Reframing the Square Wheels of Global Governance


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Transcending Vain Hopes of Squaring the Circle in Global Decision-Making


21 Aug 2017 – There are many commentaries on the current inadequacy of governance, whether global, regional or national. As currently understood by those upheld as being insightful and skilled in matters of governance, it can be argued that society is proving to be increasingly ungovernable, if not inherently so (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011). Sustainable global governance as a goal merits recognition as an essentially elusive goal (In Quest of Sustainability as Holy Grail of Global Governance, 2013).

“Surreal” is a term increasingly used to give a sense of the complex of contradictions, paradoxes and tragically ridiculous dynamics of global civilization at this time, as experienced by many and discussed separately (Surreal nature of current global governance as experienced, 2016). Donald Trump is one amongst many that are embodying such dynamics in ways from which insights can hopefully be derived.

Some sense of the situation can be elicited from considering the aspirations to global governance as a form of delusion comparable to what has been associated down the centuries with squaring the circle — and deprecated as such. With the circle as a two-dimensional projection of the globe, and the globe as a three-dimensional projection of some form of hyperdimensional heavenly consensus, the quest for such consensus on Earth can be compared with the delusion identified so controversially by Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006). The correspondence has been argued separately (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011).

The possibility that the vehicle of governance may currently be overly dependent on what are effectively “square wheels” may help to frame the challenge. This seemingly ridiculous concept might then offer a valuable means of eliciting fruitful thinking about the surreal nature of governance at this time. The challenge is of course exacerbated by the degree of systematic denial of any need to think otherwise by those most identified with the current pattern.

However, although seemingly ridiculous and unknown to most, vehicles with square wheels do exist and exhibit a degree of viability — however questionable. Such limited viability can of course also be claimed of the institutions of governance — however “unfit for purpose” they increasingly appear to be. Are they to be recognized as essentially “square pegs in round holes”? What might then be usefully recognized as “square wheels” in the case of those institutions and of the international community? Would such recognition offer an insight into the ridiculous condition in which society currently finds itself?

Curiously the vehicles of governance are indeed highly dependent on a pattern which takes square form. Most obvious are the statistical tables which serve as the primary guide to decision-making. However the pattern is more subtly present in the square and rectangular forms of the documents which are so fundamental to articulation of decision-making and the development and dissemination of strategic plans. It is with these that decision-makers aspire to viable global strategies capable of attracting a consensus — or a viable majority. As with the rectangular computer screens which offer a window on reality for so many, why do these contrast so radically with the circular displays so vital to air traffic control — an example, with radar screens, of a more rounded approach to governance?

One very modest corrective to this modality has been previously argued (Dynamic Transformation of Static Reporting of Global Processes: suggestions for process-oriented titles of global issue reports, 2013). A more radical approach has also been speculatively explored (Spherical Accounting: using geometry to embody developmental integrity, 2004).

The square may indeed correspond to a necessary mode of thinking in the world of grounded concrete reality — locally. The question is how to engage with all that is implied by the cyclic and the circular with respect to integrative global governance and the dynamics of its complex cycles. In the vehicular metaphor of the “wheels of governance”, what is the cognitive “transmission system” between the square and the round? How might “wheels within wheels” engage with the facility of the square?

The concern here is to challenge the “square modality” through insights to be drawn from the improbable viability of vehicles with square wheels — otherwise understood, as argued here. Is there a possibility of enhancing “all-terrain” global viability by replacing such square wheels with a rounder form — especially as their designs might be modified? Of related interest, might a new modality reduce the need for the corruption on which governance is currently so dependent (Sebastian Reyes, Greasing the Wheels: the secret benefits of corruption, Harvard Political Review, 8 December 2015)?

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2 Responses to “Reframing the Square Wheels of Global Governance”

  1. Stan Wagon says:

    Well, that is an usual appn. of the square wheel thing. Near the end you say “more than three dimensions” where I think you mean “more than two dimensions”. Note that a truly useful appn. of this sort of geometry is the development of drills that drill square holes.

    Barry Cox and Stan Wagon, Drilling for polygons, American Mathematical Monthly 119 (2012) 300\[Dash]312.

    100. Barry Cox and Stan Wagon, Mechanical circle-squaring, College Mathematics Journal, 40, Sept. 2009, 238\[Dash]247. And cover. Reported on in The Mathematical Tourist, by Ivars Peterson,

    • The comment is much appreciated.

      With respect to “more than three dimensions”, that is indeed my argument. I make this argument separately with respect to hyperbubbles (Pricking the Bubble of Global Complacent Complicity: Hyperdimensional insights from the physics of bubble blowing, bursting and collapse ? (

      I have added the reference to drilling square holes, a process of which I was vaguely aware — but not the useful reference to “squaring the circle” which features in the argument.

      The text as a whole has been amended with separate sections on

      Governance “locomotion” enabled by loopwheels, telescopic spokes and multipedal legs?
      Central pattern generators and higher order values?
      Proprietary metaphors and “systemic blasphemy”?