough to have civil liberties and one’s basic needs satisfied if there is constant war, fear, and violence nearly everywhere on Earth. It is not enough to have liberty and well-being if the global climate is collapsing all around us portending ever increasing disasters throughout our lives.


Human beings have a right to peace, and a right to a protected and wholesome planetary environment. Human rights become a coherent set of ideals surrounding our common humanity and our universal human dignity.  One cannot have some of these without the others. All these rights (and our corresponding responsibilities) form an integrated whole. Human dignity demands institutions that honor this dignity.


  1. The Socialist Imperative


The 4th century Greek fathers of the Christian Church understood the socialist imperative that was taught by Jesus the Christ: St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407): “Do not say, ‘I am using what belongs to me.’ You are using what belongs to others. All the wealth of the world belongs to you and to the others in common, as the sun, air, earth, and all the rest.”  (Cort, 1988: 45)   St. Ambrose (c. 340-397): “God has ordered all things to be produced so that there should be food in common for all, and that the earth should be the common possession of all. Nature, therefore, has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it the right for a few.” (Ibid. 47)


In the 18th century, social philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was to agree with St. Ambrose concerning the system of scarcity imposed when the resources of the earth became “the right of a few”:


The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying “This is mine,” and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” (In Martin, 2008: 147)


Historian and Christian thinker Richard Henry Tawney in his book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) writes: “Compromise is as impossible between the Church of Christ and the idolatry of wealth, which is the practical religion of capitalist societies, as it was between the Church and the state idolatry of the Roman Empire” (In Cort, 1988: 173).


Christian thinker Enrique Dussel in his book Ethics and Community (1986) declares of sinners: “They totalize themselves, asserting themselves to be God, fetishizing the divinizing themselves. They fall into idolatry…. The act by which one asserts oneself to be the end of other persons—as factory owners think they have the right to the factory’s profit even though that profit be their workers’ hunger transformed into money—is idolatry…. These modern “gods” are the product of the “logic” of sin, of the domination of one human being over another….”  (1986: 19). For Dussel, the dominant world capitalist system creates a pseudo-morality for itself in order to justify and cover up its vast regime of domination and exploitation. This conventional morality is the negation of the socialist imperative taught by Jesus to love one another in a spirit of harmony and sharing.


For philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952): “The ultimate problem of production is the production of human beings. To this end the production of goods is intermediate and auxiliary. It is by this standard that the present system stands condemned…. The means have to be implemented by a social-economic system that establishes and uses the means for the production of free human beings associating with one another on terms of equality” (1993: 170). Economics and social institutions need to support the quest of each person to develop his or her potential.  This is the socialist imperative. However, for Dewey, capitalism reverses this imperative by sacrificing human beings to the drive for private profit.


For philosopher Michael Luntley (1990), capitalism destroys the capacity of people to pursue the good (including their own potential for development). It systematically obstructs moral pursuit of the good. It introduces an “atomism” in which each possesses a “negative freedom” to pursue his or her own welfare at the expense of nature and the community. It repudiates that normativity in which society collectively supports the development of each of its members and their cooperative effort to actualize justice, freedom, and truth within our human situation.


In his book Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980), philosopher of law John Finnis identifies seven intrinsically valuable goods some combination of which makes for a fulfilled and worthwhile human life. These are life, knowledge, practical reason, friendship, aesthetic experience, play, and religion (in the broad sense of a discerning a meaning to existence). Finnis mounts a powerful critique of the utilitarian doctrine that there can be some instrumental means to “achieving the greatest good of the greatest number” (a justification often used for capitalism).  Unrestrained competition in a “free market” does not create the greatest good. Rather it actively interferes with our common human pursuit of what is good. The fullness of any human life involves the ability to develop and participate in these goods along some or all or these multiple lines, and the common good of society involves the organization of economics and institutions to make this possible for all citizens.


Capitalism violates this common good. None of these intrinsic goods (“natural rights”) is identified as wealth or possessions. All of them require a genuine “community” that goes much deeper than the formal contractual basis of capitalist society: competing commercial persons and entities making legal contracts with one another. A “community,” Finnis insists, can only be completed when it is bound together by a constitution that “completes” the union, granting rights and responsibilities to all citizens and pursuing the common good of them all. At the planetary level, only a global social contract, with economics and institutions predicated on the common good of all, can complete and vivify the human community. This vision of the “completed community” is the democratic socialist vision.


For political philosopher Bernard Crick (1987):


Socialism has both an empirical theory and a moral doctrine. The theory is that the rise and fall of cohesion in societies is best explained not by the experience and perpetuation of elites (which is conservatism), nor by the initiatives and inventions of competitive individuals (which is liberalism), but by the relationship to the ownership and control of the means of production of the primary producers of wealth…. The doctrine asserts the primacy and mutual dependence of the values of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’, and it draws on the theory to believe that greater equality will lead to more cooperation than competition, that this will in turn enhance fraternity and hence liberate from inhibition, restriction and exploitation both individual personality and the full productive potential of society. (79)


Just as John Dewey argues that the institutions of society should be directed toward the actualization of our human potential so Crick asserts that both individuals and the productive potential of society are enhanced by socialism. We have allowed wealth and power to dominate our so-called free societies to our own detriment. Contemporary social thinker Terry Eagleton writes: “We know that socialism has established itself when we are able to look back with utter incredulity on the idea that a handful of commercial thugs were given free rein to corrupt the minds of the public with Neanderthal political views convenient for their bank balances but for little else” (2011: 28). Donald Trump, now President of the United States, is a case in point.


Political thinker Andre Gorz affirms:


For socialists it is a question, to an increasing extent, of organizing society and sociability as spaces for individual emancipation and development…. Only through such solidaristic association and voluntary co-operation can individuals free themselves from their subordination to the uncontrolled logic of capital and market forces to become actors in the creation of a new society. To fight for socialism means concretely to claim the right of individuals to freedom, equality, physical integrity and self-determination, by acting so that the social conditions which conflict with this right are remodeled. (1994: 41)

Socialism does not mean central planning by some unaccountable elite. Democratic socialism at this point in history will be a market socialism. It will combine the reputed efficiency of markets with the moral imperative that institutions and economics support the development of our higher human potential and pursuit of the good. Christopher Pierson writes:

The core principle of the market socialist position is easily stated. At its simplest, market socialism describes an economic and political system which combines the principles of social ownership of the economy with the continuing allocation of commodities (including labor) through the mechanism of markets…. [Market socialists] offer an alternative model in which markets are combined with varying forms of the social ownership of capital. Amongst its supporters, the market is recommended not only as a way of attaining greater economic efficiency under socialism, but also as a way of securing greater individual liberty or a more equal value of liberty, of increasing democracy and of enhancing social justice. (84-85)

The socialist imperative, therefore, involves the moral imperative to organize our institutions to enhance human freedom and well-being.  This is clearly not done when the wealth of the world is sucked up by a tiny minority of extremely wealthy persons and corporations. It is not a matter of government planning of everything. This is merely a red herring put forward by current ruling class propaganda to serve their own interests. As Gorz asserts above, capitalisms’ “uncontrolled logic” devastates human communities and the environment worldwide.  You cannot have uncontrolled and perpetual “growth” on a finite planet, and you cannot have the 1% sucking up the wealth of the planet, if we want a decent future for our children.

As Michael Harrington asserts in his 1972 book Socialism, socialism is not simply about an economic theory that says that ownership must be in the cooperative hands of people for the common good of everyone, it is also about “a truly new order of things” in which human fulfillment within the framework of a protected natural world is the foundation of our institutions and economic arrangements. For several thousand years, Harrington affirms, human beings have struggled in the “desert” of scarcity, deprivation, and unjust distributions of wealth. We have gotten used to this “bitter experience; we do not dare to think that things could be otherwise” (1972: 272)

But Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, quoted above, rings true. We have allowed the few to claim “private ownership” of what belongs to us all as our birthright: to live with freedom, peace, and well-being within a protected planetary environment. The few will always intone the mantra that this is impossible, that scarcity and deprivation are the natural human condition. But those who are morally awake and mature know that divine compassion, love, justice, and freedom need to become incarnate within our human condition.

We know that the socialist imperative embodies these principles. Our task is to end the wretched slavery, poverty and misery that plague our human condition where the few live well at the expense of the many. Our task, in the words of Jesus the Christ is to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth. Our task, expressed in the words of Article 28 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is to actualize this: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”  We are far from such a “world order” because we lack a global social contract.

