Regionalism and world integration

For the past few decades we have observed major experiments aiming at macro-regional organization, based upon an assumed cultural, economic, or defence common interest on the part of participating countries. The institutional arrangements -- NATO, Warsaw Pact, OECD, Comecon, Council of Europe, Organization of American States, etc. -- reveal or disguise varying patterns of reality: in some cases, mutuality; in others, disguised empire. To a limited extent, these organizational arrangements have involved the delegation of revokable power to a collective representative council, operating in accordance with a formula of majority voting. To a limited extent, these organizations reflect the integrative state of confederalism. Some would argue that the European Economic Community is at the federal stage, pointing out that Community organs deal in some respects directly with individuals and corporations, and further arguing that membership in the community is to all extent irrevokable (43). On the other hand, the appointment of Community-level executives, judges, and assemblymen is controlled by governments and parliaments, not by direct vote of Community "citizenship"; and constitutional amendment is likewise controlled by national governments and parliaments acting in concert. Defence rests in the hands of national forces.

During this same period, continental integration has also been taking place in North America -- but through quite a different process. The massive overflow of media, cultural influence, and economic activity across the Canadian border has produced a situation where, to a large extent, the two societies march in step with the cadence determined by American society. The institutional arrangements at the governmental level are not very salient. We find, instead, a daily exchange of visits and messages between officials of corresponding departments; a process of continual negotiation (44).

In Latin America, Africa, and Asia the process of macro-regional integration has not shown much promise. It is also interesting to note that within the context of North American and European integration, there are subsidiary movements which, superficially, appear to be contrary to the integrative trend. The troubles in Belgium and Ireland, however, can be compared to the strife of married couples and adjacent householders who do not plan to quit the community, even though they seek other living arrangements. In the case of Quebec, some Quebecois delude themselves with the belief they can join a macro-regional integration of la francophonie (45). The reality is that whatever arrangements Quebec is able to make with its neighbours, it and Canada are presently and increasingly locked into continentalism 45b.

(Within this continentalism, Canadian/American relationships are rather like the classic marital joke: one spouse decides the unimportant things such as what style of house to live in, car to drive, and housegun to purchase; the other spouse decides important questions such as whether the United States ought to have voted for the seating of the Peking government in the United Nations.)

Advocates of world federal government usually welcome macro-regional organizations. They see such organizations and integration as a step towards the emasculation of the present sovereign state, which otherwise seems unwilling to devolve power. They also visualise macro-regional integration as a repetition of the process whereby the nation-state evolved in Europe from the jurisdictional fragmentation of the post-Roman era. One can equally assume, however, that macro-regional organization is also internally supported as an alternative to globalization, given the extreme difficulty of the latter.
ScaleNumberSize*Counterparts (1970 pop. fig.)
C>7550India (550)
D15240USSR(243), US(205), EEC**
E36100Japan (104), Brazil (95)
F6060West Germany (60)
G7050France (51)
H9040Philippines (38)
I18020Canada (22), California (20)
J36010Belgium (10)
K4508Sweden, Ontario (8)
L6006Switzerland, Quebec (6)
M9004Norway (4)
N18002Queensland (2)
O36001Vancouver Region (1)
P7200.5Acadian, Metro Winnipeg (.5)

*Number/size (in millions) ratio calculated to mid-Seventies estimated world population of 3.6 billion, but with sizes ranged comparable to 1970 actual populations of certain entities. **EEC is 254 with the Six plus UK, Denmark, Norway, Eire.

Looking at present country populations, we note two which stand in classes of their own: China and India. There is then a gap in the scale down to the USSR and US. Another gap and we reach a group consisting of Indonesia(12l), Japan and Brazil (West Pakistan and Bangla Desh combine for a figure of 114). The next group includes West Germany, UK(56), Nigeria(55), Italy(54), Mexico(51) and France. Another gap to the Philippines and a steady progression down to the micro-states like Luxembourg( .3). The chart does not show this progression, but instead includes levels which are particularly relevant in our discussion at this point and later chapters.

