Judgement day on the nation-state
by Mike Meyer October 2017
Is there any value in nations? Or have they simply become another diseased, vestigial appendage? This is a basic question at the bottom of much political anger and confusion. Part of the problem was that we thought the issue was settled and nations as sovereign entities were simply going to face away gracefully but it didn’t happen.
Instead the stress of transitioning to a new global economy with the antiquated leaders of hypercapitalism at the helm inspired a new crop of brutal opportunists who drug reactionary fascism out of the dump and pumped it full of anger and adrenaline to excite the long forgotten populations. Nationalism, with little to really offer, was suddenly alive again.
This creates a complicated dilemma. As more and more people realize that we are at an inflection point in history that requires an active redefinition of human society including politics, economics, and structure, the wider the range of existing assumptions that are called into question. That means that there is very little in history of direct value. It’s obvious to most people, excluding the most reactionary and dogmatic, that the old right versus left political spectrum is gone. The languages of that were bogus and the issues mostly irrelevant. The issues now are not related to capital or the means of production but to planetary sustainability and quality of life.
We are have moved past the ages of scarcity and to questions of the most efficient means of distribution and methods of maximizing opportunities for building productive and satisfying lives. This is, of course, anathema, to those classes who have used the old systems to build massive wealth for themselves and their families. Their world was zero sum and that is all that they know. That is past as we move to the world of shared resources. The capitalist and partially representative nation-states that evolved from the 17th century were able to build capital resources for investment in development of planetary wide trade, production, and industrialization, but they had to do that in an age of scarcity. Resources needed to be marshaled to achieve a diverse set of goals. And it was a long and successful run but its time is up. The geometric development of automation now allows a completely different world without human sacrifice for the capital good. The changes to our environment by the old system and the finite nature of resources puts completely different requirements on us now.
One way to look at this is as utopia now being within reach of all but blocked by the manipulation of our addiction to conflict and covered in this excellent article by Caitlin Johnstone. But there are other problems with the concept of Utopia as it has evolved over nearly five hundred years. I think that the most important is that we have always seen Utopia as an end state. Correcting this may also allow us to deal with our learned addiction to drama and violence. When Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516 it was seen as a place. An island with a perfected society. That moved to a future place in the 18th, 19th century and collapsed into a bad dream in the 20th century. Great industrial gains resulted in great improvements but left a significant part of the population behind with no hope of arrival.
This is not the end of all rules, another version of Utopia, but the shared development of morality based on absolute human rights
We now need to restore that future, not as distant dream, but as immediate reality. The definition of Utopia distorted into the American dream of disposable property and vast mountains of goods for the ‘winners’ to gloat over is part of the old. We need to develop new definitions of sustainable utopia in as many forms as possible by the full diversity of our peoples and social units. This has been happening for forty years and is now an integral part of post industrial societies. Absolute respect for these rights is fundamental and does not allow demands to limit others rights masquerading as a right.
This is not the end of all rules, another version of Utopia, but the shared development of morality based on absolute human rights recognizing a higher level of planetary well being as we evolve to spread beyond our planet. Sustainability protects the fundamental right of all a life to survive. The limit to rights must start with actions that would infringe on sustainability and thus on the right to life for all. The rationally of this is obvious, long recognized, and spreading rapidly even though it was previously too massive a change for our biological nature. In this area also we have rapid technological change producing engineered foods allowing replacement of the incredibly destructive meat industries. The natural assumption is that we will achieve sustainability while also moving to a higher moral standard for all life. By focusing on the practical requirements of planetary sustainability we begin moving to a new universal morality not defined by arbitrary denial but by new products. This has evolved from green products to organic foods to local produce to socially supportive purchasing. This new morality will be achieved with technology allowing us to make sustainable choices with minimum sacrifice.
Perhaps the use of the term Utopia is not the best. For the more conservative minded this is a rediscovery of the human golden age, our long prehistory, as hunter gatherers. We understand the maintenance of our planet and steadily expand our ability to augment the resources that we need to live happily. This is the ultimate validation of a Universal Basic Income as the most practical path for resource distribution without limiting choice and opportunity. We are both recovering our past greatness and achieving our future opportunities.
With these changes in mind it appears that the sovereign nation state that evolved to support contractual trade and development in the ages of scarcity is no longer appropriate for the age of sustainability and resource abundance that we are entering. This despite efforts to salvage the nation state economically based primarily on administrative diversity for economic growth. Politically our focus must be the planet as a unit but administratively it is more appropriate to protect diversity and respond to needs within urban regions. Our evolving social media citizenship is also as important if not more important as direct democratic communities that do not need another antiquated, representative layer. This is even more important as public services expand to avoid the uncontrollable corruption of propaganda both public and private. These services should be owned and managed at the smallest practical public administration unit but linked through public controlled regional and planetary alliances. This, incidentally, would seem to address the some aspects of the effort to maintain nation-states as the best economic environment. The issue is one of administration and regulatory consistency.
While we need to do much careful reevaluation I think the nation-state has ceased to have value that would justify its survival. With survival and sustainability as our primary operating goals and the collapse of the limited representational governmental systems tied to nation-states , there is no reason to retain this level of administration. We need more immediate public management more closely tied directly to our residents in a particular region but also more closely focused on a shared commitment to planetary maintenance. Our economic needs are transitional away from mindless growth and directly to shared allocation of resources for the good of all member communities physically located or virtually defined.
That’s a big challenge with not much time to make it work before we are overwhelmed by climate disaster. We must find the new before we are destroyed by collapse of the old.