Executive Chair of the World Federalist Movement—CanadaandGeneral Secretary (Ex Officio), The Canadian Council of Churches
In his book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence of Arabia speaks about those he calls the “dreamers of the day”, reminding us that such people may act their dream with open eyes and make it possible.
It is important for the future of our world, indeed it is crucial for the future of our world, to dream the big dreams, the ones that have the height, depth and breadth to transform global governance, to achieve a democratically governed world. As the title of his book so clearly articulates, Jim Stark is one of those “dreamers of the day” dreaming of the achievement of democratic world government through a global referendum. His dream is not an abstract, theoretical one though, but rather a systematized programme of concrete details directed to what he calls the “…credible strategy that can get us from the current anarchy among nations to the democratically governed world we so desperately need”1.
Stark begins his book by setting out what he deliberately calls an “alarmist” articulation of the current context of our world, focusing particularly on the issues of nuclear weapons and climate change. He is passionate, he is graphic and although it is clear throughout the book that he is writing for an audience with some familiarity of the issues of world federalism and/or global governance, he spends enough time describing the dire state of the world so as to be convincing to those who have either not been reading or listening to any form of media for the last decade or who have been living on a different planet.
It is in the second chapter of the book that Stark lays out his particular purpose in writing. He reminds the reader that there are many books that discuss in detail the current dire state of world affairs and that there are a few which explain how a democratic world government would both work and be able to address that dire state. His book, however, “…is basically a plan to compel the creation of such a global institution. It presents a new and powerful political instrument, the global referendum, as the necessary tool that we, the people of the Earth, could use to achieve a democratically governed world in as little as a decade…”2.
Very, very admirable is the way that Jim Stark has thought through a global referendum in concrete detail. He uses fact, figures, numbers, geography, tables and charts in an extremely thorough way. He is also extremely articulate and well-reasoned in terms of the need for and the useful methodology of computers, the internet and social networking in the process of a global referendum. These are the areas in which Stark’s thinking and book particularly shine. This reviewer found that every question he raised in these concrete areas while reading the book was answered in the very next section or chapter. Also very concrete and admirably practical is the reality of the organization “Vote World Government”.
More problematic is Stark’s use of boxes and interspersed quotes throughout the book. While this reviewer has some general sympathy for the use of both and found Stark’s boxes and quotes often very applicable to his subject, nonetheless there are too many, and it is a distraction to reading. Also somewhat irritating is his frequent use of the term “omnicide”, to refer to the killing of everything. There are references to it indeed on the internet but as a term still not in common use it is a distraction to Stark’s point.
A more serious critique of Stark’s book arises from current streams of World Federalist thinking. In comments such as those in the box on page 83, the reform of the United Nations is rejected and yet World Federalist policies, priorities, structures and individuals hold together both a critique of the UN and the belief that its reform is quite possible. Stark also seems unfamiliar with the current articulation of incremental federalism as it is laid out in such vehicles as the reports of the World Federalism’s Council Chair3.
Stark writes in a manner that reflects historical thinking in some areas of global context, rather than current realities. This is most clearly seen in his certainty that when the people of the earth clearly understand the depth and breadth of the planet’s problems, they will see the necessity for a democratic world government obtained through a global referendum as the answer. This kind of thinking was recently challenged at the Couchiching Conference for Public Affairs, 2010. In a session entitled “Shifts in Power”, speakers on the subject of China noted that interviews with young Chinese intellectuals clearly indicate that freedom of thought and economic prosperity do not necessarily lead to a striving for democracy. More generally, current conversations on global issues recognize that common acceptance of problems and issues does not necessarily lead to common agreement around the most effective solutions.
Also very noticeable throughout Stark’s book is his tendency to think almost exclusively in nationalist terms. What is missing is a deeper, more articulated understanding that many current global conflicts are regional or intra-state. Climate change, a discussion of which is key to his book, is an obvious example of the regional or trans-state reality of our global context.
Stark’s treatment of religion is quite paradoxical. In the latter part of the book he treats the religious nature of most of the earth’s people with much more serious attention than is usually the case in materials on global governance and world federalism4. But while Stark seems to recognize the wide-spread nature of religious belief on the globe, and the reality that religion has been and is sometimes deeply implicated in conflicts, he does not seem to have knowledge of current religious thinking on the very issues with which he is so concerned – nuclear weapons and climate change. In all Stark’s plethora of boxes and quotes, very few come from religious sources, and his major example of religious attitude to climate change5 is an extremely dated one from the fringes of one particular religious tradition. Nonetheless, he does sometimes, though without consistency, see religion as a key factor in civil society and one that can be in accord with the vision he is setting out.
Jim Stark’s book, Rescue Plan for Planet Earth, has both its strengths and its weaknesses, but it is a thorough attempt to portray in a concrete, practical way the steps to a democratic world government through a global referendum. Although areas of his analysis need to be re-thought and up-dated, the book serves as a good reminder and good map of the methodologies present, available and necessary as we act and dream together towards global democracy.
1 p. 13
2 p. 32
3 The 2010 WFM Council Chair report is a reminder of the inclusive, diverse and interdependent nature of incremental federalism
4 The speech of the WFM Council Chair at the 2010 Ventotene Seminar, however, has an example of growing change in this regard
5 p. 19