An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Video)

One Global Democracy, via Blockchain Voting

Video Highlights Bold Vision for Solving World’s Problems Post-Trump

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, November 29, 2017 — A small group of highly credentialed progressive leaders have announced in a video a new movement for One Global Democracy — boldly challenging Trumpism by calling for an end to separate countries, as a necessary step to solving the world’s biggest problems, including climate change, inequality, and economic opportunity for everyone.

This new video is online at: OneGlobalDemocracyVideo.com

Two new technologies can now combine to transform governance worldwide: a Blockchain will enable secure voting at a global scale, and a Liquid Democracy model will enable everyone to vote directly on policy, or delegate their vote if they choose, in a system of accountable yet flexible decision-making that includes everyone equally, without electing representatives. We can eliminate countries, and handle decisions at the most local level feasible, while also giving everyone worldwide a vote on the big, global issues. People will be able to move freely anywhere, with constitutional rights guaranteed for everyone.

“The only way to build a future that works, one that can handle our increasingly global problems, is to include everyone equally — worldwide,” said Peter Schurman, formerly the founding Executive Director of MoveOn.org, and key driver of this new movement.

Global governance is not a new idea. Reformers and elected officials called for a global government following World War II because they did not think the United Nations went far enough. More than 100 members of Congress, including the future presidents John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford, supported this call in 1949. Yet today, it is almost entirely absent from mainstream debate. With today’s new video, One Global Democracy is kicking off a new conversation on this idea whose time has come.

“Climate change, inequality, lost economic opportunity: these are our biggest problems. We seldom think about it, but all three are linked to a world political system that’s failing because it’s comprised of separate countries,” said Schurman. “The definition of a country is an entity that’s accountable to nobody beyond its borders. In today’s interconnected world, that just doesn’t work any more.”

“Separate countries are a core reason why our world is breaking apart — this isn’t an easy challenge to face or solve, but it’s clear that things will continue to get worse until we do.”

Team:

Executive Producer: Peter Schurman

Director: Dennis Castro

Editor and Motion Graphics: Jacob Nasim

Voiceover Talent: Mara Junot

Additional Motion Graphics: Austin Cable

Social Media: Beth Becker

Web Developer: Jason Charter

Marketing Strategy: Maya Zuckerman

Development Associate: K. Stellar Dutcher

Social Media:

Facebook: Facebook.com/OneGlobalDemocracy

Twitter: @OneGlobalDemoc (launches today); #OneGlobalDemocracy

Fast Company: The Case for One Global Democracy

 

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Fast Company recently published “The Case For Eliminating Countries And Instituting A Global Democracy.

The article lays out the main arguments for One Global Democracy solidly. Here’s an excerpt:

“With Trump about to be inaugurated, the scales have really fallen from people’s eyes, and people are seeing that American democracy failed,” says Peter Schurman, who was the founding executive director at MoveOn.org and who now advocates for a global democracy through a project called One Global Democracy. “We really have to come up with a better design.”

In the model he envisions, city governments would still address local issues. But for the global challenges that countries struggle to deal with now—climate change, terrorism, Ebola and Zika—the global government would lead…

Schurman argues that other attempts at major international collaboration—from the U.N. to the E.U. to trade agreements—have been ineffective because individual countries still hold power.

“The common point of failure they all have is that they’re all based on the country as the fundamental unit of power,” he says. “And since countries only have to work together as far as they agree to, there’s every opportunity for disagreement and for failure to do what needs to be done… [The U.N] is hamstrung because separate countries are just not structurally designed to work together.”

The article covers several other key points too. We encourage you to read it and share it.

This is a huge milestone — the first real news coverage of our nascent movement for One Global Democracy.  Thanks, Adele Peters!

And it’s just the beginning. In the years ahead, it’s going to be more important than ever that we counter the darkness with a positive story of the future we can build together.

We’re going to do that by making a movie. We’re assembling a great team, and people are stepping up to support the project.

You can too, with a tax-deductible gift via our 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, Ecologistics.

We’ll have more exciting news soon. Stay strong.

