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Getting Past the Dominance of the Nation State (continuations.com)
95 points by imartin2k 121 days ago | hide | past | web | 97 comments | favorite

An Australian citizen is an Ecuadorian embassy in England, in order to protect himself from multiple governments that are trying to jail him who coincidentally have been hurt by information he's published as a journalist. Allegedly, a politician who was quite powerful and stood to become even more powerful asked why he couldn't just be assassinated (I think there was never a reliable source for this last bit).

Nation states are the only thing that can protect us from the powerful.

Eliminating nation states would be like having one lawyer arguing both sides of a criminal case. We need nation states to advocate for their citizens and we need nation states working against each other and competing to ensure the best outcome for everyone.

Support your nation state that supports you. In a world without nation states, when the government turns against you, you'll have nowhere left to go.

> The Nation State is too large a unit for good experiments. Take education as an example. Having a national policy makes little sense at a time when technology is fundamentally changing how learning can occur.

So just run those experiments at a smaller scale than the federal government. Nice to see everyone finally catching onto the idea of States' Rights.

> Information technology allows new approaches to regulation through transparency. In many instances what the federal level role should be is provide requirements for transparency of and interoperability between local/regional policies. This means we could have a significantly smaller Federal Government in terms of the number of direct employees, size of agencies and body of regulations.

Again, this has nothing to do with the existence of nation states.

Your example is kinda ironic, given that this Australian citizen is in an Ecuadorian embassy in England, and the politician who wanted to drone him is an American, and the reason he's still alive isn't actually any guns or tanks protecting him, it's the PR outcry that would happen if an assassination took place. His own nation state isn't doing a very good job of protecting him, considering he is taking shelter in another nation-state's property, and that the resources that would attack him are owned by yet another nation-state, and for a significant portion of the world's population, this latter nation-state has conducted quasi-military operations against them with no interference by their own governments. He might as well be holed up in a private citizen's condo in California, if he could find a private citizen who was willing to take him.

I see your point, and I get that there's a common-defense argument for the existence of nations. But realistically, if anyone not an American finds themself opposed to the U.S's interests, their national government isn't going to be of much help to them. Realistically, the invisible hand that prevents the U.S. from bullying the whole rest of the world (even moreso than they do) is that the U.S. as a nation has fairly little interest in being the boss of 7 million people, and oftentimes struggles with being the boss of 300 million people, and the popular outcry over wars abroad tends to stop them within 8 years or so after they get started. It has nothing to do with other nations being an effective check on U.S. power.

> It has nothing to do with other nation's being an effective check on U.S. power.

The example proves you wrong. Without another gov't protecting him, Assange would absolutely be in a US jail right now, or dead. I didn't say that the Ecuadorian military kept him safe. It is the nation states playing against each other that has kept him safe. Whether that play is social or economic or militaristic is just a minor footnote.

> He might as well be holed up in a private citizen's condo in California, if he could find a private citizen who was willing to take him.

Not an acceptable alternative. Gov't would find him. Very unlikely he would make it out of the airport. You have to have the power of the nation state to play against the other nation state. Ecuador provides that in this case. It doesn't always work (US rolls over nations in middle east all the time), but it does work most of the time most of the people (for some definition of "most of the people" which would be people who live in nations that play the nation state game).

He wouldn't, though, because with no nations, the U.S. wouldn't exist as a nation, nor would it have jails, nor would there be an "it" to have them. You can't take one side of the thought experiment, eliminate it, and then assume that the other side will run amok without it, because the whole point of the thought experiment was to imagine what would happen if we eliminate the concept of nation-states.

The bigger question is "Is there some person or organization who would cause harm to Assange that he would not be able to protect himself against?" I don't know the answer to that. Go back to the Middle Ages and the answer would be that Assange would pledge his loyalty to one particular lord, who he agreed not to spill the beans on, and he would get protection from them in return. With city-states (popular in antiquity, and perhaps rising again), he would reside in a city, and (assuming he wasn't exiled), that city would provide for his defense and refuse to extradite him, and all the other cities can go to hell.

The complexity today is that we have this whole other level of trans-national organizations: multinational corporations, NGOs, philanthropic foundations, Internet communities, hacker collectives, etc. Many of the "attacks" on these organizations can't be stopped by a national border; for example, Assange can continue releasing damaging information against the U.S. from within the Ecuadorian embassy, and he has done nothing to physically violate U.S. territory, and yet this doesn't matter because our lives are half lived in cyberspace anyway. The nation-state arose as a protective force to ensure that violence occurred only within well-defined wars at the edges of their territories, and citizens could basically count on peace when not at war. It basically succeeded at that, but it succeeded so well that the "battlegrounds" now have nothing to do with physical location and often little to do with physical force.

You make a good point, but his argument then quickly boils down to anarchist style stuff which isn't worth a debate in my opinion. If you removed all these power structures somehow, they would just be replaced by other (probably identical) power structures.

> The nation-state arose as a protective force to ensure that violence occurred only within well-defined wars at the edges of their territories, and citizens could basically count on peace when not at war. It basically succeeded at that, but it succeeded so well that the "battlegrounds" now have nothing to do with physical location and often little to do with physical force.

