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EDITOR'S CORNER: AS SENSIBLE AS A DICTIONARY

Recently I received an email from a supporter which said something along the lines that we had to be careful in our zeal that we don't accidentally create a world government that is worse than what we've got now. That reminded me of a scene from the Monty Python movie, "Life of Brian" in which a man is going to be stoned to death for using the name of Jehovah in vain. He protests against the injustice of his sentence, and in the process of pleading for mercy, he once again uses the name of Jehovah.  The judge in charge of his execution warns him to stop. "You'll only make it worse for yourself."

"Worse?" Asks the prisoner who is about to be tortured to death. "How can it possibly get any worse?"  Then, defiantly, almost gleefully, the condemned man chants "Jehovah, Jehovah" over and over again as the stones start flying.

We live in a world in which it is illegal for a farmer to wade across a river to pick tomatoes so he can support his family, but in which it is legal for a businessman to fly half-way around the world to have sex with a little girl who was sold to the brothels by her own parents. We live in a world in which militias hack off the arms of slave laborers who don't work hard enough to dig diamonds to finance their wars, diamonds that will soon grace the fingers of wealthy socialites. We live in a world in which we are slowly boiling ourselves to death, like the proverbial frog, because nations are too fearful of putting themselves at the economic disadvantage of curbing carbon emissions. We live in a world in which every year the nation-states spend the equivalent of a trillion U.S. dollars on war preparations, while a billion people live on $1 a day, and 30,000 people, mostly children, die of malnutrition every one of those days. We live in a world in which politicians debate trivia, while tens of thousands of nuclear weapons wait silently for the command that could exterminate the human race. We live in a world in which in some places, it is easier to buy an AK-47 than a goat.

Worse? How can it possibly get any worse?

If we are afraid to make changes because of the risk that we might make things worse, then we will end up being paralyzed. It is far better to try and fail than never to try at all. With the human race on the brink of destruction, doing nothing is not an option.

Many will recognize the title of this essay as coming from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. The Red Queen tells Alice, "You may call it nonsense if you like. But I've heard nonsense compared with which that would be a sensible as a dictionary."

People might call an attempt to recreate the social-political order of the entire world quixotic, but the claim that we might actually make the situation worse is surely nonsense of the highest order. Certainly, any global political system we create will be flawed. It is not possible to create a political order of any size that has no flaws. The solution to that problem is not to not create one; rather, it is to insure that the system has sufficient flexibility that whatever flaws it has can be corrected by the citizens themselves. And the way to do that is to create a system that has precise limitations, and checks and balances, that no one person or group has too much power (so that it becomes tyrannical) or too little (so that it become ineffectual).

Consider this fact: right now, a small handful of people have the power to start a nuclear war that might well lead to the extermination of humanity.  That is too much power. Right now, national leaders have the right to declare an entire group of people "the enemy" and rule that it is acceptable, even required, to kill them. That's too much power.  Right now, national governments can rule an industry exempt from environmental regulations because it is vital to the "national security". That's too much power. Right now, government censors have total discretion to declare entire areas of information as too secret to let the common people see it. That's too much power.

A world republic can make sure that no one ever has that much power again. And there is something eminently sensible about that.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Dear Gary,

Following from your editorial musings in the 25th anniversary issue, should we now embark on a series of studies, around such themes as: The dangers of world tyranny and Is Law an idealistic aim?  We certainly need to challenge the nay-sayers.  Although frankly, my doubt is that anything other than the bitter experiences that are coming for the world will shift popular opinions.

With all best wishes - sincerely

John Roberts

Dear friends and colleagues:

This is to inform you that the Eleventh Session of the Provision World Parliament and the International Philosophers for Peace Conference coordinated with it has been postponed until approximate June 18-22, 2009. Circumstances beyond our control have made this necessary.

We will be announcing more details soon.

Yours in peace and hope
Glen T. Martin
Secretary General
World Constitution and Parliament Association
[gmartin at radford dot edu]

FOUNDATION: REGARDING AN UN PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
AND A NEW WAY FORWARD FOR DEMOCRATIC WORLD FEDERALISM

By Carl Joudrie

In the 20th anniversary issue of United World, I was pleased to see an editorial emphasis on securing "practical, workable, specific programs, not fairy tale castles in the sky platitudes." "Too long have we wasted our time arguing over reforming the U.N. or creating a world constitution."

