Monday, June 28, 2010

World government

I keep reading about problems that are best solved at the world level, or at least at some level that involves many nations: climate change; overfishing; illegal drugs (if they are a problem); deforestation (which is related to the importation of wood); trade; protection of endangered species like whales; terrorism; and on and on. One of the lessons that Howard Raiffa, Max Bazerman and others have taught us is that negotiation about several issues at once allows log-rolling, that is, trade-offs in which each party gives up something it cares about less in return for something it cares about more. One way to prevent this kind of win-win strategy is to negotiate one issue at a time, but that is exactly what we do at the world level. We have organizations for fish, organizations for climate change, and so on, but no supra-national organization that permits nations to make trade-offs with all these issues on the table. The lack of this sort of world government is a serious impediment to world progress.

I was reminded of this issue this morning when I discovered a project called Democracy Unbound, which aims to study the prospects for supranational government from the perspective of several scholarly disciplines.

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