There are 7.5 billion people living on planet earth and we are facing a major health problem which threatens our lives and which concerns all of us. That is the definition of a pandemic. The propensity to spiral into inertia and the dysphoria to change and adapt in the new conditions of living, the convenience of inaction – even though the situation is drifting into a non-sustainable direction – has handcuffed the government to act in favour of their short political gain leaving the future at the hands of fate. When that ominous situation that people are avoiding is proven true, then everyone will turn against the politicians who faithfully remained part of the herd that was walking towards a cliff. A good politician is required to care as much about the present (the pandemic) as about the future (the economy) and the same applies to a good citizen.
Gradually since the end of WWII and up until the moment that the pandemic broke out, the world had engaged into a leaping gallop of the economy with the practice of free trade, technology and information, free movement of people, goods, services and capitals. These four freedoms that were globally applied and accepted by everyone – one of which is the unique project of European unification – were not followed by the respective political and democratic evolution. Global institutions of multilateral cooperation remained weak and inactive – during the last couple of years they have also been doubted by populist leaders – so collective effectiveness and accountability have been disproportionate towards the global range of real life since they have been dominated by national perceptions of self-sufficiency.
The ongoing pandemic and the threatening recession of the economy prove that this huge discrepancy between people’s needs and the institutionalized way of decision-making for 7.5 billion people as well as the inability to globally face mutual challenges is very likely to lead us into unforeseen conflicts, drama, desperation, death, destruction and the loss of a freedom that has been incredibly difficult to acquire and maintain. In the midst of history when medicine, science and human success to tackle these challenges is at its utmost realisation and when people have been enjoying a great deal of freedom and democracy, we are faced with all these impending problems. Pity, isn’t it?
A world that is divided into 200 national sections, 2.500 surviving languages, 5.000 national and cultural societal minorities, countless religions and philosophical currents, a colossal production of knowledge and a very small group of wealthy people that control a huge amount of wealth; that world is functioning in a fragmented way and without any coordination. The question is: can this world function without drowning in its doom? The United Nations is the birth-child of the WWII, a given balance of powers of a period that is fast disappearing. Every nation-state today is being guided by its own interests and the successive crises only intensify the course of the world at the expense of everyone. Has egoism ever had positive results? There are no transparent and effective global mechanics for the early detection and control of a pandemic and because of that our lives are at stake. We need a decision-making process and an executive mechanism functioning in a global level with systems of early detection and warning methods, exchange of information, cross-border transmission management, research and treatment.
Risks like health, the environment and the climate, economic stability, international peace and nuclear prevention, human rights, an International Court of Justice that will have the power to impose sanctions on genocides and war crimes but also on leaders who do not comply with the protocol of pandemic control are circumstances that concern everyone. If that so, decisions should be taken by everyone as well. We have to clarify what we need and who do we need from? Zero waste management is mainly a local responsibility, educational systems and scholar curriculae as well as the public order is a national matter, competition rules and continental scale infrastructure is a European competence and some specific responsibilities belong to the global governance scheme.
Federalism as a state paradigm has become the most democratic form of governance of a political community. It is not exported, it is not to be copied, every community has to discover on its own the route in order to be guided into an historically original self-made version of itself. Federalism as a state paradigm contrasts the constitutional model of a unitary state (e.g. France, Greece). The federalist idea doubts and repositions the power of sovereignty and favours forms of shared sovereignty that will lead to the inevitable undermining of the human tendency to dominate. Federalism avoids the concentration of power and celebrates the power of all federal entities which has been granted to them as part of an autonomous scheme, by themselves and not upon concession by another entity that sits higher than most. Conversely, the competence of the federation is a product of concession by the entities which has undergone detailed and important consideration. Federalism does not like monopolies, especially that of state authority. A federation assigns respective responsibility to its citizens, its neighbourhood, its municipality, its region, its country, its continent. From that perception, the principle of subsidiarity is born. Subsidiarity is by its nature a liberal theory that has been proven to be successful in many cases. There are 35 federalist nations in the world today. Of course, federalism except from being a state paradigm/ constitutional theory, it’s also a political ideology and a political movement which is not based upon political parties i.e. the case of the European Union.
The formation of the United States of America in the 18th century and the European Union in the 20th century are two examples of the definitive removal of doom and self-destruction. They are examples of a healthy, balanced and complete development through the federalist idea. It is the time to learn a lesson from these two continents, the African continent is seemingly following the same route. The application of the least possible federalist union in the global map, even though it alludes to romanticism and it seems like a utopia, it is one of the most difficult decisions that politicians have to make exceeding the usual tardiness to follow rather than look ahead. But for this, only history can judge them.
A global democracy then, a “vertical” and “horizontal” federalism with a clear distinction of competences between different entities. Nation-states, continental scale Unions and United Nations (vertical), the distinction between the three forms of power (horizontal) and a global parliament, all of them functioning in harmony. Global federalism will maintain national sovereignty in national matters, but will assign the rest of the decisions on wider institutions and global issues to global institutions. It will ensure the principle of unity within diversity. Most importantly, concession of competence will be granted from the bottom-up, by voluntary will. If someone doesn’t participate, then its citizens will also not enjoy the benefits. There is no way that a global super state that depends on huge central executive authority can be created. Globalisation is not a prototype of totalitarianism. That compares to inarticulate screams by phobic, cunning or ignorant people. Totalitarianism was born by egoism, racism, nationalism and by narrow interests. It is not about a conspiracy against the nation-states, but about a desperate attempt to save citizens freedom, human rights and individual liberty, voluntary solidarity and democracy, by a process of its expansion, in order to confront and cope with obvious and unprecedented needs like those of a pandemic. We have a duty to go beyond, discovering the land beyond.
Yours in liberty, federalism and civil society!