Special Issue 2008

Special Issue

World Federal Government:  Creating, Enforcing, and Adjudicating  Enforceable World Laws for All World Citizens

By David C. Oughton, Ph.D.

During the 1780s American colonists debated the proposal to transform the Articles of Confederation into a federal system that would join state governments under a federal constitution.  A similar debate is now needed concerning the transformation of the current war system and confederal United Nations Organization into a peace system and a world federal government that would create, enforce, and adjudicate world laws as well as have the power to arrest and incarcerate individuals who violate them.  Just as a governor or any citizen of any state in the United States of America can be prosecuted for violating U.S. federal law, national leaders or any citizen of any country could be prosecuted for violating world laws.  Under a world federation, many thousands of innocent civilians would not be bombed or suffer under international sanctions because of the decisions of their leaders as they often are under the present war system.

A world federal government would not be the only government in the world.  It would be based on the principle of subsidiarity.  It would not eliminate national, state, and local governments; they would continue to solve problems as well as make and enforce laws for people within their own borders.  A world federation of nations would therefore not make everyone and every nation the same but simply unite members of the world community under the same global legal system.

The United Nations Organization, created during and after the Second World War, has been instrumental in preventing a third world war and has achieved so many accomplishments.  But it has often been weak and ineffective in solving global problems and preventing wars for these reasons:

(1)     The U.N. is a confederacy, a weak political organization of national governments.
(2)     The U.N. is based on the principle of national sovereignty.
(3)     The U.N. is based on the concept of collective security, the responsibility of all nations to fight against any aggressor.
(4)     The U.N. General Assembly is nondemocratic (one nation, one vote, regardless of a member-nation’s size, population, or wealth) and can only pass nonbinding resolutions.
(5)     The United Nations system must rely on dues from national governments, which are not always paid.
(6)     The U.N. Security Council has often been impotent in preventing or ending wars because of the veto power of the five permanent members, used for themselves or for their allies.
(7)     The U.N. is based on international law, a system of customs and treaties.

Most national governments follow most of their treaty agreements most of the time.  But international problems arise when some national governments decide that it is not in their national interest to follow the customs and treaties that they have agreed to follow.  At present there is no effective system to enforce such obligations.  The closest thing now is the permanent International Criminal Court, which is different from the ad hoc tribunals created by the U.N. Security Council.  The ICC can investigate and prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide only if national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute them.  But only about half of the national governments of the world (not the United States, China, or Russia) are now parties to the workings of the ICC.

War has been defined as “large-scale violent conflict between organized groups which already are governments or which seek to establish their own government over some territory.”1   A common misconception is that wars can never be eliminated because there is always conflict between people.  There will always be conflicts of interest between individuals (even between spouses who love each other) and between many different groups of people but conflicts do not have to become violent and can be resolved nonviolently.  The problem is whether political power is determined by conflicting groups (like political parties) in a nonviolent democratic process (as in American elections), or whether it is determined by violent conflict between opposing groups through violent revolutions and wars.

The current war system costs over a trillion dollars per year.  Under an effective world federation, struggles for power would be political and judicial rather than military.  National governments (like state governments within the U.S.A.) would only need weapons for internal control of their population and for the ability to arrest individuals who violate national laws.  The world federation of nations would only need a lightly-armed world police force in order to arrest individuals who violate world law.  All weapons of mass destruction would be eliminated.  Even now, national governments could agree to reduce their military spending by certain percentages each year under a supervised plan.

Just as local, state, and national governments have created systems to enforce traffic laws against those who violate them and other laws to prevent individuals and groups from harming each other, the world community needs a global system of enforceable world laws in order to outlaw war, prosecute terrorists and other world criminals, and better solve global problems.  This global system would involve:

(1)    A democratic world parliament to make world laws that concern global problems and the
relations between nations.
(2)     A world executive committee to enforce world laws.
(3)     A world court to judge individuals who violate world laws.
(4)     A world police force that would arrest individuals who violate world laws.
(5)     A world prison system that would incarcerate individuals who violate world laws.
(6)     A world constitution which would make explicit
(a)     the powers and limitations of the organs of the world federation,
(b)    the checks and balances between them,
(c)     the rights, powers and limitations of national governments, and
(d)     the rights and responsibilities of all citizens of the world.

Besides outlawing war and enforcing world laws against individuals, a world federal government would be better able to solve global problems than individual national governments or the United Nations Organization are now able.  For example, there is a need to manage the global economy.  There is also a need to avoid ecological disaster by protecting “the commons”:  the planet’s air and atmosphere, the oceans, Antarctica, and outer space.  Rain forests could be bought and managed as world parks.  Laws could be enforced against individual polluters.

A democratic world federation would help nondemocratic nations to democratize.  Even under the present international confederation, stable democratic countries do not go to war against other stable democratic countries.  Furthermore, stable democratic countries do not kill their own citizens.

A world federation could promote world citizenship and humatriotism (loyalty to the human family).  The present international system obviously promotes national citizenship and patriotism (loyalty to “the fatherland”) in order to be able to fight wars against humans in other countries.  World citizenship and world democracy can be promoted by a pledge of allegiance to the world, a world flag and global symbols, a world anthem, and the celebration of world holidays.  World citizenship can also be promoted by the study of world history, the world’s religions, peace heroes, and peace education.  It can be increased by travel to many different countries and by communication with people around the world through the internet.

World democracy would benefit from the teaching around the world of a universal auxiliary language such as Esperanto.   The purpose of a universal auxiliary language is not to eliminate the national languages but to preserve them while having a nationality-neutral language for global-level communication and a feeling of solidarity for the whole planetary community.

Who would pay for the running of a world federation?  Rather than an income tax on each world citizen, a user tax on nations, corporations, and individuals could be assessed for international travel and for exploring and using the resources of the common areas of the planet.  An individual’s national income taxes would thus be greatly reduced without the war system.

1Ronald Glossop, Confronting War (Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 2001, 4th ed.), p. 10.  See also his book World Federation?:  A Critical Analysis of Federal World Government (McFarland, 1993).


Coming Events

Saturday, April 27, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - [CANCELLED] CGS/STL Board of Officers & Directors meeting to be held at Village North Retirement Community has been cancelled

Sunday, May 5, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - CGS/STL Annual Meeting at The Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road, St. Louis MO 63117. Our meeting is in the lower level auditorium, so you should park behind the building and enter the building through the north doors. At 3:30 Dr. Jordan Bankhead, active CGS leader both globally and nationally will speak on “What Has CGS Been Doing Internationally and Nationally.” At 4:30 CGS/STL will hold its annual business meeting which will include electing officers and board members for the coming year. At 5:00 we will have an optional pizza lunch. For more information contact Ron Glossop at rglossop@mindspring.com or by phone at (314) 869-2303.

Friday, November 1 to Sunday, November 3, 2019 - CGS national convention in Los Angeles, California. More details are available on the national CGS website

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