It was interesting to note the reactions of college students in a course titled "Introduction to peace studies" who dismissed "world government" as "dangerous, too likely to become tyrannical." An Interesting and deserved observation, which leads me to wonder why we still put that Orwellian foot forward, and then all but demand that people shoot at it. Dance pardner, dance. A kind of self flagellation. They are not confused, we are.

Mr. Shepherd plainly states that "We are clearly not answering people's basic objections." What we are continuing to do is what we have all done for the last half century. We have just reelected our favorite political parties and politicians to status quo political offices and institutions that will not have any interest in, or the power to advance the political machinery of Democratic World Federalism.

We have once more chosen to support the existing nation state and United Nations systems, no matter how dangerous they have become to the health of our physical world, or to our democratic freedoms. To add insult to injury we have sadly been maneuvered across the floor to aid and abet a form of United Nations sponsored World Government that will end in the same imperial tyranny that spawned it.

Does anyone in the World Federalist movement for instance, seriously believe that the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly will ever be allowed to control the United Nations Security Council? The idea is ridiculous, a tragic diversion of precious World Federalist resolve, and an embarrassment to a once proud democratically minded movement.

World federalists do not have another generation to waste, discovering that an assembly is not a government. At best an assembly is a low level legislature or a "group of persons gathered together, as for worship, instruction, entertainment, etc." World Federalists should find their entertainment elsewhere, not in the foolish or manufactured idea that an appointed United Nations Parliamentary Assembly will somehow meet the standard of a republic, or that if it is elected, it will have the authority to enact, interpret and enforce world federal law, irrespective of what the United Nations Security Council wants.

This barrier to global democratic oversight is being constructed I am ashamed to say, with the full consent, cooperation, and active participation of people who claim to represent World Federalism. They don't. At least they don't represent me.

What they represent through their support of and involvement in the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, which combined with the North American and European Unions, is the effort to consolidate an unelected corporate/political world order, moving toward a democratically unaccountable global deep integration. This United Nations sponsored "world government," and that is what it is, will not support any meaningful democratic national oversight, from any of its member national electorates. Not American, not Canadian, not European, not any.

Be mindful of the fact that the United Nations system was designed for, and essentially functions to support the Imperial ambitions of the United Nations Security Council, and then to clean up and salve over the debris it leaves behind through militarism and ecological damages. This system needs to be laid to rest, buried, as unworkable for this new century, in favor of a form of democratically induced and regulated World Federalism in which we can all have a stake.

World government or democratic world federalism? We can't live in both worlds any more, at least not as far as those students are concerned, so end the argument now, choose one. Straight up, we would all be much better off if we let the United Nations do its own work, and if they left us to do ours.

What is ours? I would suggest that if we are to begin at the "ground level" of democratic world federalism, we start with foundation, and foundation starts with social contract.

According to the Canadian World Federalist National Charter, we were "To secure support for the establishment of a competent World Federal Government, elected by and responsible to the people under its jurisdiction" and "to strive toward the creation of a World Federal Government with authority to enact, interpret and enforce world law."

World Federalism does not exist to "secure support for the establishment" of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, but "for the establishment of a competent World Federal Government." This government is to be "responsible to the people," not for them. That means that we need to secure the support of the people, among them, those students, and to do that, we need to define an appropriate social contract for them that distributes World Federal power in such a way, as to render that power subject to their full democratic consent and oversight, both as national, and as world federal citizens.

In doing so, we can achieve something that has the force of law behind it, that is to say national political party status wherever that is legally possible. We can also attain much of the moral authority to lead it, provided we are prepared to lead it in productive ways that reflect democratic values.

Through such an effort we could set standards that would otherwise take generations to bear fruit. We could for instance as regards equal rights, simply state as a matter of policy that one man and one woman will occupy what is now one seat, in any elected foundation national legislature, or world foundation federal legislature. There is important work to do in designing a space based industrial and transportation system, and in designing complimentary national and global polices to protect vital biological and ecological systems. With imaginative and relevant policy, foundation could popularize world federalism and bring it relatively rapid success.

