Nations, City-States And Corporations In The New World Economy

Can Scotland separate from Great Britain? 

The age of empires is long since over. The Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the British Empire are history.

Can it be possible that cohesive nations are on the brink of extinction, sort of slow-moving dinosaurs not well adapted to survive in the hyper-fast digital age and the internationalized economy?

NPR News reports today that Scotland will hold a referendum in two years, with the approval of Great Britain. Who knows what the voters will decide?

Large federations covering vast land masses are subject to powerful Centrifugal forces.   

NPR reports that a jurisdiction within Spain is also talking separation. Quebec in Canada has been chewing on the question for decades. Here in the U.S. “states’ rights” are rooted in our Constitution. It’s not unusual for some loose-cannon politician to talk openly of secession, though it’s never been taken seriously in my lifetime.

Great nations seem to be under intense pressures.   

The powerful Soviet Union broke into pieces almost overnight. Yugoslavia crumbled and Balkanized. The future of the European Union is in doubt. Following independence from Great Britain, India divided into three separate nations: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan appears to be politically unstable. Protests and insurrections are common in the Arab world.

Some of the trends:

  • Technological innovation seems to favor modern “city-states.” I think the wealthiest urban regions throughout the world — the hotbeds of innovation and growth — will gain in power, and large nations will diminish. Thriving city-states may see little advantage in remaining united to less-productive regions.
  • Multinational corporations have gained power in relation to nations. Corporations increasingly recognize no boundaries. They see their business interests better served by being corporate citizens of the world, rather than corporate citizens subject to the laws of a single nation.
  • Mass migrations are under way throughout the world. Money knows no international boundaries, and workers follow the money. The populations of North America and Europe are rapidly diversifying. At the same time, modern travel and telecommunication empower migrants to be virtual citizens of both their nation of origin and the nation where they presently work.
  • The concept of assimilation may have been turned on its head. Populations are more diversified and less homogenous than in the past. Boundaries blur and it seems almost as if separate nations are being assimilated into their neighbors and into the international economy.

As nations and federations weaken, regions and city-states would seem to have more incentive and freedom to go their own way. Corporations are constantly splitting and conglomerating. Maybe some corporations will consume and control city-states. It could all be a self-reinforcing cycle, leading who knows where.

May you live in interesting times.

— John Hayden

3 thoughts on “Nations, City-States And Corporations In The New World Economy

  1. Interesting times? Oh FU.

    I can’t decide what I want to happen with Scotland (not that Scotland is asking me). How will it affect the supply of Scotch whisky, for one thing? I think of Scotland and I think of flinty self-reliance and a certain stark wildness; that’s the poet in me. But, you know, John Buchan, and Robert Burns. As Shaw said of the Irish, people who avenged themselves upon their conquerors by making something more wonderful of the conqueror’s language than had previously been imagined. Perhaps separation is the final stage of that payback. It’s sad to contemplate nonetheless.

    If they become independent I hope they show more class than we’ve shown lately.


  2. Canada, Australia and New Zealand seem to be thriving as part of the mostly imaginary British Commonwealth. If Britain and Scotland decide on an amicable divorce, maybe it will set an example for other breakups in the future.


  3. Pingback: Dark Age Ruminations (Hurricane Sandy Inspired) | The NEW Work In Progress

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