Global federalism is necessary to solve world problems
If the state of world politics over the past few decades has shown anything, it’s shown that the United Nations is in major need of some power. In other words, it’s time to revisit global federalism.
Global federalism refers to having a lawmaking entity at the global level to deal with worldwide problems that cannot be effectively solved on a smaller scale.
The international system based entirely on diplomatic relations between nation-states is destined for continual shortcomings if not eventual collapse.
No better example remains than the Paris Agreement, which has demonstrably failed at sufficiently countering climate change. An outcome that shouldn’t be surprising since the agreement consisted not of legally binding requirements but rather only on the ever unreliable promises of politicians.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, the planet is now on track to far exceed the 1.5 Celsius warming limit, a point which climate scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have marked as the limit beyond which the damage from warming will dramatically escalate.
If things continue as they are now, the consequences will be a catastrophic loss of biodiversity, human life and economic output that will impact the people of all nations.
Similarly, despite over 100 U.N. resolutions condemning them, the Israeli government continues its reprehensible apartheid against Palestinians. This occurs as Ethiopia’s genocidal civil war, which has claimed up to 500,000 lives in the past 16 months, rages on, and Russia continues its fascistic expansionist efforts in Ukraine.
All this while the lack of any global economic governance has incentivized a race to the bottom in national labor standards, worsened inequality, permitted large-scale tax avoidance and allowed long-term trade imbalances to persist.
When taken in tandem with the inability of the current system to deescalate the ever-growing global polarization in the competition between the U.S. and China and the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons, these facts should make it clear that the status quo is not acceptable.
The reality is that global problems require global solutions. In practical terms, this means that there is a need for current international structures to be transformed into ones that have some actual authority.
However, this greater endowment of authority must also be accompanied by sufficient measures to ensure these institutions are transparent, democratic and only exercise power over issues that lower-level governments can’t properly handle.
Luckily, many ideas already exist for how this can become a reality. There are movements to democratize the U.N. by adding a permanent Global Citizens Assembly. Some activists and social scientists have advocated reforms to the U.N. charter that would create for it distinct, albeit limited, powers of taxation and international law enforcement.
One approach could be to revisit an idea that economist Yanis Varoufakis has recently revived. The idea is to create an international unit of currency exchange. Once accepted, this could be used to penalize activities that violate international law.
These institutions would then be able to create policies that could solve many of the aforementioned issues facing the world. For instance, these policies could mandate basic labor and environmental standards, establish a global carbon tax, create powerful incentives for nations to reduce their trade imbalances and so on.
With a new level of democracy at the global level, humanity would be able to enter another era. An era where conflict can finally be quelled, where the governments of the world are no longer devising how they can best dominate, exploit and destroy other nations.
Instead, governments could refocus their full energies on solving the genuine problems humans face, and where people of all nations would be able to communicate, travel and trade more freely than ever before. For this, global federalism is necessary.
Micah Erfan is an economics freshman who can be reached at [email protected]