At this stage a World People’s Representation is a vision which, if made a reality, would place the task of making the rules for global cooperation in the hands of representatives elected directly by the people.
This in turn would constitute the paradigm change necessary to overcome the impasse caused by the inadequacy of all current ways of governing and enable humanity to make good use of the civilizational achievements already attained. In other words, this would not just put us in a position to be able tackle the host of existential global threats endangering us all, it would also allow us to do this in a way that would increase overall prosperity and ensure it spread to all people everywhere in the world without the need of taking away from anybody.
A future in which the life-supporting biosphere of our planet, the very foundation of our wellbeing and our survival, is no longer consistently destroyed and where nevertheless the quality of life of the people is improving, is a real and realistic option. If we decide to go for it.
Questions & Answers
Questions & Answers
Why is global cooperation of the right kind good for everybody?
One might argue, we already have globalization (which is a form of global cooperation), but it’s not good for everybody. Inequality is steadily increasing, permitting some people to become extremely wealthy and forcing many others to lead a precarious existence despite the fact they work their fingers to the bone. Many more are simply condemned to debilitating poverty, some even to a slave-like existence. This and ongoing wars are causing millions to flee their regions of origin in search of safety and a better life, but many of them die on their way and others waste away for years in forsaken camps. Globalization has not removed the danger that an international conflict might spin out of control and morph into a nuclear war. Furthermore, globalization as it is unfolding now, has speeded up the destruction of the biosphere on which we depend for our survival on this earth and, if truth be told, nothing can be done about it. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how fast a local virus outbreak can cause a major global crisis, bringing – apart from its effects on people’s health – many unforeseen social, economic and political consequences in its train.
Witnessing these and other devastating outcomes of globalization, many people are rather disinclined even to consider more global cooperation. And yet, only with the right kind of global cooperation do we stand a chance of tackling all these problems without endangering prosperity. Never before have we had the civilizational means we have now. We have the knowledge and the technological means that would provide us with the virtually unlimited possibilities to achieve anything (provided it does not contravene the laws of nature), but we are not able to make proper use of our means. We are not able to help ourselves to tackle the existential threats endangering all of us because we are not able to employ the right kind of cooperation necessary to achieve this aim.
The reason for this is not that those in charge are not smart enough to cooperate, or that the often-cited selfishness of human nature will not allow it, but the simple fact that in the field of politics we lagged behind all other fields of human activity. We are trapped into a divisive design. Powerful states fear each other, spending huge portions of their productive capacity on armaments. So far only the nuclear bomb, that has the power to eradicate all life on earth, has prevented the superpowers from actually going to war with each other. On a national level we cannot trust each other too – so, if we live in a parliamentarian democracy, we can only vote for interest groups called political parties and hope that those who come to represent us in government, will govern for our benefit (and not for the benefit of our opponents). In authoritarian versions of government, there are even fewer opportunities for the people to exert influence on those in power. Numerous forms of corruption are unavoidably entrenched in every political system. In general, upholding our current political order is a wasteful and expensive business but it wields a powerful narrative to protect itself from change. This narrative can be summarized in one sentence: “There is no imaginable alternative”.
System-change has happened repeatedly throughout history, usually caused by violence in form of wars or revolutions. Sometimes ideas that were genuinely supposed to make the world a better place have brought even more violence and misery. No wonder, that there is reluctance even to consider changing a political order that seems to work reasonably well (for some of the people), especially while peace still prevails in most parts of the world. But exactly therein lies our chance to envision change in a way never before seen, never before done: We could facilitate change in a peaceful way by building on what we have already achieved. We could prevent the impending ecological collapse, ensure our survival and our prosperity without the fear that somebody would lose out.
If we can now find agreement to involve all people in electing representatives for all, a World People’s Representation, entrust them with the making of the rules required for proper global cooperation, and in doing so enable decision making and establish the rule of law on a global scale, we could indeed facilitate the most far-reaching change for the better – for the good of all – for the poor, for the precarious and for the wealthy. In other words, the right kind of global cooperation that would be good for everybody.
Are we really facing existential threats?
Yes, and this should be taken seriously. The Corona Pandemic can be understood as a warning against any unjustified confidence to the contrary. Earlier outbreaks of dangerous diseases in recent years have been confined to regions, but this one has shown the potential of a virus to spread globally and wreak havoc on an unprepared global community. And there is much worse to fear. The ongoing destruction of the biosphere will not just cause the extinction of a number of species, create inclement weather conditions and rising sea levels, it can, if not tackled in time, create the preconditions for the extinction of humanity at some time in future. To give one example of how this could happen: a complete breakdown of the oceanic ecosystem – that is entirely possible – could result in a change in the composition of the atmosphere and render it unsuitable for breathing.