There are two ways of organizing a federal structure which concern us in the present context (and we deliberately, for simplicity, confine the discussion to the factor of population). One structure is a system in which the number of parliamentary constituencies is the same as the number of component units; constituencies and member-states have the same boundaries (this is the case with respect to the United States Senate). We could visualize a world federalism in which sixty or seventy areas would be both component units (member-states) and constituencies in a Parliament of Man. This would mean areas at about the F-G position, and a small chamber. President de Gaulle's policy of resisting European integration might have had the long-term effect of fostering such a possibility; it would also have required the splitting-up of the superpowers (which he seemed to desire) and the integration of smaller powers, below the H position (46).

Another structure is one in which the number of constituencies exceeds the number of component units (as is the case with respect to the House of Representatives). Theoretically, there is no necessity for constituency boundaries to be congruent with member-state boundaries, so long as the specific electoral machinery exists to accommodate overlap; i.e., the primary level has its own electoral machinery. We could thus visualize a world federalism in which component units at a position somewhere in the B-E scale are accompanied by constituencies of the Parliament of Man at about the I-L scale. If the House of Representatives is any analogy, 450 (K) is an unwieldy number of constituencies. The UK House of Commons would provide an even more unwieldy analogy (for the L position), were it not for factors in the architecture and political culture of Parliament which give it the flavour of a much smaller chamber.

Communications technology can permit persons to "attend" a meeting electronically rather than physically. Nevertheless, there are limitations on the number of persons who can effectively share and exchange messages in an intense process of participation. About ten persons function as a group without formal rules of debate. About one hundred function well as a flexible but formalized debating chamber. In the hundreds, a chamber divides clearly into "audience" and "show", and the audience is inclined to "pair" and absent itself for other activities. In the House of Representatives, and increasingly in the Canadian House of Commons, the real legislative function of members is to man parliamentary committees (the constituency "ambassador to the administration" function could just as well be performed by a hired agent). Thus, while constituencies at the J-L position would not facilitate a chamber of debate in full attendance, they could accommodate a parliament of committees.

Present federations function with from about five to fifty component units. A classic federalism assumes two (or more) separate and distinct spheres of government, held in their proper (as defined) jurisdictions by a mechanism of supervision such as a supreme court. From this perspective, there is no need for the component units or member-states to assemble together. In reality, many federalisms are accompanied by conferences attended by the two levels of government (47). This is a salient feature of Canadian federalism and is also reflected in such US mechanisms as the interstate oil compact. When the number of member-states is small (around ten), any gathering of prime minister and premiers, or president and governors, tends to take on a "cabinet" or "executive" flavour -- and thus may tend to reflect confederalism rather than federalism, particularly if the conference agenda proceeds by majority vote.

Quite apart from other considerations, a crystallization at the D position would tend to produce a "committee of fifteen" and thus a confederal rather than a federal style. If this pattern were carried down to lower levels, we would arrive at a four-level structure of (1) A, (2) D, (3) I-J, and (4) O. In such a structure, either the I-J components, or combinations of O components, could also provide the constituencies of a Parliament of Man (A level). The fourth level would integrate municipal administration and rural area planning; and by virtue of its size the average metropolis would be a fourth-level unit in its own right (48). On our procrustean bed of numbers, the metropoli of more than a million population would be candidates for dismemberment, which is what many critics would welcome.

A three-level system of thirty-six level-two units, and carrying through with the same multiplication factor to the third level, would give us (1) A, (2) E, (3) M-N. In terms of present populations, this would require the bisection of the superpowers, and would admit larger metropoli to the ranks of the third level. A three-level system of twenty-five units, also carrying through the same multiplication factor to the third level, would give us (1) A, (2) D-E, (3) K-L. In terms of present populations, this would preserve the great powers, and exclude all but a handful of great cities from the third level. The third level could also provide the constituencies of a parliament at the A level. There would be no place within this structure for the present middle powers, and for the most part it would require a framework for municipal administration in addition to level three.

In reality, of course, the population size of units is only one factor in the drawing of boundaries, even in a hypothetical exercise such as this. A structure need not follow through with a consistent multiplication factor. Electronic communications and advanced transportation can provide considerable flexibility in what are considered desirable unit sizes throughout the structure; much greater flexibility than prevailed in other times when, for example, the county was predicated on the distance a man could ride horseback in one day in order to do business at the county seat. Finally, the emerging structure will not follow the neat mathematical dictates of theoreticians; though thinking about such possibilities may have some influence on the process.

