Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010

A Worldwide Government

Fans of that particularly epic sci-fi genre of space opera (think fleets of spaceships and big laser cannons) have long been prepared for the day when earth is ruled by one single, benign government. What's the point of our current world order, that inchoate mess of nation-states and petty geopolitical divisions, when we have far bigger fish — or alien planets — to fry? A host of television series, from Star Trek to Babylon 5 to the short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, all ensured that the political exigencies of our little rock in the solar system were managed by just one global entity: call it a federation or an alliance or even the U.N.

Robert Heinlein, author of the cult novel Starship Troopers (made into a film in 1997), gave considerable thought to what a one-world government would look like. The Terran Federation in Starship Troopers emerges after the world's many democracies collapse into disarray in the 21st century, allowing a group of military vigilantes to establish a kind of global Spartan republic. True citizenship is only conferred after military service — and the whole situation eventually carries creepy, fascist undertones. Even if the Terran Federation would be better prepared to face the threat of those bulbous, bug-eyed arachnids, TIME reckons we'd rather take our chances with what we've got.