The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
We are moving inevitably toward a borderless world.
Multinational corporations, large regional governmental alliances, mass migrations, intermarriage, cooperative global agencies, an increasingly internationalized media landscape and a vast network of electronic linkages have already done much of the work, transcending national boundaries and making borders less and less important.
My son Travis recently traveled to Europe, just as I did as a young man a few decades ago (okay, three and a half decades ago). When I went to England, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, I had to carry a thick file folder to hold the various forms of permission to travel to and enter those countries. My dossier contained several months’ worth of correspondence and diplomatic permissions, visa applications and vaccination records and travel documents. I needed six different kinds of currency, and often spent several hours at border crossings laboriously processing into the next country, where the money-changers made a handsome profit from clueless American tourists like me.
My son carried a single passport, used one currency and moved directly and quickly through every border.
In fact, if you look at the European Union today, it probably best represents how a borderless world might work. Because of its unified nature, nation-state borders can seem as unrestrictive there as state borders in most countries. While the EU remains far from perfected yet, European nations have retained their national identities and their national governments and their national cultures, but they have voluntarily ceded enough of their sovereignty and military power and economic autonomy to act, in many ways, as a United States of Europe.
That model—a federated union of all the world’s nations into one democratic global commonwealth—represents the main social goal of the Baha’i teachings.
Baha’is believe that world unity can bring an end to warfare, stop the expenditure of enormous sums on weapons and armies, increase the world’s prosperity, reduce taxation, and save the lives of millions of people who die of starvation, lack of proper health care, poverty and armed conflict the world over.
But some people have serious concerns about the potential onset of world governance. They claim that a single, elite, excessively-centralized global governing body would inevitably turn into a tyrannical force that could potentially exploit or enslave large swaths of the population, revoke human rights and freedoms, erase national identity and sovereignty, and impose a world-dominating “foreign” ideology and value system on everyone. Those critics have legitimate concerns, and their voices deserve to be heard. But any new form of governance always has its early critics and skeptics—during the American and French revolutions, for example, large portions of those countries’ populations opposed independence and democracy. People whose economic or political interests favored the old systems of government naturally opposed anything new and different.
Baha’is believe, however, that a unified world must and will inevitably happen; and that when it does it needs to carefully balance the questions of centralization and diversity:
Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Baha’u’llah. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men’s hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided. It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 41-42.
The Baha’i teachings recommend unity, not uniformity. They envision a unified, federated, democratic world that guarantees human rights and freedoms to all people. Baha’u’llah teaches that an equal standard of human rights must be recognized and adopted for every person on earth.