Michael Gale

The Death of the Nation State

The Nation State is in its death throes. And ironically the Trumps of the world are helping it die!

Let me confess right up front. I am a globalist, an internationalist, an advocate for a world without borders. I could hardly not be. Having been fortunate to travel as a child and having a mother, Fay Gale, with a very open world view I was destined to be internationally oriented. As an adult, I have spent more than half my adult life, which spans some four decades, living outside the country of my birth, Australia. My big career break came from building a business across Asia and all its different cultures but particularly in cracking the Chinese market in the early 1990s.

I am an absolute advocate on the total liberalism of the movement of people. We floated out currencies, ditched tariffs, opened up global travel, created the Internet to move ideas globally in seconds and overall these things have made us all better off and the world a lot more peaceful than in the past, albeit there are still many problems. So the next obvious deregulation is migration. Just let people go where they go and let the natural forces find an equilibrium.

So, you get my point. I am not one to be supporting the “draw up the drawbridge” crowd of Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Nigel Farage, Frauke Petry and their kind.

I guess therefore I should be depressed in the new reality of a Trump world, the rise of nationalism, the anti-immigrant sentiment bubbling up and the strident attacks on globalism. But not at all. I’m very excited! On a day to day basis I do wake up, read the news and regularly groan at the latest piece of bigotry to be espoused ,often by Trump, but also by plenty of others from all over the world wanting to find the differences between us not the things that unite us. But overall this is a good time. Let me explain why.

The modern nation state arose in the 15th century with the pre-eminence of Venice, a former city state, being one of my favourite examples. The term itself became popular in the 20th century and today the nation state is our most common form of centralized government. It is based on the idea of a discreet land mass ruled by a homogenous group of people with rigid borders and firm control of all that occurs within its borders. The EU and the CIS are of course examples of the nation state giving way but in general the idea is strong in most parts of the world. The Nation State has served us extraordinarily well and is to be regarded as a great achievement of human organization, all those Nation States jostling with one another but working together too.

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A 19th century engraving of a Venetian galley fighting a Genoese fleet at the battle of Curzola in 1298.helloworldciv.com

Because of its great successes patriotism is alive and well. But for all the forces of patriotism and those who want to preserve the nation state, it is already terminally ill. Many of the world’s companies are larger than many of the world’s nation states. Even the most fervent American patriot shops at Walmart which is entirely dependent on cheap imports. The global economy is based on trade, people love to travel and they like the convenience of using the same credit card globally, of visa free entry and best of all they love being able to buy any type of produce regardless of the season, a million brands of products and the best products that each country has to offer, cars from Germany, watches from Switzerland, computers from the US, phones from China, wool from Australia, wine from France, dates from Saudi, rugs from Iran, fashion from Italy and so on.

The forces of globalism have won and we are transitioning to a much more globally managed world with tighter global institutions. The EU will become a more cohesive and dominant force notwithstanding Brexit, the Greece crisis and a myriad of challenges and other regional groupings will grow stronger. The UN is up for its next big growth in relevance as the only institution, flawed as it may be, through which we can get things done globally.

Go forward enough years and yes there really will be some sort of World Government, some Federation of Nations. It’s just obvious and inevitable. Which is why every science fiction plot assumes it exists in the future.

So, what is going on right now? When a beloved institution dies, people mourn it and fight to save it. It is actually at the end of the useful life of most organizations and organisms that the biggest fight happens. So, at present all the people who fear globalism, while enjoying its benefits, are rising up in patriotic wrath, no more spectacularly than in the US. But in twenty or thirty years everyone who believed in isolationism will be dead and the ideas will be washed away as irrelevant.

The rise in nationalism at present feels unsettling and scary but it’s actually a good thing. The Nation State is dying, we are watch the agony of people fighting the losing battle to save it. It will die and we will have a new better and more global form of governing the planet which means a fairer world, a more peaceful world and a wealthier world in every aspect.

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