One Global Democracy is the story of how we can create a better future, by dissolving national borders and giving everyone an equal voice in handling our biggest problems: climate change, inequality, and opportunity for everyone.
Executive Producer’s Statement: Peter Schurman
I was the founding Executive Director (CEO) at MoveOn.org, and I’ve worked in the trenches of progressive political organizing for more than 25 years.
My guiding star has always been the goal of bringing humanity together on a worldwide scale to end war, reverse global warming, and ensure justice and opportunity for everyone. Before I die, I want bombs to stop raining on kids in Syria, or anywhere.
Over the years, I’ve had a high-level, inside view of how political change happens in America. An idea blossoms into a conversation. A conversation grows into a movement. A movement focuses on campaigns. Campaigns win changes in the rules we live under.
Among the many worthy causes, some have well-developed movements and campaigns advancing them. The environmental and racial-justice movements are good examples. There are more than one million nonprofit organizations in the US.
Yet, as far as I know, there is not a single one advancing the idea of a borderless world.
The idea of a global democracy is not new. A version of it, world federalism, was very popular after World War II. But today it has all but died out. It’s entirely absent from mainstream debate.
Our mission is to re-plant and nurture the seed of this idea, so it can grow again into the movement we need.
This documentary film project is step one.
Film is the right medium because this is a complex topic. The core principles are simple and the arguments are strong. But people will have questions, and need answers. (The main ones are laid out below.) Film is much more accessible and engaging than written text (e.g., a book).
It also presents opportunities to connect with the viewer on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one, and to build a sense of story, with “we,” the viewing audience, as the heros.
We’ll begin with a flagship 30-minute film making our core arguments, then release a series of brief, topical webisodes over time.
Introduction / The Frame
We’re facing huge crises today. Climate change. Inequality. Resurgent nationalism. Lack of opportunity for most people. Corruption. Human trafficking. Diseases like ebola. Terrorism. War and the threat of it.
The world is changing rapidly and people are stressed and afraid.
In response, we have two basic paths to choose from.
The low road: Trump, Putin, and other right-wing leaders around the world are pulling us apart, into closed nations, separated from each other by walls & heavily militarized borders, preventing us from working together, and often denying the core problems we face. As climate change takes hold, life will become more difficult, and these forces of darkness will grow stronger.
Or, the high road: progressives, some business leaders, and a few public officials are working to bring people together to solve our shared problems equitably. But our systems are antiquated and broken. Progress is slow and incremental, if it happens at all. People with open hearts, who see the need for real change, often give up hope. So the problems get even worse.
The way to fix this sad dynamic is to aim higher, with a moonshot that can get us all excited again. A new, audacious goal that will actually make the world a better place, not just slow down our rate of destruction.
So here’s an idea: world peace, within our lifetimes. We can get there by dissolving borders and merging our separate countries into One Global Democracy.
It won’t be easy, but we can do it if we choose to. So let’s take a serious look at it.
How We Got Here: The Story So Far
Humans took over the Earth by cooperating based on shared stories and ideas, and by using technology, beginning with fire. We invented farming and banded together in villages, using force to defend our food from raids. Our ideas led to social systems, such as laws, money, and religion, that transcended villages, enabling the growth of city-states, kingdoms, and empires. Wars were common for thousands of years as states and empires clashed.
The idea of national “sovereignty” was established in 1648, when rival monarchies agreed to treat each other as the ultimate holders of power. Soon after, the Enlightenment introduced concepts such as liberty and constitutional government. New industrial technologies took hold. In a wave of political revolution that followed, the United States and France became the first countries built on a story of national identity, less than 250 years ago.
Since then, society has transformed rapidly, with complex ideas like corporate capitalism and new communication technologies connecting the world as never before. European empires have dissolved. Many countries have split apart through civil wars, while others have joined in multinational systems such as trade agreements, the EU, and the UN.
Since the end of World War II, violence has declined to the lowest level in human history, as our stories, ideas, and systems increasingly connect us. Yet, tragically, war continues, and destructive nationalism is on the rise again.