This is an interesting idea, so suppose the nation state is eliminated. Wouldn't there just be a new equivalent of the nation state that arises that is based not around physical borders but around digital borders in some way? People are always going to disagree about fundamental ideas, and they're going to band together to protect their ability to live according to those ideas. Which brings us back to the article's point #1: "Nation states, true to their name, tend to emphasize the interests of a particular nation above others.". We'll just end up with that again but instead of the US sanctioning Russia, we're going to have 4chan, reddit, and instagram launching DDoS attacks against each others' users.

Well, you're certainly not going to eliminate the concept of power. I've heard that floated by some utopianists ("we'll have world government and then everybody will get along with everybody else") and I think it's ridiculous.

I don't think that's what the article is suggesting, though. Rather, it's suggesting that we re-draw the boundaries of how we organize that power, with one level globally and another locally (probably at the city or territory level).

I'd assume (based on similar writings) that this would work with a federated world government with very limited and specifically-enumerated powers. Basically, we accept certain principles as foundational (rule of law, property rights, non-violence, consent of the governed), and then transfer the monopoly on physical force to a world government whose only task is ensuring that individuals don't violate that. The world government would have very limited powers: aside from preserving peace, it'd basically just define the rules around trade disputes and redress of grievances, and delegate the arbitration of these disputes to a mutually-acceptable arbiter. Possibly it might also serve as a market-maker for externalities (eg. selling carbon credits) and coordinator for shared efforts (eg. fighting infectious disease, or interstellar space travel). It would also ensure freedom to move between municipalities as long as you accept the laws of the local municipality, i.e. borders cannot keep people in or out, but they do define the extent of how you must behave within the municipality.

All other powers would go toward local municipalities. This includes a great deal of things currently reserved for a nation-state: drug laws, the place of religion, official languages, national holidays, traffic management, growth policies, possibly even things like free speech. So if San Franciscans want to smoke out, Emirates want to mandate the wearing of the hijab, Texans want complete freedom to carry a gun, Virginians want a holiday honoring Robert E. Lee, they all get that - within their own city. They just don't get to force other people to take on their customs. If Californians are upset by how everybody in Texas is packing heat, or Texans are upset by how Muslims wear a head scarf, or Muslims are upset by how San Franciscans smoke out all the time - too bad, they can define how people should behave in their own city, but they don't get to define how everybody else behaves. And the role of the world government is to ensure that, and put down any attempt at imposing your views on others by force.

I've been wondering whether the web and sites like Wikileaks signal the emergence of a meta-state level of power, one in which the ability of states to function is governed non-locally.

Maybe I'm confused, but that sounds precisely like the current condition of countries today, except on a scale smaller than America and more similar to small European or Asian nations. Having a global government would either do nothing to them in the best case scenario, or more likely, end up crushing them for the needs of the many and/or ultra rich.

Taking your example of Virginians wanting a holiday for Robert E Lee, small countries and big countries could easily do this. You say limit it to a city so that those who don't want it aren't affected. But even passing it at the city level leaves people who don't want it. I see no difference between 60% of a country the size of Malta supporting something and 60% of a city the size of Anchorage.

Well it kind of is, but with power being pushed even further down to the local level, where you could actually know your leaders, you largely remove the ability of nations to wage wars, especially on any sort of global level, and people are better able to self organize. In the states we see a problem right now with coast-inland and some other smaller cultures where you have some people who are able to take power dictating wildly different views for other people who absolutely disagree with them. It's hard to manage a multi-cultural country. We see it right now.

Thinking strictly about the freedom of movement, there is a huge difference between Malta enacting a policy I hate enough to leave it and Anchorage doing the same. In the latter case it's easier for me to pack up and go somewhere else. This may or may not be the case in the absence of nation-states, but I suspect that freedom of movement would be greater than it is between nation-states today--at least in the vast majority of cases.

For someone who is apparently considering what life without nation states would be like for the very first time, you're remarkably confident in their necessity.

Imagination is difficult. Ask a simple person what would happen, "if women didn't have babies." After attempting to think for a while, they'll just sputter, "but women have babies!"

>He wouldn't, though, because with no nations, the U.S. wouldn't exist as a nation, nor would it have jails, nor would there be an "it" to have them.

That's naive. Nations or no nations, in the resulting mega-empire, the US powerful (which are in the top 0.01% of the world) and its special interests, will still dominate most of the goings on. If they're joined by EUs 0.01% even better, and even less chances for Assange. Heck, they already do all that through their allies (NATO, political lackeys etc), that wont stop because "nation states have now disbanded").

This argument is like what we hear from drivers of really big SUVs. "I've got to drive a big SUV! Otherwise I would be run over by one! You're crazy for riding a bicycle!"

> the politician who wanted to drone him is an American, and the reason he's still alive isn't actually any guns or tanks protecting him, it's the PR outcry that would happen if an assassination took place

Are you talking about Hilary Clinton? I wouldn't trust the sources on that. Additionally, it's just plain ridiculous. A Predator drone dropping 100lb bombs on an embassy in London? A PR outcry of an assassination would be the least of the repercussions that this would incur.