Federalism the ultimate solution?

As daily tensions around the world indicate, every sort of nation related to a specific territory is asserting claims for liberation (49) (though each in turn may represent domination for sub-groups and individuals within). Furthermore, a partial solution to the problems of less territorially-defined cultural minorities -- such as the assertive sect, the lesbian, etc. -- might well be to facilitate localization on a voluntary communities basis as mentioned in our section on Voluntary systems and activities, and as has in fact occurred when one community tolerates a certain activity while another does not. Paradoxically, the very media oriented towards the amusement of the more prosperous sectors has contributed to the revolution of rising expectations around the world. Paradoxically, the very anonymity of the urban society has sheltered cultural diversity and permitted it to grow to the point of cohesion where it seeks to throw off the inhibitions of anonymity. Diversity without mobility is village tyranny (50). Diversity with mobility can contribute to the range of choices open to man and thus enrich life.

At the same time, however, the life-in-common of man on a shrinking planet requires the organization of certain shared facilities -- such as the transportation which makes mobility possible -- and the establishment of essential norms where one individual or group comes in contact with another. A rationale of federalism is that it permits diversity between its component units while at the same time providing common facilities and norms in another dimension or sphere of life. However, as we have seen earlier in the chapter, it may not be possible to adequately accommodate diversities by assigning uniform powers to the component units; and the assigning of differing powers, or delegation of powers between levels, creates other problems. By contrast, in a unitary system, there is more flexibility and a potential for delegating specific liberties to specific locations, as occurs when a large city is granted powers differing from those of villages. Since ultimate responsibility still rests with all of the legislators (or executive cabinet) at the unitary level, there is justification for a legislator from one area (the village) to participate in the formulation of the basic law of another (the city, and vice versa). This latter phenomenon offers its own problems: it calls for considerable restraint, as when the United Kingdom Parliament at large enacts legislation affecting the civil law of Scotland (which differs from that of England).

We have also observed the problems which arise when one component unit of a federal structure has greater access to revenue than another. A solution to this problem might be the imposition of a uniform rate of tax throughout the system, and the redistribution of benefits on a uniform basis throughout the system, where component units would impose their own taxation for unit purposes (permitting individuals and corporations to move from one unit to another if they did not feel the benefit of unit programs). Such an approach would place the primary determination of social equity in a single framework. The framework could include the participation of the two (or more) levels of government; but like all such intergovernmental machinery within a federation, this means that the individual's left arm is represented by one level and his right by another with respect to a single topic. Such bifurcated representation is questionable, inasmuch as the component units still have the right to raise revenue for unit purposes. On the other hand, if the basic tax system (which, of course, could include a negative "tax" feature) were to take too much of disposable income, the base for unit imposition would be denied, and the matter would no longer be a "single topic". The essential point, without exploring all the techniques of equalization, is that the problems of equitable revenue-gathering and redistribution are comparable for both federal and decentralized-unitary systems. The federal system, unless its resources are homogenous, tends to produce a demand for equalization. The decentralized-unitary system calls for an equitable balance between the wishes of the system-at-large and the needs of specific subordinate jurisdictions. In both cases, the units seek a potential tax base or grants-in-lieu. One might in the end opt for the flexibility which the decentralized-unitary system offers in contrast to federalism.

In either federal or decentralized-unitary systems, activities taking place at a specific location may produce the query of "why should we not especially benefit from our specific effort expended in the exploitation of these resources?" Such a query is the same as that raised by specific strata of the work force within any productive society. The extent to which this query is accepted or rejected depends upon the society's desire to promote equality or incentive. The resulting equation reflects the value system of the society. A federal country has already, by virtue of its holding together, achieved a common value system in at least some dimensions; and may in fact surpass many unitary countries in this respect. Obviously, the common value system of the globe is, in tangible terms rather than verbalized platitudes, at a low level of realization. This is why the evolutionists of the global political organization of mankind presume that regional and global federalisms are the only alternative to empire, if man is to advance to a higher stage of organization.

