All the states and all the individuals on the earth share one planet, with one finite pool of resources that everyone depends upon, yet there is no ultimate authority which has the jurisdiction and enforcement power to manage that finite pool of resources. Currently the world is composed of sovereign states that claim to have jurisdiction and enforcement power over their citizens and their territories, and they expect other states to honor the principle of non-intervention, thereby leaving each state to act autonomously in its own interest. However, I believe that each individual on this planet has an obligation to more than just the citizens of the state they happen to be from precisely because we all share a finite pool of resources, so each individual is responsible for how they use those resources because they directly affect everyone’s ability to use those resources. However, as will be shown, if states are allowed to remain autonomous, then there is greater incentive for each state to act in its own interests as oppose to cooperating with the other states to manage our finite pool of resources. For these reasons, I believe that we have a moral obligation to create a governing institution that has jurisdiction and enforcement power for the entire globe because there does not seem to be another way to manage our resources effectively.
The planet and all of its citizens are faced with problems that supersede the jurisdiction and enforcement power of any individual state or group of states, and currently there is no governmental agency or entity with the authority to mitigate these problems. According to David Held, since the signing of the Westphalia treaty in 1648, states have operated on two principles; sovereignty and non-intervention. Held also goes through great effort to establish the point of globalization by showing that as states have expanded, populations have grown, and new technologies have emerged; that the decisions and actions now made and taken have impacts that increasingly cross borders and affect more than just the citizens of a self-contained, sovereign state and its citizens. The easiest example and perhaps the least refutable example of this phenomenon that can be made, is in the case of pollution, or environmental effects. Peter Singer notes in his chapter One Atmosphere, “that Britain’s Sellafield nuclear power plant is emitting radioactive wastes that are reaching the Norwegian coastline,” which although is just one example, should serve to establish that the actions of one state can and often do affect other states. Yet, while Singer uses this example to show that there is an international law which allows suits to be brought against states for affecting other states, there still remains yet to be over-arching jurisdiction and enforcement power to stop such actions from happening in the first place. The current situation between states resembles a Prisoner’s Dilemma, and I think the problem is the structure of the system because when every individual and state is in competition for limited resources (land, fuel, energy, potable water, clean air, food, etc…), even though the best outcome for all is to be found in cooperation, there is no reason to trust that the other agents will not defect and “free-ride” on the efforts of the rest.
The most practical and imaginable form of world government in the current political environment of the 21st Century, is a federation of states, or as Held called it, a “cosmopolitan community,” a democratic community of democratic communities. States should exercise jurisdiction and enforcement power over the territory and the citizens they represent, and the federation should have jurisdiction and enforcement power to regulate the interaction between states and any action that may either, be taken by a state or the citizens of a state, that will have an impact beyond the state’s immediate jurisdiction. The closest contemporary example of what this federation could look like is the European Union, which has an EU council (representing states) and an EU parliament (representing citizens), but the states also retain absolute veto power. At all levels of the federation, the federation would operate by democratic principles, wherein representatives are elected by the group they are directly responsible to. And policy decisions would made by what Peter Singer called the principle of “subsidiarity,” whereby issues are managed “at the lowest level capable of dealing with the problem.” Such an institution would thus have democratic accountability and the authority to address and mitigate the collective action problems individual sovereign states are now faced with.