There is potentially a very significant constituency for such a political movement, and a growing global pool of innovative leaders and ideas that are now without a unifying political home. In a politically united world, these forces could bring an exiting and essential change that is within the democratic grasp of nations and electorates everywhere. Perhaps we can stop dancing now.

Please read World Federalism: A Minority Opinion at www.foundationcanada.ca

COMMON WEALTH: ECONOMICS FOR A CROWDED PLANET
BY JEFFREY D. SACHS
A BOOK REVIEW

By Larry Kazdan

" ...we need to redesign our social and economic policies before we wreck this planet."
                  - foreword to Common Wealth by Edward O. Wilson

This is an unusual and radical book on economics by a Columbia University professor.  First, it displays not one graph of a supply demand curve.  Second, it looks closely at population increase and limits to growth in arguing that cooperation must trump competition if the planet is to survive.  Sachs stresses that the market cannot solve all problems and suggests that private industry and national interests must subordinate themselves to overwhelming societal goals:
   
     "The challenges of sustainable development--protecting the environment, stabilizing the world's population, narrowing the gaps of rich and poor and ending extreme poverty--will render passé the very idea of competing nation-states that scramble for markets, power and resources."  (Common Wealth in Time, March 24/08,  p.28)

Even the book's title Common Wealth is an unusual choice for an American academic, considering that in a less individualistic country like Canada, the term Cooperative Commonwealth Federation went out of fashion many decades ago.  Yet Sachs calls for global cooperation, posits common wealth as a goal, and also discusses regional integration and subsidiarity as solutions.

Most books on economics refuse to stray into politics but Sachs takes issue with a misguided counterproductive American foreign policy based on military hegemony.  The U.S. must revert to an inclusive multilateralism that focuses on solving the great challenges that threaten the planet's existence:

      "Security is a daily challenge to be achieved through cooperative efforts, not a prize to be won by a decisive military battle or change of regime." (p.282)

In fact, the solution to the world's problems requires a reorientation of American action so that it will underpin the achievement of Millennium Development Goals.  The cost would be less than a fraction of the budget of the U.S. military:

    "If the trillions of dollars that the U.S. is squandering in Iraq was instead being invested in clean energy, disease control and new, ecologically sound ways of growing food, we wouldn't be facing the cusp of a rapidly weakening dollar, soaring food and energy prices and the threats of much worse to come." (Common Wealth in Time, March 24/08,  p.28)

Sachs sees three big challenges that threaten the planet's future:

    a. how to devise new systems of energy, land and resource use that will avert climate change and species and ecosystem destruction

    b. how to stabilize world population at 8 billion or below, and

    c. how to end extreme poverty.

Solutions are available and precedents abound.  The eradication of smallpox is an example of how a significant goal was set and met.  The four elements necessary for success are having a clear objective, an effective technology, a clear implementation strategy and a source of financing.

The core of Sachs' book consists of several chapters that detail how each of the major problems can be solved by existing methods assuming political will.  Climate change can be avoided through carbon collection and sequestration, the use of hybrid cars, a carbon tax and tradeable permits.  Population can be stabilized by better education and legal protection for women, better access to family planning, and social programs that provide for people in their old age.  Extreme poverty can be ended by a  increased investments in agricultural production, better education and health care, and better infrastructure as exemplified by Millennium Development Villages.

But global cooperation among nations will be instrumental to carrying out these initiatives:


    "Intergovernmental processes must also change in fundamental ways.  The European Union is surely the harbinger of further regional integration.  As our problems have become global, old nation-state boundaries have become too small to provide many of the public goods required at a transnational scale.  The EU not only makes war unthinkable among its member states but also provides critical Europe-wide investments in environmental management, physical infrastructure, and governance "software" such as monetary policy, food safety , and financial market regulation.  Other regions in the world, notably Africa, will follow Europe's lead in forging a much stronger transnational organization." (p.333)

In addition to calling for better regional arrangements, Sachs also demands UN reform:

    ".. the deepest measure of UN success will be whether the Millennium Promises are sustained over time as shared active global goals and whether these goals are achieved in practice.  Given the centrality of the United Nations to this overarching challenge, the UN itself needs to be reformed to fulfill these leading tasks."  (p.335)

Sachs also recognizes that global management must be democratically-based:

    "These transnational organizations have had a difficult time achieving direct democratic engagement of the people.....  Part of the answer is to empower transnational democratic institutions such as the European Parliament." (p.333)

For those of us supporting the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (detailed at www.unpacampaign.org), this is a welcome statement since the UNPA is the logical extension and political counterpart of Sach's economic prescription for the world.  A Parliamentary Assembly at the UN would act as a needed symbol of global community, a global conscience to make sure the UN does the right thing about the environment and poverty, and a channel for civil society to apply pressure for greater control and accountability.

