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Thinking Out Loud About Democratic World Federalism
Dale Carrico   Sep 18, 2006   Amor Mundi  

The expectations generated by the too-formal, too-insubstantial rhetoric of democracy of North Atlantic industrial societies are interminably prone to the eruption of education, agitation, and organization for actual popular democratization. So, too, expectations of prosperity arising from unsustainable cheap oil, gunboat diplomacy via the military base archipelago, and technodevelopmental exploitation are likewise interminably prone to the eruption of unassuagable social discontent the moment their beneficiaries are forced by changing circumstances to pay the real price (nonsubsidized costs, nonduressed costs, environmental costs, etc.) of these goods and privileges.

Global information and communication networks foreground the inequities of the North Atlantic postcolonial inter-national system of global governance to everyone within their reach, while disseminating the expectations of the beneficiaries of that system across the globe, exacerbating the vulnerability of that system beyond its capacity to accommodate. Where this system has not already failed, it is presently failing.

Now, violence is inevitable (as has always been the case whenever and wherever human plurality emerges), but since the tools of violence at the disposal of discontent are now capable of unprecedented destructive power it is crucial that we constrain its expression within the legitimacy of democratic governance, general welfare, and the provision (via legitimate coercion) of a legible space for the noncoercive adjudication of social disputes.

Democratic world federalism is indispensable to global social intercourse, as democratic government is indispensable at whatever scale social intercourse has taken up hitherto. Conventional NGOs cannot provide this legitimacy precisely because they are not democratically representative bodies, and neither can conventional states because the terrain on which the key problems are playing out (climate change, human rights violations, unfair trade, uneven development, weapons proliferation) is planetary and because too many of the crucial actors on the contemporary terrain are not national but networked.

It is crucial that global governance fund its activities through progressive taxation and then that it legitimize its taxation through legible representation and the substantiation of informed, nonduressed consent and human rights culture. If this development does not occur, then corporate-militarism will continue to define the global political terrain instead and it is difficult to imagine that humanity will survive this state of affairs for long.

Corporate-militarism/neoliberal-neoconservative (eg, “Free Trade”) Globalization lacks the institutional intelligence to respond adequately to information that is not susceptible to proximate profitability (hence a tendency to short-term over long-term thinking, and hence a disastrous tendency underestimate wider social costs and risks), nor to respond to the needs of technodevelopmental stakeholders who are not familiar or node-proximate (hence a tendency to disastrously exacerbate social discontent). In the emerging political terrain these inadequacies fatally encourage environmental collapse, incubate and facilitate genocidal violences, and produce the conditions in which WMD are ever more likely to be deployed.

What passes for “Free Trade” Globalization, then, is not just facile and flawed ideology, but has come to represent an Existential Risk to human survival.

Through our technology we have seen the earth from orbit and we can never again mistake a neighborhood or even a nation for the World. We know the problems of unsustainable consumption and extractive industry are problems we are all of us equally heir to, as we know that militarism is also always farcically parochial. Through our technology we have seen the faces and heard the voices of people across the earth and we can never again reasonably deny that they are our peers and collaborators in the making of the World, whatever nation or culture they hail from. We know they deserve a say in the public decisions that affect them, we know that we stand to benefit from the testimony of their experience and desire, we know that unless they have the standing of bearers of rights that our own standing is imperiled by its denial to them.

We know the world is not flat.

Only by tearing our technology from our hands, only by crushing the knowledge out of our bodies and brains could we “go back,” whatever that would mean.

There is no choice but to embrace the planet that has become the World we live in.

There is violence coming, borne up on a deep and bloody tide of historical and ongoing violation and indifference that will demand its payment all too soon.

Constrain that violence in legitimate democratic governance, ameliorate it through the global administration of general welfare, compensate it with the magnificent bribe of secularization, a basic income guarantee, universal basic healthcare, lifetime education, therapy, and retraining, renewable energy, free software and subsidized peer-to-peer content and oversight provision, and maybe, maybe we’ll make it through to the blessings of technoscientific emancipation technoprogressives more uniquely hope for, environmental remediation, superorganic foodstuffs, a longevity dividend, relative abundance from the nanoscale, and a nice space elevator and solar diaspora to give the restless a new frontier to pine for.

Dale Carrico Ph.D. was a fellow of the IEET from 2004 to 2008 and is a lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley.


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