Sunday, 11 September 2016

"Nation states" - not perfect but can anybody can come up with anything better?

Two people with whom I usually agree tweeted recently as follows:

Paul from Fintona @paulfmuldoon
"I can't wait for the concept of the nation state to be relegated to the pages of history where it belongs"

Duncan Stott @DuncanStott
"Guy Verhofstadt: 'We are suffering from having invented nation states and the nationalism that goes with them in the 18th Century'"

That's all well and good, nobody says they are perfect, any more than democracy is. They just appear to be the end result of lots of other forces, the desire to 'belong' (on the part of the masses), the desire to expand the area under their control (on the part of the ruling class - people like Guy Verhofstadt, for example) and the desire to feel 'sovereign' on the part of both masses and ruling class.

I don't see any realistic alternative, anarchy doesn't work; micro-states work but only if they are surrounded by larger countries; empires always collapse, even if they worked in the first place; most people resist the idea of supra-national government (UN, EU, TTIP etc).

As has been said before, democracy only works if there is a sense of a single national identity (however artificial, it cannot be denied there is such a thing) and tends to flourish more in economically developed countries.

Wiki says:

A nation state is a type of state that conjoins the political entity of a state to the cultural entity of a nation, from which it aims to derive its political legitimacy to rule and potentially its status as a sovereign state…

A state is specifically a political and geopolitical entity, whilst a nation is a cultural and ethnic one. The term "nation state" implies that the two coincide, in that a state has chosen to adopt and endorse a specific cultural group as associated with it. "Nation state" formation can take place at different times in different parts of the world.

So in the same way as land-ownership and the state are synonymous, I suppose we just have to accept that democracy, the nation-state and capitalism go hand in hand and are the least bad ways of organising things. Nothing which LVT and a Citizen's Income won't sort out.

Unless somebody has any better ideas?


Lola said...

It's also about money. Nations state work well because taxes work well when they are raised spent closest to the people they are raised from. The EU is intentionally utterly unaccountable for the taxes it raises and spends.

DBC Reed said...

What might have worked was the British Commonwealth of Nations (1931)backed up by the Imperial Preference system formulated by the Ottawa Commonwealth Conference of 1932 which might have evolved into a Commonwealth Common Market had it not been (deliberately?) scuppered by WW2 and American antipathy. My own futile adherence to a Commonwealth Common Market at the time of the 1975 Referendum was the prelude to an equally futile interest in LVT from 1979 onward.
The odd thing is that Nick Timothy, Theresa May's principal advisor, is an enthusiast for all things Chamberlain-ite which includes the entire Imperial/Commonwealth preference philosophy.

Ben Jamin' said...

The way power is concentrated at national level is anachronistic.

Ideally, sovereignty should be shared linearly from the individual level to the global level.

Which is why Scotland leaving the UK, or the UK leaving the EU is generally regarded as a retrograde step.

LVT sorts this out. Sooner or later a country will be run on Geoist principles. It's neighbors will copy the success. They will end up sharing the rents across the boarder in a Commonwealth, and things will snow ball from there.

Suggest people join the YPPUK if they want a peaceful and prosperous World.

Ralph Musgrave said...

Interesting the way some Tories (e.g. Michael Heseltine) oppose the nation state. I'd like to know his reasons. Anyone know of an article by him?

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, yes. Tax = sacrifice, which you are prepared to make for those you identify with but not for others.

DBC "might have worked" yes but did it? Why didn't it happen? Are there any other reasons why it would have collapsed sooner or later anyway? Indian Nationalism? Pending Indian separation?

BJ, I know it's anachronistic, but it works, it is a stable arrangement. (LVT sorts everything out, that's not the topic). And it doesn't need global government as long as we observe a few basic rules (don't start wars, don't pollute the oceans etc).

RM I'm not aware he said that, but he is an EU-phile, and they all say that sort of thing.

Striebs said...

Many animals divide themselves into herds , humans divide themselves into tribes .

It's natural .

Attempts to destroy the nation state , foist vegetarianism on people , replace inalienable rights with human rights , replace marriage with something else appear to be little more than attempts to break down institutions because they exist .

Asking whether anyone can come up with a better solution is a valid question but these institutions are not under threat because they do not work but rather because they work so well .

