A More Perfect Union
Introduction to June 2009 IJWP
Our lead article by James Yunker suggests ways in which global governance could be improved, ways that could create a “more perfect union” than the League of Nations, or the United Nations, which he compares to the Articles of Confederation of the United States. This more perfect union would involve three principles not present in the world government proposals of the twentieth century. First, voting principles must be changed so that an involuntary redistribution of wealth could not occur. Second, there should be an inalienable right to withdraw from the Union. Third, each nation should be allowed to keep whatever military power they desire.
These three principles are essential if nations are to retain their autonomy and make their participation in the Federal Union voluntary. The alternative, which many fear would follow from an involuntary Union, would be a tyrannical world government, possibly controlled by a megalomanic like Hitler. These principles particularly resonated with me because in my book, Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, I advocate similar principles in my suggestions for the reform of the United States, including the restructure of congress, a (conditional) right to secede, and more autonomy for member states. What people fear would happen to world government has been developing over time in the U.S. government: it is less accountable to its citizens and redistributes their wealth in ways they do not support.
Thomas Jefferson was a staunch opponent of consolidated government and sought to create a federal union in which the lower levels of government controlled the higher levels, not the inverse, which becomes tryanny—regardless of its outward structure. Free elections are only genuine if the citizens put forth the candidates, not if wealthy oligarchs or interest groups give the people their choices for whom to vote. In a truly free world, people want to pursue their own destiny. In a truly peaceful world, they must pursue that destiny in ways that do not harm others.
When the Dutch won their freedom from the Spanish Empire, they would not agree to a government unless it allowed religious freedom. When the states of the United States ratified the Constitution, most did so with the understanding they had the right to withdraw from the Union. This is no different than an individual working for a company who wants the right to leave that company if he feels exploited. It is no different than the right to leave a marriage or family if one is beaten and abused. One does not want to have his own destiny involuntarily controlled by others, but wants to experience joy and personal meaning in the one life he is given.
This issue likewise applies to the relationship of tribal and community groups in Pakistan to each other and to their state government. In our second article, Nasreen Akthar discusses the relationship of a national ideal to state government. It was easy for Moslems in India to agree on creating a state in which they could be free to pursue their lives as Moslems. However, after the state of Pakistan was formed it was run by oligarchs and military leaders from the top down. Individual citizens, communities, and tribal groups feel left out of the process. Some groups feel so disenfranchised or zealous in their own pursuit of power that they want to destabilize the regime or destroy the state.
Akthar argues that the modern top-down nation-state is a structure imposed by European colonialism and does not contain the cultural seeds of democracy within its history. She refers to it as being constructed by the “primitive accumulation of power” without political legitimacy. In her view, devolution of power and genuine participation of citizens and smaller political groups is essential to building a peaceful and more democratic Pakistan. In this respect, she is addressing the same issue as Yunker does with world government. The flow of power must be from the bottom upward, and not from the top down. Central and higher governments can accomplish some functions more appropriately than smaller units, but they must be given their mandate from the smaller units rather than imposing their will or using their position for self-gain.
Akthar points out differences between cultural identity and ideology, between religion and state, and nation and state. The imposition of a particular way of life upon the state becomes the imposition of the state on all its people. Inevitably many feel disenfranchised and view the state as preventing them from equal democratic participation. This is the very reason Pakistan left India in the first place. Thus the state needs to devolve powers related to identity to lower-level communities and focus on territorial security for all people to practice the way of life they choose, so long as they do not deprive others of the freedom to do the same.
Our third article by Pilvi Torsti points to a failure of international organizations to promote peaceful democratic values in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the “ethnic cleansing” and breakup of the Yugoslav Federation in the 1990s. Ethnic rivalries had been kept in check by the strong military regime of a unified Yugoslavia, even if some groups were favored above others under that regime. There were intermarriages and migrations within Yugoslavia that pitted neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother when the Federation disintegrated, leaving strong animosities. One hope of resolving some of this hatred was through public schools and the education of the next generation.
Torsti argues that, twelve years after the conflict ended, public school textbooks were promoting war-like education with the ethnic biases, and adding continued hatred to the generation that was supposed to overcome it. International organizations charged with monitoring textbook content, failed to do so adequately. One reason for this problem is that the school curriculum was decentralized and residents created textbooks on the local level, reflecting their ethnic biases. It is an example of the devolution of power in a climate of distrust creating what Thomas Hobbes called “the state of nature.”
Perhaps it is natural to retrench totally to the tribal and community relations known through personal interaction when the legitimacy of a larger political regime is lost. Larger political entities, not formed by conquest, arise from a social contract when smaller communities and states realize that it is advantageous for common security or administration of common resources, like rivers, on a larger territory. This idea of a social contract voluntarily entered may eventually arise in the former Yugoslavia, but is as difficult to impose from the top-down as it is for teachers to dictate to students who their friends will be. Neighboring peoples will need to want to work together, and textbooks that view others fairly can improve chances for future cooperation.
The right to secede, or the right to withdraw from a union is the ultimate check and balance on the absolute power of the higher political unit. In the case of a world government, that would be a monopoly on the entire world—the type of domination Hitler would have sought and most people fear. If members withdraw from a union, it shrinks or collapses like any organization based on free association. However, political unions, like marriages, often create new obligations like children and joint property. I might suggest, beyond what James Yunker has written, that withdrawal might need to be contingent upon meeting prior obligations of the contract, in a way that causes minimal harm to other parties.
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Finally, I must point out that in March 2009 we learned of the loss of major grant support for International Journal on World Peace. Since its inception, IJWP has always required grant support to supplement our low subscription price. We have been grateful to those who have provided this support. We need to find additional funding in order to continue the journal at the level of the last two years. As a result, this issue has been shortened from the 160 pages that we had in the March 2009 issue to 96 pages in this one. We have also changed the printer and type of cover used on the journal to reduce production costs.
We hope to find new support that can enable us to bring more articles to our readers and to continue to present articles with viewpoints often not represented in other journals that can help readers understand global issues. Any help will be appreciated, and support is tax-deductible in the United States. We welcome any individual, group or foundation support.
Gordon L. Anderson
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