On The World Commons

As we approach the centennial of their authorship, here are the ruminations of someone who, in both literature and politics envisioned a world that was well in advance of its time. Sadly, his words remain as relevant and visionary today as they were during his lifetime.

It is becoming plainer and plainer each year that in many respects and in an increasing range of affairs, mankind is becoming one community, and that it is more and more necessary that in such matters there should be a common world-wide control. For example, it is steadily truer that the whole planet is now one economic community, that the proper exploitation of its natural resources demands one comprehensive direction, and that the greater power and range that discovery has given human effort makes the present fragmentary and contentious administration of such affairs more and more wasteful and dangerous.

Financial and monetary expedients also become world-wide interests to be dealt with successfully only on world-wide lines. Infectious diseases and the increase and migrations of population are also now plainly seen to be world-wide concerns.

The greater power and range of human activities has also made war disproportionately destructive and disorganizing, and, even as a clumsy way of settling issues between government and government and people and people, ineffective. All these things clamour for controls and authorities of a greater range and greater comprehensiveness than any government that has hitherto existed.

But it does not follow that the solution of these problems lies in some super-government of all the world arising by conquest or by the coalescence of existing governments.

By analogy with existing institutions men have thought of the Parliament of Mankind, of a World Congress, of a President or Emperor of the Earth. Our first natural reaction is towards some such conclusion, but the discussion and experiences of half a century of suggestions and attempts has on the whole discouraged belief in that first obvious idea. Along that line to world unity the resistances are too great.

The drift of thought seems now to be in the direction of a number of special committees or organizations, with world-wide power delegated to them by existing governments in this group of matters or that, bodies concerned with the waste or development of natural wealth, with the equalization of labour conditions, with world peace, with currency, population and health, and so forth.

The world may discover that all its common interests are being managed as one concern, while it still fails to realize that a world government exists. But before even so much human unity is attained, before such international arrangements can be put above patriotic suspicions and jealousies, it is necessary that the common mind of the race should be possessed of that idea of human unity, and that the idea of mankind as one family should be a matter of universal instruction and understanding.”

-from A Brief HIstory of the World, H.G. Wells 1922