Rule the World

There is probably not a person alive who has not, at one time or another, wished they were in charge of the world so they could fix some of the things wrong with it. I am no different in this regard. There are so many evils in the world that need correcting, so many worthy causes that need support, that no one person can possibly do it all, not even if one had an entire lifetime to devote solely to that purpose. Some days, the weight of compassion is overwhelming, and the only escape is to dream of sweeping it all aside in one stroke and starting over, crafting a new world that will not suffer from the problems of the old.

And so I imagine, what would it be like if I could remake things from the top down? If I was the unquestioned ruler of the planet with limitless power to reshape society as I saw fit, what would be the result?

Political Organization

One must tread carefully when playing God. If the potential to improve the world is vast, the potential to make it far worse is even greater. If the society I create is not to collapse into chaos or stultify into despotism, it will have to be flexible, able to adapt to new situations; fair and equitable, treating all people equally and protecting the rights of the individual; and most importantly, it will have to derive its power from the consent of the governed.

That means representative democracy, where people vote to elect leaders who then represent their interests. Less centralized systems, such as pure democracy, would not work – a large society needs more order and structure than they can provide. Spreading power out over too many people would result in infighting and stagnation and limit the vital ability to act swiftly and decisively in times of crisis. However, putting too much power in the hands of too few is potentially far worse – as it has been said, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Without checks on the power of the leaders, oligarchies inevitably become dictatorships. A balance must be struck between these two extremes, and representative, republican democracy is what emerges.

However, an unrestricted democracy has the potential to be almost as bad as a dictatorship – there is a risk that it could become a “tyranny of the majority” where unpopular groups are oppressed for no reason other than the majority’s dislike of them. The solution to this problem is to place bounds on the majority’s power, by establishing a global constitution that defines the rights all people possess and enumerates the limits on what government may and may not do. Basic, fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly and freedom of association would be guaranteed by this document, which could be amended by a super-majority of voters – possibly two-thirds or three-fourths – but otherwise, any law that contradicted it would be null and void.

Beyond the guarantees of the global constitution, further checks and balances would be placed on the government to ensure the wise and fair use of its power. This would be done by dividing the government into three main branches, the same three common to most republican democracies today: a legislative branch, an executive branch, and a judicial branch. The legislative branch, which would in all cases be unicameral, would be composed of a number of elected legislators proportional to the number of people they represent, and would have as its purpose to propose and pass laws, which could be done by a simple majority. The executive, a single person, could put a bill passed by the legislature into force by approving it, or they could veto it, in which case it could still be enacted into law if the legislature overrides the veto with a two-thirds vote. It would also be the function of the executive to ensure that laws were appropriately enforced, via control of the appropriate agencies. Executives would be able to issue pardons, but this could also be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. Finally, the judicial branch would supervise trials brought against those who violated the laws; if the constitutionality of a law was challenged, the judicial branch would also rule on that, striking the law down if it was found to violate constitutional guarantees. Judges would be nominated by the executive and confirmed or rejected by the legislative branch; a single judge could preside over ordinary trials, while a panel would be required to rule on the constitutionality of a law. If the majority of such a panel found a law unconstitutional, that decision could be overruled, but only by the unanimous consent of both executive and legislative branches.

The essence of dictatorship is that one or a few individuals hold all the power and no one can overrule their decisions. This system prevents that from happening by ensuring the opposite: everyone‘s decision can be overruled by someone else. No one is exempt from oversight. The legislative and executive branches can veto each other’s decisions, and the judicial branch can strike down any act of the other two, whereas they can act in concert to overrule it. (However, as befits important matters of constitutional law, they can only do so with a unanimous vote – hopefully, reflecting a durable and overwhelming societal consensus in favor of the position they advocate rather than the shifting wind of public opinion. This is also why judges are appointed rather than elected, in order to partially insulate them from outside pressure that might otherwise influence their decisions.) And of course, all three branches of government are ultimately accountable to the voting public. The length of a term of office, as well as the maximum number of times the same person could serve in the same office, would be set by the constitution.

This society would be divided into four levels of organization, in order of increasing sovereignty: local, regional, national and global. The three-branch system described above would be repeated at every level of organization, with one caveat: a court would be restricted to considering the constitutionality of a law made at the same level of government or lower; a regional court could not strike down a federal law, for example. This would ensure that new laws would not be subject to a “heckler’s veto” where any contrarian judge anywhere in the world could annul them.

