Global Governance from the Ground Up: A Biological Perspective

The most obvious and universally accepted goal for global governance -- to keep (or restore) the peace between nations -- is far too narrowly framed within the context of the emerging global challenges of population growth, climate change, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and resurgent nationalism.   The ecological and political underpinnings for global governance and social peace in our increasingly interdependent global economy are being undermined.  

The search for a more peaceful world order must therefore begin with a global approach to the “common good.”  From a biological perspective, every organized human society represents a “collective survival enterprise.”  Its fundamental purpose -- though sometimes obscured and often short-changed -- is to provide for the basic survival and reproductive needs of its people.   Accordingly, the common good for any given society, and by extrapolation for the community of nations as a whole, is to ensure that the basic biological needs of the population (including at least fourteen distinct domains, or categories of needs) are fully provided for.  There must be a commitment to a universal “basic needs guarantee.”

This is an enormously ambitious goal, quite obviously, but it represents a necessary foundation for a “sustainable” world order going forward.  Extreme poverty surrounded by plenty is a sure prescription for social conflict.  And ten thousand years of mixed success with building and maintaining states shows clearly that top-down coercion alone, even when well-meaning, is not an enduring solution.  Only a consensual, “legitimate” system of governance can be stable and enduring.  The institutional strategy for achieving this immensely challenging objective must therefore involve a “polycentric” approach (after the Nobel political scientist Elinor Ostrom).  It will entail both bottom-up and top-down approaches.  Some of the many implications of this strategy include a greatly expanded role (and funding) for local, national, and international health and welfare organizations and government agencies of various kinds.  The relationship of this framework to the United Nations’ ongoing Sustainable Development Goals efforts will be discussed in a future posting.



Peter Corning

Peter Corning is currently the Director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems in Seattle, Washington.  He was also a one-time science writer at Newsweek and a professor for many years in the Human Biology Program at Stanford University, along with holding a research appointment in Stanford’s Behavior Genetics Laboratory.  


Comments Join The Discussion

Articles You May also Like

The “Killer Ape”: Is Warfare in Our Genes? Is It Our Fate?

 Many theorists over the years have embraced idea that collective violence and warfare played a key role in the rise of humankind.

What We Can Learn from Trees

No, it’s not a joke.  Trees have much to teach us, or at least underscore, about living together.  They have been doing it for many millions of years, and we are only now beginning to understand their remarkable social life.

How Will History Judge Donald Trump?

According to the former Arkansas governor and Presidential wannabee, Mike Huckabee, President Trump will rank right up there with Winston Churchill.  Well, Huckabee’s judgment-call about Trump tells you a lot about Huckabee – and about our country.  For starters, his ignorance of history is appalling, and such a glib comparison is, as one commentator put it, “ridiculous”. 

How to Nurture a Democracy

A democratic political system can survive only if it is embedded in a society that allows it to thrive.  Rather like the three essentials for nurturing healthy plants (good soil, adequate water and sunlight), there are at least three nurturing elements that a society must provide, in order for democracy to prosper -- beyond the foundation of a healthy economy.  These elements are (1) the rule of law, (2) elections that are perceived as fair (and where the outcomes are respected), and (3) a political discourse that honors veracity and condemns lying and liars.