What’s the point of the nation state?

Why do we live in ‘countries’ these days?

Is this picture REALLY worth dying for?

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Oh I know why we HAVE countries. It’s because some tribal chief with a taste for domination and a tee-pee full of hungry dependents decided it’d be good to move the marker posts out a bit.  In other words, (or so I’m guessing) it’s because demand for resources and a desire to own more stuff drove initially small communities to expand and conquer new territory.  To hold on to it, they had to eventually build a fence around it, set up passport control, and institute some sort of organised, unified system.

But what’s a ‘nation’ actually good for, apart from going to war against other nations and/or stopping them ganging up and taking our stuff?  Can’t we cooperate regionally WITHOUT having to call ourselves a country? Wouldn’t our fights be littler and less deadly if it was only Coopers Creek against West Wyalong and neither of them could afford more than small arms?

Suppose we didn’t need any Presidents and Prime Ministers. Suppose if you wanted to tell The Government something you just dropped in on coffee break and left a note?  Suppose the guy who ran the place lived next door and had to catch the bus to work?

I dunno. Do you?

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41 comments

  1. I think that every once in a while, a good leader with a sense of duty can do wonders for a big nation. But once he’s gone, the systems always tend to favor the ones who seize the power for its own sake. I think that more power at lower levels is best, where the higher parts of government serve a purpose not of ruling over the smaller divisions, but, rather, fostering communication between the smaller divisions and brokering beneficial exchanges. Sadly, corruption from this ideal is inevitable, and large powers swinging their d*cks at each other is just an unfortunate factor of human nature.

    • I’m inclined to agree. Human life – and for all I know ant life as well – is all about various forces pulling this way and that. In some ways that’s a good thing, it means we never reach our ‘ideal’ – and that’s good because when we do, as in the USSR, it turns out to be a bit crappy. I like your idea, having power at lower levels and an overall government just for brokering and communication.

  2. I have asked that very same question so many times myself throughout the years…I think it now breaks down to only economics…and it is looking like something else should replace it soon…or all will fail and we will be back to the beginning. Hey, maybe that wouldn’t be all that bad???

  3. Rose, I think that the time of the ‘Nation State’ is pretty much over, apart from those mega states like the United States, China, Russia (or whatever it is now), maybe Germany, France and Great Britain and a few giant emerging ones like India, and Indonesia. The rest (including Australia) are pretty much dependent on everyone else and also rans. Us Aussies are sitting on a pile of resources and once we have dug it all up, well what will be left, a great big hole in the ground?

    I don’t have time for a full discussion, but I am a strong believer in more flexible arrangements and common currencies and simplied and unified border/passport systems. But next time we see each other I intend to have some intelligent discourse with you, over many cups of tea and/or Ecco… But That’s assuming you haven’t gone to sleep before finishing this post, CS 🙂

    • Do you think? I was thinking of how the UK’s broken up into England, Wales, Scotland etc…maybe there’s scope to just keep breaking down until all we have is local government, and why not?

      • Nope, I used to work in a local council, you don’t want them in charge of things… Imagine having border crossing at every council boundary, different speed zones, local languages, currencies, may as well go back to the bronze age or live in caves. I’m a fan of local customs and variation, but not of all the inconvenience of lots of governments. If I was an all powerful demi-god dictator type, I get rid of all the states and territories in Australia and local government, appoint myself as the supreme overlord and rule my bronzed kingdom with a fist of iron (wrapped in soft faux leather of course).
        CS 🙂

      • That’s true too. Though, you could agree on a few rules of convenience regarding speed zones and currency…and then you’re drifting towards the unification model again. If I ran Australia, I’d get rid of states and just have the national and local governments. I’d have very restrictive powers ceded to national government, like making stuff consistent and…that’s about it really. Defence? The only viable alternative of course is to have ME as dictator (not you, don’t be silly!)