In deciding exactly where to set borders in this new global society, I would rely upon present boundaries as much as possible. However, a few could be redrawn: groups of sufficiently large size asserting a unique cultural identity that lived within the boundaries of a currently existing nation-state might get their own nation, especially if doing so would prevent conflict. On the other hand, states that wished to merge could also do so.

It is on levels above the nation-state that this system would differ most significantly from what currently exists. Just as counties combine into provinces and provinces combine into nations, the nations themselves would be united into a larger structure – the world government. This would consist of a world senate, with a delegation from each nation-state, a world executive or secretary-general, and one or more world courts whose members are nominated and confirmed by the senate. There could be a World Court of Law whose purpose is to interpret and defend the global constitution, a World Court of Justice to enforce violations of international law and settle disputes between nations, a World Court of Human Rights to safeguard the rights of individuals and groups within nations, and so on. Laws passed by the world senate and decisions of the world courts would be binding on individual states, just as within the current system local authorities are subordinate to the regional and in turn to the federal governments. Ideally, national and regional authorities would manage the affairs and concerns of their own people with minimal interference from the global government, which would only deal with issues of broader scope.

In this system, there would be no electoral college or other intermediate structures; all elections would be by direct popular vote. Registering to vote would not be a matter of attaining a specific age, but would instead be merit-based. An aspiring voter would be required to pass a simple exam demonstrating that they understood the structure of the government and the functions of its various branches, the rights citizens possess, and the stances of various factions on important current issues. The voting exam would be given frequently at public testing centers and would also be given in public schools beginning at age 13. There would, of course, be no fee for taking it. Maintaining one’s status as a registered voter would require retaking and passing the exam at least once every five years. There would be no rewards or privileges for voting, nor would there be any punishment for not participating (other than forsaking one’s right to take part in the decision-making process). Naturally, however, voting would be heavily encouraged and seen as a solemn privilege.

Economy

We next consider the question of economic organization. While capitalism has its flaws, the alternatives turn out in practice to be much worse. Systems that are either too decentralized or too tightly state-controlled cannot adequately handle supply and demand; they lack any means to direct resources where they are most needed and fail to provide sufficient incentive for people to work their hardest. As in other things, the solution is a tradeoff: our economic system will be capitalist at its foundations, but state-regulated to curb abuses and provide incentives for businesses to make choices that are socially responsible and wise in the long term. There will be laws against monopolies, insider trading, nepotism, workplace discrimination and other anti-competitive behavior, just as there are now; however, this system will also mandate that companies pay for their own externalities, the “side effects” of their operation that in the present system are shouldered by others. For example, a power plant that produces pollution would be required to pay for the cost of cleaning up that pollution. In this way, the actual cost of products and services would reflect the true cost of their production. There would also be worldwide laws regulating workplace conditions, child labor, fair pay and the right to unionize. The global constitution would include, in one section, a bill of ethics for businesses and corporations.

This economic system will also treat individuals differently. Wealth honestly earned is certainly acceptable as an incentive up to a point, but in the current system the gap between rich and poor is unacceptably large, with a large majority who possess almost nothing and a tiny few who are rich beyond all justification. It is selfish and immoral for anyone to enjoy excessive material comforts while others suffer in extreme poverty; moreover, gross economic inequality and exploitation lead to the kind of desperation that produces crime, war, and terrorism. This system would fix that with philanthropy laws requiring all individuals who are worth more than a certain amount (perhaps three or four standard deviations above the average societal income) to reinvest a scaling percentage of their wealth in society by donating it to charitable causes.

By definition, not everyone can be rich, and the prospect of making a profit is a fine way to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. There will always be some people who are wealthier than others. However, no one should be so poor that they lack the basic necessities of life – a safe, spacious and sanitary place to live, a clean environment, nutritious food, heat and electricity, education, health care, and work that pays a living wage. These should not be luxuries for the well-off, but rights guaranteed to every person, contingent on their willingness to participate in society in return. As much of this as possible should be funded by the people themselves, by their participation in whatever useful work can be found for them (communal gardens, city beautification). The rest, hopefully, can be funded by proceeds from the philanthropy laws described above; any deficit can be made up by increasing taxes on for-profit businesses, and finally by raising individual income taxes only if such becomes necessary. Hopefully, this system will reduce the social impact of poverty to nearly nothing and boost society’s overall happiness and productivity.