However, there are obvious moral problems with forcing states and the citizens of those states to become a democratic society because it supersedes their right to plan their own future; their right to self-determination. And as John Rawls, in The Law of Peoples (1993) identifies, there is the capacity for states to develop as “a well-ordered hierarchical society,” or in other words, not as a liberal society wherein all people are free and equal, but are not expansionists and the government derives its legitimacy from its citizenry. The point Rawls made with the discussion of “well-ordered hierarchical societies” is that there are forms of government and society that do not fit the democratic model, but no less deserve to have their rights to self-determination respected. After the end of World War One, the British and French Mandate systems established at the Sam Remo Conference of 1920 were imposed on the Middle Eastern countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Under the guise of Wilsonian “Self-Determination” and a civilizing mission, Britain and France claimed to be assisting these Middle Eastern countries to become self-sufficient democratic societies, but did not anticipate the severity of opposition from the people in these diverse countries. The mandate system drew arbitrary borders and set up unequal systems of representation that did not represent the population, so, not only were people forced into political debate with others they had previously not debated with, but they also felt the pains of an unequal distribution of power that was primarily located in the hands of a minority population. Essentially, the problem was that the mandate system created a series of governments that had not achieved legitimacy because the people themselves neither selected the systems of government, nor the representatives. The imposition of Western forms democratic government upon hierarchical societies, was a recipe for disaster and led to a series of revolutions and counter revolutions in many of the countries that left thousands dead and futures uncertain. Yet, my concern here is not how to influence or encourage non-democratic governments and societies to become democratic societies, it is to derive whether we have a moral obligation to form a global government. So, for the sake of argument, I will assume that societies and governments have not been coercively forced to become democratic, but have rather chosen of their own free-will as agents who have exercised their right to plan their own futures to become democratic societies.
Most proponents who believe that human rights and justice are important also believe that a democratic form of government is necessary to achieve those ends however they may differ in opinion in regard to the structure that government should assume. Some like, Will Kymlicka, while acknowledging that globalization is occurring, challenges the conception of a cosmopolitan citizenship by suggesting that although, “a new civil society” is emerging,” it has not yet produced anything that we can recognize as transnational citizenship.” The hinge-point of Kymlicka’s argument rest on his assertion that “democracy is not just a formula for aggregating votes, but is also a system of collective deliberation and legitimation,” and since he believes that people decide to deliberate and share the “blessings and burdens” of those political deliberations with people who share similar histories and circumstances, a cosmopolitan citizenship is not practical at this time because people will either choose not to participate or will be incapable of deliberating on that broad of a scale. If this is true, then the system will fail to meet the necessary conditions of a democratic society of free and equal persons contributing to deliberations because only those who could communicate in a broad range of languages and felt comfortable enough to debate political issues would be party to the decisions made, and as such would not be just Kymlicka believes that making individuals citizens of a world government before they are ready to form one would undermine and potentially ruin the democratic process, which would entail not achieving the objectives of human rights and justice. Kymlicka does however assert that we should, as a civilization, be progressing toward a more cosmopolitan citizenship, especially in terms of the “principles of human rights, democracy, and environmental protection,” but does not believe it is achievable in our life –time. He argues that although a greater territorial range of voters may influence a global government in some way, that the government “would cease to be accountable to citizens through their national legislatures,” where democracy is “more genuinely participatory,” it would essentially, form a tyranny of the majority over the minority. Kymlicka argues that the citizens who cannot take part in the cosmopolitan debate only have their local governments to appeal to, but if that local government’s authority is undermined and superseded by a transnational vote, then they lose the only agent capable of representing their interests internationally. Thus, unlike Held who argues in favor of a “cosmopolitan citizenship,” Kymlicka believes in a parochial democratic institution of government because states are not only responsible for, but are also accountable to and are thus responsive to their citizens’ needs. Whereas, a global government cannot be because the system has the inherent flaw of denying minority populations a voice in the decision making process, which would have the unintended effect of making the system unjust.
Kymlicka’s argument has merit and it is founded on a keen observation of human behavior and the desire to invoke the right to freedom of association. Perhaps the most pressing moral justification for individual states retaining autonomy, as opposed to a world government, is the concept of “Communities of Fate,” first presented by Held and furthered by Kymlicka. According to Kymlicka, “[p]eople belong to the same community of fate if they feel some sense of responsibility for one another’s fate, and so want to deliberate together about how to respond collectively to the challenges facing the community.” Kymlicka draws the conclusion that it is impractical, and potentially impossible to expect individuals to be citizens of a global democracy because of the factors which constitute a “community of fate,” and because of the requirements for full democratic participation. The most compelling argument that he makes concerning the factors of a “community of fate” is about the language that people share, of which he argues that average people prefer to deliberate democratically in their native tongue and will opt out of multilingual transnational democratic deliberation. This being the case, then the state, or as Kymlicka puts it, the “nation,” would feel the obligation of a special social contract with its citizens that it does not with the citizens of other states and as such, would be the most appropriate authority to have immediate jurisdiction and enforcement power.