Today our main challenges are global, and it’s increasingly clear that the concept of separate countries is outdated, and no longer enough to handle the threats we face. It’s also the core argument of authoritarian nationalists; the time has come to challenge it with an uplifting alternative.
It’s time for us to write the next chapter in the human story, together.
Today’s Challenges & How We Can Solve Them
The world is stressed today. We’re facing global crises, too big for separate countries to handle:
- Climate change, a direct threat to human survival, is already causing major damage: droughts, fires, floods, storms, extinctions of species. Food and water supplies are drying up, leading to wars and and waves of refugees, destabilizing many governments. Obviously, climate change is a global problem. Unless the whole world works together, countries will compete economically by allowing climate pollution, cooking the whole planet.
- Economic inequality has reached extreme levels, here in the US and worldwide, driving the popularity of Bernie Sanders, the Occupy movement, and even Donald Trump, as people lose patience with a system out of balance. Yet the problem grows unabated. Inequality, too, can only be solved globally, because national taxes fail to redistribute wealth when the wealthy few hide their money in Panama and our biggest corporations claim to be headquartered in Ireland. That’s why Germany’s former finance minister, author Thomas Piketty, and the Vatican have all called for a global tax system.
- Economic opportunity today is limited to people lucky enough to live in countries like the US where they can make the most of their talents. Billions more are locked outside our borders, condemned to lives of poverty regardless how bright they are or how hard they work. Freedom of movement worldwide would make a huge difference. Economists say we can double the world’s economic output by allowing everyone to move where their skills are best rewarded. Our attachment to separate countries is costing us tens of trillions of dollars.
These are just three of the biggest global problems that require global solutions, but they’re far from the only ones. Others include:
- Human Trafficking: Victims lose their rights at borders, contributing to their captivity.
- Diseases: 10,000 people died recently from ebola, due to weak international cooperation.
- Corruption: Where the rule of law is unreliable, nobody is safe.
- Terrorism: Stories of grievance and injustice can be healed by including everyone equally.
- Nuclear weapons serve no purpose if there are no countries. We can eliminate them.
- War is thankfully on the wane, but it still claims at least 50,000 lives each year.
Is There a Better Way?
Across history, humanity’s greatest assets have been our ability to work together and our technological advances.
Technology is advancing faster than ever. Today, humanity is connected as never before.
Yet our political systems lag behind. They’re no longer enough to handle the challenges we face today. Our system of separate countries is 350 years out of date.
A new and better system is now becoming feasible, for the first time in human history: One Global Democracy.
Let’s work together to create this next chapter in our story.
One Global Democracy: What Is It and How Will It Work?
One Global Democracy will mean everyone, worldwide, has a direct vote on the big global issues that affect us all.
We’ll finally be able to take popular steps to stop climate change (through global carbon limits), rein in inequality (by redistributing wealth), open the doors of opportunity to everyone (through free movement), and extend the equal protection of the law worldwide.
With One Global Democracy, borders dissolve. Just as Americans can move freely throughout our 50 states, everyone will be able to live and work where they please.
With an end to separate countries and separate militaries, the most dangerous individuals on Earth — Trump, Putin, Kim Jong-Un, etc. — will no longer be able to threaten warfare. Despots and terrorists alike will lose the grievances they depend on, because everyone is treated equally.
With a global rule of law, we can hold them all accountable, as we can now do within our own borders, while also protecting people everywhere from common criminals and corrupt officials.
Instead of national military forces, we’ll have a global police force, as well as local police.
Constitutional guarantees will safeguard our rights worldwide, as they do in the US today.
Of course, not everything needs to happen at the global level. For example, zoning is a local matter. We should decide all questions at the most local level we can, and also run our systems and enforce our laws at the most local level that works, following the subsidiarity principle.
Today’s countries can still maintain their distinct cultural identities, just as Germany, Italy, and Spain do within the EU today, or California, Texas, and New York do within the US.
Nuts & Bolts
Voting can take place online. Until now, online voting has been a terrible idea. The conventional internet is far too vulnerable to hacking.
