World States in SF?

How stable would a World State be, in practice? Sure, one could argue (and people have) that without external enemies there’s no particular reason for a world-spanning government to fall apart. That was the argument in A World Out of Time: the state controlled all the apparatus necessary to sustain Earth’s vast population, making rebellion suicidal.

The problem is that one can point to historic polities that managed to dissolve into independent regions without much help from the outside. Gran Columbia lasted twelve years. The West Indies Federation lasted about four years. The United Arab Republic lasted three. All that’s needed is for the divisions driving people apart to be slightly greater than the ones binding them together.

Indeed, peace might exacerbate internal divisions, since there is no common enemy against which to unite. Canada might have escaped the West Indies Federation’s fate only because of the perception that a moment’s inattention would allow our hegemonic neighbour to invade (again), burn our cities (again), commit affronts against our Catholic population (again ) and leave the letter “u” out of some words for some reason (still).

— from “World States and Mega Empires in SF” by James Davis Nicoll
at See the full article for examples of large empires on Eaeth and how long they survived…