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To Solve Inequality, We’ve Got to Think Bigger than Countries

Image result for inequality

Today we learn via OxFam that just eight men control half the world’s wealth.  People are shaking their heads, but what would it take to change this?

Nothing on the current policy menu will do the job.  As the Panama Papers highlighted last spring, the ultra-rich simply hide money in other countries to shirk their tax obligations.  

Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the 21st Century, says the only way to solve this is with a global tax on wealth.  And Piketty is not a lone voice.

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, also says it’s time for taxation to go global.  

The Vatican has been calling for a “global public authority” for “reforming the international financial and monetary systems” in response to “inequalities,” since even before Francis became Pope.

There is a growing consensus among people serious about tackling inequality that raising taxes country-by-country will fail, as long as there are countries willing to ignore the growing global consensus that we must limit the obscene disparities in wealth revealed by today’s headlines.

It’s a lot like the problem we face in handling climate change.  Countries that don’t work together can doom the whole enterprise.

This begs a very big question: why are we still relying on countries to handle the world’s biggest problems?  These entities are 350 years out of date, predating modern communications, motorized transportation, domesticated electricity, and even Newton’s articulation of the laws of physics.  

The fundamental attribute of a country is that it is not accountable to others.  This no longer works, and it’s time to call our broken global system of separate countries into question.

It’s clear that we need a new global system to tax wealth.  It should be a democracy, a global one, with an equal voice for everyone: One Global Democracy.

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Separate Countries are Killing America

Until now, one of the main objections to One Global Democracy has been an assumption that America is better off on its own.

Are we?

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America as we know it is now scheduled to end in 10 weeks, with the inauguration of Donald Trump as President on January 20th.

Our statue of liberty says “I lift my lamp beside the golden door”; Trump has promised a wall. Our Constitution defines checks and balances, such as equal protection, that Trump has vowed to ignore. Republicans have defied their constitutional duty to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat and will now lock up that all-powerful institution for another generation with right-wing justices, while also controlling both other branches of the federal government. Our supposedly nonpartisan FBI threw the election to Trump, yet will likely face no consequences.

Our planet’s survival, and with it our country’s, is directly threatened by Trump’s climate denial.

What drove Trump’s victory? Many factors, all having to do with our antiquated attachment to separate countries as our fundamental frame of reference.

Poor and middle-class white people have been hurting economically for decades. The financial benefits of technology, globalization, tax breaks and bailouts have gone to wealthy elites, leaving Trump’s voters to fight with progressives over scraps.

These elites have consolidated their economic privilege, and their attendant, outsized political power, in large part by hiding money overseas, where it can’t be taxed. They have evaded paying their fair share, then exploited their financial advantage by securing ever-more advantageous tax policies (e.g. the repeal of the estate tax), bailouts for bankers with zero accountability for defrauding people out of their homes, and locking in their power over our politics through Citizens United and related cases, through a corrupt approach and defying a bipartisan consensus.

Trump has managed to misdirect the rage of American voters, turning it against our neighbors in other countries, and against people who come here in search of a better life, as all of our own families once did.

Trade agreements have sent jobs overseas, without economic benefit for most Americans. They have allowed capital to move freely while otherwise maintaining borders that strip us of our rights when we cross them. In practice, wealthy elites can go almost anywhere and generally do as they please. But borders prevent the rest of us from traveling freely in search of work. Trump has correctly assailed these lopsided trade agreements, while falsely branding people in other countries who have benefited as our enemies. Yet his policies will likely make matters worse, not better, for American workers, while further magnifying elite privilege.

Russia has played a shocking role in supporting Trump’s campaign. Russia hacked the DNC, and Russian individuals allegedly financed both Trump himself and one of his top campaign advisors. (Although this money was ostensibly private, the biggest private Russian fortunes were originally acquired by well-connected insiders who gained control of major state assets at the collapse of the Soviet Union.) So Trump has been funded and otherwise supported largely by a foreign country.

With both our planet and American democracy in crisis, there are many reasons to consider an alternative to the antiquated system of separate countries we’re used to: One Global Democracy.

First, we can more effectively confront climate change together, rather than separately.

