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In the late ’70s, when Robert Wright was a Princeton undergrad and a part-time stringer for the Red Bank Register, he covered a campus speech by an advocate of one-world government. Wright remembers being distinctly unimpressed. “I remember just ridiculing the guy,” Wright recalls. “It seemed like the craziest idea. World government?”
Flash forward roughly 20 years, to a recent issue of the New Republic. The cover hawks, “America is surrendering its sovereignty to a world government. Hooray. By Robert Wright.” Even before the birth of the World Trade Organization and the common European currency, Wright, a Washington resident, had begun to think that things were moving in a new direction. “If you’re talking far enough out,” Wright explains in an interview, “it’s really not that crazy.”
Wright’s thinking hit the shelves not long ago with the publication of Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (Pantheon), in which he argues that life—at the levels of both biology and society—tends to evolve with increasing complexity. Through 300-odd pages dense with anthropology, philosophy, biology, psychology, and political science, Wright concludes—among other things—that today’s world simply has too many interconnections to survive with old-fashioned government. “Either we get more and better supernational governance,” Wright says, “or we’ll have more chaos.”
He is, perhaps, most interesting—for his venom, anyway—in his sporadic public spats with Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Wright most recently re-engaged the scholar when he published an eight-page pie-in-the-face to Gould in the New Yorker. Asked whether he has ever met Gould, Wright shakes his head. “I don’t think either of us is working too hard on finding each other’s phone number,” he says.—Louis Jacobson