  1. Our Global Social Contract

Just as we have seen Michael Luntley affirm that no common moral good for human life can arise from the “atomism” of capitalism, so the moral imperative that actualizes our third generation rights to peace and a protected environment cannot arise from the atomism and fragmentation of the system of so-called “sovereign” nation-states. Every nation believes it has the “right” to militarize because it is faced with potential enemies. In doing so, each fragmented nation-state becomes an unwitting enemy of humanity. Human beings have a genuine and unalienable right to a world order that actualizes all three generations of human rights, including peace, that is, to a world order united to create our planet as a decent home for all its citizens and other living creatures.

Today people who are born into small, poor nations appear to be born into a prison camp. They cannot travel beyond their tiny borders. No one wants them, and their chances for a flourishing life are severely restricted within their own nation, subject as it is to exploitation and domination within the global capitalist system and under the powerful imperial nations. Today, people born anywhere, whether in a large or small nation, are forced to pay for a militarization that violates their right to live in peace.  How many people in the world today who are not making a profit from the war system want to have war rather than peace?

The apparent necessity of this planetary war system is a direct result of the fragmentation and atomism of the system of territorially bound so-called “sovereign” states: as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and many others recognized. No state is willing to allow enforceable laws above itself.  Every state embraces this lawless world system of war, scarcity, suspicion, secrecy, hate and fear. Many nations claim the “right” to build nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, claiming the need for “self-defense” while increasing the terror of those at whom these weapons are aimed.

The capitalist system of domination and exploitation profits immensely from this war system. Great wealth is extracted from the development, manufacture, and sale of weapons worldwide. As many thinkers have pointed out, the capitalist system is intricately linked to the system of militarized territorial nation-states. The socialist imperative is the imperative to unite humanity around the principles of universal justice, equality, freedom, peace, and environmental sustainability.

It is not only the scourge of capitalism that prevents us from leaving the desert of historical scarcity for the promised land of human fulfilment. We cannot escape from the desert as long as we embrace the parochial concept of a world divided into absolute territorial fragments. The very existence of this fragmented, militarized world clearly violates Article 28 of the UN Universal Declaration. It violates our rights to peace and a protected planetary environment.

As many thinkers have pointed out from the 17th century to the present, the system of “sovereign” nation-states is intrinsically a “war-system.” In the early 21st century, we now know that we are one world, one humanity, one universal set of moral imperatives, and one interlinked destiny. Why do we continue to cling to the atomism and fragmentation, centuries old, that violates these truths?

Neither the word ‘capitalism’ nor the word ‘socialism’ appears in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Yet, the Constitution announces the socialist imperative at the very outset, in its Preamble. It proceeds to construct a world system that institutionally embodies these principles in a practical, organized, democratic manner.  The Preamble states:

Conscious that Humanity is One despite the existence of diverse nations, races, creeds, ideologies and cultures and that the principle of unity in diversity is the basis for a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace prevail; when the earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare; and when basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination….

The principle of unity in diversity declares that the wonderful diversity of humanity, its languages and cultures, must be embraced in a political, economic, and institutional unity that preserves and protects that diversity. We are all legal world citizens under the Earth Constitution with all the rights and responsibilities guaranteed in Articles 12 and 13. The socialist principle is articulated here in three dimensions: first war shall be outlawed and peace prevail. The socialist imperative is the imperative for social cooperation on behalf of the freedom, equality, and community of all people: a society and economy dedicated to the right of each person to develop her or her life potential. The right of peace is a necessary component in this equation.

Secondly, the Preamble states that the “new age” will be one in which the “earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare.” Again, the socialist imperative is affirmed. This planet and its resources must be equitably used for the benefit of all, not the 1% who own more than 50% of the world’s resources, not the richest 15% who currently own 85% of the world’s resources.

Third, the Preamble states that “basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination.” This affirms the socialist principle that our common human dignity must be protected and cherished through concrete economic and social institutions that guarantee all people equally both freedom and well-being. The basic idea of democracy, the basic requirements of universal moral principles, and the socialist imperative are one and the same. We are tasked as human beings to take back our planet Earth from the 1% and make it a decent home for all persons and other living creatures.

The Constitution sets up a World Parliament of three houses: a House of Peoples with 1000 representatives elected from equal districts worldwide, a House of Nations with 1, 2, or 3 representatives appointed or elected by each nation, depending on its population, and the House of Counsellors with 200 representatives, 10 each from 20 world regions who will represent the whole of the planet and the common good. The mandate of the World Parliament for each and every representative, however, is not to represent the parochial interests of their constituencies but to address the global problems that are beyond the capacity of nations to handle: disarming the nations and ending wars, protecting universal human rights, diminishing social differences, and protecting the planetary environment. The World Parliament is socialist in this sense: its mandate is the good of everyone within an economic and institutional framework that makes this possible.


The basic premises of the Earth Constitution focus on human dignity and the rights of everyone to live in peace, security, with all the basic necessities required for this, within an environment that sustainably supports life,  with the clean water, air, and land required for healthy living. These basic premises are identical with those of socialism. The reason for this is that socialism is most fundamentally a moral conception, whereas capitalism is a self-proclaimed amoral system governed by what it claims are “objective economic laws.”  This claim to being “amoral” covers up the fact that capitalism is objectively immoral. It objectively violates human rights, human dignity, human freedom, human equality, and human fraternity, as well as our rights to peace and to a protected sustainable environment.


The list of “specific powers” granted to the Earth Federation government in Article 4 includes the following: “Place under world controls essential natural resources which may be limited or unevenly distributed about the Earth. Find and implement ways to reduce wastes and find ways to minimize disparities when development or production is insufficient to supply everybody with all that may be needed.”  The Constitution is permeated with this imperative: “to supply everybody with all that may be needed.” If we really mean “all” when we say “all,” then we are taking our stand on the democratic socialist imperative.


The Constitution affirms a market economy directed to the satisfaction of basic human needs, with global public banking providing necessary income and financing to all on the basis of their ideas and ability to work, not on the basis of collateral or previously accumulated capital.  It establishes a market socialist democracy directed to the common good of all the people on the planet and future generations.


In the list of 19 economic and social rights given in Article 13 (which includes a number of rights to a protected, sustainable planetary environment) there is one that may initially strike us as odd: “Assure to each child the right to the full realization of his or her potential.”  But this is fundamental to the entire framework of the Constitution which presents a set of institutions designed to achieve exactly this: the dignity and fundamental rights of each child must include a global social and economic framework in which that child can realize his or her potential. Like global democracy, and like the universal moral principles of equal justice, love, and compassion, the socialist imperative means “all” when it says “all.”


Unless we can unite together under a global social contract as presented in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, the chances of actualizing Article 28 of the Universal Declaration, or of obeying Jesus the Christ’s commandment to open the way for receiving the Kingdom of God on Earth, appear slim indeed.  The immoral, fragmented, and anachronistic institutions that dominate our world actively defeat morality, justice, and environmental sustainability at every turn. Both capitalism and the system of so-called sovereign nation-states are atomistic, fragmented, and immoral, both in their conceptions and in their observable consequences. They cannot be evolved; they must be transformed through founding a world system based on the democratic, moral, and socialist imperatives from the very beginning.


We must understand that we no longer need to wander in the desert of scarcity, injustice, and immaturity. We must rise to planetary maturity and affirm that we can institutionally ascend to a real fulfillment of our human project. We can enter the Promised Land only if we keep our eyes steadily on that vision; or at very least, we can establish the necessary institutions that make this vision possible. Unless we take this stand now, the future looks bleak indeed. Nothing less than this indicates the significance of our present historical moment with its opportunity to affirm our global social contract under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.


Works Cited


Cort, John C. (1988). Christian Socialism: An Informal History. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Crick, Bernard (1987). Socialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Dewey, John (1993). The Political Writings. Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro, eds. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.

Dussel, Enrique (1986). Ethics and Community. Robert R. Barr, trans. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Eagleton, Terry (2011). Why Marx Was Right. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Finnis, John (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Fromm, Erich (1962). Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Glover, Jonathan (1999). Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Gorz, André (1994). Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. Chris Turner, trans. London: Verso Press.

Harrington, Michael (1972). Socialism. New York: Saturday Review Press.

Kant, Immanuel (1964). Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. H. J. Paton, trans. New York: Harper & Row.