I don't actually care whether it's true or not - the OP brought it up as an example, so rather than challenge the example I'd rather challenge the point. This blog post starts as a thought-experiment for what would happen if there were no nation-states, which is clearly already in the realm of fiction, so if it's not true then just posit hypothetically that a Secretary of State suggested that the U.S. drop a bomb on an Australian citizen in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

My point is that it's not actually Ecuador or the UK who keeps him alive, it's that the U.S. would be dropping a bomb on a private citizen in the midst of a city.

> My point is that it's not actually Ecuador or the UK who keeps him alive, it's that the U.S. would be dropping a bomb on a private citizen in the midst of a city.

Don’t they already do that?

The UK is the US's closest ally, forged in the blood of millions of dead fighting for common causes. The last military action between the two was over two centuries ago.

It would be truly unprecedented to bomb the capital of our closest ally, an act which is undoubtedly an act of war, in order to assassinate a US citizen accused of crimes.

There's no comparison whatsoever between this hypothetical act and airstrikes in an active warzone.

Assange is not a US citizen.

I was mistakenly thinking of Edward Snowden, who is in Russia, not London. Bombing Russia to get Snowden would also be very bad.

Yeah, but only in uncivilised places and fortunately the casualties are always suspected militants. So that doesn't count.

In other words, in places where the nation-state is weak

Yeah, but non in cities-proper, in arab, asian etc cities. Who cares about those people and their kids?


Not on NATO signataries.

> A Predator drone dropping 100lb bombs on an embassy in London?

Obviously that wouldn't happen, but there's more discreet ways of killing someone than that. Obama has an enormous amount of people assassinated without trial, including American citizens. It's more than just a thought experiment.

> I wouldn't trust the sources on that Like I said, I think there's no good source for it. That the highest levels of the US govt considered the idea of assassinating Assange because he is damaging to the image of America is plausible though.

It isn't ironic at all. Ecuador gets some political points for making the US and Australia look foolish. The US, Australia and UK respect sovereignty and won't breach it.

They would if they could, but there would be a cost, and they consider the price too high to pay.

Nation states are not the problem. The use of physical (including military) and economic violence between competing interest blocs is the problem.

Eliminating nation states won't solve the problem of competition.

If it did we would all be a lot better off, because the cost of the perpetual proxy war between the different interest blocs does unbelievable harm to the planet's collective intelligence, and to our economic and scientific potential.

Well, he probably could be assassinated if he annoyed the wrong government:


Nation-states are not necessarily the optimal site of democracy, but eliminating them without implementing some other site of democracy is lunacy.

it's the 🇪🇨 Ecuadorian Embassy, if were thinking of the same Australian

I think we are. Fixed.

Arguably, we're already sailing past dominant nation states into uncharted waters in many respects. Just look at "free trade" treaties of the last couple decades. They're less about removing barriers such as tariff's, etc. and more about ensconcing the rights of corporations over states.

e.g. Your constituents don't like pollution in their river and, playing to your constituents, you pass a law to ban dumping of chemical X, which was previously thought to be harmless but now appears to be not so harmless. Oops! Your government is being sued by foreign corporations impacted by this law, because a treaty you signed gives them that right.

Bottom line, if we're going to continue eroding the power of nation states (and nation states really are doing it to themselves), we'd better be damned sure something representing and protecting the interests of people is there to replace it. Lots of science fiction dystopias feature corporate cleptocracy's as dominant forces, and that's for a very good reason!

I have to agree, the key question here is where would the power go if nation states give it away. I can relate to the candidness in the article, but there is an equal amount of naivety. It's not because nation states exist that nations tend to fight for power, it's because we individually and collectively think about power in a certain way. As long as our main struggle is for power, whether by money or force, and as long as we see democracy as a process of giving our powers away to concentrate it, then nation states will reflect that reality of human thinking. In that respect nations are still useful to localise the blast impact of our collective stupidity. Globalisation today has nothing to do with economic wisdom and everything to do with power concentration.

The most interesting development in that respect, IMO, is the shift towards groups of municipalities. When Trump decided to get out of the Paris Agreement, C200, a group of 200 of the biggest cities in the world coordinating climate actions, took the relay and the US cities in it decided to disregard the state's position.

Fearless cities, http://fearlesscities.com/ is another one, more centered on Europe on the so-called "crisis" of refugees, opting for an approach putting human rights, rather than fear, in the center of their decisions.

I predict that these federations will take over nation states first on issues that states are simply abandoning: environment and human rights issues. Maybe they will slowly grab part of state-level missions.

City states would be wonderful. It even gives people the choice - a lot of people want to live in rural communities that are, in general, the ones holding back progressive agendas. Let the cities do their liberal thing independently of rural towns doing their conservative thing. As long as you have a mutual agreement to keep the borders open going in to the arrangement, people can go where their interests are best served.

There's some modern precedent for operating large cities differently than the major territories in which they sit. For example, China runs its larger cities at the national level, while the provincial governments handle the rest of the territories at a local level.

