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Fri. June 25, 2021
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Around the World, Across the Political Spectrum

Thoughts on Regionalism and the Idea of a World Government

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This article is aimed to concisely describe two articles, namely All Politics is Regional by Andrej Krickovic and The Resurgent Idea of World Government by Campbell Craig, discuss the likelihood of both regionalism and a world government, and briefly mention why the latter may be preferable. Although both articles are shortly summarized here, it is recommended that readers take a look at the articles before reading the analysis.

Andrej Krickovic describes regionalism in All Politics is Regional. The article successfully elaborates on the benefits and the drawbacks of regional politics. According to the author, politics is likely to become regional as global governance fails. The western world has become dominant since the end of the Cold War. However, as some non-Western states become more powerful and the world becomes more unmanageable, the U.S. and the West are becoming less dominant. The author explains that regional powers may be more successful at solving problems that happen in their geographical proximity since they can also be affected by those problems. Especially if the solutions proposed by the West are not compatible with cultural identities, they may not be very effective, and they may even exacerbate the situation. Additionally, regional powers gain more by solving regional issues themselves than by accepting help from global powers. The article focuses on finance, free trade, and security issues only. In terms of free trade, regional agreements can be more helpful than global agreements as it is easier to manage fewer number of states and transactions. This is one of the main reasons regional powers have been rapidly creating regional trade organizations. The creation of new agreements also leads to less dependence on the West. Non-Western trade agreements include Customs Union, Mercosur, and ACFTA. All of the mentioned agreements promote regional free trade either by reducing tariffs or having other special advantages for members and clearly, they have been created as a response to the expansion of Western organizations such as NATO. Regional organizations have proven to be successful at lending and financing projects too. One of the main reasons for having such organizations is to reduce dependence on the IMF and to have cash easily without having to fulfill austerity requirements. The article mentions the example of Russia and Ukraine to show how lending money affects politics. It says Russia offered $12 billion to Ukraine and required the country to step away from an association agreement with the European Union. Therefore, by making loans to smaller countries, regional powers increase dominance over those countries. The article mentions several financial institutions, including the CMI, the AIIB, and the Eurasian Economic Union. It also talks about the BRICS Development Bank, which is particularly important as it is intended to be an alternative to the World Bank. When it comes to security issues, it is slightly not clear whether regional powers have succeeded or not, since their view of security is different from that of the West. Unlike Western countries and the U.S., emerging powers place more importance on state security than individual security. The CSTO, the SCO, the CDS are mentioned in the article. The main purpose of the organizations is to eliminate security threats in their corresponding regions. By doing that, the countries, Russia, China, and Brazil are also reducing the U.S. influence on their regions and making themselves the major power blocs. The security organizations are mainly focused on unconventional threats, such as terrorism, separatism, and extremism. As the three threats are can also be harmful to authoritarian governments, some emerging countries cooperate to get rid of them. Authoritarian regimes find regional organizations, such as CSTO, useful because they easily suppressing internal unrest, which is something NATO does not usually do. It should be noted that regional organizations are not willing to cooperate with the U.S. and the West. For example, Brazil rejected a cooperation offer from the United States. Nonetheless, regional organizations have not been very successful in peacekeeping, securing democracy, and protecting human rights. Krickovic states that regional organizations fall short in solving global problems, such as climate change.

In contrast, The Resurgent Idea of World Government by Campbell Craig describes the idea of a world government. In the beginning, it talks about the prominent supporters of the view, including Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell. According to the article, one of the biggest problems today is that states cannot act collectively. All of them want to be free riders. However, if none of them takes action, the world will face very serious challenges. In order to make states act collectively, an authoritarian regime should be created. Additionally, several great powers have nuclear weapons, and they may use those weapons if needed as there is almost nothing to stop them. Although those states have usually abstained from using nuclear weapons, no one can be sure that the weapons will not be used. Some claim that only a world government can stop this from happening. It should be noted that global governance and a world state are different concepts; global governance means governance of stronger international organizations or unions, while the latter means governance of a new sovereign entity. Advocates of the world state claim that current organizations and unions are not able to stop the states from using violence. According to Wendt, the world state must have authority over all states, and eventually, all states will have to accept it. He even argues that a world state is inevitable, but he does not agree with the scholars who claim that a world state will be harmful to different nations and cultures. Deudney, another scholar, also supports the idea. However, he does not believe a world state is inevitable. The author also claims that a world state can be “small, decentralized, and liberal,” unlike what Wendt describes. Craig argues the fact that the European Union consists of former enemies shows that a world state can also be created. Some scholars think a world where the U.S. is the only dominant state is preferable to a world where a new entity comes to power, as the latter would cause a lot of violence. However, the author gives the example of Iraq to show that U.S. dominance can also cause violence. Craig also believes that the authoritative state does not have to be tyrannical because there would be no need for external security to justify its policies.

