What is World Law?

by Garry Davis

Since the sixteenth century there has been a rooted belief that organized force of a politically organized society was a necessary prerequisite for a regime of justice. Hence plans for a universal regime of justice have taken the form of plans for world-wide political organization universal super-state. Roscoe Pound, "A World Legal Order," Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, 10/27/59

Let's try to demystify the notion of world law.

Must it be legislated by a world parliament operating under a democratic world constitution, or be decreed by a world dictator, or proclaimed by a world guru, or strange thought, is it already at work, independent of human ingenuity or malice? All human beings are born from a female womb. Natural "law." Why not natural "world law" since it applies generally to everyone?

All human beings born within the continental limits of the United States of America shall be ipso facto considered United States citizens. Natural "law"?

No, because humans born in France, Rumania or Thailand are not ipso facto U.S. citizens. Natural law--birth--has been converted into "positive law." The first is global, the second, national.

"All human beings born within the territorial limits of the home planet Earth shall be ipso facto World Government citizens."

Natural or positive law? Theoretically both since, for this historical moment, our human species lives only on Earth, (we think), and only a world government sanctions a planetary citizenship. If and when human beings are born on Mars, according to the above law, they might not be considered World Government citizens but might enjoy a colonial status vis-a-vis the "home" government. Examples of natural world law are limited by nature itself. You sneeze according to common world natural laws: "Inequality of bodily temperatures causing a rapid adjustment by driving air forcibly and audibly out of the mouth and nose by a spasmodic involuntary action." Russians, Eritreans, Jehovah Witnesses, Buddhists, blacks, Jews, Kurds, women, poets, garbage collectors, billionaires, Scots and the rest of our clan sneeze.

Sap rising in a tree, hospitality to the guest, sympathy for the underdog, love in all its forms, sharing food, keeping clean, municipal aid for the aged, young and infirm, fathers equitably distributing ice cream portions to their children, ships on the high seas passing on the right, collecting garbage, seeking truth, all are evidence of operative "world laws" of one kind or another, natural, social and conceptual.

These common "world laws" are taken for granted for the most part cooperating concurrently with local and national laws.

They give rise to the notion and actuality of a common world citizenship. The purpose of the present chapter is to expose to you your pragmatic world citizenship as a given fact which you practice daily without realizing it.

Even more presumptuous is our intention to expose world law as the only genuine, legitimate, scientific and justifiable law both theoretically and actually operative! Only to the extent that local and national law conform to it is the lesser law justified. After almost half a century reading learned treatises on world law by famous jurists and listening to eminent statespersons and politicians expound on it, after absorbing the Sabbath preachments of holy men from a dozen popular religions, I have yet to experience one serious leader either understanding or personifying it.

Statesmen and legislators, standing so completely within the institution never distinctly and nakedly behold it. They speak of moving society, but have no resting-place without it.

--Emery Reves, Anatomy of Peace, 1945

World law is too important a subject to be left to either the politicians or the lawyers. Neither is it a fit subject for religion or moralists. Since time immemorial, exclusive religions have strewn the battlefields of the world with human bodies and they do so today.

World law is the proper subject for declared world citizens.

Nation-state conditioning--competition for the necessities of life--force us to consider "world law" as "beyond" the nation-state, thus beyond us. It thus becomes the legitimate concern only of a millenial world parliament, peopled by super lawyers, statesmen and jurists, matchless in wisdom, goodness and efficiency. since, in looking around at the human material available, and discovering only mediocrity clothed in an eloquence which panics at every crisis, we relegate superman to the movies and the Boob Tube and up the national armament budget in the name of conventional wisdom.

Complicating our problem is the relentless data phenomenon. With the proliferation of TV antenna on roofs worldwide--with cable and satellite input infiltrating more and more homes--suddenly we are bombarded with information from everywhere at once with no manual for classifying it as to survival importance.

