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Friday, November 29, 2013

Why World Federalism? A Creative Manifesto

Government is a natural extension to being human. At our core, we are both extensively autonomous, as well as deeply social beings. This creative, sometimes messy, polarity of our awe-inspiring species implores us to establish common procedures for preventing our own annihilation and extinction as a branch in the Tree of Life. These agreed upon procedures are what we refer to as governance or "our government". And whether we approve or not, world government establishes itself naturally by extension of what we are and how we interact. The question is: what type of world government do we want?

Strictly speaking, there's only one other option to world government: world anarchy. And anarchy always evolves into primitive forms of governance. Even if we generously consider anarchy to be a pristine original state of nature where everyone lives happily by themselves and for themselves, that first state never lasts. The only higher order beings that have the capacity to live in such a careless world are the plants that nourish themselves from the sun and pull their nutrients out of the earth. Or those who live by vents in such deep dark oceans that we didn't even know they existed until recently. The second state of nature is always nasty, brutish and short. Fortunately, humans have evolved beyond that second state. They have joined by the capacity of their reason and empathy into common care. However, that second state of nature, where predators lurk in the obscurity of shadows, is not far removed from the socially cohesive creatures we have become.

Bears, our distant cousins with a common ancestry, have followed a seemingly different evolutionary path.  They have emphasized strength over cooperation. But there's a bear in each of us. We may be social but it is also our individual strength and capacity to look out for ourselves as adults — a retained capacity for independence — that makes us such extraordinary creatures. We're not like the bees or the ants of the world. We don't perish on our own in the wilderness. Like the bear we rise to the extreme challenge of solitude. We find food in tubers. We drink the water of streams. And though clawless, we fashion spears and hunt fish. And when we meet a stranger again, we are both elated and suspicious. Friend or foe? And if we can, by empathy and with reason, overcome our initial suspicions, we will soon be chasing antelope and gathering plants side by side. And the bear inside us goes dormant until it needs to be reawakened in the interest of our own self preservation.

There are two sides to every human: one that's necessarily selfish; another that's empathetically altruistic. These two aspects of ourselves are not at odds. It's more like a complex dance towards an equilibrium. At times we are staunchly independent and at others we seek the secure warmth of social embrace. It does not make us conflicted but rather extremely flexible and capable of survival even in the extreme depth of outer space, the most hostile environment of all. We compete and we cooperate, shifting constantly between these two modes. Effective human government is what allows a seamless shift between these two modes. It's what prevents us from reverting to the second state of nature where vicious competition is the only possible modus operandi, a war of each against all.

Government is a natural part of being human. Being against it in absolute terms is antithetical to who we are because we have evolved to naturally seek a way out of the second state of nature. The question becomes what type of government should we have? But before I address that, there is an all too common objection to world government that needs to be dealt with: does government have to be global? Even if government is an inherent necessity of our human condition, why not leave it entirely and completely to each nation? Why does it, so to say, have to be world government? The short answer is because we live in a global world. We are no longer, by the fruits of our technology, as hampered by geography as our ancestors were. We can fly to the other side of the world in a day and a night. We can almost instantly find out what is happening in the most remote areas of the planet. And most importantly, we can find love in strange cultures once far removed. We need world government because of the natural wanderlust of our youth, which inevitably produces tension.

The global wanderlust of many young people should not be discouraged. The notion that genetic purity is better is scientific nonsense. Monocultures are a serious problem in modern agriculture. Genetic diversity exists because it's a more efficient way of finding optimal and potentially new solutions to environmental factors. No human being can know which genetic combination is the best for the challenges we will face. The best combination is always somewhere in the murky future to be determined only by the performance of the epigenetic phenotype it produces.

It is true that our experience tells us that certain combinations produce severe genetic disorders. There's perhaps a sliver of a fraction of genetic conditions that we would want to eliminate. But I would argue that it's questionable whether we would want to eliminate such conditions as deafness, blindness and maybe even Down syndrom. The perspectives provided to us by these variations on being human are extremely valuable. For example, the heightened senses of the blind are astounding. The seeing, inundated by the prominence of their sight, are often oblivious to what the blind can experience. By sharing their observations, the blind can give us insight into aspects of the world to which we, the seeing, are blind.

The same goes for the deaf whose rich languages are a powerful window into another means of expression and what language actually is and how it can be effectively used. And the increased empathy of those with Down syndrome is legendary. There's not one way to be fully human. Not just because diversity is, well, a nice thing to have just like it's nice to have fiery red along with soothingly blue tulips in your spring garden. The creativity of human beings depends on novel insight from unexpected quarters. Our creativity — the characteristic by which we differentiate ourselves so profoundly from other species — depends on diversity. And thereby on the age old practice by some of us to seek love far far away from the homesteads of our parents. We are global because of our natural desire for new social contexts.