Mark Wadsworth said...

S, don't get carried away. Most western European countries have similar rules and values, the differences are ones of degree. I like them all, but for reasons lost in time, people feel 'English' or 'German' or 'Italian' or whatever, and despite the best efforts of TPTB, we prefer nation-states to EU supra national government.

At the other end, the SNP, the Basques, the Catalonians etc would prefer self-government to being subsumed into the UK or Spain. Or the West and East Germans wanted to be one country again. It's not a perfect model, but the least bad under the circumstances.

As to 'marriage', I am straight but I see no reason why gays and lesbians shouldn't be married in the eyes of the law or of society.

Striebs said...

Mark ,

I don't see a reason why "gays and lesbians shouldn't be married in the eyes of the law or of society." either .

There are heterosexual couples who are demanding equality and the right to enter into civil partnerships because they claim marriage has sexist connotations .

Personally I don't care what they they do .

What irks me though is the suggestion by some that an alternative formal arrangement which was concocted almost overnight is somehow superior to an institution which has evolved over millennia .

They must be really wise people to achieve such a feat or maybe humans are becoming more intelligent .

Mark Wadsworth said...

S, aha, this is indeed a bit nuanced.

As to gay marriage/civil partnerships in the UK, while I approve of the principle I do not approve of the way it was introduced - the EU forced it on us. So right thing, wrong reasons. The Irish waited until there was enough popular support and had a referendum on it.

DBC Reed said...

The post Ottawa-Conference British Commonwealth of Nations is an early casualty of the destruction of history that Orwell drew attention to: quite honestly, who has heard of this massive pre-war international organisation which even the remaining accounts show that the USA was out to nullify?
I expect we will get some information when details of the Hess flight are finally published.
Sorry to be so eccentric!Its difficult to get any fix on what was going on because there are so few official accounts.

Bayard said...

ISTM that the biggest factor in people feeling a part of a particular nation is language. Outside the Balkans, there are very few countries in Europe that share the same language as one of their neighbours. Apart from Austria/Germany all the rest are tiny, if you discount Ireland whose official language is not English. Again, apart from the Scots, all the separatist would-be countries are linguistically distinct from the countries from which they want to separate.

Given that, a glance at the lingustic map of Europe, shows that the EU is never likely to become the United States of Europe in the same way as the United States of America.

Curtis said...

Rather than nation states I would prefer lots of small countries formed of people who share similar values.

So we could have a country of socialists who want to have guns, a country of socialists who don't want guns, a country of land value taxers who don't want homosexual marriage, a country of minimal land taxes with homosexual marriage, etc.

If you disagree with how things are done in one country you should be easily able to move to another (because you would get on well with everyone else there). It is similar to moving between US states but taken to a more extreme end. In The Diamond Age Neal Stephenson depicts a world which is sort of like this.

Right now roughly 48% of Americans mostly share the values of Trump even if they don't like him personally, and 48% of Americans mostly share the values of Clinton(s) even if they don't like them personally. There is little in common between the two groups yet both claim they are "Americans" mainly because of things they were brought up to find familiar (urban sprawl, 1000 TV channels, tipping 20%, refrigerated eggs, etc.), which is hardly ideal for a single political entity.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, yes that is a large factor in "national identity", which is why minor languages/dialects are often suppressed and TPTB try to make everybody speak the same language.

C, that would be lovely but it won't happen, that is not a sustainable model, patchworks of tiny countries never are, except in mountainous regions. They can all be held to ransom by whoever's got the coastline, air space etc. Which is why we have so few countries, and why no large country likes ceding territory.

Bayard said...

C, the Middle East is a good example of what happens when you have arbitrarily dictated state boundaries that don't follow ethnic or linguistic borders.

Mark Wadsworth said...

C, either way, what you envisage is still nation-states, just smaller ones, isn't it?

B, C meant having smaller countries, not larger ones. So these are more likely to be culturally/politically homogeneous than existing ones. In his model, people would identify more rather than less with their own country because they chose it (even if they are of different 'ethnicity'. Muslims are hardly likely to g to the gay-friendly and matriarchal countries anyway, and normal people will steer well clear of ones run by ISIS or the Saudis).