Opera Omnia Luigi Einaudi

The nature of a world peace

Tipologia: Paragrafo/Articolo – Data pubblicazione: 01/07/1940

The nature of a world peace

«The Annals of the American Academy of political and social science», July 1940, pp. 66-67




The present European war is not an economic or a political or a social war. If it were, it would be possible to patch up some sort of compromise. But this is a religious war; it is a clash of life ideals. Men use languages which are to each other utterly incomprehensible. As in the religious wars, men see in those who are in the opposite camp not simply enemies, but unbelievers, for whom the only practicable remedy, after excommunication, is hell’s eternal fire.



How could a written settlement change this attitude of mind? There must be a beginning of a common language, of a common ideal, before reaching an understanding leading to a durable settlement. There is not the least probability that such a beginning can be made during the war, or after a compromise peace, which would be only a temporary truce.



A durable settlement is possible only after the crushing defeat of one of the two opposite religious ideals.



TWO WAYS OPEN: To the victor, whoever he will be, two ways will be open:



a)    Unify Europe and the European dependencies on the pattern of the Napoleonic Empire or, better, the Roman Empire: one ruler, one law, one religion. This is a feasible plan, and it could succeed. It could succeed all the more easily if the victor were willing to limit his absolute rule. If unification were pursued only in the political and economic fields, that is, in the fields relevant to the ruler, leaving men free to believe, as in the old Roman Empire, in their respective national gods side by side with the imperial god, and to speak in their native languages as well as in the official language, and to follow their native folkways, the success could be permanent, at least as permanent as things human can be.


b)    Unify Europe and dependencies on a federal plan, on the pattern of the United States of America. This is a much more difficult enterprise and it would take much more time. The gravest difficulty to be overcome in this case would be the unification of spirits without recourse to the suppression of unbelievers. If, however, this solution were preferred, such preference could not but be the consequence of the belief of the victor in self-rule, his respect toward dissentient opinions, and his confidence in the law-abiding conduct of dissentient minorities. In the Europe of today these are more hopes than realities. But education and strict enforcement of the law could, on a very long view, do much toward achievement of this ideal. The plan b could, therefore, succeed also.



What will be the reaction of the outer world to each of these two settlements is not my concern to investigate. Probably the reaction will be different according as the solution a or b prevails. In any case, one thing is doomed: the idea of the sovereign state whose sovereignty is absolute and self-complete. No written treaties, no Leagues of Nations formed by the many sovereign states of the world, will permit this fossil remnant of past ages to survive. In this our age of railways, sea and air navigation, telegraphs, telephones, and other communications, the anachronistic sovereign state must go. The present war, with its daily violations of so-called international law, i.e., rules of behavior among sovereign states, is hastening the disappearance of a fiction. Perhaps this will be the best and the only sure outcome of the tragedy.

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