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World government

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World government consists of a single government with authority over the entire world. No world government has ever existed, although large empires and superpowers have attained something of that level of power. This article will examine what moves have been made towards a world government, and which movements have advocated such a state.

Some internationalists seek the establishment of a world government as a way of establishing freedom and a benign rule of law over the world. Others regard a global government as a nightmarish possibility, with a malign World Government creating an endless totalitarian state without the prospect of escape or revolution.

The idea of world government is often explored in science fiction, either as a central theme or as part of the "furniture" of a vision of the future.

Table of contents
1 World government in science fiction
2 World domination
3 External links

States and empires

One of the most likely ways a world government could arise would be as either the amalgamation or federation of states, or the domination of an empire. Throughout history, states have expanded, extending their reach over both willing and unwilling populations.

The Roman Empire is assumed to have been the biggest empire of ancient times. As it stretched from the Sahara in the south to Scotland in the north, it encompassed most of the known world for the Romans: all that was known outside was dark areas of barbarians.

As the biggest empire the world has ever seen, covering a quarter of the Earth's land and controlling much of its oceans at its peak, the British Empire shows what levels military and cultural expansion have been achieved.

In the decades following World War II, Britain was relegated to an ex-imperial state, while the economic power of the United States and the Soviet Union led to a conflict -- the Cold War -- that could be said to be one for global hegemony, perhaps a step away from world government. The Cold War represented a struggle for nuclear domination.

The end of the cold war represented a victory for the United States, which became the world's only superpower (sometimes called a hyperpower).

Theories of International Integration

A number of scholars have theorised as to how a world government might come into being peacefully. Two general schools of thought on this are functional and regional integration. According to the functional school, world government would arise through all the nations of the world gradually establishing bodies to deal with particular issues (trade, communications, health, etc.) -- these bodies would slowly grow in power, and finally be federated to form one world government. According to the regional school, the formation of a world government would be preceded by the formation of regional governments in different parts of the world, these regional governments later joining together to form one world government. Looking at international organizations today, we can see what might be the early stages of both theories of development -- functional organizations like the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, the International Telecommunications Union, and many others -- and regional organizations such as the European Union.

Both these schools of thought see the peaceful establishment of a world government as a slow and gradual process, that will take decades, if not centuries. However, others argue that a world government could come about very quickly, through an agreement between all the nations of the world. Such a view was quite popular in the idealism of the post-World War II era, but by the end of the 1950s had been revealed to be quite unrealistic. Although there is no reason theoretically why it could not happen, the practical rules of politics (especially in today's world) makes the sudden establishment of such a body highly unlikely, and the gradual route holds much more promise. Many who see the establishment of a world government as desirable still hold out hope.

Of course, both possibilities can operate. Just as human society has evolved in progressively larger units of cohesion despite many setbacks--and while pushed forward rapidly at times by the results of occasional calamities and/or ingenuity and opportunity, many have proposed that this tendency toward stronger coordination, yet with decentralized control, is an inevitable path. The United States government, for example, did not come immediately into being (nor its advocates would argue, at the expense of individuality). The states of the union were intially quite resistant to the idea of supplying many resources at all to the national government (if they supported one at all). However, certain events such as impending war with England drew its constituent elements closer to each other along another global trend, self-determination. Although self-determination may seem the opposite of unification, federalists (whether national or international) argue that it is actually a prerequisite to true unification (though empires have undoubtedly achieved some measure of standardization and unification). Once "liberated" to sufficiently govern their own affairs, states can associate with others in balanced relationships which allow mutual benefit. However, such a unification brought about by war as the United States experienced was not sufficient to weld its constituent elements firmly together. Through experience with too weak a system (see Articles of Confederation) and innovation (and, it is argued, borrowing), the "Founding Fathers" of the United States devised a system which managed to maintain a fairly steady equilibrium (though with great give-and-take) between states and nation except through the period of the Civil War where this equilibrium was greatly tested. It has been argued that this test of the system was due to its being tied in its own contradictions of "self-determination" regarding the issue of slavery. Despite this challenge, it may be argued that the Civil War strengthened the nation's unity. Much effort was also spent through educational avenues to inculcate a new sense of national unity amidst the people who had previously felt no special loyalty to those from other states.

Parallels have been drawn to the current state of weak world governance (through the United Nations and other related regional or international institutions) with the United States' Articles of Confederation. In the current system of the United Nations, many have argued that the present system gives too much weight to state sovereignty and too little to cohesive action. For example, any of 5 permanent members[?] of the Security Council can veto any matter brought before it (not only security matters). The World Parliament--the General Assembly--it is argued, hardly represent the people, in that they are not elected by the people in a separate election for international governance (nor in many cases are the governments currently choosing the representatives), they are not proportional in any manner to population (unlike most bicameral legislatures[?], including the U.S. House of Representatives, and their decisions are not in any way binding (besides expressing opinion). The World Court, likewise, is severely limited in its powers in being able to adjudicate in matters not agreed to be brought before it by both parties, or if the parties are not states. Even those belonging to permament member countries have argued that such sovereignty only begets anarchy in getting things accomplished (especially during the Cold War. While federalists are equally wary of the dangers of overcentralization, they argue that many aspects of the United Nations system (or a new system) should be sufficiently strengthened to allow effective action, whether dealing with security (or ancillary issues argued to be related to security).

