Book in Focus
Explorations and Proposals toward Market Socialism and World Government"/>

14th November 2022

Book in Focus
Explorations and Proposals toward Market Socialism and World Government

A Visionary Odyssey

By James A. Yunker

When I commenced my undergraduate college studies in the early 1960s, my viewpoints on both socialism and world government were typical of the majority viewpoints both at that time and since then: they were harshly negative. My perception of socialism was strongly influenced by the horrific conditions prevailing in Stalin’s Soviet Union of the 1930s and 1940s and in Mao’s Red China during the 1950s and 1960s. However, at the same time, I recognized that softer, gentler forms of socialism were possible, as represented, for example, by the cradle-to-grave security of Scandinavian social democracy. Even at its best, though, so I thought, socialism would bring about suffocating bureaucracy, stifling paternalism, and excessive egalitarianism. As for world government, that would most likely be even worse. I accepted without question Kenneth Waltz’s judgment, expressed in Man, the State and War (1959), that “were world government attempted, we might find ourselves dying in the attempt, or uniting and living a life worse than death.”

However, owing to a conjunction of factors, by the end of my freshman college year, I had undergone an epiphany of sorts, the consequence of which was a radical revision of my viewpoints on both socialism and world government. In fact, I had come to believe that both socialism and world government—presuming they were properly designed and implemented—would most likely be extremely beneficial to humanity, and would go far toward assuring a benign future for the human race.

An optimal socialist system would dispense with both the central planning system and the totalitarian political system of Soviet Russia and Red China, as well as certain dysfunctional features of social democracy. However, it would comprise the public ownership of the preponderance of the non-human factors of production capital and natural resources (with a few exceptions such as small business and entrepreneurial business). Such an optimal system would be a variety of democratic market socialism that I labeled “pragmatic market socialism.” The workings of pragmatic market socialism would be virtually identical to those of market capitalism: the only important difference would be that capital property return (dividends, interest, capital gains, and so on), instead of being paid out mostly to a tiny minority of extremely wealthy capitalists, would instead be paid out as a social dividend supplement to labor income (wages and salaries). This would result in a significantly more fair and equal distribution of income, without incurring adverse effects on economic efficiency and growth.

An optimal world government would dispense with certain key characteristics of the “omnipotent world state” as normally envisioned by both the large majority of world government skeptics, as well as the small minority of world government advocates (the “world federalists”). Instead of requiring that all nations without exception become components of the world state, and be forbidden from departing, the optimal world government would maintain an “open door” policy, according to which adherence to the federation would be at the discretion of national governments, and member nations desiring to depart the federation could do so without opposition. Furthermore, in sharp contrast to the “omnipotent world state” concept, which would involve the complete disarmament of the member nations and the concentration of all military power under the control of the world state, an optimal world government would allow the member nations to maintain as much military power as they deemed necessary, including nuclear weapons, under their own independent control. Such an optimal world government, which I designate the “Federal Union of Democratic Nations,” would be a political entity somewhere between the “omnipotent world state,” as envisioned by both world government opponents and world government proponents, and the United Nations of today, which is primarily an international debating society with very limited practical influence and authority.

During my undergraduate college career back in the early 1960s, I perceived a direct link between pragmatic market socialism and the Federal Union of Democratic Nations. Specially, pragmatic market socialism represented a possible bridge over a veritable chasm between communist and non-communist ideologies. If the West would adopt pragmatic market socialism, this could inspire the East to abandon central planning and undemocratic political systems. Both West and East might converge on democratic market socialism: the West coming from democratic market capitalism, and the East coming from oligarchic planned socialism. If such a convergence occurred, it would enable substantial disarmament. Some of the resources thus saved could be diverted into a major global economic development program. With the ideological gap eliminated, and the economic gap rapidly diminishing, an effective and benign federal world government will have become feasible and desirable. This was no less than a “vision” of pragmatic market socialism as the initial stepping stone to federal world government.

This was the basic vision that I continued to elaborate, elucidate, and advocate throughout my long working career in higher education, and beyond. Over a period of approximately sixty years, I published no less than fifteen books, plus dozens of articles, on various aspects of the grand design I first formulated during my college years. During that long period of time, the only major alteration in the grand design was caused by the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991. Following that collapse, there was no longer a need for a bridge over the ideological chasm between communism and non-communism. Thereafter, there was still a case to be made for pragmatic market socialism as an internal reform within the West, but there were no major international ramifications of that case. However, aside from ideology, there were, and still are, two very serious impediments to world government: the economic gap and nationalism.