Also a lot of European cities used to elect their leaders even under feudal systems.

> They're less about removing barriers such as tariff's, etc. and more about ensconcing the rights of corporations over states.

This fud that has been spread by the illiterate folk of the internet has caused so much damage. ISDS is for enforcing agreements between states if they feel businesses from their countries are being unfairly discriminated against. Nation states are still perfectly able to leave the free trade agreements if the terms are not satisfactory because they are sovereign. ISDS is the mechanism by which free trade agreements actually ensure there is free trade. Don't join free trade agreements if you want to place tariffs on foreign businesses or enforce regulations selectively against foreign business.

>e.g. Your constituents don't like pollution in their river and, playing to your constituents, you pass a law to ban dumping of chemical X, which was previously thought to be harmless but now appears to be not so harmless. Oops! Your government is being sued by foreign corporations impacted by this law, because a treaty you signed gives them that right.

I love your example because it shows how little you even know about what you are spreading fear of. You clearly feel strongly about this but you were incapable of spending 5 minutes reading wikipedia to inform yourself about what you are writing about?

>governments retain their regulatory ability, if the agreements in question specify that regulations protecting health, the environment, labour rights and human rights are allowed.


e.g. don't sign an agreement if you don't want to follow the provisions of the agreement. Otherwise don't expect other people to follow the stipulation of the agreement either.

Why do you insist on commenting about something you are clearly ignorant about? I am willing to bet $1000 that you have not read a single word of these trade agreements you feel so confident to give lectures on.

Bottom line, people that are ignorant and have no idea what they are talking about should not act as if they do.

re: ISDS, one concrete example of is the case of Australian tobacco plain packaging regulation versus the tobacco company Philip Morris [1] [2].

In 2011 Australia passed legislation that "requires health warnings to cover at least 75 per cent of the front of most tobacco packaging, 90 per cent of the back of cigarette packaging and 75 per cent of the back of most other tobacco product packaging" [3].

Philip Morris restructured and moved the headquarters of their Australia and Asia operations to Hong Kong. By doing this they could take advantage of an earlier 1993 trade agreement between Hong Kong and Australia, and launched an ISDS claim against the Australian government, claiming that the packaging regulation meant that their branding and trademarks had been confiscated.

Say what you want about "free trade" agreements between states, it is pretty obvious that if these agreements can be potentially exploited as above then one of the outcomes of such agreements is the erosion of the rights of states and their citizens, and in increase in power and freedom to global capital.

[1] https://www.ag.gov.au/tobaccoplainpackaging

[2] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/austra...

[3] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/conten...

And Phillip Morris lost the case. You left out that particular part in your example. I wonder why that is? Is it because in this case, as in most such 'examples' of the horrors of ISDS, it turns out that the system did not prevent a nation from acting against a foreign corporate interest?

> And Phillip Morris lost the case. You left out that particular part in your example.

It's not about who lost or won, the problem is that there was a hearing at all. Why would there be a need for dispute settlement between companies and states ? There can be no dispute, the state dictates the law and the companies either comply or leave the country.

ISDS is like giving kids the possibility of suing their parents over their bedtime. It implies the kids have some kind of say in the matter when they really don't.

> There can be no dispute, the state dictates the law and the companies either comply or leave the country.

Why even have free trade agreements if you can create laws that will destroy foreign business? ISDS is not so states can be subject to companies, it for states to follow agreements they sign. If the state values muh sovereignty so much they can simply reneg on the agreement and lose the benefit of free trade.

> Why even have free trade agreements if you can create laws that will destroy foreign business?

if the business in question is only profitable because it pushes negative externalities onto other parties due to lack of regulation (e.g. tobacco companies, anyone on the supply/demand side of unregulated polluting industries) then it sounds like destroying such business models through regulation is a feature, not a bug.

> ISDS is not so states can be subject to companies, it for states to follow agreements they sign.

Countries have their own legal systems for that, there is no need for ISDS.

Sure, you can just not trade with the US, the richest country in the world. See how far that takes your economy.

No one has read "a single word of those trade agreements" because it was all done in secret until it was already signed and there's nothing to do but sign it.

>No one has read "a single word of those trade agreements" because it was all done in secret until it was already signed and there's nothing to do but sign it.



The reason it was negotiated in secret is because governments understand that there are large populations of easily influenced idiots that can be manipulated to be against these agreements even though they benefit the people on net.

You lost, OK? If we just stipulate that it's because 99.9% of Americans are idiots compared to you, can we have a year or two of breathing room before you attempt to backdoor us with this sort of evil shit again?

Oh please, it might take 10 years it might take 15 years but TPP will be signed. You have no influence and thankfully the people that rule the countries of the world are much more intelligent than the moronic rabble of Sanders and Trump supporters that are against free trade.

Thanks, I just asked for a year or two but 15 will do nicely. You might find the world will have changed a bit, if you're still around then...


Getting past the dominance of your legal rights under laws you can influence...

Getting past your having a representative government where you're more than one six-billionth of the vote...

Getting past your sense of belonging to any kind of a shared culture...