If this might seem a problem for future generations to worry about, we also have the means to destroy life on earth much sooner – by nuclear war. The fact that we survived the Cold War, and nobody has used an atomic bomb in an actual war since Nagasaki, should not lull us into a sense of false confidence that this will also be the case in future. As long as questions of the handling of power are left to a few individuals and their whims, we cannot be assured that bellicose language will not transpose into real action of war, that, once begun, will be very difficult to contain. And, apart from the threat of extinction for humanity, we are on our way to undermining what lies at the foundation of our quality of life and creating multiple ways of heading towards a life in misery for more and more people.
However, none of these scenarios is an inevitable destiny, all can still be prevented.
Why is having common rules so decisive for a safe and prosperous future, and why should these rules be made by the people?
Imagine a football (soccer) match without a complete set of rules and without the referees to make sure that the rules are followed. A match in which much is at stake would likely descend into anarchy, thereby endangering the health of the players. If there is nobody authorized to make decisions when situations are unclear, it is unlikely that the match could be completed without the deployment of brute force. The players would not be able to compete on the strength of their athletic skills in playing the ball – the ball game as we know it would turn into something else.
We have a similar situation on a global scale. We do not have enough or, more aptly, we do not have the right kind of rules to play the economic and political game safely for the benefit of all involved and we do not have anybody authorized to supervise the game. This means that, instead of enabling us to compete in a meaningful and communally beneficial way by deploying our rich repertoire of skills to make the world a better place, we (as countries) are being forced to race to the bottom, to destroy the biosphere and to allow corruption to determine our lives. This leaves us unable to tackle the existential risks threatening our very survival – even though we would be able to do so.
It is about the rule of law versus the rule of power and manipulation – and only all people via their representatives can do anything about it. All other sources of the law would not be credible. In the currently divided state of the world, all positions of power do represent partisanship and self-interest. It is not even possible to reform the law within countries satisfactorily (this holds for any country) and root out corruption – the various intricate power relationships would not allow it – and there is nobody who could be in the position to provide just and beneficial law for the sake of global cooperation and justice everywhere.
However, this task would be relatively easy in the framework of a global approach headed by the representatives of the people. All would gain by the emergence of a proper framework for global cooperation that would allow for balanced relationships.
How could we elect representatives of the people on global scale without having to fear manipulation?
Elections, as proposed here, would involve neither political parties nor candidates. They would not depend on a fixed date, and they would be impossible to manipulate. The voting process would take place everywhere on Earth in a formal and reproducible setting among groups of ten women or men who are ready to elect and to be elected, and each of these groups would elect from among themselves one person – the person they intuitively trust the most – to be the representative of the group. In their turn, the elected representatives would form groups of ten and elect one among themselves to be their representative. On this level these representatives would represent 100 people. After this procedure is repeated five times, representatives of 100,000 people would be elected and, after a final election round, the representatives of 1,000,000 people would have been chosen legitimately to represent humanity on global scale. All representatives of 100,000 could serve as representatives of the people on national level.
This way of electing representatives would be based on a person’s ability to assess other people’s trustworthiness intuitively. Certainly, it is human to err and always possible to trust somebody mistakenly. But shorn of all means of propaganda and manipulation and when there are no group interests to opt for, the probability of erroneous judgements would be smaller than in conventional elections in parliamentarian democracies. After all, it is not about partisan interests, but to find the people we can trust most to represent all of us on a global level and make the rules we need so desperately. We would know that every single member of the World People’s Representation has been found trustworthy in every round of the election, six times in total.
Why would women and men be equally represented within a World People’s Representation?
All over the world women would elect only women and men would elect men. This simple principle would not just bring life experience from all regions of the world into this political body, but also the views and the experience of both genders from all regions of the world.
What would the future relationship between the World People’s Representation and the governments of the nation states be?
In a world united by a World People’s Representation as a political body assigned with the task of making the rules necessary to ensure successful global cooperation, all nation states would retain full control over their borders as well as over their military. Furthermore, any decision taken by the World People’s Representation would need the agreement of a clear majority of governments of nation states to become globally valid and legally binding. However, no government would have a power of veto. All votes of governments of countries (as recognized by the United Nations) would carry equal weight, regardless of the military, economic or demographic size of the country, provided those countries in favour of the decision to be voted on also represent a clear majority of the world population.