Second, we can finally deal with inequality by enacting a global tax on wealth. Nothing less will work. (And surprisingly enough, if the world’s wealth were redistributed equally among everyone, most Americans would be better off than they are today, because wealth is now so concentrated at the top. The combined wealth of everyone in the world is $241 trillion. If it were evenly distributed, each person in the world would have $51,600.-. That’s more than the median net worth of an American today: $44,911.-)

Third, we can also unlock tremendous economic growth, doubling the size of the world’s economy, simply by allowing people everywhere to move where their work is best rewarded.

We could dispense with the electoral college and other broken anachronisms of representative democracy and instead enable everyone to participate at will, through a new model called liquid democracy, at a global scale. We can do this online, and securely, on a blockchain (the technology behind bitcoin). We’ll be able to include everyone, worldwide, as the digital divide closes.

Brevity prevents this short piece from covering every detail, but there are many reasons to take the idea of One Global Democracy seriously. It merits a conversation.

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9/11 Bill Could Crack Open Door to Global Justice

Republicans and Democrats in Washington have just worked together to pass, by veto-proof margins, through both houses of Congress, a bill that would crack open the door to international accountability through the courts.

A top elected official in France called it “a legal revolution in international law with major political consequences.”

The driving purpose of the bill is to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, a path currently blocked by conventional laws of international sovereignty.

The White House fears that if this bill becomes law “it could expose the United States to lawsuits by people in other countries.”

In other words, this is potentially a very real step toward international accountability for crimes, no matter who commits them.

Of course, the GOP’s desire to make the Obama administration uncomfortable is a major political factor here.  Yet the result is remarkable, and potentially groundbreaking.

Here’s how Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas frames the values in play:

The legislation gives the victims’ families access to the courts, to the rule of law. And we as a people should be more concerned about these victims of terror than we are about diplomatic niceties with other countries. The voices of the murdered cry out for us to do justice, and justice has been waiting too long.

(Via New York Times)

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Borders are Only for Poor People

A high-flying candidate for president’s connections to Russia are becoming increasingly clear: Russian spies appear to have intervened in the US election, and he’s called on them to do it again. Prominent columnists on both the right and the left have suggested that he may be  financially linked to Russian oligarchs, possibly through his debts, and there’s a credible argument that his potential presidency may serve as a vehicle for payback.

Chuck Todd of NBC News says this candidate is a “threat to the sovereignty of the United States.” A senior member of his own party says his call for more Russian intervention is “tantamount to treason.” Yet nobody seems to expect that he’ll face any accountability. As the standard-bearer of a major political party, he’s reached an elite echelon where almost nobody ever does.

At the same time, this candidate’s signature proposal is to build a wall shutting poor people in other countries out of the opportunities available here.

At the other party’s convention this week, one of the speakers was Ima Matul, a former slave, originally from Indonesia, whose “trafficker warned that if she left [captivity] the [American] police would arrest her and put her in jail, where she would be beaten and raped.” The threat worked for 3 years, because borders strip most of us of our rights when we cross them.

Ima Matul

Ima Matul

The ironic injustice of national borders is on full-spectrum display this week.

How much longer will we accept it?

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In Response to Brexit: We’ve got to Unify, not Divide

Brexit is such an awful mess it’s hard to know where to begin.

It may mark the beginning of the end of the EU, which until recently has stood as our strongest example of humanity’s potential to transcend the intrinsic pettiness of national borders.

Compounding the tragedy is the multifaceted irony that “Leave” voters were motivated by factors that will now be magnified, not reduced, by their vote.   As many have already observed, the Brexit massively undermines the average English person’s economic self-interest.  

Yet the tragic ironies go so much deeper.  

Economic inequality was one of the main driving factors: Leave voters tended to be lower-income than Remain-ers.  Yet economic inequality is intractable in large part because the super-rich and corporations stash money in low-tax countries, beyond the reach of redistributive policies in their home countries, as the Panama Papers dramatically revealed.  The only solution is a global tax system, as German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, economist Thomas Piketty, and the Vatican have called for.  This requires unification, not hiding behind tribal borders.

