History is not cyclical, it is ours to make.
Our world is constantly changing. History is full of the rise and fall of empires, religious and political movements, war, conquest, commerce, and new technologies. Observing this perpetual change, certain historians of the past developed a theory that history was cyclical. According to them, regardless of our ambitions to permanence, the arc of history always revolves back to the mean. It is a theory that is tinged with determinism, because its proponents argue that an individual’s actions do not matter, as much as the historical forces within which the person lives. But while the theory may make a person feel less empowered, it also gives comfort. Because if what I do doesn’t matter, neither does what anyone does. Sometimes the good will win, and sometimes the evil, but the battle will continue, forever. Nobody and nothing wins permanently.
But many historians reject the cyclical theory. Instead they argue that the world is headed in a specific direction and is taking us somewhere new. A person who views history this way tends to believe in the power of individual action. He or she has no assurance that somehow good and evil will always battle each other. Instead he realizes with terror that evil has the potential to win, permanently, and this makes him fearful for the future. But, at the same time, he realizes, that good could win, also permanently, and this makes him hopeful and motivated.
If history is taking us somewhere new, where specifically is it going? What is the ultimate end or purpose of history? The study of the answers to this question is called teleology. Teleology deals with “ultimate purpose”, and it is the intersection between a person’s theory of history, and his theology. If a person believes history has an ultimate purpose, by implication, he believes there is some consciousness designing it. Religious people call this ultimate designer God. But a person can believe there is a purpose to history, without believing in God. He can believe that human beings are the designers of the future. History, from this perspective, is the cumulative agglomeration of billions of purposeful minds, each working to bring about their own vision of the future. Each answering the question:
Where do we want to go?
Where we are in history
Whatever the purpose of history, the evidence of modernity seems to disprove the old idea that it is cyclical. In this moment in history, there exist phenomenon never before seen on earth. They are “game changers”, that preclude the possibility of us ever “cycling” back. Think about nuclear bombs, for example. If there is ever another large war, it will be the last. Because of nuclear bombs, the cycle of war and peace must come to an end. Or what about the internet? Ideas can be instantaneously communicated across boundaries, without any centralized control. When we consider that Wikipedia, Youtube, and other online cultural repositories will remain online no matter what happens, it is hard to imagine us cycling back to another “dark age”. Or what about the global fiat currency system? Totally unprecedented. Never before have a few central bankers been able to collaborate and create unlimited currency units. It is hard to imagine that those in power will ever voluntarily relinquish their total control over money. Their very existence is tied up with people’s willingness to accept paper money. Finally, what about the existence of the UN? Never before has an institution modeled like a government existed between nations. As long as the nation state is here, it is unlikely that the UN will be disbanded. Each of these “game changers” is evidence that history is moving into something unprecedented.
Because of these and other game changers, the world has become unstable in a way it has not been before. Think of the world as a radioactive isotope. The isotope cannot remain in an unstable condition. Eventually something gives and it degrades into a more stable form. Similarly, when our world finally “degrades” what will its new form look like? To use a charged expression: What will the coming “new world order” look like? Are we entered a hell on earth, that will make us pine for the old days of conventional warfare, diseases, rituals, and tradition? Or are we entering a heaven, that will make us wonder why we waited so long? The choice is up to each of us.
I’d like to argue that when the isotope that is our world degrades, it will degrade into one of two possible forms. Either we will have a world government, or we will have a world free of any coercive state. Both would be stable. Both would be lasting. Both would initially capture the aspirations of large numbers of people. But, collectively, we can only have one or the other. Individually, each of us must choose one for which we will fight. Lines are being drawn. The side you select will pivot on how you answer one question:
Is any coercive state legitimate?
What is your answer?
This is a pivotal time
For thousands of years human society has been torn apart by the co-existence of anarchy and coercive states. People who benefit from the state hate anarchy, because it frustrates their efforts and prevents them from exercising complete control. People who do not benefit from the state hate it and view it as predatory; an organization to be avoided and circumvented whenever possible. Historically anarchy served as a final check on despotic states, because it “permitted” a stronger, more liberal sovereign to invade and overthrow the despot. At the same time, the state checked anarchy. Relatively free people, frightened by larger states, would give their consent, implicit or explicit, to the expansion or unification of their own state, one that would then grow to “snuff out” their relative freedom.
This tension has existed as long as there has been human society. But the “game changers” listed above, are bringing this age old conflict to its final denouement. The world will eventually “degrade” and either the state or anarchy will finally, and permanently “win”. Once either side “wins”, it will be very difficult to resurrect the other side. In a stateless world people would never tolerate the construction of a new state. In a world ruled by a world state, those in charge would never allow anarchy to gain a foothold.