The Environment

Protecting the planetary environment would be of principal importance in this world. It is imperative to refrain from waste and pollution and use our resources wisely and sustainably, not just for the sake of our own health, but also because the natural world provides us with far more benefits than most people realize. With this in mind, laws would be passed both to expand existing parks and set aside much more wild land as protected, with a special emphasis on protecting extremely diverse or ecologically sensitive habitats (coral reefs, rainforests, wetlands), protecting habitats harboring endangered species, and creating “corridors” linking existing preserves to undo fragmentation and give species as much contiguous space as possible. The intent of this would be both to maximize biodiversity, allowing the maximum number of species to live and flourish alongside humans, and to preserve the beauty and the grandeur of wilderness for human beings to enjoy in sustainable ways. All destructive activities such as mining, logging, construction and vehicular traffic would be banned in these designated wilderness areas. Sustainable eco-tourism would be allowed, with proceeds going to local communities.

Pollution emissions, including greenhouse gases, would be strictly regulated, with the intent of eventually attaining zero-emissions standards for all current sources as soon as it is technologically feasible. Fossil fuels would also be phased out as soon as possible in favor of clean and renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar power; cities could be turned into “solar farms” with the installation of solar panels on the roof of every house. Regulations in business would require that all industrial output be produced sustainably – strip-mining, clear-cutting, and other inherently destructive practices would be outlawed. Beyond this, tax incentives would be provided to corporations that reduce the amount of waste generated by their products, to encourage right behavior.

Farming as well would be fundamentally altered in this system. Instead of the massive, centralized monoculture farms common today, which deplete the soil and require huge amounts of toxic pesticide, agriculture would be moved toward a decentralized model, with many smaller community farms growing a wider variety of crops together. Likewise, the crowded factory conditions that animals are often raised under today are inhumane and unsanitary, requiring livestock to be fed massive amounts of antibiotics to prevent infections and thus promoting the development of resistance among dangerous pathogens. Such concentrated operations would be outlawed; again, the emphasis would be moved to a more decentralized network of smaller and more sustainable farms, with laws mandating a minimum amount of open space per animal. This would be both more sanitary and more humane. Finally, for animals that are harvested from the wild – especially fish – a global regulatory commission would be created that would set limits for sustainable catches.

Since all environmental problems are fundamentally linked to issues of social justice, this world would emphasize both in equal measure. Of course, a planetary constitution guaranteeing equal rights for all and enforced by a global court of justice would go a long way toward preventing currently common abuses such as exploitation of the labor of people in poorer countries. Another important aspect of social justice and environmental protection is population control – ensuring that the planet does not host more humans than it can support. Universal education including a comprehensive sex ed course, discussed below, would help enormously in this regard, and universal health care would make it unnecessary for couples to have more children to act as a social safety net. However, it would also be a high priority to make safe and effective methods of contraception universally available and free.

Education

Without a doubt, the one factor that most determines whether a society thrives or collapses is the education of its citizens. For this reason, this ideal world would place more emphasis and importance on the educational system than on any other institution. Public schools would be free, secular, universally available, and open to all, and attendance at a public or accredited private school would be mandatory until the age of 18. One of the primary purposes of schools would be to act as open forums where students would be exposed to a broad spectrum of ideas and all points of view could be aired; needless to say, schools whose main function was to indoctrinate a specific worldview or belief system into their students would not be accredited.

Since the task of teachers is so important, they deserve exemplary treatment and the highest respect; but on the other hand, this role carries an equally high burden of responsibility. To that end, tenure would be eliminated, and teachers would be required to take a test demonstrating their competency in their chosen subject every five to ten years, to ensure that only the best educators fill these positions. In the core subjects, there would be universal educational standards and curricula, enforced by standardized testing. But with these new regulations would also come a wealth of funding ensuring that schools would always be able to attract skilled educators and would always have access to the latest educational materials. Of course, beyond the core mandated subjects, schools would be free to customize their curricula to suit local differences.

Unlike the present school system, which mainly attempts to force students to memorize facts, the new system will consider teaching students how to think to be at least as important as teaching them what to think. Courses in logical reasoning, skepticism and the fundamentals of the scientific method will be given every year alongside other core competencies such as math, language and science. Students will be thoroughly drilled in critical thinking and taught things such as how to correctly use statistics and how to recognize and reject common logical fallacies. In discussion, students will be asked to both defend and criticize various arguments; case studies will also be provided of past pseudoscientific movements such as creationism, astrology, UFOlogy, Holocaust denial, psychic claims and alternative medicine, and students will be asked to show why people were fooled by such claims and what errors of reasoning they committed that prevented them from recognizing their mistakes.