(Besides federalism, some internationalists point to the model of a commonwealth for the future patterning of a world government which can offer another type of balance between national and international control.)

Much of the opposition to the concept of world government is seen to be derived from different sources. In Western systems which place high value on individual autonomy, visions of absolute control are often counterposed to reassert the prized value of independence. Ironically, on the other hand, non-Western systems may tend to demonize the anarchy of individuality and are themselves suspicious of world government for fears that Western powers unduly control these institutions. Religion has also produced skeptics of world government, who interpret their religious scriptures as foretelling a conquest of the planet by evil forces. Despite this opposition from various quarters, intellectuals and idealists have dreamt of a peaceful new world order where force was subverted to serve the ends of justice in international relations (e.g., where aggressors were repelled or violators of security agreements/universal disarmament treaties were directly and collectively opposed through international agreement and the force to support it, in order to provide a secure environment (buttressed by greater social equity, etc.) and where essential individual and national autonomy and rights were also secured.

However, given the temptations of states to usurp power even resulting in their own loss (see Prisoner's Dilemma), as alluded to earlier, sometimes only gradual or calamitous changes tend to prompt the desired reforms. Nevertheless, it is argued, that examples such as the evolution of the United States government, can demonstrate that ingenuity, education, statesmanship, and other proactive efforts can also advance support among the masses and leaders for a greater political and social union.

International (functional) institutions

There are a large number of international organizations under the umbrella of the United Nations, as well as international treaty organizations[?], but none of these claim sovereignty over any part of the world. There is also a body of international law.

Regional institutions

The movement in the latter part of the 20th century and the early 21st century is towards the formation of supranational regional power blocs[?] such as the European Union, with status somewhere between treaty organizations and a federal state. These may be regarded as modelled on the success of the federal structure of the United States, probably the most successful federal super-state.



Adolf Hitler attempted to establish a "thousand year Reich" that, at the very least, would at least have encompassed Europe and Russia. It seems probable that had Hitler been successful in this, he would have eventually attempted to conquer the rest of the world. However, he believed that a state was at its strongest when at war, so perpetual or recurring war would probably have been something he would advocate; thus negating the possiblity of a complete world government.

Neo-liberalism, or modern capitalism

In recent decades, a hierarchy has developed and been strengthened where the world is divided into debtor and usurer states, the first and third world.


The communist movement had an ideal of world government emerging from the co-operation of idealised communist regimes, although this broke down when the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China realised that their national political aims were incompatible.

Leon Trotsky is famous -- and probably foremost among authoritarian communists -- in advocating a "world revolution," as opposed to the single-state communism of Stalin and Mao. His followers have suffered alienation within the communist/socialist movement, however, due in large part to the propaganda of the Soviet Union against Trotsky.


Although anarchists advocate a world not divided by borders, which they regard as nothing but artificial boundaries, and are generally against nationalism, they do not advocate a world government as such, because government itself is an institution they believe to be morally wrong and harmful. Instead, anarchists propose a world order based either on free association and mutual aid, in the case of libertarian socialists, or on free competition[?], as in the case of anarcho-capitalists. (There are other branches of anarchism, which are discussed in more detail on the anarchism page and on their individual pages.)

Conspiracy theory

A number of conspiracy theories postulate the existence of a mysterious global cabal that controls the world, or large portions of it, from behind the scenes. Other theories prophesize (or warn against) domination of the world by a single entity; these conspiracies generally warn against a One World Government[?].

See also:

World government in science fiction

In both science fiction and utopian/dystopian novels, authors have made frequent use of the age-old idea of a global state and, accordingly, of world government. In tune with Kant's vision of a world state based on the voluntary union of all countries of this planet in order to avoid colonialism and in particular any future war ("Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht", 1784; "Zum ewigen Frieden", 1795), some of these scenarios depict an egalitarian and environmentally sustainable world supervised (rather than controlled) by a benevolent world government. Others, however, describe the effects of a totalitarian regime which, after having seized power in one country, annexes the rest of the world in order to dominate and oppress all humankind. James L. Halperin[?]'s novel The Truth Machine[?] (1996) is an example of the former; Ira Levin's This Perfect Day (1970) is an example of the latter.

This Perfect Day is set in a seemingly perfect global society whose genesis remains vague ("Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day" is what schoolchildren have to chant). The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp which has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as free agents[?]. They are told where to live, what to eat and which job to take. Everyone wears a bracelet with a scanner which tells them where they are allowed to go and what they are allowed to do. At 65, they receive a lethal injection. Even opposition against such a life by those few who happen to be resistant to the drug and who consequently wake up to a day which for them turns out to be anything but perfect is dealt with by the programmers of UniComp who, in their underground hideaway, constitute the world government. Their ideology seems to be basically communist.

The Truth Machine envisages the future of humankind after the invention of a device which is much more reliable than conventional lie detectors. Mass marketed and as small and cheap as a mobile phone, the truth machine is available to everyone so that lying has become something which just does not pay any longer and, consequently, is generally considered erratic behaviour which used to occur in the past. Also, crime has become almost obsolete. As politicians are in no way exempt from being continually checked, no economy with the truth can be found in their speeches or soundbites any longer, and only those who really wish well are prepared to take office. As the only remaining superpower, the United States of America takes the lead and all the other nations readily join in to form a truly global society.

World domination As opposed to world government, world domination in the form of a global dictatorship is the goal of many fictional supervillains.

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