"One World," published in 1943, advocated a federal world government, an end to colonialism, and equality for America's non-whites. The book's author, Wendell Willkie (1892-1944) had been the Republican presidential candidate in 1940, losing to incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After losing the election, Willkie had visited U.S. World War II allies as Roosevelt's goodwill ambassador. Drawing on this experience, he pointed out that "even our relative geographic isolation no longer exists ... At the end of [World War I] not a single plane had flown across the Atlantic. Today that ocean is a mere ribbon, with airplanes making regular scheduled flights. The Pacific is only a slightly wider ribbon in the ocean of the air, and Europe and Asia are at our very doorstep."
Willkie's proposals were considered so radical that British prime minister Winston Churchill brushed his book off as "Gullible's Travels." Since then "one world" has often been dismissed as the unrealistic dream of foggy minded idealists. But Willkie's ideas may have been only slightly ahead of their time.
Willkie only wanted to work toward making it "one world." But today, our noses are daily being rubbed in the fact that, like it or not, we are already living in one world.
None of our major problems — global warming, the pandemic, and energy production — can be solved for the United States (or any other country) without also solving them for the whole world.
The atmosphere and weather don't recognize national borders. We are all in the same weather boat — "spaceship earth." There is no "carpet" under which individual nations can sweep their "dirt" — carbon dioxide emitted by burning coal, oil, and (to a lesser extent) natural gas.
Likewise, the world's biosphere takes no account of national borders, try as countries may do to isolate themselves. Although wealthier countries will inoculate their own populations first, none of us will be safe from COVID-19 until everybody on the planet is safe.
If even one country remains a COVID hotbed, it would breed virus mutations that could render vaccines impotent to protect people everywhere. It is therefore in everybody's self-interest to see that everyone in the world can be vaccinated.
Energy is necessary for the high standards of living permitted by modern technology. But continuing to use hydrocarbon fuels will wreck the climate (see problem No. 1). "Green," energy will therefore have to replace coal, oil and gas.
But solar and wind power is highly intermittent at the local level, thanks to nighttime, bad weather and seasonal sunlight variations. Lacking economical electricity storage, we will need to connect the whole world in a unified grid. This will allow solar energy generated where conditions are good to be moved to areas where they are not currently favorable.
Like it or not, we are therefore living in one world, even though our political arrangements haven't caught up with this fact.
The world situation is similar to that between Israelis and Palestinians. Political scientist Ian Lustick argues persuasively that debates about whether or not these populations should have separate states or be parts of a single state are wasted breath.
For practical purposes, says Lustick, they are already a single state, despite the failure of their political institutions to recognize this fact. Therefore, he says, they need to focus on making that state work for them all.
Benjamin Franklin said that those leading America's independence movement needed to hang together, because if they failed to do so they would certainly hang separately.
If the human race cannot figure out how to hang together and live peaceful, cooperative lives on the planet we share, we will all come to an equally unpleasant end. The punishment will be inflicted by Mother Nature, not by a hangman.
Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. Read Prof. Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.
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