Given the remarkable diversity of the existing states, there is no need to worry that there might be a predetermined majority for any matter beforehand. It is to be expected that the World People’s Representation (which would also be very diverse) could only decide on what are the best possible and most beneficial solutions for all, and the governments of the countries of the world will only agree if they find that the solutions in question will really work for any of them.
What would be the task of the people’s representatives on a nation level?
Representatives on national level, that is, all women and men who have been elected to be the representatives of 100,000 people, would not make rules within their own countries. Their task would be to ensure that the rules made by the World People’s Representation as well as the national rules are properly honoured. Their duty would be the overseeing of all the different kinds of power relations within their countries, including the government, and to rule out any kind of corruption and enable functioning inclusive institutions everywhere.
At present, nowhere is there any institution that is suited for this task. Neither opposition parties (which aspire to win the next elections) nor the judiciary alone are in the position to assume this responsibility.
Why could a World People’s Representation never turn into an authoritarian world government?
Firstly, a World People’s Representation would operate within the framework of a constitution of humanity which has to be decided on before any election of people’s representatives can be undertaken.
Secondly, the World People’s Representation would have no military might to back up any inclination towards authoritarian rule.
Thirdly, the members of the World People’s Representation would be a diverse group of people, and their term of service will be limited to ten years. After that a newly elected group of representatives will take their place. There cannot be anything like party structures that would reproduce power relationships.
Fourthly, the World People’s Representation will always need the agreement of a clear majority of governments of countries for their decisions.
Fifthly, the World People’s Representation is about the rule of law. If it succeeds in enabling the rule of law globally and in every field, humanity will be in the positions to solve its problems and move forward towards a prosperous future for all. For this goal, it will be able to gather widespread support. Any hint of authoritarianism would render its legitimacy invalid.
However, making rules is always a form of governing. In this way the World People’s Representation will provide those services necessary for governing on a global scale that cannot be provided by all the present forms of government. To be able to fulfil this task, it will have to be in a position strong enough to achieve what is needed – without recourse to the usual instruments of power.
Would the World People’s Representation be dependent on funds from wealthy countries?
No, the World People’s Representation as proposed here would not be dependent on the money of countries. On the contrary, it would be the condition of unity enabled by the World People’s Representation that would make the countries of this world affluent.
With the establishment of the World People’s Representation, the dividend of unity could be accessed from the start and enable a transformation in the direction of an economy which does not destroy the ecosystems of the biosphere but allows for much more equitable prosperity than our present economic ways do.
What is meant by the “dividend of unity”?
Since the dawn of humanity, the secret behind the achievements of human civilization has unfailingly been successful cooperation that has allowed human creativity to innovate. Failing cooperation has always led to decline. The improvement in the framework for cooperation that unity can enable, will allow for improvements almost unimaginable at present. As for the economy, assurance can be given that it will be stable, prosperous, inclusive and non-destructive to the environment. There will still be capitalism, markets and competition, but these tools can be wielded more wisely when unity prevails. As a first step, a new global monetary order could solve multiple problems of finance for global tasks as well as for all countries in one fell swoop.
What would a new global monetary order look like and how could it make all countries wealthy?
A new monetary order as proposed here could bring global financial stability, predictable state revenues, reduction in taxation, ensure the financing of global efforts and many other benefits. The principles of a global monetary order would be as follows: All countries keep their national currencies. Alongside this, a new global currency will need to be created; let’s call it World Money. A new institution, a World People’s Bank, supervised by the World People’s Representation and the governments of the nation states, will issue this money based on well-defined measurement of what is truly of value to the economy and to life in general. What is of value and what the procedure of the measurement should follow will be based on scientific principles and principles of economics in wider sense – taking people and the environment into account – but it will also be a political decision. It will include infrastructure and how it functions in the widest sense and everything else that is valuable to a properly functioning, inclusive and environmentally non-destructive economy, the general well-being of the people and the natural environment. Evaluations and measurements will have to be carried out by trusted impartial organizations adhering to strict rules and subjected to rigorous supervision.
World Money can be allocated to global projects as well as to all countries for domestic use according to the outcomes of the measurements and evaluations. This will entail that more developed countries will receive a larger share than less developed countries. However, less developed countries will also receive all the funds needed to catch up. No country will lose out. It would be hard to overestimate the benefits of this approach. The advantages would be numerous and large. For example, it would be possible to abolish income tax and tax on profits up to a certain level entirely (without diminishing state revenues), which in turn would simultaneously give the people more income and make labour cheaper – and it would be the answer to the challenges of ever-increasing automatization and artificial intelligence. There would be no need to tax or to fear innovation.
This is just one example of how the dividend of unity could be accessed from the start. And there is much more to envision.
