Increasingly, our nation—and the overall system of nations itself—doesn’t seem to offer new generations much hope for a viable future.
Why? Well, many nations, seeking to build up their armaments and armies, and struggling to maintain a sufficient tax base to justify such spending, have consequently cut back on funding for education and healthcare. Also, national conflicts and proxy wars put the burden on the young to fight and die. Once strong nations run out of natural resources, they often prey on weak ones, which makes them weaker. The tremendous pollution emitted by the world’s industrial powerhouse nations continues to chiefly disadvantage the poorest ones. Capital can easily move across national borders, but labor can’t.
For these and many other reasons—and despite the world’s robust economic growth—most parents today cannot look forward to their children having a higher standard of living than they do. This fact alone has caused enormous unrest, anxiety and political backlash.
Countries have made herculean attempts to fix these issues—but what if, as the Baha’i teachings tell us, the core problem goes back to the very system of countries themselves?
… the fundamental cause of this world unrest is attributable … to the failure of those into whose hands the immediate destinies of peoples and nations have been committed, to adjust their system of economic and political institutions to the imperative needs of a rapidly evolving age …
Are not these intermittent crises that convulse present-day society due primarily to the lamentable inability of the world’s recognized leaders to read aright the signs of the times, to rid themselves once for all of their preconceived ideas and fettering creeds, and to reshape the machinery of their respective governments according to those standards that are implicit in Baha’u’llah’s supreme declaration of the Oneness of Mankind—the chief and distinguishing feature of the Faith He proclaimed? – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 36.
Let’s take, just as one example of this refusal to respond to the call of the age, the global financial elites and their prodigious wealth. Today, Credit Suisse estimates, the globe’s richest 1% own half (50.1%) of the world’s $280 trillion dollars in total wealth—while the world’s 3.5 billion poorest adults, who account for 70% of the planet’s working age population, account for just 2.7% of global wealth.
This disparity is bad enough in and of itself, but its consequences are worse. Countries have increasingly lost the ability to fairly and justly tax the super-wealthy, who can move their money around in international markets and tax havens, using various tax-avoidance schemes that allow them to stop paying their fair share. This means that all of that concentrated wealth not only remains in the hands of the wealthy; but that it also fails to benefit the societies where it originated.
When a country loses its ability to tax its wealthiest residents, it has to cut back somewhere. Typically, the cutbacks come at the expense of those who have the least political power—children, the poor and the disenfranchised:
Today’s failure of national political authority, after all, derives in large part from the loss of control over money flows. At the most obvious level, money is being transferred out of national space altogether, into a booming “offshore” zone. These fleeing trillions undermine national communities in real and symbolic ways. They are a cause of national decay, but they are also a result: for nation states have lost their moral aura, which is one of the reasons tax evasion has become an accepted fundament of 21st-century commerce. …
The history of the nation state is one of perennial tax innovation, and the next such innovation is transnational: we must build systems to track transnational money flows, and to transfer a portion of them into public channels. Without this, our political infrastructure will continue to become more and more superfluous to actual material life. In the process we must also think more seriously about global redistribution: not aid, which is exceptional, but the systematic transfer of wealth from rich to poor for the improved security of all, as happens in national societies. – Rana Dasgupta, The Demise of the Nation State, The Guardian, April 5, 2018.
This mega-problem, shared by all of the world’s nations but soluble by none of them alone, can only be addressed by a global system of governance. Like war and like climate change and like the great disparity between wealth and poverty, all of the world’s most pressing problems resist any purely nation-based solution.
The Baha’i teachings have given us a way to solve these seemingly overwhelming issues—we just need to apply it:
The burgeoning influence of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation [has] assumed the character of an onrushing wind blowing through the archaic structures of the old order, felling mighty pillars and clearing the ground for new conceptions of social organization. The call for unity, for a new world order, is audible from many directions. The change in world society is characterized by a phenomenal speed. A feature of this change is a suddenness, or precipitateness, which appears to be the consequence of some mysterious, rampant force. The positive aspects of this change reveal an unaccustomed openness to global concepts, movement towards international and regional collaboration, an inclination of warring parties to opt for peaceful solutions, a search for spiritual values. – The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 103.