Luntley, Michael (1990). The Meaning of Socialism. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing.

Martin, Glen T. (2008). Ascent to Freedom: Practical & Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

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

Miranda, José (1986). Marx Against the Marxists. The Christian Humanism of Karl Marx. John Drury, trans. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.



The Human Community and Our Global Social Contract

Glen T. Martin

We stand at a critical moment in the Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth Community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility for one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.                                      (The Earth Charter, 2000)

Conscious that Humanity is One despite the existence of diverse nations, races, creeds, ideologies and cultures and that the principle of unity in diversity is the basis for a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace prevail; when the earth’s total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare; and when basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination; Conscious of the inescapable reality that the greatest hope for the survival of life on earth is the establishment of a democratic world government; We, citizens of the world, hereby resolve to establish a world federation to be governed in accordance with this constitution for the Federation of Earth.

(Preamble to the Earth Constitution, 1991)

Abstract.  The concept of our ‘human community’ pervades much of the literature and thought of the early 21st century. Yet much of this literature and thought has not yet comprehended the truth that a community cannot be fully realized without genuine democratic law. Democratic world law is not something added to the human community from another tradition or set of ideas. Rather it is intrinsic to the very concept of our human community. Indeed, without democratic world law, the fate of humanity and the Earth is infused with great peril, with the possibility of nuclear holocaust or planetary climate collapse. The ‘great promise’ of this moment in history is found not only in recognition of our human family as one global community. It is also necessarily found in the recognition of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth as the key to a peaceful, just, and sustainable human future.

*     *     *

Part One: Human Development, Global Community, and Our Present Limitations.

Many psychologists, philosophers, and other thinkers today recognize broad patterns of human growth toward cognitive and moral maturity. There is a wide consensus that proper human growth moves beyond acceptance of the values and beliefs of one’s local nation and culture to a “worldcentric” and global orientation. This consensus spans from psychologists such as Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg to philosophical thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas and Ken Wilber. Mature people, become world citizens, members of the human community. The human race itself is capable of historically growing to worldcentric maturity.

In terms of our generic, human historical development, this is sometimes put in terms of a first and second Axial Period.  The first Axial Period (described today by many thinkers) took place between the 8th and 2nd centuries BCE and is generally understood as the period when humans matured to the point where we became capable of discerning ever-more clearly our personal subjectivity from the ‘objective’ world around us.  We also became capable of individuality, of understanding our lives as individuals moving from birth toward death and needing to relate ourselves spirituality and morally to the surrounding universe (Hick 2004: 29-35).

A number of thinkers assert that today we are moving into a second Axial Period, one characterized as awakening to our common planetary situation as citizens of spaceship Earth.  As Swidler and Mojzes put this, “The new form of consciousness is different from the First Axial Period. Then it was individual consciousness; now it is global consciousness” (2000: 85). Even though the idea of the human family reaches back into the ancient roots of many religions and cultures, the actualized consciousness of this truth is emerging globally only today. As spiritual thinker Eckhart Tolle declares: “Our species now faces a stark choice: Evolve further our comprehensive and integral sense of interconnectedness, and our mutually shared sense of the inherent value of all humanity and planet earth which hosts us, or die”  (in Johnson and Ord, 2012: 36).

However, there are many who have reached the stage of worldcentric maturity who refuse to recognize the need for democratic world law. They refuse to move beyond the antiquated framework of so-called sovereign nation-states and affirm that global consciousness alone will not save humankind from impending disaster. Only a democratic World Parliament under an effective Constitution for the Earth can prevent or mitigate the disasters happening all around us. For these disasters are largely consequences, not simply of our planetary immaturity, but of our antiquated global economic system interfaced with our centuries old planetary war-system of militarized nation-states.

So, for example, the Worldwatch Institute speaks of the need to work toward “the evolution of an environmentally sustainable and socially just society, in which the needs of all people are met without threatening the health of the natural environment or the well-being of future generations” (in Osborne and Kriese 2008: 217). As Helen Caldicott expresses this, “We have been given the privilege of saving all past and all future generations, all animals, all plants” (in Brooks and Fox 1995: 28). But Worldwatch Institute, like Greenpeace, 350.org, and nearly all the other environmental organizations, fails to draw the profoundly logical, moral, and sensible conclusion that the only way to achieve these things is through enforceable democratically legislated world law.

Global thinker David C. Korten, in his book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, declares, “This revolution is bringing forth a new consciousness of the reality that we humans are one people sharing one destiny on one small planet” (2006: 7).  In the United States today, book after book appears with similar titles such as: Empowering Global Citizens: A World Course (Reimers, et al. 2016), Global Community, Global Security (Osborne, et al. 2008), or Understanding the Global Community (Messitte and Grillot 2013). The latter declare: “In response to the growing connectivity, governments, international organizations, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, world leaders, students, and individuals are engaging with counterparts at home and abroad to better understand the global community in which we all live” (2013: 5-6).

These discussions, however, often ignore the two-headed elephant in the room: a global economic system out of control, dominated by the super-rich, and militarized sovereign nation-states in economic and political competition with one another, also dominated by the rich. How can we achieve peace, justice, or sustainability in the face of this fragmentation and undemocratic rule of our planet? The United Nations itself is grossly undemocratic. Without global democracy, uniting us all as political, economic, and human-rights bearing equals, these rulers have a vested interest in promoting division, fragmentation, and fear. As Osborne and Kriese put it, “When we look at the world through provincial borders, a sense of ‘us versus them’ usually emerges. When we ‘see’ the world through a community lens, however, a sense of ‘we’ can and often does emerge” (2008: xv). However, the military-industrial-academic-security complexes of the world are accumulating vast wealth with respect to these “provincial borders.”

We need to take our shifting and vague notions of the “human family” or “human community” and make them into more than simply an amorphous “culture of peace.”  For a culture of peace alone cannot turn the global community to the worldwide, coordinated effective action necessary to overturn the negative effects of global rule by the rich and their militarized sovereign nation-states. The United Nations, based on both these premises in its Charter, is incapable, therefore, of protecting the environment or disarming the nations: the UN’s recently proclaimed “sustainable development goals” notwithstanding. We need to replace its Charter with the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Matthew Crosston writes: “Presently, the world community recognizes these problems but has not yet formally incorporated them into an accepted definition of security.” However, it should be clear that security cannot possibly come from more militarism, more denial of civil liberties, more spying and secrecy, more violations of due process of law, more ‘free trade’ capitalism, and more injustice. These initiatives go in exactly the wrong direction. As physicist and spiritual thinker David Bohm writes:

This [fragmentation] can be seen very clearly in terms of groupings of people in society (political, economic, religious, etc.)  The very act of forming such a group tends to create a sense of division and separation of the members from the rest of the world but, because the members are really connected with the whole, this cannot work.  (In Osborne and Kriese 2008: 92).

The idea of the ‘human community’ is not a ‘mere ideal’ or a vision of something morally desirable. It is the most fundamental reality of our human situation. Separation and division are secondary and largely contingent. Nevertheless, in future-oriented free beings, our reality also grounds our ideals. The ideal of ‘human community’ is inherent in the very fact of our common humanity, an ideal that is denied everywhere on Earth where division, fragmentation, and conflict are emphasized. Our fundamental problems, as well as our dominating institutions—global capitalism and the system of militarized sovereign states—stem from a refusal to recognize this reality.

As critical social thinker Antonio Gramsci expressed this: 20th century culture “‘is made up in a queer way. It contains elements of the caveman and principles of the most modern advanced learning, shabby prejudices of all past historical phases and intuitions of a future philosophy of the human race united all over the world” (in Harmon 2008: 618). Those who promote global capitalism with its inevitable rule of the rich, and its inevitable colonization of national governments by the interests of the rich, are like ‘cavemen’ with their ‘shabby prejudices’. As psychologist Erich Fromm put it, “the fact is, while we are living technically in the Atomic age, the majority of men—including most of those who are in power—still live emotionally in the Stone Age” (1981: 18). Many of these Stone Age men have modern weapons systems with nuclear capability, or global economic empires, at their disposal.

If we want a future on this planet, it is time the citizens of the world united behind something more than idealistic slogans about the need to be a global community or a human family of brothers and sisters. The truth of these realities needs to be grounded in a global social contract that takes universal ideals of human rights, peace, and environmental sustainability and institutionalizes them in a democratic Constitution for the Earth that guarantees these necessities with the force of law. It is this social contract that will be most effective in raising human consciousness out of the Stone Age and into the age of global consciousness.