  4. Oh, I KNOW, i know! The US (i know, anyway) LOVES to own stuff, and we’d like to take everyone else’s stuff too. And WE like to stand UNITED and we like to FALL UNITED, as in the United States. WTF is that about? All i know, is i live here, and all this shit was set up before i was a twinkling in the eye of a person who hadn’t been born yet. Actually, the stork dropped me off at the wrong time … i wanted to stop at Jane Eyre’s mansion because it was big and dark and stormy, and no one ever came to visit except animals.

    So, I’d say this is all England’s fault. Them and their flags.

    We own you now!

    See Eddi Izzard stand-up routine, HILARIOUA!

    • Yeah, being Lady Something on a big estate in the eighteenth century would have been great. And yeah, you do own us. That’s why we keep saying how much we love you (the US) – it’s in case Big Bad China/Indonesia whoever come and bully us, so we can call on our big mate that we’ve always stuck with. But this nation thing, even back in the days of Sumeria people were throwing their weight around! Eddie Izzard – haven’t heard of him but I’ll look him up!

      • OH, he’s hilarious. Cross dresser, totally straight. But he does a great bit on “FLAGS” and domination.

        The show is called “Dressed to Kill”. F U N N Y !

      • I’ll look him up. I did, but couldn’t find anything relevant, but now I have something more to go on. Cross dressing and flags go together naturally, I think.

      • I hope you won’t be upset, CS … i’ve been painting up a storm, and not so much reading. Painting is an all consuming activity. That’s a good thing for me. Concentration, sweat, excitement. It’s like birthing a baby. And, since i’ve never done that … never mind. I don’t have to pass the canvas through my birthing canal. EW.

      • Now THAT would be interesting. At least, if you had to (‘bear’ it) you could have it rolled up really small. Pity you can’t do that with babies. Hope you’re going to put the results – paintings – up for people to enjoy, you highly talented person! xo

      • Cheeky… Rose, I tell you it’s the iPad, blame Steve Job… Oh, he’s dead, suppose I’ll have to loot for someone else to blame. And Mels, I think you have your priorities right, paint that storm and read whenever… Just read my blog, cause I miss your intelligent comments, unlike someone else I know, I think her name rhymes with Toes… Big smelly ones… CS

      • What? You DON’T miss my intelligent comments? My comments aren’t intelligent? Or I just don’t make any! Put it all down to my new regime of going to bed at 9.30 and my million dates with unsuspecting cougar-fanciers.

      • Yes I do miss your intelligent comments, although I have my doubts about the effectiveness of your new regime of going to bed at 9.30 when its combined with multiple dates with cougar fanciers, for me I go to bed to sleep, perchance to dream… And probably about women who fancy dates with a frustrated cradle snatcher, CS

      • Hiya! I know girls and boys … we’re a cheeky bunch. Thank you for supporting my current interest in rolling in paint … oh, and I assure you i’m covered in paint. In fact I have a few interesting stories about taking some paint to work and having no where to clean up. I work in a Law School setting, so no one “judges” you to your FACE. 😉 Well, at least i wasn’t finger painting, however my hands were a bit caked.

        OK, i will read today at some point because, apparently, i’m the only one washing my feet! MELS

      • Mmm, that IS good news. I also painted yesterday. Part of the back door, which is about to become a dog door. Brown. It was horrible – horrible colour, horrible job, but it’ll do!

  5. In the old days, you could do just that. Right up to Lincoln’s time, folks could just drop into the White House and have an interview with the President.

    A nation is a contract to guarantee certain rights to and expect certain obligations from individuals. It provides the necessary infrastructure for economies and the advancement of living. And, like it or not, there are certain small cliques of individuals out there who take delight in hijacking airplanes, murdering civilians and putting bombs on trains. When they come to you (and they will), who you gonna call to fight them? Monsanto? General Electric? The Illuminati? Rupert Murdoch?. No. You’re going to call America. And we’ll call the US Army. Because America is Batman. No one wants us, but everyone needs us. 🙂

    • That’s true – but that’s my point really. All we need the nation state for (eg the US) is to protect us against other nation states. But suppose there was just local governments. They wouldn’t have the resources to bomb airplanes or the motivation. In fact, most of the motivation to bomb airplanes and so on comes from people who are pissed off because of the interference (for good or ill, I’m not arguing either here) of YOUR nation state (or previously the USSR or Britain) in the affairs of their nation state. If everybody stayed at home and minded their own business, there probably wouldn’t be any terrorism of the type we have now (on the other hand, once someone does set up some sort of organised state with an army etc, everybody else has to just to survive).