Would a World People’s Representations’ global rule-making amount to global central planning?
No, it would not. Having the necessary global rules in place is not at all the same as telling everybody what to do and how to do it.However, the World People’s Representation should be the focal point where information comes together and from which it can be distributed for the benefit of all. In this way individual, entrepreneurial or national freedom to carry out creative and innovative activity can be reconciled or even merged with the work desperately needed for the common good. Competition must not necessarily lead to a race to the bottom.
What about capitalism and free markets in a united world?
Capitalism is a specific way of cooperating, described as “extended cooperation”. Thanks to the simple principle of using “capital” to finance future developments (usually referred to as “growth”, but this doesn’t indicate its full potential), it provides a means of cooperation in so many ways that its potential seems boundless. True, heinous crimes have been committed in the pursuit of wealth accumulation. Millions of people have been enslaved, exploited, or have perished as a result of oppression or died in wars on behalf of capitalist undertakings. However, such crimes have also been committed at earlier stages of economic development. Capitalism has put a much stronger tool to use in the hands of its perpetrators, and this is the reason why the damage to so many people’s lives has been so huge. Capitalism is a valuable tool that, if wielded wisely, can be used to organize economic cooperation in an extremely beneficial way. It is not a social system (as it has been called), but invariably depends on an existing political and legal order to be able to function. In history, the various kinds of orders have always defined the empirical forms capitalism has taken.
The condition of unity and the global rule of law would provide the ideal preconditions for capitalism to flourish as never before and be for the benefit of all. Under the current conditions of general dividedness, capitalism is leading towards increasing inequality, towards environmental destruction and towards various other dangers which are spiralling out of our competence to control.
In a united world, it would be the prerogative of the World People’s Representation to provide the globally valid rules for extended capitalist cooperation, however, the countries would have to decide about trade (and how free it should be), since they would always retain sovereignty over their borders. They would have the right to demand that trade relationships should be fair.
Why is the rule of law regarded as essential for the success of a united humanity?
The reasons for this are numerous. The rule of law has to replace the need for war and violence in conflict solving. The rule of law has to enable the making of difficult decisions that are important to our security as well as for the well-being of all people. It has also to make sure that nobody loses out.
The rule of law has to be strictly protected, and it should be impossible for any power to interfere in it. And there should be no exceptions. This means no presidential or other pardons from outside the law, and no status of (complete) immunity before the law for anybody. All those who are knowingly break the law should be personally answerable to the law.
There should be no lawless space left on this earth. The law should be applicable everywhere and to everybody. Nobody should be exempt from the law, but the law should also protect everybody; nobody should be deprived of the protection of the law. Legal protection should not depend on having connections or money.
The rule of law everywhere could be transformative for humanity. It can protect people against misuse of power, against extractive relationships and also a shield against deliberate and harmful manipulation. It can help ensure that there is clarity of rules for the economy and, by doing so enable a level playing field and a smoothly and stably running economy. Common rules for politics can, if wisely designed by the World People’s Representation and agreed to by the governments of the countries, help to improve the quality of the services of the state for its people everywhere (and it would make the lives of politicians better). And, last but not least, the rule of law is our best chance to escape the trap of perpetual warfare we are still snared in.
How could the existence of the World People’s Representation and the rule of law help to ensure peace without the might of an army?
Despite past and ongoing glorification of war and despite the fact, that war has indeed contributed to the development of human civilization, it should be clear that there is no part of human culture as harmful as war. War destroys what we love and value most. It destroys property and it destroys freedom since it is the root of slavery. The common rules of humanity are abandoned during times of fighting and naked dominance is allowed to prevail. Sexual violence becomes easy, and the destruction of life becomes normal. Worst of all, war cannot be avoided, so the belief goes, since we cannot trust the other. It is indeed a trap – fear compels us to fight or to be constantly prepared for fight.
So, it always was and so it still is – yet, the winds of change are beginning to blow. Although there are always wars being waged in various parts of the world, there hasn’t been an all-out war between major powers in the past 75 years. The main reason for this is that weaponry has become so destructive, that war between nuclear powers could mean the annihilation of life on earth. War has been prevented by the application of the concept of “mutually assured destruction”. Another reason for this long peace is globalization; the reality of global interconnectedness and mutual dependence economically entails that there isn’t much to gain by war. The fact that there wouldn’t be much to gain, and the danger of all-out destruction has allowed the larger part of humanity to enjoy peace, for now. Peace is by no means a guaranteed condition and the danger of war has not been eliminated. We are still caught in a trap and failing globalization and/or political folly could bring back war.