If we act in time, our future might well be a glorious one, despite the damage already done to the environment. Global thinker R. Buckminster Fuller envisions a synergistic effect of cooperation among the human community that could readily solve our terrible economic problems of scarcity, poverty, and misery, and that can make possible a freedom and cooperation now actively prevented by what he calls the “limitations of [our] exclusive identity only with some sovereignized circumscribed geographical locality” (1970: 90):

Earth planet-based humanity will be physically and economically successful and individually free in the most important sense. While all enjoy total Earth no human will be interfering with the other, and none will be profiting at the expense of the other…. They will be free in the sense that they will not struggle for survival on a “you” or “me” basis, and will therefore be able to trust one another and be free to co-operate in spontaneous and logical ways. (Ibid. 95)

Failure to do this means almost certain destruction under the current fragmented and alienating world institutions, and it means that we are actively limiting our human potential through fragmentation and conflict. As Johnson and Ord put this: “Almost everything wrong with the world is the result of the way the institutional space is misaligned and out of control” (2012: 31). The answer, however, is not to ignore the fragmented ‘institutional space’ as most advocates of our ‘human community’ tend to do, but to establish a correct and rectified institutional space that truly provides for human and environmental needs, and frees us to really address our increasingly lethal global problems.

It is not only pragmatic necessity for survival that demands this, and not only moral ideals.  Human spirituality also demands that we create a global institutional space that mirrors our planetary human community.  My own writings over the past 20 years have insisted that “Democratic world law is the 21st century form of love.”  Philosopher Alan Gewirth, in his book The Community of Rights, emphasizes the same point:

Amid my concentration here on economic needs and problems, it is important to keep in mind that my whole project has an important spiritual dimension. This spirituality is directly reflective of the moral concern that all humans, actual or prospective agents, be enabled to live lives of dignity, self-fulfillment, and mutuality of respect. This may be a secular spirituality, but it is none the worse for that. The thesis I present in this book, epitomized in the community of rights, can indeed be viewed as arguing not only for a caring society but also, in a parallel way, for an institutionalization of love. (1996: 15)

If the law institutionalizes respect for human rights and dignity, and concern for justice and economic equity, then the law is an “institutionalization of love.”  Like the concept of our human community, love is both the fundamental reality of our human situation (see Martin 2016, Chap. 9) as well as an ideal inherent in our human futurity. It is perhaps our most fundamental human potential. Cosmologist and planetary thinker Ervin Laszlo writes:

I may be more closely related to my sons and partners in life than to someone I have never met on the other side of the world. But I’m related to all of them; it’s a difference only in intensity. Ultimately I am connected with everyone, just as I’m connected to the person closest to me. If I love the person closest to me then I also love all other people because we are all part of the same whole—we are part of each other…. We can discover that we are all one family. Utopia because a possibility at this critical juncture of our history. (2014: 79-80)

Full recognition of our human community is simultaneously love for all other people, and the ‘utopia’ that emerges before us is a ‘practical utopia’, not an impractical dream.  It is ‘utopia’ in that we need to solve our most fundamental human problems once and for all. These are problems finally emerged clearly before us in the 20th century in the form of two world wars, dozens of smaller genocidal wars, global terrorism, and a collapsing planetary environment. Innumerable critical thinkers have identified the primary source of this nightmare as global capitalism, with its rule by the rich, and sovereign militarized nation-states, colonized by the rich.

We can solve these problems only by uniting together in the name of the 95% of the people of Earth who are not the rulers, and who are not rich, most of whom live in abject poverty. And we can only unite in a truly practical way by turning the nations into states within the Earth Federation, states that can ultimately be demilitarized by law and made into cooperative administrative districts based on constitutional principles of peace, freedom, justice, and environmental sustainability. As Benjamin Ferencz, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, declared: “The only way to permanently solve the problem of war between nations is to replace the LAW OF FORCE with the FORCE OF LAW” (in Brooks and Fox, 1995: 230).

If true spirituality means universal love for humanity, the Earth, and the Divine Ground of Being, then spirituality needs to be institutionalized under an Earth Constitution that embodies that love. As Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible” (ibid. 166).

Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi declared that the “State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form” (1972: 132). It institutionalizes violence in the forms of militarism and ‘national security’. It is not only the spirituality of love, but also the rationally discernable moral values of peace, freedom, justice, and environmental sustainability that must be institutionalized. This cannot be done within a fragmented system of some 193 sovereign states. It can only be done for the human community as a whole.

Both King and Gandhi understood that the human community is intrinsically denied by the system of militarized sovereign nation-states. It may be that King was assassinated because, at the end, he began seeing the connections between injustice within the United States and the horrific injustice of the Vietnam War. The very existence of such a system of militarized sovereign states denies the reality of our human community. Violence, institutionalized with the very existence of militarism, including the violence and suspicion embedded within ‘national security’ institutions, destroys community.

The Earth Constitution does not abolish the nations. It merely limits sovereignty to their internal affairs and binds them all together under laws that establish peace, justice, freedom, and sustainability for the whole of humanity. It specifies that the law be enforced with a minimum of force, and with many forms of incentive as alternatives to force (Article 10). It actualizes our human community.

Neither does the Earth Constitution abolish ‘free trade’. It merely limits trade to those forms that enhance human well-being through institutionalizing global public banking (Article 8) and placing the Earth’s essential resources (Article 4) in the service of human well-being (instead of the accumulation of private profit for the 5%). Gandhi wrote: “A nonviolent system of government is clearly an impossibility as long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry millions persists” (ibid. 120). The human community can only be actualized through effective global economic and political democracy. The cultural ideals of ‘community’, without changing the system that blocks those ideals, will clearly never succeed.

Part Two: The Concept of Community versus the Concept of Absolute National Sovereignty.

In The Community of Rights, Alan Gewirth argues that our universal human rights bind us into a “positive” community based on rights and responsibilities. He argues that the role of government is not only to protect rights to freedom but also to promote the universal economic “well-being” for all citizens, since freedom has little meaning without economic well-being.  He sums up:

My main emphasis in this book has been on the vast unfulfilled needs for freedom and well-being on the part of masses in the United States and throughout the world. What to do about these needs poses, in my opinion, the major challenge that confronts moral and political philosophy. If the needs are left unfulfilled, dire consequences may well follow for both West and East, both North and South. The consequences bear not only on the fates of millions of deprived persons throughout the world but also on the endurance of democratic institutions. I have tried to show that fulfillment of these needs is a matter of the human rights of the persons involved. (1996: 357)

The misery of the majority of the world’s citizens, which constitutes a violation of their most fundamental human right to well-being, is the “major challenge that confronts moral and political philosophy.”  We address that challenge by recognizing the right of every person on Earth to live under global democracy that explicitly protects their freedom and well-being. (See Articles 12 and 13 of the Earth Constitution, on-line or in Martin 2013.  Article 28 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights implies this same right.)

Philosopher of law Ronald Dworkin, in Law’s Empire, imagines three types of “community” that could be at the basis of law. He claims that the truth of legitimate law is premised on the “third model” of a community based on “integrity” and “principles”:

The third model of community is the model of principle. It agrees with the rulebook model that political community requires a shared understanding, but it takes a more generous and comprehensive view of what that understanding is. It insists that people are members of a genuine political community only when they accept that their fates are linked in the following strong way: they accept that they are governed by common principles, not just rules hammered out in a political compromise. (1986: 211)

We should accept integrity as a virtue of ordinary politics because we should try to conceive our political community as an association of principle; we should aim at this because, among other reasons, that conception of community offers an attractive basis for claims of political legitimacy in a community of free and independent people who disagree about political morality and wisdom. (Ibid. 411)

This is what is missing in today’s world system. Internally some constitutions of sovereign nation-states may be based on ‘principle’, and, indeed, they may even claim that these principles are universal and apply to all human beings. But their absolute, militarized territorial borders: their armies, visa laws, and fear of immigrants, like their struggles for economic resources and ascendency, belie this claim in practice. They militarize and fragment our natural human plurality with respect to morality and wisdom.

The structure of the world system defeats human rights and human dignity at every turn. It cannot be redeemed. It must be transformed into a legal community based on ‘integrity’ and ‘principle’, that Dworkin argues is at the heart of all legitimate law and governmental authority. ‘Integrity’ means that our pluralities concerning morality and wisdom are embraced within a larger, democratic institutional framework that affirms the principle of unity in diversity.