The process is potentially more complex than that, however. It is not beyond the realm of the possible, for example, that regional federalisms (macro-regional, of course) pass directly in combination to a global decentralized-unitary structure. Federalism, like confederalism and other points in the spectrum, can be a way-station in either the integration or disintegration of a wider society. The path is not unidirectional; the process may advance and retreat, advance and retreat, reflecting the values of those participating in the process, and the tools available to them.

Within each of the present countries of the world there is expression of an ethic frequently espoused with respect to the governance of that country: that no one group or individual should be permitted to assert an undue claim on the economic, political, and cultural resources of the society ("undue", "unfair", etc., are, of course, highly subjective terms)
(65). The basis is there for a value-system of mankind. Such a value-system might coalesce much more rapidly than an observation of the present realities would suggest. Global communication, as it becomes truly global, will lead struggling peoples around the world to see the common core of their complaints. When the ethic of equity is asserted across frontiers, as well as within them, the basis is provided for the evolution of world federalism and perhaps an ultimate stage: decentralized-unity.

A problem in any complex society, particularly a federal or decentralized-unitary structure, is the welter of messages directed at individuals and organizations therein. When these conflict in a federal structure it takes the slow and costly process of court or constitutional action, or the willing cooperation of levels, to untie the knot. A decentralized-unitary structure offers greater potential flexibility. A decentralized-unitary world-government structure would not see the global level reaching down in a continuing concern with the specific affairs of 3600 (0) or 7200 (P) sub-jurisdictions. Given the tremendous data-processing capacities of electronic technology, it could conceivably operate a global taxation-redistribution system in the same manner that tax returns presently flow from the millions. But less routine matters require human decision-making, and human attention is predicated on the capacities of man more than machine.

In practise, then, a decentralized-unitary structure would operate at higher levels much like a federal system, in that it would confine itself to major, common problems. But it would reserve the ability to redefine such problems as they arise. A global government would certainly want to control the ability of any sub-group to wage war. It would appropriately supervise intercontinental transportation and communications, and ensure the freedom of mobility of goods and persons, for peaceful purposes. But it would retain the ability to reach down, if occasion should demand. For example, a particular activity might discharge pollution in a manner affecting many sub-jurisdictions; higher levels of the structure may then be obliged to intervene, if the local jurisdiction failed to act.

It is understandable to scoff at proposals for world political structure; and quite correct to say that globalization does not eradicate the perennial problem of achieving democracy and equity within society. But the alternative -- an equitable, peaceful, global-problem-solving system of sovereign states -- is equally if not more utopian a dream. Of the two utopias, the former has greater chance of ultimate success; and an inability to evolve into it would threaten our very survival.

Meanwhile, we are faced with the very immediate question of what can be done to strengthen a demoralized United Nations? In the short run, proposals for the reform of its machinery are no more productive than visualizing models of multi-level federalism; although in the long rim, speculating about alternatives may have some worthwhile influence. A more tangible change would be effected if the organization were to secure a specific operational function, and derive direct revenue in the context of that function. If its headquarters were located in a jurisdiction over which it had "sovereignty" -- similar to the Vatican City State -- it could perhaps offer incorporation on reasonable terms to multinational corporations and derive revenue from them. The sense of exploitation which attends the multinational corporation would be considerably lessened if we knew that its profits were taxed for global purposes.

At present, the UN's largest source of revenue apart from governmental subventions is its profits on the sale of UN stamps, valid for postage at the point of purchase. The profit of $3.85 million in 1970 exceeded the contribution of all but eight member states. The UN, through the Universal Postal Union, might be given the function of managing intercontinental postage, communications, and transportation. The stumbling-block is the unwillingness of the superpowers to let the organization grow in these directions, and the fear of states like Rhodesia that such mechanisms would face them with more effective constraint. The UN's postage revenue system crept in by oversight, as it were, as did its publishing activities. Where are the further oversights for a creative Secretariat to nurture? The collection and sale of data? What else?

It is too soon in the game to give up hope. Change is more rapid than the moment leads us to believe. A generation ago, the sun never set on the British Empire. A decade ago, China was struggling to emerge from technological dependence upon the Soviet Union. America's current problems may give Canada a moment of breathing-space in which to mature, or conversely prompt America into a desperate move to secure Canada's resources. Similarly, rapid change may become evident in the structure of world society, and the process of international organization take as yet unforeseen turns.

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