This is a very optimistic book.  Challenges are opportunities:

    "Ours is the generation that can end extreme poverty, turn the tide against climate change and head off a massive, thoughtless and irreversible extinction of other species."

Of course, if we don't succeed, the implication is plain.  That species extinction could well include those smart guys homo sapiens.

Sachs ends his book by noting that great social transformations such as the end of slavery, the women's and civil rights movements, and the end of colonial rule all began with public awareness and engagement.  Sachs offers us various actions we can take as individuals to build a world of peace and sustainable development.   Sachs calls upon us to be "citizens of the world" (p.336), a call that echoes down through history from the time of Socrates.

Common Wealth is in many ways a revolutionary book at a time when a revolution in outlook is vital to humankind's survival.  The era of exponential economic growth is over; the open frontier is gone; we must now learn to practice a new economics more appropriate for a crowded planet.  This is an economics that will require democratic supranational cooperation, a goal that World Federalists will gladly applaud and are well poised to champion.

A WORLD CITIZEN'S GUIDE
TO THE 2008 CRASH

By John Roberts

News pictures of the world's financial and political leaders in the past few days have raised  irreverent thoughts of "pass the parcel" as they searched for ways to offload debts or commitments; and "headless chickens" as their comments and attitudes showed  that they had no idea what to do next.  The self-assurance of the rich and powerful has deserted them.  As they so often said, "We are in uncharted waters."  What one or two of the most frank among them has said is (despite its abolition) "we've had the boom, not it's the bust."

Our economic institutions and habits were largely created in days when most lived by subsistence farming and only a minority had comfortable lives.  That minority went on to create financial instruments designed chiefly to serve their interests: as pressure grew for the majority to share in material comforts, those were modified to produce goods that would also ease the lot of the poor. The upshot is that our systems suffer severe crises, more or less regularly every 70 to 80 years. The latest has become most critical in summer 2008.

As industrialization and science changed the world into one capable of producing almost limitless quantities of goods, the economic and financial institutions did not adapt. Competition had succeeded too well in stimulating production and, owing to an inherent flaw in a profit-seeking capitalist system, periodically led to a flood of goods that could not be sold; unless they were taken out of markets, as in space travel, making weapons, building nuclear plants, Channel tunnels, etc. Stock markets collapsed and strains on the antiquated financial systems became apparent.

The past may be over, but its consequences will stay; and to avoid repeating the mistakes, we need a clear idea of the reasons for where we are today.  Unfortunately, apart from the complexity of our situation, many of those who offer to explain it are chiefly concerned to protect their on positions and benefits conferred by the status quo and therefore can hardly give good and unbiased advice.

Chess is not an easy game to play well, but its moves are quite simple. So, too, in understanding our financial system, simplicity and honesty are a good way to start. Banking basics: although at one time money and valuables were safeguarded by bankers and that was their primary function, those days have long gone. Instead, banks take in deposits and then use them to lend greater sums to borrowers, charging them for the privilege. Depositors get a small proportion of the bank's profits.  As a consequence of this, the most important question in the industry is the degree of confidence that depositors feel for the banker's honesty and financial stability, since they know that there is never more than a small portion of the outstanding loans that is actually covered by his monetary assets.

Banks know that they can safely lend more, much more, than they have taken in deposits, but what is the safe limit?  Five times, ten times? Or greater amounts?  During the recent financial melt-down, mention has been made of ratios of 35:1. Clearly save limits have been passed. How and why?  The answer to this question shows where things have gone badly wrong.  Not surprisingly, stupidity and cupidity have both played a part. But regulators existed who were supposed to protect depositors and others from such serious defaults as have recently occurred. Why?