Philosopher of law, John Finnis, analyzes the concept of our universal human community into four components. The first component of our human community, he asserts, is “physical and biological”: “An aspect of human community is the genetic unity of the race” (1980: 136). The second component of human community is the “unity of intelligence in its capacities, its workings, and its product, knowledge.”  Human beings are not only one species, all related to one another with the closest biological unity, but our collective intelligence produces our common heritage of human knowledge.

The third “part of our unity in human community, then, is the cultural unity of shared language, common technology, common technique (as in an orchestra), a common capital stock, and so on” (137).  Thinkers as diverse as Noam Chomsky and Jürgen Habermas have also maintained that the ‘deep grammar’ of our languages gives all cultures, religions, and ways of life a shared civilizational foundation: all translatable into one another. We coordinate worldwide in techniques, cultural activities, communications, etc. Our human community involves all of these universal dimensions.

Finnis continues: the fourth “part of our unity in human community, then, is the unity of common action…. But no degree of unity in those other three orders can substitute for such co-operation and common commitment” (138). This is because the fourth component of authentic human community is the rule of enforceable law under a democratic constitution. He continues: “As the common understanding of the unqualified expressions of ‘law’ and ‘the law’ indicates, the central case of law and legal system is the law and legal system of a complete community” (148).

On the basis of his detailed analysis of the concept of the human community, Finnis concludes:

We must not take the pretensions of the modern state at face value. Its legal claims are founded, as I remarked, on its self-interpretation as a complete and self-sufficient community. But there are relationships between men which transcend the boundaries of all poleis, realms, or states. These relationships exist willy-nilly, in manifold and multiplying ways, in three of the four orders…. If it now appears that the good of individuals can only be fully secured and realized in the context of international community, we must conclude that the claim of the national state to be a complete community is unwarranted and the postulate of the national legal order, that it is supreme and comprehensive and an exclusive source of legal obligation, is increasingly what lawyers would call a ‘legal fiction’.  (129-130)

The basis of the authority of the state is that it promotes the “flourishing” of its citizens, and no state can fully promote such flourishing unless it is democratic. The state is increasingly a ‘legal fiction’ because it cannot be a “complete community” promoting (what Alan Gewirth calls) the “freedom and well-being” of its citizens. Instead the state must be concerned with “national security, military defense, foreign corporate invasions, international debt to private banking cartels (such as the IMF and World Bank), global economic competition, diminishing natural resources, and increasing social chaos. Under these circumstances no nation can any longer be truly democratic, and no nation can therefore be called a legitimate political community.

The concept of a complete community under the rule of law has therefore matured to its proper locus: the world community. Only the world community has the potential for becoming a “complete community.” The political framework of the world community (requiring ratification of the Earth Constitution) is more legitimate than any of the nation-states ever were.

That is because, as Jorge M. Valadez states, “Nation-states cannot claim to have a morally unconditional claim on their territories, for they generally acquired them through violent conquest, invasive settlement, broken treaties, and other morally illegitimate means” (in Osborne and Kriese 2008: 266). That is also because the human community is our fundamental reality, not nation-states, which will forever remain arbitrary and historically contingent. Our fundamental reality as a universal human community gives rise to the ideal of a complete human community—a global social contract institutionalizing democratic world law under the Earth Constitution.

Philosopher Errol E. Harris agrees with Gewirth, Dworkin, and Finnis that true democracy is a requirement of the human community and that sovereign territorial nation-states are no longer legitimate governing bodies. Their legitimacy can only be restored if they federate under an Earth Constitution and their sovereignty becomes limited to internal affairs, leaving global problems and global issues to the World Parliament, the World Courts, and the World Administration. He concludes:

National sovereign states at the present time can no longer ensure to their own peoples the security that they originally promised and that was the essential justification of their raison d’etre…. As long as national states remain sovereign, such democracy as exists (whether only professedly or more genuinely) is endangered internally by the extreme measures adopted to meet exceptional global menaces (such as terrorism and war), and externally by those dangers themselves, as well as others arising from global warming…. Only if the dangers currently overshadowing the human race can be removed and the associated world problems effectively tackled will there be any prospect of regenerating the democratic idea. (131-32)

If we want a future for the planet beyond perpetual war and climate collapse, if we want a future for our planet beyond totalitarian human rights violations and lack of democracy, and if we want a future that actualizes our planetary human community, then we need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The concept of sovereign nation-states defeats community. Fernando Reimers, et. al. put it in this way:

National citizenship, since the Treaty of Westphalia over 350 years ago, is a status bound to the nation-state that is both inclusive and exclusive. It is inclusive in that it defines who qualifies as a member, or a citizen, and exclusive in that it also defines who is not. Global citizenship, by contrast, crosses multiple borders—political, cultural, social, and historical—and is entirely inclusive. Boundaries, some of which are clearly established in the context of national citizenship, fade in the context of global citizenship such that global citizenship runs the risk of becoming a meaningless concept.  (2016: lxii)

Global citizenship, as membership in the human community, must be legally defined by world law enforceable over all individual persons (giving us all the rights and duties that legal citizens enjoy).  All the idealistic slogans, from the Earth Charter, quoted above, to discussions of spirituality, to well-meaning contributions to the culture of peace, are in danger of becoming part of a ‘meaningless concept’, since our world remains legally defined by institutions of global capitalism and militarized sovereign states that actively defeat human growth toward a truly human global community.

In the face of this horrific reality of structural fragmentation, human and environmental exploitation, and institutionalized, worldwide militarized violence, the concept of ‘human community’ (despite its popularity) becomes almost meaningless. ‘World citizenship’ needs to be more than a mere honorific title. There are worldwide movements such as www.unify.org that are rapidly spreading the concept and feeling of a common human community. But feelings and concepts are not enough.  We need legal embodiment, thereby establishing the human community of world citizens under the Earth Constitution: whose rights and duties toward the Earth and its human family become officially recognized and demanded by world law.

As we have seen John Finnis and others affirm, a true community is a community bound together by common values (such as democracy, freedom, and human dignity) embedded within an effective democratic constitution. We need, more than all the idealistic proclamations about ‘community’ and the ‘human family’, to institutionalize our love and our sense of the human community into an authentic legal community. The Earth Charter states that “it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility for one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”

Such idealistic slogans alone will not replace the rule of force on Earth with the force of law. Future generations need to be protected by law, not by mere sentiments. Our true human community, and our true human potential for cooperation, harmony, and justice, will only be set free with the ratification of the Earth Constitution, making the human community into a “complete community.” To promote this task should be the number one imperative of all of those who consciously identify themselves as members of the human community.


Works Cited:


Brooks, Elaine and Fox, Len editors (1995). Making Peace: A Reading/Writing/Thinking Text on Global Community. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Brubaker, Pamela K., Peters, Rebecca Tood, Stivers, Laura A., editors (2006), Justice in a Global Economy: Strategies for Home, Community, and World. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Dworkin, Ronald (1986).  Law’s Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Finnis, John. Natural Law and Natural Rights.  Oxford:  Carendon Press, 1980.

Fromm, Erich (1981). On Disobedience and Other Essays. New York: Seabury Press.

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

Gandhi, Mahatma (1958). All Men are Brothers. Krishna Kripalani, editor. New York: UNESCO Publications.

Gewirth, Alan (1996). The Community of Rights. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harman, Chris (2008). A People’s History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium. London: Verso Press.

Harris. Errol E. (2005). Twenty-first Century Democratic Renaissance. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.

Hick, John (2004). An Interpretation of Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Jackson, Robert (2007).  Sovereignty. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Johnson, Kurt and Ord, David Robert (2012). The Coming Interspiritual Age. Vancouver, Canada: Namaste Publisher.

Korten, David C (2006).  The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.

Laszlo, Ervin (2014). The Self-Actualizing Cosmos: The Akasha Revolution in Science and Human Consciousness. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Martin, Glen T., editor (2010). A Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press. On-line: http://www.radford.edu/~gmartin/CEF.pdf

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

Messitte, Zach P. and Grillot, Suzette R., editors (2013).  Understanding the Global Community. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Moltmann, Jürgen (2007). On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics. M. Douglas Meeks, Trans. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Muller, Gilbert H., editor (2005). The New World Reader: Thinking and Writing about the Global Community. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Osborne, Randall E. and Kriese, Paul editors (2008). Global Community. Global Security. Amsterdam, NY: Rodopi Press.