This educational system will also emphasize science and technology to a greater extent than the current one. Both will be core competencies, taught every year in public schools, with one class covering theoretical and one covering applied science. Naturally, these classes will have to be constantly updated to stay current, teaching students both about firmly established facts as well as debates on the cutting edge of research. When there is a legitimate scientific debate over an issue, students will be taught about all sides and the arguments presented by each. Forming one’s own opinions will be encouraged; indeed, tests might ask students to take a position and defend it rather than simply regurgitating facts.

Another new core competency would be a course in ethics, if not every year then at least every few years. The admirable ethical pronouncements of many religious and cultural leaders would be listed and studied, and students would be taught how to behave morally, with an emphasis on social responsibility and integrating these teachings into their own lives.

This emphasis on a rigorous scientific education will continue up through the university and graduate school levels; as in the current system, both private and public universities will exist, though both will have to pass strict standards for accreditation. Government-paid tuition would make a university education at a public institution free for all those admitted, and would go as far as possible to lessen the cost of a comparable program at private colleges. Public institutions that help to educate people, such as museums and libraries, would also receive additional funding.

Science

Next, we consider the structure of scientific research itself. In this ideal world, the progress of science would be a public good second in importance only to the educational system, and would be funded by society correspondingly. As it is now, much research would take place at universities, with professors teaching classes while they carry on their work, but there would also be a number of prestigious research institutes, each dedicated to a specific branch of science, where especially promising or important work could be carried out free of distraction. To make sure this new funding was allocated usefully, peer review boards would be created, composed of experts in their own fields, that would determine which proposals had the most potential benefits and which were most likely to succeed. However, to help incubate the revolutionary ideas that are so essential to scientific progress, a certain small percentage of funding would always be reserved for properly scientific proposals that run counter to mainstream thought.

While research into a broad variety of questions would be encouraged, special funding would be allocated to support research into some of the most promising and potentially beneficial areas. In physics and engineering, this would be controllable fusion energy, room-temperature superconductivity, increased computing power, and nanotechnology, while in biology it would be genetics, a thorough mapping of the genome with emphasis on learning how to modify it. The primary purpose of this research would be to eliminate inherited genetic disorders and learn to regenerate the human body, curing conditions such as blindness or paralysis. Once this is done, however, research would turn to a more ambitious task: improving the human genome as a whole, correcting instances of bad design such as the vestigial appendix, improving desirable qualities such as strength, disease resistance and intelligence, and even extending the human lifespan, perhaps indefinitely. One of the ultimate goals would be engineering humans that have conscious control over their own fertility, making worries about population control a thing of the past.

However, with new technology as powerful as this must come an equally strong set of ethical guidelines for using it. In this world, parents would not be allowed to customize the characteristics of their children. Only general improvements, such as those discussed above, would be permitted, and such improvements would not be released to anyone until they could be applied to the entire population. Genetic engineering could also be turned to our advantage in other species, turning our farmlands into virtual Gardens of Eden. Of course, it goes without saying that the technology would be used only in conjunction with sustainable farming techniques, to benefit humanity by making agriculture more productive and more stable.

The astronomical community would also be given two important new tasks, along with the construction of a new network of sophisticated telescopes, both ground-based and space-based, to carry them out. One would be to protect our planet by constantly scanning the sky for incoming asteroids, comets and other interstellar objects that might strike the Earth, so that we would have plenty of advance warning to defend ourselves by destroying the object or at least diverting its path. The second would be to use those same observatories to search for signals from intelligent extraterrestrial life. While these are both long shots, the potential payoff from either of them is beyond measure.

The scientific community would have one final, important function – to decide what subjects would be taught in the universal core curriculum of science classes in public schools. A majority vote of qualified experts in a given field would be used to determine which theory should be emphasized the most. However, any theory that won more than a certain percentage of total votes (perhaps 10%) would receive its own time and consideration, and sidebars would always be presented illuminating current debates and the views of iconoclasts. Of course, constitutional mandates would rule out any alternatives that are inherently non-scientific, such as creationism, from being taught in science classes. These could still be presented as case studies in critical thinking classes, however.

Law & Justice

Utopia this society may hopefully be, but every civilization must deal with issues of law and justice. The legal system, therefore, will be set up to ensure swift, impartial resolutions to both criminal and civil cases.