Not unexpectedly, owing to the focus on socialism and world government within the grand design, there has always been great resistance to these elements. The strongly entrenched misconceptions and preconceptions that heavily encrust these concepts make calm and rational consideration of them virtually impossible for a great many people. Despite this problem, I have, in fact, published voluminously on these ideas and proposals in the professional literature. However, the articles appeared in obscure academic journals, and the books were published as scholarly contributions. There is a critical distinction within the book publishing industry between scholarly titles and “trade” titles. Only trade titles possess significant ability to establish ideas within the realm of general public awareness and discussion. None of my fifteen books was published as a trade title.

Well into my retirement years, I decided to make one final effort to publish a trade title concentrating on socialism (specifically on pragmatic market socialism) and world government (specifically on the Federal Union of Democratic Nations). This would be in the form of an autobiography, in which the substantive ideas would be cushioned, as it were, within an informal, chatty account of my personal life. This would put a “human face” on the ideas, and thus hopefully make them more digestible and appealing to the general reader. My initial effort was a large manuscript entitled A Visionary Life, consisting of almost 650,000 words over 1,300 draft-typeset pages.

Many large-scale, book-length biographies and autobiographies are published as trade titles, but the subjects are normally people of wide recognition and acknowledged importance. Occasionally, what might be termed “memoirs by nobodies” are published as trade titles, but these need to be of fairly modest length and to be highly “readable.” A relatively recent example of this was Angela’s Ashes (1996) by Frank McCourt. This was an account of McCourt’s youth in an Irish household (“Angela” was his mother’s name) beset with extreme poverty verging on subsistence. This book is very much a “good read” because it satisfies the reader’s morbid curiosity about what a subsistence-level life must be like, as well as containing an abundance of curious details, many of which have more than a whiff of Irish blarney about them. Since apparently the single substantive idea in the book is that “poverty is unpleasant,” the book presents no challenges to the typical reader’s preconceived notions and beliefs.

The key difficulty of A Visionary Life, from a publisher’s point of view, is that not only is the author relatively unknown, and the length of the book veritably enormous—but in addition to those serious liabilities, the book is likely to challenge some of the typical reader’s preconceived notions and beliefs. The typical reader is likely to have strong opinions about both socialism (in the public ownership sense) and world government: specifically, that both of them are very bad ideas. It is generally agreed that most people are averse to reading material not in accord with their existing preconceptions and beliefs. Thus, it was not unexpected that I was unable to find a publisher willing to undertake A Visionary Life.

In the past, I was required to condense substantially a number of my book manuscripts as a condition for publication. Therefore, in order to make publication of my Visionary Life memoir more feasible, I decided to jettison most of the coverage of my personal life, in order to focus on my professional career. The condensation, re-titled Visionary Odyssey, got the word-count down from approximately 650,000 to a little under 200,000. Even in its trimmed-down form, Visionary Odyssey still suffers from two principal liabilities: the author is relatively unknown outside of some narrow professional circles, and the book challenges what are likely to be strong preconceived notions of the typical reader. Therefore, the search for a publisher was difficult—as it usually has been for my writings containing original and highly innovative ideas and proposals concerning socialism and world government. Eventually, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (CSP) perceived enough potential in the book to issue a contract. Upon CSP’s recommendation, the title was revised to Explorations and Proposals toward World Government and World Government: A Visionary Odyssey.

Since all my 15 previous books were published as scholarly titles rather than trade titles, and thus the relatively small number of sales were mostly to the larger university libraries, the ideas within them have not yet become part of general public awareness and discussion. Nevertheless, I derive some comfort from the possibility that eventually these ideas, since they are in print and available upon library shelves, will find their way into general public awareness and discussion. In other words, they might eventually be “discovered,” and thus play a significant role in strengthening the future prospects of global human civilization. This is indeed my primary hope for Explorations and Proposals toward Market Socialism and World Government: A Visionary Odyssey.

James A. Yunker is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Western Illinois University, USA. Over his long academic career, he has published 15 books and close to 100 professional articles on a variety of topics in economics and other areas. His research focus is the application of balanced and systematic analysis to the evaluation of controversial issues and policy proposals. His publications include the books Socialism Revised and Modernized: The Case for Pragmatic Market Socialism (1992); Economic Justice: The Market Socialist Vision (1997); On the Political Economy of Market Socialism: Essays and Analyses (2001); Political Globalization: A New Vision of Federal World Government (2007); The Grand Convergence: Economic and Political Aspects of Human Progress (2010); The Idea of World Government: From Ancient Times to the Twenty-First Century (2011); Global Marshall Plan: Theory and Evidence (2014); and Evolutionary World Government: A Pragmatic Approach to Global Federation (2018).

Explorations and Proposals towards Market Socialism and World Government: A Visionary Odyssey is available now in Hardback at a 25% discount. Enter code PROMO25 at checkout to redeem.

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