In the 1960s, an informed but naïve undergraduate, I was walking across the campus of the University of Pennsylvania with the Chairman of the Chemistry Department, Prof. Charles C. Price. He told me that he was president of the United World Federalists, and asked if I knew what that organization was. When I said that I did not, he replied that they believed in a one-world government that would grow out of the United Nations. I was nonplussed as I had never heard anyone suggest that idea before. To me, the United Nations was a benevolent organization dedicated to pressuring the world community in the direction of peace, and to operating charitable programs to help the struggling, impoverished peoples of the world. I imagined the UN as a kind of United Way on a worldwide scale.
How would Prof. Price’s vision of a new world government emerge? Although there was a socialistic thread in its founding document, the United Nations was formed based on a vision of human rights presented in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (UDHR) which placed the concept of rights at the forefront for the progress of the world body. And rights are the mainstay for uplifting human freedom and the dignity of the individual. The UDHR document followed many amazing documents that presented rights as the central concept of the post-feudal world: the English Declaration (or Bill) of Rights of 1689, the U.S. Declaration of Independence with its important and forceful assertion of inalienable natural rights, the powerful U.S. Bill of Rights enacted in 1791, and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789).