The legal system in this society will guarantee a trial by jury. Jurors will be chosen randomly from the population, although in certain types of cases an emphasis may be placed on jurors who have some familiarity with the subject matter of the trial. A rigorous education in critical thinking will have a huge reforming effect on this system, by providing jurors who can understand and evaluate complicated scientific evidence and who will not be swayed by fallacious arguments. Judges, lawyers and other legal professionals will receive an even more thorough drilling in principles of logically valid argumentation, and in the field of law, as in medicine, a rigorous code of ethics would be established.

Other measures would also be adapted to correct some problems with the current legal system. Stronger protections against frivolous lawsuits, with correspondingly greater penalties for filing such suits, would prevent the legal system from being used as a means of harassment. (A “common sense” standard would apply wherein the issue is whether a reasonable person would consider it common sense that the suit was without merit.) Whenever possible, civil suits would be settled by binding arbitration which would not allow monetary damages; only when the situation is clearly severe enough to warrant such damages would a full-blown trial occur, and even then such damages would be strictly capped, paying principally for the actual, measurable costs of whatever harm has been done in proportion to the degree of negligence or malice displayed by the defendant. Only a small additional amount would be allowed for nebulous areas such as mental anguish. The standards of proof and severity required to bypass arbitration and go to civil court would be set much higher.

The prison system would also be altered to serve principally as a method of reform, rather than a means of punishment. Prisoners would be put to work at a fair wage doing whatever useful tasks can be found for them; vocational training would also be an option for those who desired it. And all prisoners would take mandatory classes in law and ethics to help them understand how to fit back into society. Of course, for those criminals considered irredeemable or those whose crimes were very great, prison will be a more conventional punishment, keeping them out of society so they can no longer cause anyone harm.

As for law itself, this system would take a largely libertarian view as far as it relates to private individuals. The emphasis would be on eliminating as many unnecessary laws as possible and simplifying the ones that remain. The primary purpose of law, under this system, would be to prevent people from harming each other; laws that do not satisfy this goal, or that were enacted to further a different goal, would be struck down. For example, mere disapproval of behavior that does not harm anyone would not be a valid motivation for passing a law.

One major reform that would follow under this principle is the legalization of recreational drugs, at least the less harmful and addictive varieties. Legitimate companies would be set up to sell these substances, thus allowing the government to regulate and tax their commerce and denying cash flow to criminal organizations that currently profit by supplying them. Another major reform would be the granting of partnership benefits to gay and lesbian couples – I do not use the word “marriage” because the government would be removed from the business of marriage entirely in this system. So long as the participants are consenting adults, government has no business declaring one relationship valid and another invalid. Instead, the civil side of things would be a neutral policy where the legal benefits of committed partnership would be conferred on any consenting adults that desired them. Whether such an arrangement should be recognized as “marriage” would not be decided by the government, but would be an entirely private matter left up to the couple and whatever religious or other belief system they subscribed to.

The Media

We now consider another vital part of an informed and functioning society – the media. Here we face something of a dilemma. Media groups should be able to present information as it is; they should not have to rely on corporate underwriting, which creates a potential conflict of interest when events on which they would otherwise report might negatively impact a sponsor to which they are financially beholden. On the other hand, putting the media under government control is by far a worse idea – a vigorous and independent press is the lifeblood of democracy. The solution can again be found in a compromise: the government will provide the medium, but will not dictate the content. A free press will be a fundamental right. Public resources for distributing information – radio and television airwaves, dedicated Internet servers – will be owned by the government and will be fairly divided among groups from across the political spectrum. Groups that pledge to hold to a standard of objectivity, as well as advocacy groups whose explicit purpose is to advance a position, will both be included; equal-time laws would mandate a balance among the amount of time given to groups advocating various positions. On-air debates between representatives of opposing sides would be frequent and encouraged, to allow citizens to form their own views. Government will also ensure that the media serve an educational purpose, setting aside time for science programs and other worthy information. The intent of this policy is to encourage a diverse variety of independent sources to flourish. This will help truth to more clearly stand out from error, by making opposing positions available to compare, and will help ensure that no major story goes overlooked.

Religion

Last but not least, we come to the issue of religion. While some believers might fear what would happen if an atheist came to power, they would more than likely be disappointed. In my ideal society, no church or religion would be banned except those that are intrinsically violent and dangerous (in the criminal, physical harm sense) to society. Freedom of conscience will be among the rights guaranteed by the global constitution, a right that assures liberty to think, believe and worship as one sees fit. In any case, religion can be a force for social good, and this society would do its utmost to encourage that.