...to that glorious future where you receive the beneficence and wisdom of multinational corporations directing each facet of your lives, untrammelled by that old fashioned notion that you and your compatriots might have concerns about how they operate, and may require them to conform to your expectations, rather than your society conform to theirs...

Sorry, but I think I'll hang on to the idea of having a national parliament full of politicians that we can all bemoan, but that sometimes actually defends our interest.

My thoughts exactly.

If the nation state is to go away in favor of one global government then you sure as hell are not going to get those nice things like decenralization. You are by the nature of what you are doing getting more centralization. And thats bad, very bad. Just to give you an example, look at modern events. Edward Snowden can leak information of the USA government and he can get away with that because there is Russia which acts now "as the protector of free speach". In a global government there would be no way to run. States needs to compete against each other. A monopoly never benefits the customer!

A citizen isn't a customer of a nation.

That attitude is a sad artifact of a particular period of time. In future there will be fewer walls and other terrible methods of custom-enforcement.

You do not seem to understand. Customer has an implicit meaning of having your services sold by a company. Citizens do not have services sold to them. They're bound by a social contract, and have agreed to go ahead, together. The services they benefiot from are the consequences of their choices. The nation and the state are an extension of this social contract. I do not care for borders and walls, and would gladly see them disappear. But not if it's at the cost of becoming a "customer".

Customers can opt out of the "contract". If citizens can't, some of them will have very bad experiences. That's true even if most citizens are able to affect the terms of the contract in meaningful ways. Some citizens simply do not have that privilege, and occasionally their happiness is contingent on the possibility of escape.

I think you'll have a hard time convincing Chinese, Russians and Indians to de-emphasize nation-states, let alone telling them not to put their nation first.

If you travel a bit, outside of western Europe which experienced WWII, most places --even dirt poor ones, have very nationalistic tendencies.

I don't see the idea catching on in most of the world, unfortunately. And then remember the conspiracy theories behind "the new world order" and "thousand points of light" and how people derided that.

That said, long term, we will have to arrive at some solution which ensures that not one nation (or any other organization of people) have the capacity to inflict destruction on others --the way Guangdong cannot decimate Guangxi or Colorado cannot invade Utah.

Given that the majority of those people are trapped behind the boundaries of those states by poverty and visa rules, I can understand why they are nationalistic.

Getting rid of the nation states is the same as only having a single nation state.

Something similar occurred during the Roman Empire. There wasn't any practical way to get out of the empire, and no practical check on the power of the government of the empire.

If the policies of the empire happened to affect you negatively, there really wasn't anything you could do about it. You couldn't pick up an leave. You couldn't affect the government policy. You and your family for generations would just be stuck.

I think there is an alternate interpretation (or at least just a reinforcement of my own beliefs) that the nation state should just occupy that local / regional level. We consolidated nations and built empires because of the logistical and militaristic needs of organization in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Since WW2, though, we have:

* Solved the logistical problem with the adoption of wide area communications networks, enabling instant communication and more importantly negotiations between independent regions and areas anywhere in the world.

* Solved the military problem with the development of world-wrecking nuclear weapons, whose presence equalizes all involved nations such that it does not matter if you have a giant population and production machine to build every other weapon of war - the danger of just a few dozen advanced nuclear weapons in arsenal deters any reasonable nation from attempting invasion because that many bombs could render the Earth uninhabitable.

Additionally, computers ease the burden of managing international relations between potentially thousands of participating bodies by instituting protcol standards between them and the Internet gives us an environment to broadcast transparently the terms of interaction between nations, and those can be updated in real time in ways a generation ago couldn't consider possible.

Now there is no good motivation to maintain giant nation states. Letting large countries break up into smaller, more focused soverignties handling their own affairs maximizes liberty for the people. And the international economy can be very effective as a tool of global governance - if you and most nations agree on something, and think it is important enough, you can embargo the dissenters to put economic pressure on them to reform. Likewise, for any noble cause, you can accept the burden of economic isolation to prove your point and then campaign to change the minds of citizens in other countries.

If governance were localized like this, you would not run into the apathetic superstate of the modern age where citizens demands are very often ignored. When a legislature only rules a few million people, individual voices are louder, and deposing the corrupt is much more straightforward - even if it requires violence. The larger and more expansive the sovereignty the more detached from any one locality it becomes until it is just detached from everyone operating as this global influence without oversight.

When mini-states start popping up, it's usually accompanied by conflict, not freedom.

Imagine scenarios where parts of the United States or Mexico broke up. The result is certain warfare and likely military dictatorships.

"If the policies of the empire happened to affect you negatively, there really wasn't anything you could do about it."

Depends. You could have used the influence of your powerful family/friends. Unless your family wasn't powerfull ... but in that case you can't do much today either.

This has been tried before, Holy Roman Empire, Soviet Union. None of those were solving these most pressing problems. We cannot expect a "global government" to solve these problems either.

Nation states are much better.

Some people may argue that previous experiments at bigger states failed for a lack of communication, a problem that can be solved much better with internet, machine learning, etc.

I confess difficulty in taking any article seriously when it implies that "the blockchain" is some sort of revolution in distributed consensus.