Reimers, Fernando M., Chopra, Vidur, Chung, Connie K., Higdon, Julia, O’Donnell, E.B. (2016)  Empowering Global Citizens: A World Course. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Swidler, Leonard and Mojzes, Paul (2000). The Study of Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Vaughan-Lee, Llewellyn, editor (2013).   Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth. Port Reyes, CA: The Golden Sufi Center.

Legitimate Political Authority and Our Global Social Contract

Glen T. Martin

Radford University

     The philosophical tradition in the West has developed the theoretical foundations of political authority and law since the time of Plato. The collective work of the central figures of this tradition clearly revealed the principles behind legitimate enforceable law. Today, these theoretical principles behind political authority have been significantly confirmed by the social sciences from the 20th century to the present.  Political authority, we shall see, is legitimate to the extent that it promotes rationally grounded principles of justice and equality, socially grounded freedom, promotion of the common good of all, and true universality. These principles may be summed up in the notion of “sovereignty of the people.”

Yet both the present world system and the ideologies behind the bourgeois culture of many existing nation-states have distorted and obscured these foundations. In this short essay, I will attempt to identify the legitimate basis for political authority as it has been developed by the great thinkers of the Western tradition. The essay will conclude by showing in what ways all existing sovereign nations exist primarily as concentrations of inherently violent and illegitimate forms of authority. I will then show how truly legitimate political authority can be firmly established in today’s world and grounded in clear and rationally defensible principles through a global social contract.

Part One: The Foundations of Political Legitimacy

As early as the 4th century BCE, Plato understood that legitimate political authority required a society founded on rational principles. He lived during the great Axial Period in human history when humankind had developed the capacity to use reason to discern the universal principles of ethical and political life. The key issue to this day, in politics as well as ethics, has been whether the ends, goals, and principles of human life are grounded in desires and passions or whether they are grounded in reason. For Plato, reason could discern rational principles (such as justice) and contained the power to subordinate passions and desires within its service. Legitimate government should be premised on the rule and legitimate authority of reason within society.

Building on Plato’s great insight that the logos or reason in human beings could and should be patterned on the rational foundations of the cosmos, Aristotle also understood that reason could discern the principles of proper human development. He described the relationships between arête (excellence) and a properly developing rational potential with respect to emotions, desires, and reason itself. As for Plato, the state consisted of the various aspects of a human self ‘written large’. Legitimate laws not only reflect this rational development but encourage it in the population. For both Plato and Aristotle, legitimate law is what promotes human excellence, justice, and happiness (eudaimonia) in society.

The Stoics carried these insights into the nature and foundation of legitimate political authority to its logical conclusion in human universality. As rational animals, all human beings were microcosms of the macrocosm, all capable of living according to values discerned by reason and to embody this rationality in good laws. When Cicero declared “We are all servants of the law in order to be able to be free”, however, he was adding an additional depth to the insight that recognized the significance of distinguishing jus naturale, jus gentium, and jus civile [1]. The natural law of human reason (jus natural) is reflected widely in human societies everywhere on Earth (jus gentium). But for Cicero, it is precisely the social embodiments of natural law that make human beings free.  Good law is the source of human freedom.

The great discourse of human freedom as a foundation for political legitimacy had entered the historical discussion. Plato had already defined freedom indirectly in Book IX of the Republic. The just person is happier because he has mastered his passions and can live freely under the rulership of reason, also because he or she finds true pleasures in the life of reason, and because a life informed by the truth is nobler and freer than one lost in illusions. Freedom consists in living according to reason and not as a slave of the passions; it is the same both in society and in persons.

During the Medieval renaissance of the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas again discerned that a properly developed human reason resulted in certain natural virtues and that the foundations of a just and legitimate society lay in laws and practices that encouraged and embodied these virtues. He went beyond Aristotle and the Stoics, however, in recognizing a dimension of “theological virtues” of faith, hope, and charity that developed beyond the natural virtues, embracing them with a cosmic participation and awareness transcending what the ancients had identified [2]. Society is and should be rooted in awareness of the cosmic depths that encompass our lives. That aspect of freedom that includes living with a meaningful depth of awareness was thus brought into our picture of the proper foundations for free and just societies.

During the 17th century there were several thinkers, such as Johannes Althusius and Duplessis Mornay, who recognized the inherently people-based aspect of the social contract, and the fact that political authority is rooted in the “covenant” arising from the people as a whole. It is the common good of the people as a whole that justifies and grounds legitimate government. For Althusius, the authority of the ruler is grounded in the right of the people. The political authorities must rule under God with “right reason” (the law of nature identified from Plato through Aquinas) and in the service of “the body of the commonwealth,” that is, for the common good of the people, who are ultimately sovereign [3].

Thomas Hobbes famously called the state of nature prior to people entering into civil society under government a “state of war.” For Hobbes the sole justification of the political authority was to keep order, to impose peace upon a collection of individuals who were greedy, egoistic, and violent [4]. In this vision of the justification for governmental authority freedom dies, for the government has all powers except that of taking the lives of citizens. The purpose is not freedom but order. The idea of a common good that creates the conditions for human development and freedom and rooted in the collective social life of human beings is here denied. Hobbes uses some of the language of natural law theory but eviscerates it of any substantive content.

Baruch Spinoza opposed this vision of Hobbes with the insight that society is based upon the collective will to protect the freedom of its members and to provide the conditions for the development of intellect or reason concomitant with mitigation of slavery to the passions (which is the opposite of freedom). Cicero’s insight is again brought to the fore. Like Althusius, Spinoza recognized that human beings are not isolated Hobbesean atoms struggling with one another in external relationships of greed and ego conflict. Rather, we are fundamentally social beings bound together through internal relationships and our common rational nature [5]. Legitimate societies are grounded in this insight that society as a whole is the matrix and foundation of freedom and the justification of all political authority is precisely this socially grounded freedom. Natural law, properly understood, need not be in conflict with the notion of a social grounded freedom.

In the 18th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau carried this insight to the conclusion that the social contract (that is the framework of society as a whole under legitimate government) is the source and foundation of all human freedoms. You cannot coherently posit a fixed “human nature” prior to government and civil society (as John Locke, for example, attempted to do) for it is the social matrix that makes us precisely what we are and provides both the framework and the possibility of developing our potential for freedom, ethical maturity, and the dignity of citizenship. The social contract establishes a moral reality known as the “general will,” a common good that encompasses and empowers all its members [6].

Immanuel Kant, inspired by Rousseau, articulated the insight that living under a government that guaranteed ‘freedom, equality, and independence” for all citizens was a universal moral duty.  The social-political reality of an effective republican constitution both established our freedoms and provided “an absolute end in all social relationships,” i.e. the moral duty to live under such republican forms of government and to participate as citizens in the evolution of these societies toward ever-greater freedom and mutual recognition of human dignity [7].

The ideal inherent in our universalizing rational will (the categorical imperative) is “the kingdom of ends,” that is, a “union of all rational beings” who treat one another as ends in themselves (that is morally) [8]. Political legitimacy is therefore rooted in the imperative to protect human freedom and dignity. Society becomes a morally grounded framework for establishing ever-greater freedom and corresponding ethical relationships. A free person, for Kant, is one acting on his or her rational will to do what is right, regardless of one’s inclinations. This is very different from the popular idea of freedom as license to do whatever one feels like doing. As with Plato, Spinoza and others before him, Kant repudiates illusory “savage and lawless freedom” in favor of genuine rational freedom [9].

In the 19th century, G.W.F. Hegel shifted the insight regarding freedom developed from Cicero to Kant into a comprehensive historical framework: the movement of human history has been the evolutionary development of freedom. It is not simply that there is a static natural law that grounds political authority. Rather, the movement of human thought in its dynamic historical development is the movement of freedom becoming ever more concrete within history. The transcendental freedom posited by Kant’s categorical imperative needs a concrete grounding within history and society.

With the exception of Hobbes, for none of these thinkers is freedom the license to do whatever one feels like doing. For none of these thinkers, with the exception of Hobbes, is freedom something possessed by individuals prior to the constitution of society. Spinoza had pointed out that freedom is self-determination that comes about through self-awareness and a process of negating what impedes or limits freedom. The legitimate authority of society is founded on its function of protecting individuals and their common good, thereby making possible the development of reason and freedom.