While, on the one hand, this steady stream of undifferentiated datum invading our living-room fortifies our emotional and psychological reliance on "our" nation since this screened "reality" obviously revolves around "our" world, it exposes inexorably the narrowness of the political vision and impotence of our national leaders to cope with "outside" problems. The result is political frustration and schizophrenia leading in turn to anger, revolt and proliferation of organizations "for" a future world government to legislate "world laws."

World law is as close as your next breath, not "beyond" your nation in the never-never Alice-in-Wonderland of world politics. It is you now, today, being human, decent, civilized, aware, loving and all that translated positively into normal civic behavior. And because it is the same the world over, the "laws" determining this conduct are "common world laws."

That makes you now a "common law world citizen," like it or not, black or white, left or right, queen or coolie, man or woman, rich or poor.

I discovered the intimacy of the trilogy of world laws--conceptual, social and natural--only after divorcing myself from the mythical nation-state. But it wasn't until my 16th imprisonment--for daring to be "outside" the framework of their positive laws--that I finally understood the difficulty so many have in recognizing and accepting them. For the individual to accept world law as acting directly on him or her is to accept oneself as a sort of world sovereign responsive to such law. What then of the vaunted sovereignty of the nation- state to which one is likewise affiliated? How can one equate both, seemingly mutually inconsistent? If I accept the relativism of nation-state sovereignty, I cannot at the same time consider myself as "beyond" it and responsive to actual world laws. Here is a new dilemma combining morality, sociology, politics and biology incorporated into one single person. There are no university courses on "World Law As Incorporated In And By The Human Being.

There would no doubt be students for it but where are the professors?

The phenomenon of creating government, however, is not new to humankind. The personal confirmation of "common world laws" preceded on a national scale decades or even hundreds of years before--is an overt act of pledging allegiance to the only government extant declared precisely to give the common world citizenship legitimacy and ongoing function: the World Government of World Citizens.

This sovereign act of choosing a new government is not to be confused with joining an organization for a world-government-of-the-future. That would be tantamount to founding an organization in prison called "Freedom After Prisons Are Abolished."

The immediate and direct recognition of the sovereign individual of the already existent world laws transforms him or her into a world-government- in-microcosm! And that is the seminal and imperative act for world government to begin its external institutionalization. The aggregate of such transformed individuals' translates into a new social contract external to and essentially independent of all lower echelon contracts uniting smaller groups of humans. By what right can we perform such a revolutionary act as pledging sovereign allegiance to a government which exists only in our person? Thomas Paine, that uncompromising fomenter of revolution for justice and human rights, put the matter succinctly:

It has been through a considerable advance towards establishing the principles of freedom to say that government is a compact between those who govern and those who are governed; but this cannot be true, because it is putting the effect before the cause; for as man must have existed before governments existed, and consequently there could originally exist no government to form such a compact with, the fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves each in his (or her) own personal and sovereign right entered into a compact with each other to produce a government; and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to exist, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

- Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

Such sovereign decision-making power of the individual in legal fact is confirmed in many national constitutions as well as in all human rights declarations. Article 15(2), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, confirms the right of the individual to choose his or her government in the following words: "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his (or her) nationality nor denied the right to change his (or her) nationality."

The changing of nationality is not only the changing of government but, more important, the choosing of government. Here again, individual sovereignty is confirmed. Further, if I have the right to change my nationality, I also have the reciprocal right to renounce my nationality unilaterally, the nation being merely the external vessel into which I pour my portion of sovereignty as long as it serves my purpose. A refugee fleeing a repressive regime may not only have the desire but for sheer survival have to renounce his or her nationality. The United States has recognized the right of expatriation officially since July 27, 1868 by a special Act of Congress.

The essence of democracy is, after all, individual free choice. Realpolitik begins always with what is actual, self-evident.

As of 1945, when both the nuclear age and the proliferation of TV antennas began, your actual citizenship extended horizontally to encircle the globe and vertically to meet hoary-with-age universal ethical standards. A common world government therefore is simply the individual and group recognition of these operative laws.

The only remaining task is to translate them into "positive" or institutional form.

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