Although it is difficult to say something about the long term, it seems to me that regionalism sounds much more realistic than the idea of a world state and that regionalism will be dominant in the upcoming years. Actually, “regional” can be the best word to describe the international order today. As nationalist and populist movements are becoming more dominant in most parts of the world, the liberal-democratic West is becoming unable to influence other regions. As Krickovic describes, regional powers, such as Russia, China, and Brazil are trying to reduce dependency on the U.S., and this leads to the creation of regional agreements and organizations. This increases the dominance of regional powers on countries located near them. Obviously, the increasing dominance of regional powers makes it harder and unnecessary for small and weaker countries to have relationships with other parts of the world. If this continues for a long time, regional powers become even stronger, and the small ones have little incentives to cooperate with other stronger countries. For example, Russia has almost always been a regional power. Since being near such a major power provides security and prosperity, it is not a good strategy for weaker and smaller countries to prefer other major powers over Russia, especially if those other major powers are located far from the small country. It does not mean that those smaller countries will not have good relationships with anyone else. Rather, it means even if they have friendly relationships with others, Russia (and other major powers located near the country) should always be the priority because if any problem occurs the smaller country will need Russia’s assistance more than anything else. Other than several exceptions, this holds true everywhere. Therefore, it seems regionalism is not going to cease to exist in the foreseeable future. 

Turning to the world state theory, I think it does not sound too realistic, but the world may somehow move in that direction eventually. It is evident that the liberal order is fading away, and instead, nationalism is becoming more dominant almost everywhere. Taking a look at the actions of the leaders of Turkey, Russia, the UK, the US, China, and the Arab world is sufficient to understand that we are a long way from the world state. Additionally, a world state would need to have an extremely powerful military, and it will have to benefit from the armies of current states. For that to happen, most world leaders have to favor the idea of a world state. However, realistically, it would not be beneficial for most leaders to support the idea since it would make them less powerful. Even if the world state eliminates all states and decision-makers, it would not be able to eliminate nations. Therefore, there will always be people against a unified state. Craig mentions the example of the European Union to argue that the world state would not face backlash for a long time. However, it should be understood that most countries in the EU share similar cultures and having the identity of European gave them a feeling of “us versus others.” Since this kind of regional union almost always provides a new identity, countries are more likely to cooperate in order to compete against others. If a world state takes over, there will be no “others,” which means there will be no motivation. This is also the main reason I believe regionalism is another ideology. Essentially, regionalism is only slightly different from nationalism; its scope is larger, and it is a little less reliable and less stable. It is also clear that cultures and nations are more diverse in the whole world than in Europe alone. Therefore, it may be hard to make them accept the new state. Furthermore, even if the dream of a world state comes true, there will still be powerful groups seeking more power, and they may fight over world dominance. That is to say, the world is not likely to be totally unipolar.

It is reasonable to believe a world state will have several important benefits. An authoritarian world state would certainly weaken states, and it may weaken identities too. This is probably what John Lennon meant by “Imagine there’s no countries, nothing to kill or die for” in his famous song Imagine. Today, different identities are the major causes of conflicts as they can be easily manipulated. The regime would eliminate most reasons for having conflicts. Currently, as people focus on their national identities excessively, they neglect to pay adequate attention to the real problems, such as climate change, poverty, lack of freedom, and others; a world state may solve this problem at least to a certain degree. The popular assumption that global organizations are not powerful enough to prevent violence in a world of anarchy sounds true, and, therefore, one cannot help but prefer a world state over global governance. Only a very powerful world state can stop political actors or punish them if needed. Furthermore, an authoritarian world state can help countries use their resources efficiently. Since free trade is hindered by tariffs, quotas, and boycotts, countries have to buy goods and services at excessively high prices, thus use their resources inefficiently. A powerful world state can eliminate all barriers and ensure that trade flows freely. This can help ordinary citizens too as they would pay less for goods. These benefits may also improve health levels in the world as there would be fewer things to stress about. Nevertheless, as stated earlier, it should be well understood that the idea of a world state is too idealistic and utopian for now, based on several unrealistic assumptions, and may never happen in the future. Maybe this is why the song Imagine goes “You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one.”

Ali Mammadov has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Finance at George Washington University. Currently, he is a Visiting Researcher at Economics Research Institute and writes blog posts on his Medium account. He is going to pursue a Master of Arts in International Affairs at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

 

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