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October 24, 2007


Matthew Sinclair

What does world government offer the collective military action advocate that a robust alliance (NATO was not set up for this purpose and appears poorly constructed for it) does not? It would seem possible to set up a game that will see everyone contribute without reducing to one player.


The trouble with Olson's theory is that it only explains the cases it explains. Specifically, it's great for explaining cases where collective action fails or never gets started, lousy at explaining cases where it succeeds. Resource mobilisation theorists have done something to fill in the picture, but they can't provide a complete explanation - at least, not without bending key concepts like 'resource', 'incentive' and 'self-interest' out of shape. In other words, I dispute your premise, sirrah.

Peter Risdon

If a world government isn't possible (yet), it's not a solution to anything.


There are some particularly vigorous enthusiasts for world government around. They may be recognised by their propensity for flying planes into buildings. I doubt you'd enjoy the regime they envisage, Mr D.

james higham

...every individual wants to free-ride on the efforts of every other - that's Mancur Olson's Logic of Collective Action...

That's quite right but your latter point about this being a justification for world government is a non sequitur. Also, these people are not cranks - they are dangerous people with an agenda which I'm happy to spell out.


There's only one realistic approach to world government, which is for the currently strongest military power to conquer everybody else. It remains to be argued that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Paul Evans


From memory, Olsen offers a generalised defence of representatives and suggests them as a tool for trumping interest groups.

And surely this is the point about world government. Its not the problem of world government per se. Its the question of how it's constituted. If it is a democratic settlement that promotes optimal policy outcomes then it would be better than the current jigsaw of nation states?

Matthew Sinclair

Actually, Olson's Logic of Collective Action actually suggests a potent reason why world government is a bad idea in Coasean terms. I'll write this up in more detail later but essentially your public goods are going to get even more dispersed leading to even greater transaction costs for a majority to 'outbid' narrow minority interests.


This interests me. I'm quite impressed by Einstein's argument that so long as we recognise the nation state's right to defend its interests via violence, an escalation to weapons of mass destruction is inevitable (as the only possible of the small against great). The only solution to this is a monopoly on the use of force by a world body that is both sufficiently empowered and sufficiently constrainted (to restrict its actions to the appropriate sphere and with the appropriate accountability).

I appreciate the danger in the concept (essentially corruption or coercion) but it IS hard to argue convincingly against the logic.

As for Matthew Sinclair point, this is essentially the point of Subsidiarity, passing up the heirarchy of government only those powers which must be excercised at a given level. How does Subsidiarity fit with his argument - and are their possible strategies to avoid this problem?

John Gregory Flinn

Roger Cohen, (The New York Times - It’s past time for continental...") makes similar complaints, but the thrust of the argument is rather one dimensional. As though "regular overseas interventions" were the only policy option.
I also heard an American on radio 4 today saying that in Europe only France and the UK appear prepared to actually engage the enemy in Afghanistan and fight.

There is another aspect to this whole question that might have its roots in the memory of the personal devastation suffered by non-combatants on the continent of Europe in the second world war and better merit the "logic of collective action".
These people may see another solution to the problem posed but which is as yet not coherently expressed, although where it is plain e.g. Switzerland, it is dismissed as racist or xenophobic or both.
That is - strict control of immigration and migration even to the extent of selective repatriation and/or prohibition.
Don't let the Taliban, Al Queada or their ilk visit the West. Suspect all (other) Moslems, and one foot wrong - repatriate them!

Fighting these asymetric conflicts is a dead loss and will persist for decades. The sort of solutions recommended will result in our democracies becoming tyrannies - either under Islam, or by some reactionary regime (world government?) against Islam


Easy way to shut down the Taliban. Legalize heroin and stop harassing Afghan opium farmers. Watch their black market revenue collapse and pool of disgruntled tribals disappear.

Garrett Jones

At my website [http://www.garrettjones.talktalk.net], which is titled LOVE - NOT WAR, I am proposing that we should campaign for the Security Council and UNO to require all member nations to surrender the command of their armed forces (and armaments) to the command of a global authority, which it would be the business of the UN to set up.

It seems to me there would be much more support for a practical plan of this kind than for the inauguration of never-ending discussions with a view to creating world government. At present, UN peacekeeping operations are stretched to breaking point and usually have to operate in the midst of armed combatants. It would make much better sense to have a global authority as sole custodians of all legitimated armed force and existing military forces committed to the safeguarding of human life and human rights as their sole mission.

We can safely leave other moves in the direction of global structures and law enforcement to evolve at their own pace.



John Garrett Jones

My website mentioned in my message above, dated September 02, 2009 has changed it's location as indicated:

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Garrett Jones

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