  6. “some tribal chief with a taste for domination and a tee-pee full of hungry dependents decided it’d be good to move the marker posts out a bit”

    In my not so humble opinion, one of the reasons the U.S. is so big and mighty (aside from its own powerful resources), is it’s smooched off the resources of smaller, less dominant “nation states” such as Colombia.

    I heart you Beautiful Rose!

  7. All fine stuff, but the nation state is intricately tied in with economics, and without modern economics the web, internataional travel, all sorts of things we take for granted would never have been invented/discovered. Yes, things can be better, but they still need to exist. Ads pay for this blog, and they are part of the big world of commerce.

    • What you say is true, it’s not simple. But do we have to do away with commerce, if we do away with the nation state? Maybe we do. Maybe large enterprises of any sort are only possible if you have large organisations/societies conducting them. And yet, the Parthenon was built by a society organised around a single city, and the Renaissance took place in a non-unified Italy.

  8. I believe that the rise of the state, as well as its continued reign of power is caused by the innate human desire for an easy life. Humans are naturally migratory, we are supposed to be nomadic, moving from area to area living off the land. We developed tools and techniques to maximise the productivity of the land and decided that moving all the time was too much effort. Then materialism and greed became rampant, it is good to prize highly useful objects when you’re nomadic, but that basic drive evolved into “acquire more stuff you don’t really need”.

    State-ism is the answer to the question we all ask, “What’s to stop that guy taking all the stuff I acquired through hard work?”. It is only when we learn to care less about the things we own, and more about our personal liberty that we can shake off the shackles, and allow ourselves to be free from state control. Fear of loss will only truly disappear when the ease of acquisition is improved significantly, which could soon be at hand. With the technology for instant communication, we can share our ideas easily, and soon we will be able to produce most items we may need at home with a 3D printer/replicator.

    • That’s an interesting point of view. I think I agree with you, states are a way to protect property. I wonder if we will be able to produce anything we want with a replicator, one day? Fascinating if we could…Or if we could somehow just conjure ‘stuff’ up. If ‘stuff’ was easily come by, would anyone be that interested in having it? For instance, if you could dream up (or print off) a Mazerati just as easily as could Bill Gates, the difference between you and Mr Gates would instantly disappear. Which would be odd. How then would the ‘haves’ differentiate themselves? and would there be a need to? given that humans and other animals are innately hierarchical.

      • There would exist a more simple meritocracy, where those who know how to design and create the best devices and products would be held in high regard socially. Not to any financial gain, merely a higher social influence, not control or power. Just look at social media like twitter, politicians have fewer followers than singer-songwriters and film makers. In the ever approaching future, machines will do all labour intensive jobs and many inorganic goods can be produced at home The whole Star Trek future is on the way, where money is meaningless because trade is irrelevant. Nobody has more than they need because there is no need to hoard, the way we do now, to cause false scarcity and keep market prices for commodities high. The whole system just makes me want to cry and scream at the same time, but what helps me through it is the knowledge that the technology to set us all free is on its way!

  9. It’s the Rule of Texas. Bigger is BETTER. BIG Business is so much BETTER than little business. Big countries have more stuff than little countries and therefore are BETTER. Now we have Huge Corporations, Big Government, and we have become too small to deal with it anymore.

    I’ll keep thinking about it, but I think you’ve got a great idea. Clearly, if we could trust our local government to handle the necessities, we wouldn’t need BIG government to drag our collective asses off to war to get the things we need/want.

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