Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is University Distinguished Service Professor and former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Joseph S. Nye, Jr. on
What's different about the world today is the extraordinary complexity. Today, with modern communications bringing so many different cultures together, with a whole new set of problems created by technologies and communications, there are many, many more choices that people have to make, and probably there is less of a clear moral hierarchy.
Climate change is something which is long term and certainly affects how we treat the planet for our progeny, although it is less immediate than future-oriented.
I would think that a global ethic would require the combination of two things. One is a greater understanding and broader compassion of how we treat each other. Let's call it the horizontal dimension of a global ethic: how do we treat others; how do others treat each other; our concern about their condition. There is another dimension, though—I might call this a vertical dimension—which is how we treat the planet and what we are leaving to future generations.
Much depends on what one means by world peace. If we think back to Carnegie and his concerns before World War I, he was mostly thinking about great-power war, the kind of disaster that occurred in 1914 with World War I. I think that type of war is less likely, but it's not impossible. Thinking of world peace as a major conflagration among great powers with extraordinary widespread destruction, I think we can avoid that.
I argue that a president, or any leader, has to think of leadership in three dimensions: the ends or the goals that the leader has, the means that a president or any other leader uses, and in terms of consequences, does it basically fill a role of increasing welfare. Does it make people better off, not just one's own followers, but also with minimal damage to the interests of others?
We'd like to see an increase in the tolerance for different viewpoints and greater diversity. We'd like to see a reduction in poverty, a continued improvement of the life opportunities for more people inhabiting this planet. We would also like to see a reduction in the amount of violence, if possible.