But new blockchain technology solves that problem. Blockchains are what make Bitcoin work. Unlike a conventional record-keeping ledger stored on just one or two servers, where it can be hacked, a blockchain is distributed across thousands, potentially millions, of servers worldwide, like the internet itself, making it extremely secure. Although Bitcoin is for financial transactions, blockchains are now being re-purposed to securely record anything, such as votes.
Once we’re voting online, we can re-imagine how our votes are organized. We’re no longer limited to the old model of geographic representation (which produces gridlock, crippling our national government today) or to voting just once every few years (which alienates people from politics and fosters corruption). Like countries, these models are hundreds of years out of date.
Instead, we could use a much more robust, participatory method, called liquid democracy: a system of revocable proxies based on issue area, so a voter can participate in decision-making as much as she wants, or can give her proxy voting power to others she trusts, yet can take back her proxy and vote directly at will.
For example, let’s call our voter Jane. Imagine that Jane finds climate policy too complex to follow personally. She can grant her proxy for climate votes to someone she trusts, such as Al Gore. Similarly, if she has no time to follow banking policy, she can choose Elizabeth Warren as her proxy on banking issues. Let’s say Jane is a teacher. She might choose to vote for herself on education matters. If Al Gore’s votes on climate matters ever disappoint her, Jane can revoke her proxy instantly, and grant it instead to someone else, such as Bill McKibben.
Of course, we still have a digital divide today, but it’s closing, with the world’s biggest tech companies racing to connect Africa, Asia, and Latin America to the internet.
One Global Democracy will be feasible within decades. Now is the time to start the conversation.
How Can We Get There?
It will take decades, and the path is not entirely clear. But here are some big steps we can see:
The first step is to create a conversation. This part is pretty simple: just talk about it. Do separate countries still make sense? How could we do better?
Our goal with this documentary is to enable people to begin the conversation.
More resources [to be developed] will be available at our film’s website: Fact sheets, Q&A, kits for hosting house parties, curricula, shorter video clips, and more.
Remember, this is uncharted territory. The future is a blank slate. That’s an opportunity for us: simply by talking about the future we want to see, we’ll be taking the first step toward creating it.
In the near future, we’ll start seeing the first opportunities to vote on blockchains instead of conventional ballots. We must embrace these opportunities. By voting on blockchains, we’ll build momentum for a secure, online democracy. As more and more voting moves onto blockchains, today’s broken systems will become easier and easier to replace.
Climate change, inequality, etc. are likely to get worse with time. Our existing systems are unlikely to solve them. As systems fail, we’ll have more opportunities to propose our solutions.
Movements start with ideas, and with people spreading them. As our ideas spread, people will start to push for them. It’s impossible to predict exactly what path this will take.
But we have many examples of movements catching on because they make sense:
- Marriage equality went from fringe to law-of-the-land in just 15 years.
- Mass incarceration and police violence have become major public issues.
- Climate change and inequality are now widely recognized as threats.
- The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, with the sudden collapse of Soviet communism.
Looking back further, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses launched the protestant reformation that ended the Catholic church’s monopoly on religious power in the western world. Karl Marx’ ideas gave birth to communism, and Ayn Rand set off a wave of market fundamentalism. Rachel Carson launched the environmental movement with her book, Silent Spring.
Adoption could take many forms and any number of incremental steps. The details are impossible to predict. Advances will depend on responding strategically to events.
One rough guide could be the path the EU followed. They started with a trade agreement for coal and steel, and gradually expanded its scope and membership through a series of treaties (Paris, Rome, Schengen, Maastricht, Lisbon, etc.).
If we follow that guide, a good early step could be trade agreements. Today they’re negotiated in secret to favor corporations at the expense of people, so everyone opposes them. But with liquid democracy on a blockchain, we could include countries’ whole populations in proposing provisions, crowd-sourcing the text, and ratifying the agreements directly. That would be a game changer.
The United States as a single country was also born through unification. The states were originally separate, “sovereign” powers, bound together only loosely under the Articles of Confederation, beginning in 1777. That didn’t work, so they scrapped it in 1789 and adopted our current, unified Constitution instead. In other words, we’ve been here before.