Perhaps Romeo and Juliet speaks to so many people because it's an age old story where natural love, suspicion and hastily made assumptions lead to tragedy. And eventually, realizing the common loss of our zero-sum game, by sheer necessity we straighten ourselves. The romantic but oft tragic ethnic and cultural clashes around the globe yearn for a world government. The unanswered question remains: what type of government? As we consider this we should not forget that for good reasons the snoring bear in us is ready to awaken with a roar at a moments notice.

When young men and women from strange quarters are driven by their biology to show up in courtship on the doorsteps of our sons and daughters, we have reason to be suspicious. Experience tells us that there are some really really bad people out there who are masters of manipulation. And lack of experience makes you more vulnerable to their game. These sociopaths are ready to drag us back into the second state of nature where they think they can win supreme. Wars exist not because we are irrational or have retained some primitive blood thirst, but because of the way we have to make decisions in a chaotic world inhabited by sociopaths and those misguided by their manipulations.

Human intelligence — the means by which we make good decisions about who to trust — seems rooted in what is called statistical computations. Which is pretty much just a fancy way of saying that we make educated guesses. Sometimes we're wrong but hopefully we're right most of the time. Actually, if we can't reach an equilibrium between taking chances and sticking with the seemingly true and tested we eventually go extinct. Because intelligence is a process of educated guessing, we sometimes make what in retrospect are poor choices. We trust the untrustworthy. And we slip into a fog of war, where we can't be certain about anything anymore. And what might once have been a justified act of violence or justified response thereto becomes a perpetual disaster. We begin to assume the worse at all times.

We intern whole populations in camps. We profile you by the way you look. Trust vanishes in an attempt to preserve ourselves. We are not being irrational per se. But we are frozen in a state of uncertainty and seemingly incapable of moving forward. We are locked in a constant state of anxiety from which we see no exit. Without open dialogue this condition might last until nearly all of us are dead and new hope springs forth from an innocent generation not deadlocked by their negative assumptions. To avoid endless repetitions of this vicious cycle, we must have the channels to speak freely and with civility to our perceived opponents.

Open dialogue is the first criterion for a world government. Without open dialogue, the intent of our presumed enemies is based on precarious assumptions. Excessive secrecy is antithetical to good government. I say excessive because their are extraordinary circumstances when we cannot allow the enemies of humanity to know our immediate plans. But the type of institutional secrecy we have today is contrary to public government. Contrary to any claims of the opposite, it's what keeps us in a constant state of uncertainty and thereby perpetual war. Small and big R republicans around the world should recognize the origins of our name: res publica, the public thing. If I know your reasoning, I don't have to make unnecessary and dubious assumptions about your intent. I'm less lost in a fog of uncertainty.

The second, third and forth principles are all derived from the way we make educated guesses as well. Direct experience and secondary opinion are both important  aspects of this process The first factor — direct experience — leads us to the second principle of good government: subsidiarity. It says that decisions should be as local as possible and recognizes that government should not be a monstrous Leviathan at the top making arbitrary and ill formed decisions.

The complexity of our world is immense. There is no superhuman being that is better equipped to make decisions than those directly affected by such decisions. It's reasonable to assume that people are fairly equal in their capacity for reason, empathy and evidentiary judgement. With the same datasets, it's those with direct experiences that can make the most educated guesses. We must not govern ourselves just at and from the top based on the false notion that there are known beings of supreme intelligence. We must govern ourselves at multiple layers of increasing complexity, always starting locally and gradually ascending higher only based on the increase in constituencies who can reasonable claim to be affected.

The third principle of good government is balance of power. It protects the diversity on which we so fundamentally depend in order not just to evolve in the long term but which potentially provides us with a wide array of perspectives. Subsidiarity does not prevent local tyranny, which is antithetical to our need for creativity and variation. Minorities have to be protected not because it's mean to treat people ill but because we as a species depend on diversity of both form and opinion. The suppression of minorities is damaging to the creative pool from which novel perspectives and unexpected solutions arise.

The second factor for making educated guesses — secondary opinion — means that restrictions on expression must be minimized. Government cannot be the arbiter of positive or negative information and of what knowledge, by its trueness or falsehood, will benefit the common good. Individuals must have a right to exchange opinions by free expression because otherwise we inhibit the mechanism by which individuals make unexpectedly good choices. Freedom of expression relates to the idea that we cannot prevent that vital capacity for people to produce new variations through courtship. We must allow people to be freely creative, limiting them legally only because of factors we know to be true with near complete and utter certainty. The list of factors with such high degree of certainty is relatively short despite the triumph of science.

