World Federalism is a political view that promotes a world-wide federation as a means to secure peace among the subjects.

The argument is that the rule of law has proven to be a reliable way to calm entities, which would be fighting, if they are not subject to a higher law. The existence of nuclear weapons has moved many famous people to adopt a similar view in the past.

The monopoly for violence would be controlled together as a democratic federation, i.e. the use of (nuclear) weapons is not the decision of a nation, but of an assembly of nations. This makes sure that they are not used against another nation, since also that nation is a member of that assembly.

Fundamental works in this area, for example The Anatomy of Peace by Emery Reves, paint a rose-tinted picture of how the world could be a peaceful paradise without wars, all by just adopting such a political system. This sounds too good to be true, of course. Where is the problem? What are some fundamental and/or practical problems with this concept and its goals and implementation?

  • 1
    How much do you know about the history, powers and processes of the United Nations?
    – Philipp
    Mar 16, 2018 at 13:22
  • 2
    @Philipp As I understand, the U.N. is based on mutual agreements or treaties, which are ultimately not binding. World Federalists advocate enforceable law, in which nations are held accountable, so not "only" treaties. That said, I guess I know what functions the most important parts of the U.N. have and for later reason they were created.
    – DK2AX
    Mar 16, 2018 at 13:27
  • 1
    Didn't the US (a federation) have to go through a Civil War or something because some states disagreed on a law about a commodity?
    – user7809
    Mar 16, 2018 at 15:18
  • Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting about dinner. We see how well World Federalism would work out for anyone who has a hostile big block of nations in UN (e.g. Israel).
    – user4012
    Mar 16, 2018 at 15:23
  • @Bad_Bishop the US is a republic, not a federation. (It was a federation for about a decade before the Constitution was ratified, and it failed miserably.)
    – RonJohn
    Jun 9, 2019 at 21:48

1 Answer 1


The first big issue is that not all of the nations of the world have a rich history of democratic understanding or due process or equal treatment under the law. Make a system too loose and you get the U.N. or the League of Nations, the former being largely ineffective at actually stopping war and the former outright failing. And if you don't institute a democratic structure in the countries, you run the risk of putting nations with terrible track records on human rights in charge of those things. There are some nations that do not think I deserve the same rights as other people and I'd rather not have them with that sort of power over my life.

The next issue is that if you allow for any government but control the power of voting by some metric of human development, than you'll find that the top 20 nations on the list Human-Development adjusted for inequity are all majority white and only one is Non-European (USA.)(Japan is the highest rated non-white majority country on the list at 21). Meanwhile, at the bottom end of the list, 18 are Black Majority (Haiti is the only one outside of Africa) and two are Middle Eastern countries (Afghanistan and Yemen). This is going to create a system where the most powerful countries are all white and the least powerful are non-white and for reasons that should be obvious to everyone, this will look bad.

Another problem is that Federations are prone to civil wars and crippling internal politics. Both the United States and Switzerland (big Federation systems users) had civil wars in their history. The USSR was a Federation of Soviet Nations and we can look to the early 90s to see how that played out. Malaysia finally had enough of the racial tensions in Singapore and just kicked them out. And those are some of the 27 extant federations in today's world. The list of defunct Federations is much greater and encompasses some nations that simply centralized or totally fell apart. With out very strict and well thought out safe guards, Federations tend to fail. In the United States at time of writing there are people who truly fear a second Civil War is coming soon and the two largest states by population have both threatened to secede in the past decade.

As to the "monopoly of violence" theory doesn't work. Even in Federation Nations, the sub-districts do have their own "power". The United States has the National Guard which functions as the state's military force. The Swiss Federation has mandatory Militia services for all adult males from age 20-30 (20-34 if you're an officer). The Federal Government does not hold monopolized power. The idea that this would save the world from Nuclear weapons is quite silly as almost all of the countries with truly large arsenals maintain "Second Strike Policies" which means they will only fire Nuclear Weapons if they are first fired upon by another Nuclear Nation. In fact, what kept the Cold War from turning hot was the fact that both nations wanted the other to attack first. Everyone was ready to fight a war that nobody wanted to start.

Where Federations work are in nations with a strong collective identity or morality... that is, nations that can agree on quite a few things. The ones that don't work are the ones that give too much room for differences to allow for unity of the whole.

  • Another aspect you could mention is that some states might not actually be interested in everlasting world peace, because they don't want to give up their ability to use their military superiority to their advantage.
    – Philipp
    Mar 16, 2018 at 16:19
  • @Philipp: I put aside the numerous military issues aside as they seemed to go without saying. The other issue is that a lot of cultures simply do not get along. There are numerous African Nations where the border was carved that put two peoples that hate each other under one government. Other areas like East Asia, where the major players all cannot stand each other. And the less we say about the Middle East, the better. "Why can't we get along?" is a difficult question to answer not because no one knows why, but because no one can list all the very good reasons why.
    – hszmv
    Mar 16, 2018 at 17:34
  • 1
    In terms of voting metrics, there is probably no voting metric everyone would agree on - each state receiving a vote means every tiny island has the same voting power as every large country, and voting by population means China and India control about 35% of the vote on their own. Mar 16, 2018 at 20:16
  • 1
    @IllusiveBrian: This is why most legislatures are Bicameral in nearly all legislative Democracies. One house's membership is based on population while the other is a fixed number. In these systems, China/India would hold 35% in one house while the other they have the same voting power as Vatican City.
    – hszmv
    Mar 16, 2018 at 20:48
  • Don't forget that the US was once a Confederacy, and it failed miserably.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 9, 2019 at 21:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .