World Government

The scope and intensity of governments have clearly increased over the centuries, as have the size of firms.  We’ve had some near global empires in the last few centuries, some serious attempts at world domination, and we now coordinate more via the United Nations and international treaties.

So it seems to me quite likely that we will soon try a stronger world government.  And since a world government has no outside threats, it could more easily preserve itself, even if harmful.  So we risk locking in a harmful world government, little interested in improving that situation.

On the other hand, we expect a world government to suffer especially from the empire bias, more than most other organizations.  So a world government may well over-reach, promising more than it can deliver, and making people visibly worse off.  In addition, since nations today often feel unified in response to outside threats, a world government will induce less loyalty and more local complaints, the seriousness of which it is likely to underestimate.

So not only is the world likely to try a world government soon, that experiment is also likely to end badly, with many folks vowing “never again.”  As I said yesterday:

Whether a world governments will be worth its empire costs depends on how serious and frequent are [global coordination] problems, and on how much better we learn to structure large organizations to avoid the empire bias.

Those who think a world government would be worth its cost in the long run should probably not be that eager for its first experiment to start soon; they should instead work to improve our mechanisms of governance, to make an efficient world government actually be feasible.  A later better effort has a better chance of lasting.

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