“If I ruled the world” is a regular section that appears in the monthly magazine Prospect. Because of its location, on page eight of the publication, it is usually the first feature I read. There is always a nice mix of the idealistic and the zany, the romantic and the pragmatic.
I have often wondered how I would answer the question: “What would you do if you could rule the world?” Maybe because my response would probably be: “I’d rather pass up the chance, thank you very much”. This is not based on any self-deprecatory trait of my personality (I don’t do self-deprecation really), but on common sense. If I ruled the world, I would probably make a hash of it.
But, just like the writers, musicians, academics and politicians who are invited month in and month out by Prospect to describe what they would do if they were put in sole charge of our nations, lives, institutions and resources, I will volunteer my reflections on what a world governed by me would be like.
The temptation, according to what I have seen in some cases, is to aim high. World peace, for instance. That is too high for me. Even for a pacifist like me, that would be too ambitious and unachievable a goal to realise. What I’d rather do is educate people in such a way that wars would become a loss-making enterprise instead of the profiting business they are. Attack the motivation and the causes; that would be my way.
This would set the mood for further measures. Education would play an important role in any policy I implemented as the world’s ruler. All children would be entitled to try their hands at a musical instrument for free from the age of five. You read that right, instead of preparing our little ones for their first batch of assessments at six (in the UK), children would be making a racket on pianos, xylophones, drums and tambourines. That leads me to my next idea: children would not start formal school until the age of seven. That is already the reality in some countries around the world, like for instance, in Scandinavia. I’d sooner children played more and explored their surroundings better than chaining them to a desk and chair from the age of four.
In order to grant children this freedom parents would have to have a more flexible childcare arrangement. I would make both maternity and paternity leave so appetising that mum and dad would find it hard to say no. I would also guarantee equal leave time for both fathers/male carers and mothers/female carers. On the question of how I would fund this initiative, the answer is: taxation. Of course, if parents still insist on working long hours straight after their offspring is born, leaving them in nursery or in the care of strangers (sorry, I meant “child-minders”) for twelve hours Monday to Friday, they will have that option, too. My responsibility then would be to ensure that that “wee, little bairn” would have access to the best psychologist/psychiatrist possible. I would even be willing to fund that service if asked nicely.
Under my rule I would stimulate small and medium businesses and would support them financially through revenues raised from big companies. I would not strangle private enterprise, on the contrary, I would encourage it, but at the same time I would also raise awareness – through education, there’s that word again – of the need to think of the collective even if professional success arrives through individual power.
On culture I would go big. I would fund orchestras and ensembles. I would allow theatres and arts centres to commission non-mainstream and cutting-edge pieces whose main goal would be to stimulate independent thinking. Galleries and museums would remain free, as most of them still are in Great Britain. I would fund schools to use the arts as an active element in learning.
As a world ruler I would make the learning of foreign languages compulsory. That would be probably the only dictatorial measure my regnum would include. Since I would be in charge of all the peoples of planet Earth, it would make sense to make communication easier. Children would be exposed to foreign languages from an early age. There would not be negative comments along the lines of “I’m not good at languages”, or “I’m too old to learn another language”. Learning a foreign language is contextual, meaning that you appropriate the learning process and turn it to whatever suits you better.
Healthcare and education would be free under my rule. Gratis also would be provision for the elderly in their twilight years. I have always believed that we owe the previous generation a lot for the many benefits we enjoy nowadays.
Last, but not least, is the economy. To me a mixed economy is the key to success. I would also foster a sense of individual identity. Every country in the world knows what it is good at. Therefore I would encourage manufacturing, the creative and cultural industries, fishing, farming, business (both private and social enterprises) and tourism. Under my rule, men and women would earn the same if they were doing the same job.
All of the above would guarantee a period of stability and satisfaction. How long would I govern for? I have no idea and that is the tricky bit. Give yourself a handful of years and you will run out of time before any of these measures becomes reality. Try to think long-term and you are entering dangerous territory. As in Mugabe/Castro/Tito/Mao/Chávez/Stalin territory. That is probably why, if someone were to ask me: “What would you do if you could rule the world”, my reply would be “I’d rather pass up the chance, thank you very much”. Even if that lost me a slot in Prospect magazine. Even if it meant I would have to wait for world peace a bit longer.
Next Post: “Of Literature and Other Abstract Thoughts”, to be published on Wednesday 4th
December at 11:59pm (GMT)