Hegel saw that the idea of freedom in the individual was inconsequential until this was “objectified” in the society as a whole through civic, economic, and governmental relationships (sittlichkeit) [10]. The rational constitution of society is premised on the same common good that informs freedom in our individual lives. Just as the Stoics had understood that all persons participate in the universal city of humanity (cosmopolis), so Hegel put this universality on legs, so to speak: history is the progress of freedom progressively embodied in concrete social forms within human civilization. The individual is not apart from society, but his or her freedom is established and protected through the network of social relationships.

In the 20th century, Jürgen Habermas has shown, through the systematic study of language, the inseparability of the individual from society, and the presuppositional nature of communicative rationality throughout the range of all human languages.  Moral principles, like political principles, arise from the social matrix grounded in dialogue directed toward mutual understanding.  Such communicative discourse is the foundation of the very possibility of language, and all instrumental and strategic uses of language are secondary and parasitic upon it. Communicative rationality therefore provides a critical theory of society, allowing us to use the ideal of communicative discourse as a critical tool to oppose the domination of instrumental and strategic uses of language that undercut democracy, freedom, and the communicatively grounded lifeworld [11].

Habermas is here in the tradition of T.H. Green, Bernard Bosanquet, and Ernest Barker who argued that no form of benevolent dictatorship could truly represent the sovereign people because the general will, the very essence of the common good of society, could only be discerned through free democratic discussion and dialogue [12]. Communicative discourse is not an addendum to justice. It is the foundation of justice, freedom, and legitimate political authority.

All of these thinkers are pointing to the foundations of political legitimacy in various ways. These foundations are solid and incontrovertible to clear thinking persons.  First, reason gives us universal ethical and political principles that form the foundation of legitimate political authority. Unless that authority ensures justice, freedom, equality, and integrity throughout society, it is illegitimate and must be transformed. Second, political authority is rooted in the common good of society and its only legitimate mandate is to promote that good. The common good is determined through free dialogue and discussion among citizens, never imposed by a minority. Political authorities who violate this foundation for their legitimacy must be removed and replaced by legitimate governmental representatives of the people.

     Third, legitimate government promotes and protects the freedom of citizens. Freedom here does not mean freedom to follow irrational desires and passions apart from governmental interference. Freedom is what arises from the embracing matrix of society and is both made possible and protected by that societal framework. Finally, legitimate political authority is necessarily universal. Whether the principles of justice and freedom were thought to derive from God or from natural human reason, they were always linked to our common humanity and not thought to be merely conventional and relative to particular societies and circumstances. Therefore all attempts to fragment and relativize the foundations of political legitimacy violate this universality and lose their rational, binding force.

The concept of “sovereignty” has a number of overlapping meanings that should be clarified. To do this justice an entire treatise would be needed, but here I will only make some basic distinctions [13]. The Middle Ages had developed a concept of the sovereignty of the people in which it was declared that the temporal authority ruled with the consent of the governed and for the good of the governed. The sovereignty of the ruler, such as a king, carried the meaning that the king had ultimate temporal power. However, the sovereignty of this political power was subordinate to the natural law, coming from God, which saw the king’s authority as representing the sovereignty of the people because the ruler ruled in their name.

Later the concept of sovereignty also began to be linked to the authority of a government over a “sovereign” territory. A nation-state came to be thought of as having an absolute authority over its territory and internal affairs. These concepts of “sovereign state” and “sovereign ruler” were all along secondary to the sovereignty of the people in whose name, and with whose consent, these rulers or nation-states ruled.

The criterion of universality, overwhelmingly affirmed by the dominant philosophical tradition in the West, is ill-suited to sovereign territorial boundaries. The natural law, the principles of reason, the jus gentium, and the sovereignty of the people all apply universally to all civilized peoples everywhere, just as does today’s UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Sovereign nation-state borders, therefore, violate any intelligible conception of the common good; they violate human social and moral solidarity and universality.

Each of the above thinkers attributed universality to the moral and rational foundations for political authority.  These concepts apply to all humanity. They cannot be effectively or legitimately applied at the territorial level exclusive of the rest of humanity. In his writings of the 1790s Kant pointed this out repeatedly. Similarly, Spinoza, Hobbes, and Hegel identified the system of sovereign nations as inherently a war system. War is precisely what violates a legitimate social contract. The system of sovereign nation-states was and is, as Kant proclaimed, intrinsically a war-system and must be morally and physically resisted [14]. It is not grounded in any substantive reality but only in the contingent circumstances of territorial power-struggles. Sovereign territorially bound states constitute a “barbaric” violation of the universal principles of political right.

Just as Hobbes had adopted a misconceived atomism in which individuals were thought of prior to government as egos in a war over power, possessions, and self-aggrandizement so David Hume declared that “reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” [15]. Hobbes undercut the common social matrix of human freedom, and Hume undercut the capacity of reason to discern universal ethical and political principles and prioritize these as the true ends of human life over and beyond the passions. Hume’s view came to dominate not only in the theory of capitalism but in the “political realism” of nation-states in external relations with one another struggling in a lawless war system for “power upon power.” Reason, both within capitalism and within the system of sovereign nation-states, becomes merely an instrument in the struggle for domination and the power of the stronger to exploit the weaker.

The tradition that came to dominate in the West and spread worldwide drew on philosophical ideas that have since proved to be mistaken. Both the natural rights tradition and the related social contract tradition tended to see individuals as prior to the social matrix.  They viewed human societies as composed of a multitude of atomic individual persons who composed society merely as a collection of individual wills. They viewed persons as having “natural rights” prior to their social constitution within the whole of society.

This ersatz individualism was mirrored in the fragmented individualism of the system of sovereign nation-states and in the idea of “negative freedom” in which people mistakenly see themselves as autonomous individuals whose freedom consists in their ability to limit and resist governmental authority. These concepts violate the holism that has emerged within both the natural and social sciences during the 20th century. In both Hobbes and Hume political right was undermined and fragmented into either a war of individual persons in the state of nature or the war-system of lawless militarized nation-states. Reason is not the slave of the passions and human beings are not isolated atoms prior to the social matrix that constitutes the social nature of the self and its freedom.

Part Two: Transforming today’s Illegitimate World System.

Today, in all nations, freedom is violated, reason is violated, the common good is violated, and universality is violated [16]. The system as a whole and every so-called “sovereign” nation within it is thereby void of legitimacy.  Human beings are morally obligated to revolt against this utterly corrupt world system and establish a world system that is politically, economically, and morally legitimate.  The blueprint and gold standard for such a legitimate world system is found in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth [17].

Many scholars have declared that the present world system of so-called sovereign nation-states was first articulated in the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 at the end of the Thirty Years War in Europe [18].  In the 17th century there may have been some practical value to defining absolute territorial boundaries with governments having central control over their internal affairs and independence in foreign affairs. However, not only were the governments of that period not democracies responsible to their citizens and the common good, they were part of a fragmented world system that was and is intrinsically a war-system.

The 18th century struggles for democracy involved the attempt to establish governments accountable to justice and the common good within these fragmented territories.  However, each government had to violate freedom and the common good insofar as it had to be militarized to provide national security within a lawless world system. Kant’s 1795 essay Perpetual Peace draws this conclusion explicitly, calling the international order “savage and barbaric,” and declaring the absolute moral obligation of human beings to move beyond this lawless war-system to an Earth Federation “akin to a civil constitution.”

The socialist movements of the 19th century added a new dimension to these struggles for politically legitimate governments.  As Karl Marx declared, political democracy was a great step forward, but it could not rise to a status of economic democracy, which was the source of genuine legitimacy. Marx also recognized the social foundation of genuine freedom:

Only in community (with others) has each individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible…. The illusory community, in which individuals have up till now combined, always took on an independent existence in relation to them, and was at the same time, since it was the combination of one class over against another, not only a completely illusory community, but a new fetter as well.   In the real community the individuals obtain their freedom in and through their association. [19

As long as bourgeois democracy prevailed, the capitalist ruling class would colonize the political process in its own interests and establish, in effect, an oligarchy, a system that was democratic only in name.  Reason, justice, equality, freedom, and the common good are thereby all violated and bourgeois governments, Marx recognized, are simply not legitimate. They need to be overthrown in the name of genuine economic and political democracy, in the name of human freedom and true democracy. A democratic socialism that respects these four principles is alone legitimate: “It goes without saying that all forms of the state have democracy for their truth and that they are therefore untrue insofar as they are not democracy” [20].

