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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 41, 1998

Political Philosophy

David W. Felder
Pages 63-67

The Call for a World Constitutional Convention
An Application of John Locke’s Theory of Revolution

A movement led by an organization called "One World" is advocating the idea of "Direct Democracy," whereby individuals everywhere would have the opportunity to elect delegates to a world constitutional convention. In theory, any document drafted by this convention would be returned to individuals throughout the world for their approval. The assumption of the Direct Democracy movement is that individuals throughout the world have the right to bypass existing governments in order to establish the rule of law on a global level. Leaders of this movement believe that the Direct Democracy movement is consistent with democratic ideas, including those articulated by Locke. Two questions are at issue. First, do individuals have the right to bypass existing governments in order to establish an international government? Second, is it desirable to establish world government? I conclude that, according to Locke, sovereign power rests with individuals—not governments. Individuals have the right to delegate a portion of their power from one government to another and, when they do so, revolution ensues. Revolution of this sort would be desirable because national governments cannot provide security in the nuclear age. So individuals should transfer some power from the national to the international level. The call for a world constitutional convention is a call for a peaceful revolution that could abolish war.

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