Which world would you prefer?
Why you either support a world state, or stateless world
To repeat, the question at hand is: Is any coercive state legitimate?
If you say “yes” your position will be for the construction of a world state. That will be your “heaven”, your utopia. If your answer is “no”, then your position will be for the deconstruction of all states. That will be your “heaven”, your utopia. There is no intellectually consistent middle ground.
Libertarians might bristle at this claim. “Certainly I can be for a limited federal state, and not for a world government!” they’d argue. But such a position is not defensible. A person grants the state legitimacy for a specific reason. They want the state to accomplish a specific end. Their grant of legitimacy is necessarily linked to the accomplishment of that end. A person might argue, for example: “a state is necessary BECAUSE we need national defense.” or “a state is necessary FOR provision of courts and justice”. Whatever the justification, it is the accomplishment of the end in mind that is key. This is an important point. The FORM of the state, is a secondary consideration. Once a person has accepted a certain end to justify the state, the form of the state must logically follow that end.
Without question, the most effective way for advocates of the state to accomplish the ends they claim justify the state (and coercive taxation), is through world government. For if the state, any state, is legitimate, then the execution of its legitimate task will be frustrated by anarchy. Assume, for example, that a person claims the nation state is justified in taxing others to provide mutual defense against other states. What will that person conclude when another state overwhelms his state’s national defenses? He will have to admit that the nation state form of government is not optimal, because it will not have been successful in providing defense. If the person still believes that defense is a legitimate role for a coercive state he will necessarily conclude that only a world state can be successful at accomplishing that task. So if a person believes that the provision of defense justifies the state, his position will be to support world government, and the elimination of anarchy from the world.
Another example: assume a person believes the state is justified in redistributing wealth, to make the economy “fairer”. What will such a person think when he sees the wealthy citizens of his state using offshore tax shelters to avoid wealth confiscation? He will realize that the anarchy of the international system frustrates what he believes to be the legitimate role of the state. If he does not abandon his claim that wealth redistribution is a legitimate role for the state, he will become a proponent for a world state. “We can’t give them anywhere to run and hide!” So if a person believes redistribution of wealth justifies the state, his position will be to support world government, and the elimination of anarchy from the world.
The same could be repeated for labor laws implemented nationally, that companies avoid by regulatory arbitrage, for intellectual property “pirates”, for drug smuggling etc. WHATEVER a person thinks government should do, only a world state could effectively do it. Belief that any coercive state is legitimate is like being pregnant. You can’t do it half way. If you answer “yes” to the question, you necessarily want anarchy eliminated from the planet.
Dangers of a world state (the worst thing imaginable):
Most people assume that some form of state is legitimate. Very few people are even willing to consider our position that ALL coercive states are illegitimate. Most people reflexively answer “yes” to the question posed above. Sometimes, they will even scoff “of course we need a government!”. They consider those who challenge the existence of a coercive state to be “absurd” or “ridiculous”. Even most libertarians refuse to entertain a contrary position. This is the “fatal conceit” that will deliver all of us into the bondage of world government, if we do not begin challenging it.
The dream of a world state is dangerous precisely because it is so appealing within the false mental constructs of a person who believes the state can “do good”. The dream is beautiful. A world without war! But, as we know, a world state might end the war between states, but it will enable the amplification and intensification of the perpetual war between the state and the individual.
When a world government is first formally proposed, the advocates of world government will make promises. They will talk about protections of rights. They will talk about check and balances. They will wax poetically on the amazing “system” they have designed to ensure that their creation will never go off the rails. They will be very confident that they are playing a central role in the salvation of mankind. We must see through their deceptions, deliberate or not, and challenge them. Rest assured, that once power is centralized into a singular body, all of humankind will be enslaved. There will be no Russia for American dissident Edward Snowden to run to. There will be no Equador for Julian Assange. There will be only one refuge for those willing to resist that monolithic state: death.
When our current unstable world order begins degrades, we should be prepared for the attempt to construct a world government. Every thinking person has an obligation to do what he or she can to prevent this from happening. It would be the end of humankind as we know it.
Fortunately, we do not need to attempt to “beat something with nothing.” We have an alternate solution to the world’s problems. Our solution is informed by our correct understanding of the nature of the coercive state. Our solution is for people to organize and begin the long process of breaking states into smaller pieces. Our eventual goal will be the privatization of all property and the elimination of the coercive state entirely. Our solution will also eliminate war. For a war could not be conducted without concentrations of political power, and coercive taxation.
What’s it going to be? Will you advocate for a world state or no state at all? Which side are you on? Is it ok for a person to force his values on another? Is there any justification for a coercive state? A sword of Damocles hangs above our heads. Your answer may determine the fate of our world.