It's actually a very inefficient tool for this, and better methods have existed for years.

How in the world is individual taxation a "global problem"? The only interpretation I can make of that is that we should have to pay for a world government, with which I emphatically disagree.

Most of the taxable income (unlike most of taxable people and organizations) is international, mobile and very flexible, so effective taxation already relies heavily on international agreements and cooperation.

If you'd leave Bill Gates taxation to whatever municipality he lives in, the expected result would be that the richest person in the world would pay practically no taxes; you need to tax (and thus cooperatively track) worldwide revenue of people and corporations. Tax spending can and should be handled as locally as possible, but tax collection would be best done globally, cooperatively eliminating loopholes (like forcing tax shelter jurisdictions to change their ways) and establishing common rules to avoid a "bidding war to the bottom", like the current EU initiative to harmonize corporate income tax.

A "bidding war" is an extremely good thing. I want governments to compete to offer me the lowest possible tax rates. What you're describing is a monopoly, which would be very bad for the "customers" (everyone except governments).

Thanks to technology our nation states will probably grow bigger. But having no nation states is quite unlikely. The reason why there are states in one form or another since forever is that they give people some feeling of unity, not some feeling of exclusion of others. So without nation states people don't suddenly feel all happy, but they don't have any unity that pulls them together.

This implies that thousands of years of human history where people were not members of giant continent spanning countries people had to unity.

That is absurd. People can feel a sense of community on many scales, but the extremes are from ones own family to feeling like a citizen of Earth and a part of a global human culture.

Nation states are one optional step on that ladder, and it has many more than just three levels in it. Hell, just consider the difference in scale of nation states - from a country like New Zealand that has half the population of the New York Metro Area, to India or China with more than a billion people each. Completely arbitrary, and the size and cultural divides between different countries are massive. You can't even come close to placing all nation states at one tier of social inclusion and absolutely cannot ascribe individual happiness to membership in one.

I don't want to argue that nation states are best theoretical models to bring people togehter, but I want to argue that the real states, as sh*tty as they may be, are the result of hard work of many people and one of the features they offer is a higher level of unity than anything that came before them. Just dropping these results of hard work will not end up in more success. I want to argue that you can't win a marathon by stopping to run before the finish line.

Is Globalisation no longer the 'inevitable' it was once touted as? National leaders have for some time now been promising things which are simply not in their gift economically whilst becoming more and more protectionist and frankly bigoted in what they say. I get that they are merely echoing the concerns of their constituents and that democracies being organised on national lines that there has effectively been this incredible disenfranchisement as a result of globalisation. I think it was Joe Stiglitz who about a decade ago advised us to turn up at AGMs rather than polling booths if we wanted to continue to have a say in our futures. More likely we will have super-nation states like China and Europe before we 'get past' nation-states entirely. And although the anti-globalists appear to be winning currently, the market will in the end I believe choose not to have borders and woe betide those luddites who oppose it. Trumpistas, Brexiteers et al.

Yea, globalization is still inevitable because its economic prospects crush isolationism. Countries that don't participate will (and do) fall behind. If legislatures try to resist it, they will find consequences to their economic bottom line that can cripple an economy for decades.

The current crop of nationalism in the west is coming from the dying breath of a generation on the way out. People they don't want to fade away or have someone else take their place, that want to fight for what is effectively just them getting younger again and wanting to be back in the 1950s and 1960s with all that entails.

The only hope can be that rather than try to resist globalization the world economy can collectively steer it towards positive outcomes for humanity rather than selfish outcomes for the soon to be trillionaires steering the ship. And that the economic tides of the modern era don't embitter new generations into the same blind nostalgia for their own pasts when the world moves on - back to that steering issue - we need to avoid having hundreds of millions more people fall off the train in the future to avoid this environment happening again.

This has been dreamed about since forever I think.

The shoddy implementation in the past has been empire. Anyone can become a citizen of Rome. There was even a "Roman" empire which persisted for centuries that didn't even include the city of Rome. Rather it was an idea, a uniting of cultures under a common law and currency.

But the trouble with centralization is when it breaks down ("when", not "if") people go right back to their natural state of bands and tribes and feudal warlords. And it's hard to have nice things in that state. Witness Somalia or the Middle Ages. So I think some intermediate organizational complexity is good as a buffer and insurance against collapse back to low level tribalism.

If the idea of eventual world governance is some type of EU/UN council of bureaucrats making detailed rules and policies I'm afraid that won't work out well. The word "ineffective" comes to mind. Plus, the cogs and citizens in nation states have an extreme vested interest in keeping things as they are. So there will, for the foreseeable future, be a very large group not interested in reporting to an international committee who have enough power to make sure it doesn't happen.

However the problems of nation states, particularly right now, are very real. Pollution. International crime. Tax Evasion. Sophisticated weaponry. Etc. Etc.

These things have to self organize in my opinion. Kind of like how they say you should look for trails in the grass where people have walked to see where to put the sidewalks.

I've always thought the eventual outcome would be something along the lines of a very lose international order dealing with broad rules of pollution, international trade etc. and then more detailed city/county level governments who take care of most of the day to day governance. I've thought AI might be best suited to run the international order. Remove the politics at that level. Keep it math.