Today, we reap the consequences of the failure of the 19th century struggles to establish a legitimate political order for the Earth.  60% of the Earth’s population live in dire poverty while the top 20% own 94% of all the wealth in the world.  The rapacious system of capitalism recognizes no rational ethical principles to govern it, declaring that economic laws are merely following impersonal science. Simultaneously, this egregious system throws more than a trillion US dollars per year down the toilet of militarism, with weapons of such power that their major use would wipe out humanity.

Everywhere human rights are violated; everywhere national security trumps democratic due process as well as environmental protections. Everywhere, the 1% who own 50% of the world’s wealth use their vast wealth to destroy democratic processes, buy legislators, bribe officials, and establish more laws to benefit themselves. Today’s world system manifests the tight interface of global capitalism and the system of militarized sovereign territorial fragments. The economic system destroys legitimate political authority and the nation-state system destroys all political and moral legitimacy for any and all nations.  Nonviolent revolutionary action is required of all thoughtful, decent people [20].

Ernest Barker points out that there is a universalizing dialectic inherent in democratic social organization and in world history. Democracy promotes the liberty of its citizens, but not individual freedoms alone. For there is a deeper freedom emerging from the critical discussions within society that can be called the common good or general will. The dialogue directed toward mutual understanding that Habermas identified as the essence of democracy and political legitimacy is blocked and deformed by the strategic manipulations of sovereign nation-states. For Barker, as Habermas, we must unite the individual seeking his or her own good with the universal framework for liberty as manifested in the entire human community. Barker writes: “We can imagine a high measure of general liberty under a system of national societies and national States. We can imagine a perfect liberty only in a world society and a world State” [21]

Nonviolent revolutionary action directed toward this “perfect liberty” is manifested in working for ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth [22]. The Earth Constitution embodies the rational ethical and political principles of justice and equality. It embodies the focus on the common good (the only legitimate common good is that of all humanity). It embodies the principle of socially constructed and protected freedom and, not least of all, it embodies true universality. Today, with human beings living as a single species on a tiny interdependent planet, any arrangement that does not embody the entire globe is necessarily illegitimate.

The sovereignty of the people means that the sole justification for political authority is the safety, welfare, and freedom of the entire community. These features are not external to the matrix of the entire social body. They are not external to the constitution of the community but are internal to its composition. They arise from a properly constituted community. As Emery Reves pointed out with great clarity in 1945, it is an absurd contradiction attempt to divide the sovereignty of the people into absolute territorial boundaries, where sovereignty magically stops at one place and begins again at the next with a different group of people [23]. The people who are sovereign are human beings, with the same rights and responsibilities everywhere on Earth.

In the 21st century we see clearly that neither security nor well-being nor freedom can exist within territorially bound sovereign nation-states. The very existence of other such states within a militarized, lawless world order defeats the foundations of legitimacy for each and every state. The social-political community, rooted in the sovereignty of the people, is today necessarily that of humankind as a whole. The people of Earth are sovereign and their security, well-being, and freedom can only be realized on the global scale. To fragment humanity into some 193 territorially bound militarized states is to defeat the very concept of legitimate government everywhere on Earth.

The logic of history, the principles of human reason, and the moral foundations of political authority all demand an Earth Federation under the rule of democratically legislated and enforceable laws. Government is not the enemy of freedom. Good government is what makes freedom possible at all levels beyond the smallest communities. However, the historical human project of freedom remains unrealizable under the present world system of global capitalism and sovereign nation-states. Unless we recognize that the only possible community to be constituted under democratic political authority protecting our security, well-being, and freedom is the community of humankind, we are necessarily doomed to political tyranny and possibly to the extinction of our human species.

Democracy is the key means for nonviolent historical social change through dialogue, debate, and discussion. The founding of our global social contract, therefore, is not the end of history but rather the end of a violent and chaotic prehistory for humanity. It is the beginning of mature, self-conscious history. For the first time human beings will have the rational means for discussing the socially constructed common good for humanity as a whole. It raises freedom to a higher level.

The Earth Federation based on the Earth Constitution founds legitimate political government for the world as a global social contract based fully, for the first time in history, on the principles of political right. Unlike the current world disorder that evolved in a contingent, fortuitous, and haphazard manner consisting in invasions, subversions, arbitrary territorial divisions, the Earth Constitution consciously establishes our human political and economic reality on the principles of democratic legitimacy outlined in this essay. It explicitly embodies the drive to global economic, political, and human rights based justice; it explicitly federates the world under these principles as universal; it embodies dozens of mechanisms to promote, protect, and enhance socially constituted freedom, and it focuses on the common good of the planet and its citizens.

We have before us the opportunity to transform our world on a truly democratic and environmentally sustainable foundation. The Earth Constitution provides both a blueprint and an ideal for overcoming tyranny and avoiding extinction. It recognizes the sovereignty of humanity as well as the unity in diversity of all peoples. It can only come into full force through being ratified by the majority of people on Earth.

It founds our common human political organization on the principles of security, well-being, and freedom that are the ground and the source of all political legitimacy. It represents a huge step forward in our human civilizational project of actualizing freedom and dignity within a sustainable planetary civilization.  Ours is a truly revolutionary situation. Either we ratify the Earth Constitution or we wallow in continued massive injustice, illegitimacy, and environmental destruction. Now is the time to act. The fate of humanity and future generations may well rest on our generation alone. We need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.




[1] Cicero. On the Commonwealth and On the Laws. James E.G. Zetzel, ed. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

[2] Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. First Part of the Second Part, Question 6: “The Theological Virtues.” This insight has been repeated in contemporary thought, for example, by John Finnis in Natural Law and Natural Rights, Clarendon Press, 1980, as one of the seven primary goods discernable by human reason.

[3] Johannes Althusius. Politica. Frederick S. Carney, trans. Liberty Fund Inc. Publisher, 1995.

[4] Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan. John Plamenatz, ed. Merridian Books, 1963.

[5] Baruch Spinoza. Theological-Political Treatise. Second Edition. Samuel Shirley, trans. Hackett Publishers, 1998.

[6] Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract and Discourses. G. D. H. Cole, trans. E. P. Dutton & CO, 1947.

[7] Kant, Immanuel. The Metaphysical Elements of Justice. John Ladd, trans. New York: Library of the Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1965. For an account of this duty to help society evolve toward ever-greater freedom, see the Introduction by John Ladd.

[8] Immanuel Kant. Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. H. J. Paton, trans. Harper & Row, 1964.

[9] Immanuel Kant. Perpetual Peace. Louis White Beck, trans. Macmillan, 1957.

[10] G.W.F. Hegel. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Allen W. Wood, ed. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

[11] Jürgen Habermas. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume Two: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. Thomas McCarthy, trans. Beacon Press, 1987.

[12] Errol E. Harris. Twenty-first Century Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2008, Chapter 2.

[13] See Thomas J. Biersteker and Cynthia Weber, eds. State Sovereignty as Social Construct. Cambridge University Press, 1996. Stephen D. Krasner. Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. Princeton University Press, 1999.  Daniel Philpott. Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations. Princeton University Press, 2001.

[14] Immanuel Kant. The Metaphysical Elements of Justice. John Ladd, trans. New York: Library of the Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1965.

[15] David Hume. Treatise on Human Nature. Book II: Of the Passions, Part 3, section 3.

[16] See James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer, et. al. Empire with Imperialism: The Globalizing Dynamics of Neo-liberal Capitalism. Zed Books, 2005.  Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn. The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000. Sheldon Wolin. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Spector of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton University Press, 2008.

[17] Glen T. Martin, ed. A Constitution for the Federation of Earth: With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010.  It is also found on-line in many places and languages such as at:

http://www.radford.edu/~gmartin/CEF.pdf   It can easily be found through a Google on-line search.

[18] See, e.g., Philpott, op.cit.

[19] Karl Marx. The German Ideology in Robert C. Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels Reader, W.W. Norton & Company, 1978, p. 197.

[20] Karl Marx. Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in Ibid. p. 21.

[21] Ernest Barker. Reflections on Government, Oxford University Press, 1967, p. 28.

[22] See Glen T. Martin. Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Implications of Democratic World Law. Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2008.  Glen T. Martin. Triumph of Civilization: Democracy, Nonviolence, and the Piloting of Spaceship Earth. Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010.

[23] Emery Reves. The Anatomy of Peace. Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1945.