A jingoistic desire to deter immigration, too, as reprehensible as this motive is, might also be better served by the expansion of the EU model than by its dissolution.  Desperate people will always do everything they can to relieve their desperation, including moving, even as refugees, as many of our own families have done.  This puts pressure on the periphery of desirable destinations like the EU and the US.  The only real way to relieve this pressure is to expand the “inside” to include everyone.  Yes, everyone.  Then both the social safety net (to whatever extent we maintain one), and human rights, backed fully by the rule of law, cover people where they already are, reducing the pressure to move.

But perhaps the most tragic ironies are historic.  England rose to power by colonizing the world, yet now retreats from immigration.  England / Great Britain might well have been crushed by Hitler were it not for the world community coming to its rescue.  A few of the Brexit voters, who skewed older than EU supporters, might have remembered that.  

Most important is the history still ahead of us.  The world is growing more interconnected, not less, and our biggest challenges, such as climate change, are global and respect no borders.  

The right response to today’s challenges is the courage to unify, not the tribal instinct to divide.

In the face of growing tribal / separatist pressure, we urgently need a new, progressive story that stakes out a clear, uplifting goal that will concretely make everyone’s lives better.  

What could be more inclusive, fair, and inspiring than One Global Democracy?

How the Logic of Keystone Applies to One Global Democracy

Everyone concerned about climate change won a huge victory on Friday when President Obama rejected the Keysone XL pipeline. Stopping Keystone has been a top priority on the climate front for the past few years.

Noted environmental writer David Roberts explains why activists chose Keystone as our line in the sand, in a widely circulated Vox piece. Among several important points, Roberts writes:

One part of transitioning to a new world is actually building parts of it. That’s happening now: with renewable energy, electric cars, and smarter grids starting to come together, it’s at least possible to see ahead, however dimly, to a world that’s not dependent on fossil fuels. There are new and better alternatives now, which is a key political and messaging asset.

But the other part of transitioning to a new world is contesting the legitimacy of the old one. That means taking assumptions, institutions, and technologies that have a presumptive social warrant — that are assumed necessary, legitimate, and worthwhile by default — and, God help me for using this word, problematizing them.

The same logic applies to building a movement for One Global Democracy. Half the answer is building new systems, such as blockchain-based voting, that will make our current systems obsolete, as Buckminster Fuller famously prescribed.

But, as Roberts points out, the other half of the strategy is to build a cultural challenge to institutions and practices that have long been presumed inevitable, yet no longer serve us.

Less than six months ago, we put to rest the entrenched but false idea that marriage should be only between a man and a woman.

Now, with the Keystone victory, we’re challenging the presumption that we must always burn any available fossil fuels.

Next, let’s ask whether we should still rely on our centuries-old system of separate nation-states to handle global problems — like climate change — or whether the time has come for a better model.

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A Better Approach to China — and the World

(Versions of this piece have also been published at The Huffington Post and Medium.)  

Escalating tensions between the US and China, while ominous, offer a useful reminder that the artificial division of our world into separate nation-states may no longer serve us, and present a compelling reason to consider a better model.

To briefly review some of the alarming recent news: China has been artificially building islands that previously were little more than reefs, placing artillery there, talking about expanding its air-defense zone to cover them, and warning US military planes to leave the area.  It’s also been building up its navy and reconfiguring its missiles so each one can hold multiple nuclear warheads.

Chinese construction of an island in the South China Sea

In response, the US has called on China to stop building islands, and our military has proposed a show of strength.  Our ally Japan regularly confronts China with fighter planes.

On the economic front, China is investing heavily in the creation of a modernized trade route through Pakistan, buying up African natural resources, and building its presence in Antarctica.

Economically, President Obama has responded by framing his push on Capitol Hill for “fast track” authority to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade agreement whose contents we are not allowed to see, as a strategic counter to China’s growing power, saying “if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world — guess what — China will.”

We must remember that the US-China relationship is complex.  China continues to invest billions here.  The two countries reached a breakthrough agreement on climate change last winter, and since then China has already dramatically reduced its carbon emissions.

