A century without general war, 1815 to 1914, led to a widespread balance-of-power assumption that planet-wide peace and prosperity could be established and maintained by preserving a balance between the armed forces of individual nations or alliances. Hence there need be no more general wars fought for survival or supremacy.
The bitter struggle for markets, raw materials and colonies that followed the French-German War of 1870 developed into an armament race after 1899. From the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 to the outbreak of general war in 1914, desperate efforts were made to maintain the power-balance and avert a general war. The failure of these efforts proved the ineffectiveness of the balance-of-power formula.
Today it is generally taken for granted that a balance of power between armed nations is no guarantee of peace and order. It is also taken for granted that frivolous talk like that of an “American Century” after 1945 has no justification in the light of present-day history. As matters now stand neither a balance between rival armed powers, nor the domination of the planet by any one power can be relied upon to maintain world order and keep world peace.
Forms of self-government and representative government developed during the bourgeois revolution and advocated and partially applied during the proletarian up-surge, are being continued or are reappearing during the current struggle for power and prestige at the planetary level. As the planet approaches one world technologically, there is an increasing possibility of a planetary political federation, directed by a world governmental apparatus.
INTEGRATING A WORLD ECONOMY
Repeated efforts have been made to establish large-scale, widely ranging economies. This was the case during Egyptian and Phoenician civilizations. It was certainly true of the economy of the Roman Empire and of Roman civilization.
Such efforts faced drastic limitations. The most formidable was the narrow margin of surplus produced by hand labor in the forests, on the fields and in the workshops, operated, in the main, with hand tools, with minor inputs of energy supplied by domestic animals and with the small amounts derived from wind and moving water.
Two further limitations existed. First, as each civilization matured its leaders and policy makers ceased to labor on the land or in the workshops, preferring to keep their hands and clothes clean, to free themselves from irksome demanding toil and devote themselves to tasks more befitting “gentlefolk.” This was notably true of landlords as a class. It was also true of the richer traders, merchants and moneylenders, particularly of the third and fourth generations.