However, that being said, in this Utopia some long-overdue changes will be made. First and foremost, freedom from religion will be an explicitly guaranteed right just as fundamental as freedom of religion – people should be free to choose any religion they prefer, or no religion at all, without government interference one way or the other. This means that in this society, there will be strong separation of church and state: no presentation of religious myths in public school classrooms as science; no displays of the Ten Commandments or any other religious icons or slogans on public property; no officially endorsed prayers in schools or other public institutions; no legal oaths or public mottoes containing references to deity; no government funding for “faith-based” activities; and of course no religious litmus test for any public position.

Contrary to the sentiments of some extremist believers, separation of church and state is in no way equivalent to banning all mention of religion from the public square. It does not bar public officials from professing their personal faith in their capacity as private citizens, nor does it prevent religious groups from lobbying for societal change. However, it does mean that the government, which represents all citizens, may not favor one religious or non-religious belief system over others; nor may it act in a way that coerces people to adopt a particular religious belief, or tends to do so. In short, it means that the government must remain neutral when it comes to religion.

There is one additional important difference worth noting. In this society, organized religion will not be tax-exempt – all churches will be taxed, regardless of what charitable work they do or whether they take a role in politics. This is only reasonable. To allow churches to freely build up unlimited amounts of assets is essentially to force non-believers to pick up the tab for them – to underwrite the growth of organized religion with their tax dollars. It will not be allowed to continue.

While believers in this society will be allowed to worship as they see fit, that right is contingent on one condition: so long as they harm no one. This means that what will be outlawed are any religious practices resulting in irreversible change or harm to those who are too young to give informed consent. Withholding medical care that could easily cure an otherwise fatal condition from minor children, such as Christian Scientists or Jehovah’s Witnesses do, will be considered criminal child abuse under this system, as will circumcision of infants for non-medical reasons. If young believers really want any of these things, they will be allowed to have them as soon as they reach the age of consent; until then, no one will be allowed to make that choice for them. Non-irreversible rituals with no permanent effect, such as baptism, will not be restricted.

As interim world ruler, there are also some things I will not do. In fact, I will keep copies of the end-time prophecies of several religions close at hand specifically so I know what not to do. Christian fundamentalists will doubtless be extremely disappointed when no global ecumenical religion is established, no one is required to take any sort of mark to engage in commerce, and no rapture occurs. Hopefully, after a few generations of peace apocalyptic fervor will begin to fade, along with religious extremism generally.


The problems that beset humanity are numerous and complex, and many of them are deeply rooted at levels that no mere law, however well-intentioned, can fix. I do not believe that this society, even if it were created tomorrow, would be an instant panacea. It would most likely take several generations, perhaps several hundred years, before things fully settled down and humanity stabilized on its new path. Nevertheless, it would be a beginning.

Ruling the world is an extremely complex task, to understate it considerably. While this essay sketches out a broad outline of what I would do if given the opportunity, it does not even begin to touch on many of the fine details; nevertheless, I hope I have said enough for the reader to grasp the essential ideas that lie behind this society and perceive its merit and its potential. I hope, as well, that this essay will invite the reader to reflect on the ways that current society is lacking in comparison.

Religious commentators have often been heard to rant about the evils of atheism and its pernicious effect on society. The next time you hear someone making such claims, ask yourself: What better things does that person stand for? What is their ideal world? Is it a theocracy where one religion, one church, one belief receives official state approval and support, and all those who think differently are second-class citizens or worse? Is it a dictatorship where piety and patriotism consist of blind obedience to the authorities? Is it a dystopia where war, militarism, bigotry and tax cuts for the rich are declared to be sanctioned by God? Do the believers who deride atheists even have a clear vision of their own for the future? If they do, is it a world you would want to live in? Does it improve upon the picture presented in this essay?

In any case, the question asked at the beginning of this essay has now been answered. If I had unlimited power to reshape the world as I saw fit, I would do so in the ways I have described; once I could be confident that all was going as planned, I would then immediately resign to somewhere remote and pristine to live out my life. I do not and would not have any desire to rule any longer than absolutely necessary. After all, the only legitimate reason anyone would want to be powerful would be so they could use that power to improve conditions for others; power sought for its own sake leads only to evil, as we have painfully learned so often throughout our history. I am confident that all people will eventually take this lesson to heart, that one day the sun will rise on a world where we will all be free, where the potential we have always had has finally been realized. I do not believe I will ever rule the world, but if by my actions in life I have brought this future at all closer, I feel I will have done all that could reasonably be asked of me. What life ultimately amounts to, after all, is the chance to do some good.


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