I think its time to get past the episode of surplus cash in multi-national cooperations pockets, corroding local laws.

I like what he's describing, but as he said, this could never be done in a quick manner. We will probably not see it in our lifetimes.

Regions need other regions to help them when things are going badly (and if we are to experiment, we need to acknowledge that bad things will happen to regions that they themselves cannot solve). Nation states are composed of many regions so they can force or incentivize regions to share the load.

If we truly want equal opportunity, we need to make sure that regions are not completely stopped from innovating but also don't have to take all of the consequences when something goes wrong. Sure, they shouldn't come off scot-free, but it's very low for a region's children, elderly and sick to pay the full price for something they had little chances to stop anyway.

How can one talk about governance units and not mention safety/army? If there is going to be another form of governance it has to protect its "citizens". Protect from whom and how ? Who will be terrorists, who will be good guys? As an example nowadays we have ISIS, a loose international ideology spread through the internet across borders, from people with little hope of forming a sovereign. Kingdoms, City states, Empires, feudal lords, nation states, their existence depended on exchanging safety for taxes/servitude. I believe that's the main force (fear) that unites people under a blanket term/belief. Not "common problems" which have always existed anyways.

ISIS in a perfect world would be combated by UN peacekeepers and allies of Syria and Iraq in the territories they control.

The international supporters are just domestic terrorists, to be dealt with by police.

Really nothing changes from present day, except that Russia and the US aren't doing their own thing in the region with their own militaries, which is largely what caused most of the unrest and extremism in the region - their interventions for the past century in that area.

so many people seem to conclude that absent nation-states we must move to a global government. did you even read the article or the book that was linked therein?

The modern democratic nation state was widely ridiculed in Europe, by existing kingdoms and fiefdoms.

I feel like what I am watching on most of this thread is whatever future comes next being widely ridiculed by defenders of the current state of affairs. History repeats itself.

we've come up with a system that's created great prosperity and wealth for all our citizens, but it's important to look back at what they had going on in the 1200's -- those were the good old days.

(I don't mean to be so dismissive, but a lot of people still don't have access to the internet and the technology and services, and they way they get that infrastructure built is through nation states.)

He wasn't saying to go back to 1200s, his point was that, ,=since then, those states fused into countries which was good, therefore we should keep fusing into (presumable) the inevitable one-world government.

One world government = single point of failure. It may work more harmoniously if you have leaders that care about the people they serve, but if misguided leaders get into power and cause problems your choices of living in a society beyond the control of this leadership is greatly reduced.

Playing devils advocate a bit here, but does it actually matter to an individual? In most parts of the world it does not matter if your country is composed of millions or hundreds of millions of people, you can't just leave if the government turns against your interests.

For most people, they are stuck with the government they have no matter what, regardless of if it is a good or bad one.

For all of them, a world government changes nothing. They are already at the whims of leaders that can work harmoniously or for selfish ends that can better or worsen their lives with no recourse on their individual parts.

The exception, and I think this is what the OP misses, is that Europe is demonstrating that you can take a different route, with sovereign states that agree to open borders that allow people to instead go wherever they feel best served by the state. The EU is new, but if it doesn't fall apart I guarantee in a century it will evolve into different countries appealing to the specialized interests of certain peoples who then migrate there. I would feel that is much more healthy than trying to erect universal laws upon every human on Earth.

> "does it actually matter to an individual?"

Yes, and it's not just about population size, there are more important concerns, such as the safety and economic mobility of the individual.

Let me put it like this, would you rather live in your current nation state with the leadership you have, or under a world government run by a ruler like Duerte that openly promotes killing people (my apologies if you're currently living in a country like this).

> "For most people, they are stuck with the government they have no matter what"

Not really. People do move country when things get bad in their own one (for political and economic reasons), even when they don't have much money to do so. People even risk their lives to make such journeys.

> "They are already at the whims of leaders that can work harmoniously or for selfish ends that can better or worsen their lives with no recourse on their individual parts."

Not all countries are equally badly run. Some national governments look after their citizens better than others. I can list some examples if you like.

> "Europe is demonstrating that you can take a different route"

Europe isn't taking a different route. The EU is becoming increasingly centralised. The Eurozone is a step towards consolidating economic power in Brussels, there are talks of an EU Army, etc...

> "I would feel that is much more healthy than trying to erect universal laws upon every human on Earth."

In my opinion, the best compromise is universal rights rather than universal laws. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was organised by the UN is one example of this:


This is a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc situation. Why should the nation state get the credit for the success of capitalism?

To suggest that humanity needs a global state seems to beg the question of all of politics: how do you get people to get along and transition peacefully to new states?

The threat of Napoleon got the Holy Roman Empire to globulate into its modern nation-states. But I don't see how Saudi Arabia is ever going to relinquish power, let alone share a government with the Israelis.

All of humanity is never going to agree on the same values. The best we can hope for is that people with the same values can find places to live together and share those values.

The problem is not the "nation state" but nationalism.

In most cases, the former encourages and sustains the latter.