Kymlicka concludes his argument by stating; “our democratic citizenship is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, national in scope,” suggesting that a global government is unjustifiable because it is impractical at this time. However, even Peter Singer, who is a huge proponent of a global government with jurisdiction and enforcement power, agrees that we should not rush into federalism and instead suggests “a pragmatic, step-by-step approach to greater global governance.” So, while Kymlicka successfully argues the point that “democratic politics is the politics in the vernacular,” wherein citizens debate in the self-interest of their own nations and states, with those who speak their language, and without undermining the state’s accountability to its citizens; by drawing from his redefinition of “community of fate,” it can be shown that people within one state are more likely to feel a sense of obligation to citizens of their own state as oppose to another because they share a common identity, and I also think it serves to bolster Held’s concept of “multiple citizenship” within a “cosmopolitan model of democracy.” Because if the global government was structured to operate on the principle of subsidiarity that Singer promotes, then citizens would still debate in the vernacular in parochial democratic bodies, and function as democratic members of the cosmopolitan community managing issues greater than the states’ jurisdiction. Thus, it does appear that a practical and responsive global government can be conceived, and to potentially be structured to function in a way that responds to Kymlicka’s very serious and relevant concerns. What remains is to establish what obligation we as citizens of this planet have in terms of a global government.
Kymlicka astutely asserts that people in a community of fate feel a unique obligation to one another that they do not share with people of other communities of fate. However, entailed within that assertion is the implicit claim that there is not currently a global community of fate, and I disagree with that assumption because I believe it can be shown that we do. It would nonetheless be foolish to assume that we feel the same obligation to people that we have never met as we do with residents of our neighborhood. Yet, although a person living in Tripoli would not be obligated to prevent or promote the construction of a road in Denver, or vice-versa, because the construction of a single road is of little consequence to the other party, promoting or preventing total world annihilation, say from nuclear war, is quite a different story because the consequence of such an event is of great consequence to both parties. This makes intuitive sense because people tend to acknowledge that we as citizens of the planet have an obligation not to unjustly deprive people of their right to life. So, while Kymlicka is correct in asserting that parochial communities of fate share certain obligations, it is also the case that there are varying degrees of obligation depending on the circumstance in question. Thus, when issues have global ramifications and something can be done to prevent that which we share obligations to prevent; those who have a choice in the prevention of it also have the responsibility to prevent it.
If my argument has thus far been sound, then it follows that we as citizens of the planet have a responsibility to prevent the types of collective action problems that pose a threat to the entire globe. If that is the case, then we are responsible for the creation and implementation of some type of institution that can adequately prevent those collective action problems. While it is the case that states as sovereign entities do have the capacity to adequately address certain types of collective action problems, as has been shown, states also fall victim to the prisoner’s dilemma and have more incentive to defect than to cooperate and as such, are inadequate for addressing problems that pose a threat to the entire globe. That being the case, then the most practical alternative is to create a world government that has jurisdiction and enforcement power over states to address the types of collective action problems that pose a threat to the entire globe. An objection may be made here, one which appeals to transnational institutions, but transnational institutions have historically lacked the jurisdiction and enforcement power necessary to address these threats because states have been reluctant to relinquish their autonomy. Thus, unless we as a global community of fate decide to enhance the jurisdiction and enforcement power of “neutral third-party” transnational institutions, the only other viable option at this time to meet with our obligation is the creation of a world government composed of a federation of states, or as Held called it, a “cosmopolitan democracy.”
 Held, David. The Transformation of Political Community: Rethinking Democracy in the Context of Globalization, 87.
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 Singer, Peter. One World: The Ethics of Globalization (One Atmosphere), 20.
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 European Union. (http://europa.eu/eu-law/decision-making/procedures/index_en.htm)
 Singer, Peter. One World: The Ethics of Globalization, (A Better World), 200.
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