That need to liberate the creativity of individuals and allow for variations implies a forth principle of good government: the respect for individual freedom and certain fundamental human rights. These freedoms are not derived from some natural right to property and the fruits of our labor. Property can be easily stolen. The only thing that naturally limits property theft are the fundamental physical properties of our universe. All other limits to theft are arbitrarily legal and sole based on our willingness and capacity to enforce our human laws.

Property exists because we must work to maximize the creativity of everyone. And creativity — that force of recombination and mysterious serendipity  — depends on individual freedoms and equal opportunities as well as an expectation that we can personally benefit from the future fruits of our own labor. We need legal guarantees that we will retain some control in what results from our hard work to keep us motivated to make further contributions to the common good.

With regard to what we have, own and control another observations needs to be made. Whether a person deserves their position in life —whether they were born into poverty, endowed with extraordinary abilities or made to suffer at a young age — and thereby whether we deserve what we have in life is completely irrelevant. Even if some of us are less fortunate, life is tough for most of us. What matters is whether we are willing to engage creatively in the survival of our species and their descendants. It's not that we must work to maximize the position of our least fortunate members.  Fortuna has nothing to do with anything. And we should treat any absurd thought experiment about what government we would choose if we didn't know into what conditions we would be born with extreme suspicion.

The right to property as a necessary motivation for creativity implies the fifth principle: good government must be based on understandable laws and non-arbitrary rulings that assure us that our expectations about the future have a high likelihood of being met. Ultimately, all work is for the future, and for a time and space when eventually none of us will be around to personally benefit from anything we ever did. But the future starts with us in a secure and tolerable existence under the rule of law. Without us there is no future for humanity and whatever may come from our endeavors.

Creativity, and therefore also a tolerance for variation, are the paramount organizing principles for meeting our naturally felt obligations to future generations. Being creative and tolerating variation are necessary dispositions for ensuring the survival of our children who will inherit the Earth. And hopefully explore the vast expanses beyond our beautiful but relatively insignificant planet. Most of us should feel such obligations because of the evolutionary process by which we came to be who we are. And so, creativity and variation must also be the organizing principle of good government. Government must be sole dedicated to protecting the environment in which creativity can flourish, the productive condition our species needs for its long term survival.

World government is not a yes or no question. It's a question of what world government we want. And I have outlined here five principles on which I believe such a government should at the very least be based: openness; subsidiarity; balance of power; respect for fundamental human rights; the rule of law. These principles have been laid down to safeguard creativity and natural variations, the primary goal of any government dedicated to the continued and future lineage of our species. The one type of government that meets all these criteria is World Federalism largely because it defines itself by these five principles.

It is not theocracy because a theocracy defines itself by strict rules from the highest authority of all, God. It assumes select people have divine certainty about what is right and wrong for us and all future generations to come. I have extensively here refuted the validity of such a position. And laid out the natural reasons for why the state must secure an environment where we as individuals can be freely (pro)creative, and thereby generate various solutions to the challenges that our current environment poses and the unknown environments of the future. Nor is it state socialism, which presumes that a central authority is better positioned to make good decisions. Just like theocracy it assumes superhuman characteristics of select people. State socialism denies that subsidiarity and free association are the most effective way of finding optimal strategies.

The type of world government we have today is cobbled together by expedience. It only shows that out of anarchy always emerges primitive governments. It's the result of an abandoned project to establish lasting peace. Its an ad-hoc series of international treaties that people might or might not follow depending on their current power status. At best these treaties are guidance for the conscientious. At worst they are a useless series of digital bits diffused across the Internet. Their effectiveness is indicated by the dark fact that though we haven't had a war between nations on the scale of World War II, we have fought many smaller proxy-wars and brutal civil conflicts. Adding together the sum total of their casualties amounts to numbers as shocking as those of the great wars in our past.

World Federalism is the most effective government given the enormous uncertainties we navigate with our limited knowledge. It allows us to find constructive human solutions at the right level by seamlessly switching between competition and cooperation without reverting to bellum omnium contra omnes — a destructive war of each against all. Or stagnation into a false sense of certainty and security. We have to engage in a common fight for our humanity. We have to defend the very existence of our extraordinarily creative species, still balancing at the brink of a self-inflicted extinction event, by helping establish a federalist wold government. Now.

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