Ultimately, we’ll need one or more treaties in which countries agree to cede their separate sovereignty to our global democracy.
This won’t come easily, but we can do it by building a movement, beginning with a conversation, then following these guideposts and forging our own path in response to events.
It will take time, but we can do it within our lifetimes, if we start.
The first step is the most powerful one: let’s start talking about it
Conclusion: What We All Can Do Now
Talk about One Global Democracy with your friends. Bring it up in conversations when people talk about climate change, or inequality, or any of the other big issues we need to solve.
Get some friends together to watch our trailer (and future video releases) or send them a link. Talk about it afterward.
Why Not?: Objections & Questions
- This seems crazy.
We know this is audacious, and could seem far-fetched.
Yet we believe this is an idea whose time has come, a conversation that’s needed now. We’re making this movie to to explain why it’s worth talking about. We want to hear your thoughts.
- Why not focus on something more achievable?
There are more than one million nonprofit organizations in the US, focusing on every conceivable cause. But not one is calling for countries to merge into a single, global democracy.
World peace within our lifetimes is a worthy goal, yet there’s no one directly calling for it.
We can change that.
- But I love America / my country.
We do too. But America and other countries are falling apart before our eyes.
In America, voters chose one candidate for president, but the Electoral College chose another. There is evidence that another country, Russia, manipulated our election.
And our government has been failing since long before our current president took office.
Police routinely get away with shooting people in the streets.
Despite clear public consensus, congress can’t pass federal laws requiring background checks for guns, reforming our immigration laws, or addressing climate change. President Obama, originally elected with a clear mandate and concurrent majorities in both houses of congress, was only able to advance a fraction of his agenda.
In the Senate, 27 states containing less than one-fifth of our population enjoy triple the voting power of the 9 states where a majority of us live. In the House, gerrymandered districts enable Representatives to choose their voters, turning the whole concept of democracy on its head. Almost every incumbent is re-elected, although just 10-20% approve of the job Congress is doing. The U.S. Supreme Court is transparently corrupt.
Are we really so sure we can’t do better?
Also, America’s status as the world’s sole great power is rapidly eroding. It’s in Americans’ best interest to support a more inclusive system now, while we’re still near the peak of our influence, rather than waiting until our stature slips to the level of, say, France today.
- Isn’t this dangerous?
Democracy is the best model humanity has come up with so far. It’s not perfect.
Our supposedly democratic system is broken today. But the idea of democracy is still right.
Of course, even a working democracy can be dangerous. Hitler was democratically elected. Trump was declared the winner of our most recent election. Our constitution is meant to protect our fundamental rights against threats that can arise from an unrestrained majority. Similarly, we’ll need strong constitutional guarantees to protect everyone’s fundamental rights at the global level.
- How can we test this?
We can’t, really, because ultimately it’s an all-in concept. Everyone & every place needs to be part of it in order to stop climate-changing pollution, eliminate tax havens, and for everyone to have the freedom to move anywhere.
We couldn’t test freeing the slaves without freeing all the slaves. We couldn’t test voting rights for women without extending voting rights to all women.
What we can do is look at history: whenever voting rights have been extended, the results have been reassuring, not chaotic. Examples include: Bismarck extending the vote to all adult men in Germany in 1871; Voting rights for African Americans in 1870; US women’s suffrage in 1920; direct election of US Senators in 1914. There are a few reasons why. One: people mostly want the same things: opportunity, safety, and a better life for their kids. Two: basic statistics says the more data points you include, the more the result tends toward the middle of the true range, away from the extremes. Three: the wisdom of crowds – more people are smarter collectively than fewer people. Four: the better angels of our nature – across history, as civil society & democracy have expanded, violence and upheaval have declined.
- What about an incremental approach?
We’ve been trying incremental approaches since World War II. The UN is an incremental effort, keeping true power in the hands of nation-states. It’s failing to solve our biggest problems, and people have little respect for it. The EU is an incremental attempt, and it’s falling apart, partly because it’s not democratic enough, and partly because it’s not inclusive enough — the pressure of refugees at its edges is destabilizing a political system that’s trying to lock them out. A global democracy including everyone would not have this problem. Trade agreements are incremental, but they don’t work because they’re written to benefit corporations at the expense of people; they undermine democratic accountability, rather than enhance it.