Over the past decades, the financial boom has meant that bankers and their allies have been able to call the tune for politicians. Apparent success with production, wealth and financial dealings have given the bankers sufficient influence  to soften, evade, and outmaneuver governmental regulation.  The "free" market (i.e. a financial system dominated by capitalists controlling vast wealth) has become largely able to manipulate and outwit governments.  A system based on making profits related to work done well has graduated to a system motivated by greed for immense gain.

The dominance of capitalist money men has led finally to near collapse of the whole financial system, with the predictable result of jeopardizing the whole economic fabric of global society. For one of the key facts is just that--the global nature of the economic and financial system that sustains and underpins all our institutions.  But whereas they have appeared strong and soundly based, they are accompanied by a global political system that is anything but.

For we have a global financial economic system that is in theory based upon national sovereignty although in practice--as we can now clearly see--that sovereignty has been so far eroded by vast sums of money in the hands of banks and other business corporations that it is in effect nominal.  That is shown by the domino effect of banks collapsing in different countries one after another, within days or hours of each other, leading as in Iceland, to the very real possibility of the bankruptcy of the entire country.

Iceland was not a part of the eurozone and only fear of the domino effect of failure has so far kept other European states more or less acting jointly.  This may, at any time cease--as pointed out by Larry Elliott on Oct. 5. "In the long term, monetary unions do not survive without political union" and so the argument is that a halfway house is inherently unstable.  The economist Ruth Lea made the same point on television the next evening.

The corruption and grip of money on our world has added a further complication when coupled with the vast financial power in the hands of criminals. These dominate the drug trades; they trade in illegal weapons smuggling, thus augmenting the evil of the "legitimate" arms traders (i.e. those authorized  or subsidized by the nation-states); and the "people-smugglers" who enable migrants to evade border controls and may thus disrupt the societies that they join. While the Americans and British are carrying on illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, pirates have begun to thrive in the seas around Somalia.

One further reason for the banking chaos has been the way in which mortgages and loans, often promoted to people with little chance of paying them, have been divided up and sold as assets.  These have further been sold on by lenders into complex packages that have sometimes become so obscure that no one could tell what they were worth.  Thus the bankers were dealing in fictions, not realities.

History provides clues.  In economics the trade cycle is recognized from the early days of capitalism.  From 1700 onwards a predictable succession of booms and busts have taken place, with the longest of these taking 70 years or so from one bust to the next. The precise causes have been argued over by theorists but they have been accounted as almost facts of nature.  Is it a price worth paying for the free market that has supposedly led to such prosperity?

For over 60 years, federalists and world citizens have warned that the planet needs to be governed, equipped with the institutions to enable us to surmount the problems of the world community.  The most urgent of these is the threat of climate change and consequent global disaster. But we may now find that our present economic chaos will prevent many countries from producing and consuming in ways that are hastening that disaster.  Saved by our own folly would be an ironic ending!

ROSS SMYTH, 1921-2008

United World has learned that Ross Smyth passed away after a long illness on July 31, 2008. His funeral was held on Aug. 5th at the Cotes Des Neige Funeral center in Montreal.

Born in Toronto on June 8, 1821, he became an air traffic controller and later a pilot. After serving in WWII, he married Lillian Martin in 1946. He graduated with a degree in Political Science from Concordia University in 1953.  Ross was a long time employee of TCA/Air Canada serving in a number of different positions, including Manager of Public Relations.  He was a flight instructor as well as a pilot, and won the Governor General's Cup Air Rally in 1998.

He was active in many different organizations, serving as president of the Canadian Junior Chamber of Commerce, president of the Canadian Airline Dispatchers Association, President of the United Nations Association, and twice served as president of the World Federalists of Canada (1968-71 and 1975-77).

Ross was also the long time president of the World Government Organization Coalition (later renamed the Coalition for Democratic World Government). He was an active supporter and frequent contributor to United World. He had authored three books: The Lindbergh of Canada: The Errol Boyd StoryOur Flying Heritage, and One World or None, as well as numerous articles and letters to the editor. Ross said it was his experience as a pilot that led him to realize that the world truly had no borders, but was all one.

Ross was a pioneer in many fields and will be greatly missed.

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