Still, there’s every reason to take a perceived threat from China seriously.  It’s the world’s most populous country, and as its economy has surged to global prominence over the past decade, its industrial capacity, implicitly including war-making capability, has grown as well.

In some respects, this is the first time the US has faced such a situation since the end of World War II.  To be sure, we faced off against the Soviet Union throughout the cold war, and our relations with post-Soviet Russia under Putin have been frosty.  Yet, while the nuclear threat has darkened this picture for decades, neither the Soviet Union nor Russia has been a top economic or industrial power, despite the recent oil-and-gas wealth of its oligarchs.

So now is an opportune time to ask whether we want to continue the usual geopolitical power game, in which separate countries vie against each other for resources and dominance, threatening everyone’s survival, safety, and rights, or whether a new, globally inclusive, democratic governance structure would serve us better.

We in the US may rightly condemn China’s recent actions.  Yet we should also bear in mind that China’s recent muscle-flexing follows inevitably from its economic rise, given the perverse incentives of our fragmented global political structure.  With the world divided into separate nation-states, national governments can often keep order within their borders, but they face a constant power struggle beyond, with no legitimate entity truly in charge at the global level.  (The UN is simply too weak.)  Leaders whose only accountability comes from within their borders can build their power at home by elbowing their neighbors, so they do.  This is especially true in countries with ascendant economies, such as China today, or the US at many points over the past 100-plus years.

The structural inevitability of confrontations like the one now developing with China should compel us to consider an alternative that has never been possible until now: a single, global democracy, including everyone (holding dictators, terrorists, and other criminals accountable to the rule of law).

With blockchain technology (the secure, distributed ledger underlying bitcoin) it’s now becoming feasible to securely record the votes of potentially limitless numbers of people, online.  Although related challenges remain (the secret ballot, unique voting accounts, the digital divide) all of these appear solvable over the next decade or two, and possibly sooner.

Of course, it’s important to consider what kinds of policies a single, global democracy might lead to.  Although the actions of major foreign governments, such as China’s, are troubling in many respects, the point of a global democracy is to take national governments, with their warped incentives, out of the picture, and instead put global governance in the hands of everyone.

In part, this is a matter of faith in people’s essential reasonableness, the wisdom of crowds, the better angels of our nature, and the historical record, which has shown again and again that democracies, while fallible, generally produce fairer, more stable, and more peaceful outcomes than any other system of governance.

Yet it’s also supported by international polling data.  The Pew Research Center  has compiled a rich trove of such data, including these highlights:

  • A slim plurality of Chinese people say “our country should have UN approval before it uses military force to deal with an international threat.”
  • A plurality of Chinese people, along with a clear majority in India and majorities in many Muslim countries (which together comprise another major population group), prefer “a democratic form of government” rather than “a leader with a strong hand”.
  • Overwhelming majorities in China, India, and Muslim countries see climate change as a “serious problem”, and say “people should be willing to pay higher prices in order to address” it.

There are limits to the depth of this data, but what we can see is encouraging.

Obviously, beyond the top-line appeal of a call for a global democracy lie many key structural questions.  For example: what constitutional rights should be guaranteed to everyone? And how should inclusive deliberation and voting should be structured?  These are beyond the scope of this article, but they’re an exciting area for discussion; a forum for that conversation is here.

The archaic division of our world into separate nation-states leads inevitably to dangerous geopolitical rivalries.  It also prevents adequate global action on climate change (notwithstanding the recent US-China agreement), cripples our response to disease outbreaks, makes it impossible to rein in economic inequality, and traps people worldwide in poverty.  In all of these ways, the present system is failing us.

Until recently, one could argue that we couldn’t do much better: national borders have crudely reflected humanity’s technological and administrative limits for centuries.  But today, for the first time in history, a better solution is within our grasp: one global democracy.

Obviously, nation-states won’t go away on their own.  Those who benefit from today’s structures (e.g., heads of state, CEOs of unaccountable multinational corporations) will defend them.

It will take time to build a movement in support of a global democracy, potentially decades.  Or, with the accelerating rate of change, things could move more quickly.

But with so much at stake, and new technology making it feasible, the time to begin the conversation has come.

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