Incremental approaches will continue, because the human and economic drivers of cross-border activity are like gravity, too powerful to deny. Incremental steps are often good, but they’re not enough. We have to push for a more inclusive approach.
- Aren’t we moving in the opposite direction?
It’s true that many countries have split up, and more may be on the way.
Also, leading thinkers are saying smaller units work better to get things done. For example, Ben Barber said cities and a global parliament of mayors are the answer, and Parag Khanna says mega-cities and the infrastructure that connects them are the key.
They’re right. Smaller, more organic units make much more sense than the nation-state model.
But smaller units aren’t the whole answer.
Even though cities can make a huge difference on climate change, they can’t solve it entirely. We have to deal with rural methane leaks, coal plants, and inter-city highway and airplane emissions too.
We can’t solve inequality at the city level either. Taxes that limit & re-distribute obscene wealth, and pay for investments in education and public safety, fail when money is hidden overseas.
Cities alone can’t free people to live wherever they want, to maximize economic opportunity, or extend the rule of law to protect people everywhere.
We need a global layer too.
- But aren’t all those people around the world very different from us? What will happen if we give all the Chinese, Indians, and Muslims an equal say in our laws?
Actually, people’s values are surprisingly similar no matter where you go. There is international polling data on this. Its depth is limited, but what we can see is reassuring: in China, India, and the Islamic world, people’s values are much more similar to Americans’ values than we might think based on sensational headlines. People everywhere mostly want a balance of opportunity and security, along with democracy, equal rights for women, freedom of religion, and global cooperation on matters like climate change.
Of course, there are cultural differences. But ISIS, for example, is no more representative of Islam than the KKK is of Christianity, and bellicose national leaders are not the same as their people. We read about acts of terror and despotism, but these are the work of extremists and sociopaths, not expressions of widely held values. Also, a global rule of law would constrain their lawless behavior much more effectively than today’s fragmented patchwork of countries.
- Will it change our lives?
Yes. We in the US / the West enjoy huge privileges relative to the rest of the world.
These privileges are not sustainable. They depend on exclusion. Exclusion is intrinsically unstable. Our exclusive system comes with major costs (climate change, inequality, lack of opportunity/growth, unconstrained corporate power, disease risk, risk of war, terrorism).
We can solve these problems if we include everyone on equal political terms.
This will mean leveling some of our privileges. It’s worth it.
- Will we be worse off?
This may surprise you: if a global democracy leads to equal distribution of wealth, most of us will be better off, not worse, for two reasons.
First, inequality is so extreme today that the average American would be better off if all the world’s wealth were distributed equally between all the people on Earth. The combined wealth of everyone in the world is $241 trillion. If it were all evenly distributed, each person would have $51,600.-. That’s more than the median net worth of an American today: $44,911.-.
Second, the world economy will grow, to roughly double its current size, if people are free to move wherever their skills are most valuable. So there will be a lot more wealth to go around.
- Won’t the powers that be oppose this?
Yes. They have the most to lose from it.
But the rest of us have everything to gain. So we should work together to make it happen, even knowing we’ll face resistance every step of the way. Positive social change always does.
- How long will it take?
That’s impossible to know. Many people think it will happen over the next 100 to 200 years.
We may be able to shorten the timeline to as little as 30 years, because the necessary technology is here, the digital divide is closing, the rate of social change is accelerating, and the crises we face are becoming more urgent and clear each day.