I think that cyberpunk literature might have a clue here as to how this might happen.

1) Decouple states from strictly adjacent geography. There's no reason that "France" has to all be where it is in Europe. We already have precedent for that with Embassies, Diplomatic vehicles and other foreign soil recognitions. Imagine a France franchise the size of your average McDonalds, in the middle of what we now call Thailand. Maybe it's in a mall next to a Venezuelan franchise. You can pass between entirely different governing systems as easily as walking between stores. There's other precedents, colonial territories and other overseas holdings, but those have different semantics I think than overseas diplomatic mission franchises.

2) Since states no longer are tied to specific contiguous geographic areas, why do historic nations only get to play in the franchise game? How about independent state franchises? What if Google opened some brick and mortar micro nations in city centers all over the world? Or Green Peace? Or any group of like-minded individuals able to "buy-in" to whatever threshold is required to achieve some kind of global state franchise recognition? What if stepping into any Walmart was effectively the same as walking into the Nation of Walmart? Why does a nation even need territory? What about on-line nation states?

There's some precedent here as well, with a couple non-territory owning states like the Knights of St. John having many functions and obligations of a state, without having any territory.

3) This effectively makes the (dys)topia of nation-companies come true. But it also enables very free movement between nations. Don't like how Walmart taxes the little guy? Move over to Sony, or France, or the Reconstituted U.S.S.R. in Australia.

The other path is of course a kind of global citizenship, where citizenship to individual nation states either doesn't exist or is purely optional. Or another model where citizenship can happen at different scales such as county citizenship that gives you specific rights within a tiny territory or continental citizenship that spans across nation states. Another path might be buying certain pieces and parts of different citizenships: I want American-style free speech and libel laws, but U.K. style health care and Korean style justice system...so I become fractional citizen of those three states for those things and pay taxes (dues) into those systems apportioned to some asking price.

Ultimately the real question here that will determine the mechanics of this evolution will be "what's the goal?". If it's free movement between territories, a system like the E.U. or the U.S. seems to work pretty well for that. If it's looking for a specific kind of representation (better health care in this place vs. that, different legal standards for property ownership, etc.) then some other system. Nation State membership today works because it's at some equilibrium that provides some measure of rights and obligations that more or less works for the population.

That equilibrium in many cases has changed significantly over time, with new rights being recognized, and new obligations also being asked of the citizenry, sometimes states that aren't working are dissolved and sometimes new ones take their place. But the general direction is that states with an internal ability to peacefully move along with that equilibrium seem to be doing well, and ones that provide too rigid of a framework finds themselves in trouble. The unfairness of course comes with the minority of people in each nation who are at the ends of the various internal socio-political spectrums in each state who can't get a representation-responsibility mix that works for them, and their particular state can't offer.

Snow Crash!


We detached this flagged subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14579503.

Do you have a source? I'm not a huge Hillary Clinton fan, but the thought that she would actually assassinate a US citizen by bombing another nation's embassy in London beggars belief.

Haha you can run the Google yourself. I didn't bring up this tawdry episode in the first place. The point I'd like to make is that there is no legal process by which normal American subjects can rein in the evil that is accomplished via their taxes. You might not find that on Google.

No man, that's not how it works. If you're going to make outrageous claims, YOU need to provide the evidence. And I did just run a Google search and didn't find anything, so I really don't know what you're talking about.

I typed in "hillary assange". Autosuggest came up with "drone" as the first suggestion. I clicked on that, because that's exactly what we're talking about. I read the first three links, from Politico, Snopes, and Washington Examiner. Hillary doesn't recall making the joke, but if she had done, it would have been a joke rather than a serious suggestion. Whether she actually joked thus is unresolved, because no one related the story on the record. Apparently, "sources at the State Department" is "a vague and anonymous reference that does not yield to verification". (That seems an important consideration when consuming the excretions of the modern news media.) Immediately after the meeting at which the hypothetical joke may or may not have been cracked, one of Hillary's aids sent an email about "nonlegal" strategies for dealing with Wikileaks, which is the organization with which Assange is associated. It is noted further that "nonlegal" is not the same as "illegal" or "barbarous" or "murderously cynical and corrupt".

If you operate the Google, you too can learn trivial bullshit like this. Of course, you already have, and I haven't told you anything you don't already know. Your comment was entirely pro forma, a meaningless gesture that one makes while under the influence of the mind-killer. I encourage you to read this thread: I'm not the one who referred to this bizarre occasion in the first place, and my point is not that Hillary is an any way an exceptionally awful national politician. Most of them are exactly the same as she is.

[EDIT:] Congratulations on successfully trolling me, I guess. Since you just jumped in at this point with your "I'm not a huge Hillary Clinton fan" shtick, and I was the first to successfully spell her name even though the thread discussing this has been up for nine hours, I have to wonder: do you have a continuous alert running on HN for political discussions into which you can interject your uniquely anodyne brand of mainstream Democrat advocacy? Your request for citations, such as it is, would have been more reasonably inserted upthread.

You've wasted a lot of words and time on a hearsay joke, the nature of which you already knew.

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