The only feasible (and visible) way out of this trap would be to opt for unity, to elect a World People’s Representation and enable the rule of law everywhere. There wouldn’t be any new armies necessary to ensure peace. The existing armies could do this and the nations which possess them would be paid for their peace-keeping services.
Peace is not first and foremost about disarmament, peace is about trust, about reducing fear. If in a united world prosperity would be found everywhere and the safety of all people in all countries could be guaranteed – be this safety from their own government, from non-state powers or from other people – the reason for war would be eliminated and trust could begin to build up. But, what if things do not always go well immediately? If obstacles have to be overcome first? Mighty powers might still consider each other a threat and there would be no Leviathan with the ability to enforce peace above them. The threat of war would remain.
However, with legitimate procedures by which to arrive at rules and decisions, providing the ability to solve conflicts without war or the threat of war, peace could be ensured in a sustainable way. Key to this is strong, trusted and universally accepted law. And part of this law has to be individual responsibility. There is always a limited number of people, not whole countries, responsible for war. In a united world, it is about seeking out those in power who – for whatever reason – deliberately break international rules and commit aggressive military acts, that endanger peace, and hold them responsible before a court of law. There should be no political loophole left to pardon them and no statute of limitations. The international as well as the national judiciary should be obliged to bring everybody who knowingly endangers world peace to justice – this should be an unwavering rule.
We have learned to respect national law and we have accepted that it has to be valid for everybody (although it’s sometimes still difficult to hold the powerful accountable), and it has proven to be beneficial for all. If we succeed in establishing global law and strict adherence to it, the implications for our well-being will be huge.
What is meant by paradigm change and why would a new narrative change the world for the better?
These are key questions. Cooperation between people always depends, at least in part, on shared beliefs about how the world works and about how we should cooperate. Paradigm here is understood as the worldview, the basic assumptions of a group of people about the natural and the social world that are relevant to political, economic, social, scientific or other forms of cooperation and, this is important, they include ideas about decision making and the allocation of power. At present, in a time of globalization, something like a common worldview, shared by all people, already does exist, albeit in a rudimentary form in which important parts are not yet shared by all. Especially those parts about how to cooperate, to make decisions and to allocate power are still hotly contested. The leading narrative in our current paradigm tries to overcome these disagreements by delegating everything to “the market” as the ultimate decision maker. However, although this approach has its merits and has enabled the development of globalization as we know it, in its fundamentalist form, it has mortally dangerous downsides. We cannot do without conscious human decision making and, since our problems are global as well as local, we also need to make decisions in the name all of humanity, and we need to give ourselves inclusively functioning institutions. For all of us without exception. Only then can we properly tackle the existential threats endangering our very existence and all other problems which threaten to make our lives miserable.
However, as long as there is no guiding narrative and no discourse even about the fact that we do have the choice to unite, it is not possible to move towards it. We are stuck with the current dysfunctional paradigm of division and its outdated stories while things are going from bad to worse.
We need the new narrative about unity. We are ready for it. Everything is in place, we just need to talk about it, discuss it, decide that we want unity for all the advantages to which it brings us closer. Importantly, unity can save us from ourselves. This needs a lot of imagination. Imagination is a human ability we have in abundance. We are already used to change, so, why not talk about change for the better? Change we could decide on cooperatively. To actually achieve the intended change will be extremely difficult, no question about this. Changes in power relationships are never easily accomplished. But even this is possible. It all begins with the right kind of story.
How to make unity happen?
Nobody can know this in detail at this stage. But, once people know and understand about this option and what it would entail, unity can emerge as a clearly visible goal. As we know from history, whenever humans have set their minds to something really worthwhile, more often than not they have also been able to attain it. Once a critical number of people deploy their creativity and actually work together, a movement can come into being and the prospect of unity will be within reach.
However, such a movement can also easily fail if it repeats one or all of the common mistakes that are likely to be made in the course of such endeavours. If such a movement wants to achieve global rule of law, end corruption, achieve lasting peace and prosperity for all, it is of the utmost importance already, before the aim of installing a World People’s Representation is reached, to follow strict rules unswervingly. A movement that aims to unify humanity, and everybody who is involved in it, has always to behave peacefully and under any circumstances. It should embrace openness in all its organizational doings and it should always follow the rules for financial accountability. And, even though this might be difficult under certain circumstances, it should not break the existing law.
Equipped with unambiguous rules and having had a clear goal set, everybody who wants to join a movement towards unity should be able to do so. This goal should not be hindered by existing partisanship, but it should also not be highjacked by anybody. There is so much to gain and not much to lose: except for unjustified positions of power for some, and it’s a good thing too to get rid of them.