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
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
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.
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
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
World Constitution and Parliament Association
[gmartin at radford dot edu]
REGARDING AN UN PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
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
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
ECONOMICS FOR A CROWDED PLANET
JEFFREY D. SACHS
By Larry Kazdan
" ...we need to redesign our social and economic policies before we
wreck this planet."
- foreword to Common
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
He had authored three books: The
Lindbergh of Canada:
Errol Boyd Story, Our
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.