People to Interview (Partial list, not confirmed)
Links are to previous public statements aligned with the One Global Democracy concept
Barack Obama, former US President – One global human family
Wolfgang Schaeuble, former Finance Minister of Germany – Why we need a global tax system
Bill Gates, Microsoft founder – We need a world government
Jimmy Carter, former US President – Need to build a more peaceful future
Angelina Jolie, actor – Failure of UN to help refugees
Harris Wofford, former US Senator – Global democracy
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder – Progress now requires not just cities or nations but a global community
Richard Branson, Entrepreneur – Closing the digital divide
Larry Summers, fmr US Treasury Sec. – Reorient globalization from elite toward mass interests
Trevor Noah, comedian, “The Daily Show” – Let’s not be divided
Naomi Klein, author – The current global crisis & need for global transformation
Bill McKibben, activist – Climate change & the need for a global response
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Cosmos host, scientist – Borders are artificial
Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube – Immigrants are just like us
Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of Greece – Need for democracy on a global scale
Nick Hanauer, investor – Inequality & need for reform or else the pitchforks are coming
John Pepper, former CEO, P&G – Companies need stability & predictability across borders
Chelsea Manning, whistleblower – We need to take control and fix the system ourselves
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate economist – Need to manage globalization more equitably
Thomas Piketty, author, economist – Why we need a global tax system
Amaryllis Fox, former CIA officer – Need to hear & respect everyone’s voices
Steven Pinker, author – Humanity becoming more peaceful, less violent
Malala Yousufzai, Nobel peace prize winner – Horrors of war
Ricken Patel, founder, Avaaz – People working together across borders as never before
Larry Lessig, law professor, activist – Governments are local, democracy is global
Vitalik Buterin, founder, Ethereum – potential in the blockchain & Ethereum
Rana Foroohar, author & columnist, Financial Times – Panama Papers and global inequality
Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist – Today’s countries will split into many new ones
David Brooks, NY Times columnist – Need for global rule of law
Roger Cohen, NY Times columnist – Roots of today’s conflicts, need to give arabs better options
Thomas Friedman, NY Times columnist – Growing disorder in the world
Nicholas Kristof, NY Times columnist – Immigration restrictions -> kids die.
Rebecca Solnit, writer, Harper’s – hope, possibility, importance of new ideas & new stories
Yuval Noah Harari, author – Changing the stories that organize humanity
Parag Khanna, academic, author – Megacities and networks replacing nation-states
Richard N. Haass, Pres,Council on Foreign Relations – Sovereignty alone is inadequate system
James Surowiecki, New Yorker columnist – Wisdom of crowds
Zephyr Teachout, author, law professor – Corruption in America today
Robert Shiller, Nobel laureate economist – The coming anti-national revolution
Zack Exley, activist and author – Future belongs to a movement that demands something huge
George Monbiot, writer – We must rethink the world from first principles
Valarie Kaur, interfaith civil rights advocate – Need to welcome everyone
David Roberts, writer, Vox – Extreme proposals can shift polarized debates
Astro Teller or TBD, Google – Google’s experiment with liquid democracy
Ian Bremmer, global analyst & academic – People are fed up with national governments
Jason Silva, internet personality – Borders are not real
Debora MacKenzie, writer, New Scientist – How we got here and how nation-states are failing
Bryan Caplan, economist – The economic case for opening borders
Santiago Siri, co-founder, Democracy.Earth – Global democracy on a blockchain
Pia Mancini, co-founder, Democracy.Earth – Upgrading democracy for the Internet era
Ian Goldin, academic, Oxford – Global governance today is failing
Farhad Manjoo, NY Times tech reporter – Fragmented world hurts US tech businesses
Charles Eisenstein, author – Anything is possible as the old order dissolves
Tim Urban, writer, WaitButWhy – The math of distributing the world’s wealth equally
Winnie Byanyima, executive director, OxFam – 8 men own as much as half the world
Taj James, activist – Movements transform what’s possible
Alex Tabarrok, writer, The Atlantic – The moral case for getting rid of borders, completely
Dylan Mathews, writer, Vox.com – Open the borders to refugees
Nadia Prupis, writer, CommonDreams – Majority of people identify as “global citizens”
David Safronetz, scientist – Ebola 2015 was extra deadly because of countries, not genetics
Jim Harper, writer, Cato Institute – Nation-states are on the way out
Pankaj Mishra, author – Majority everywhere feels shut out by elites, angry, and humiliated
[TBD], Amnesty International – 80% of people worldwide welcome refugees
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