Chapter Eight: The Future Of The State

III. The Shape Of World Government To Come

There are very significant dangers to the evolving 'New World Order' which is the subject of this section; these are dealt with at length in Chapter Ten: 'Gaia and other global stoppers'. The remainder of this insouciant section gaily assumes that the dangers will be avoided.

The models of world government to be found in science fiction or utopian (or dystopian) works of political philosophy routinely assume some sort of over-arching power structure equipped with formidable and extremely intrusive enforcement powers.

At present that seems a most improbable outcome of the globalization process. Book One will hopefully have demonstrated even to the most rabid anti-globalizer that the global governance model so far expressed in an overwhelming proportion of global organizations is multilateral.

That is to say, the membership of organizations like the United Nations, the IMF, the WTO, and other candidates for a role in global governance is composed of nation states who are fiercely defensive of their individual sovereignty. Members are usually able to de-rail offensive proposals either on their own or in regional or other combinations. Some private international organizations are even democratic to outward appearance, although it might be more accurate to regard them as oligarchic in nature.

As long as nation states have divergent national interests, the multilateral model seems highly likely to prevail. Divergences may be economic (often based on climate), developmental (as in such classificatory descriptions as 'LDDCs'), or specialist (based on affirmative action programs such as that of Ireland in ICT). Nothing at all in the current global situation suggests that there will be any reduction in inter-national economic competition in the foreseeable future.

It is evident that, the more multilateral organizations dominate international affairs, the more difficult it is for any one country, however large and rich, to opt out. It is true that at present we have the spectacle of the United States, the world's only superpower, as is so often said, thumbing its nose at the Kyoto Treaty, and refusing to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, along with some other international organizations. But the US has had a long-time internationalist orientation, conveniently ignored by its critics. For every treaty that the US selfishly ignores, there are another 20 that it accepts; and no country has done more to initiate multilateral trade deals.

As is to be explored, there are real dangers to the oncoming world order, but they don't include the nightmare of a rogue nation forcibly imposing itself on sheep-like other nations that have ditched their independent armies. The travails of the UN and NATO in trying to assemble armies for policing or peace-keeping purposes in such places as the Balkans and Afghanistan, and the desperate attempts of Iran and North Korea to get the bomb, show that how that will play in the future. Countries will abandon almost anything – their currency (France), their language (Ireland), their laws (Lithuania) – but they won't easily abandon their armies, although new states that emerge as a result of popular pressure for local autonomy may sometimes feel secure enough in the new world order to resist the temptation to build armies.

So what will be left to countries? Part One set out to show that the regulation of most aspects of cultural, economic and fiscal affairs will become global over a time-scale of twenty to thirty years. Certainly by 2050 it will be very surprising if there is more than marginal national involvement in the regulation of football, bandwidth, accounting fraud, genetic manipulation, sales taxes, Internet access or equity investment (to pick a few areas out of many). Of course, nation states will retain most of their powers and their position of authority in respect of their residents, will continue to collect local taxes, deliver local services and will 'police' their territories on behalf of a range of global organizations; but they will no longer be perceived as being in pre-eminent authority over human affairs.

To answer the question more fully, it may be best to look towards competition between countries.