World of 1,000 Nations? - "runaway national fragmentation is inevitable"

by Anatoly Karlin

This essay was first published at unz.com HERE

Though it is Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan that have dominated the news these past two weeks, this month also saw a flare-up in separatist sentiment in Brazil.

The referendum was organised a week after a similar vote in Catalonia by a secessionist movement called “The South Is My Country”.

The movement said it set up polls in more than 1,000 municipalities across the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná.

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This region apparently has a have a fleeting historical experience of independence:

The south of Brazil has expressed secessionist tendencies before, ever since Italy’s Giuseppe Garibaldi helped it achieve a short-lived semi-independence in 1836.

Last year a similar vote in October 2016 organised by “The South Is My Country” gathered 617,500 votes. Over 95% of the voters in the three states said they were in favour of separation.

They are the the whitest states, and the most developed and cognitively gifted ones.

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Emil Kirkegaard: The S factor in Brazilian states

Brazil is not in any danger of breaking up anytime soon – while the referendums in the three “separatist” provinces register overwhelming support for independence, turnout is very low, indicating that a majority are either opposed or at the very least don’t care all that much.

However, what is true today may no longer be true the case tomorrow, because the centrifugal forces that break nations apart are gathering strength at the global level.

Historical perspective: One of the strongest and most consistent geopolitical trends of the past 200 years has been an explosion in national entities.

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We went from less than 50 polities in 1800 to around 200 today.

But it wasn’t always like this. I don’t know if anybody has quantified this precisely, but the number of states or state-like entities in the world must have constituted many thousands during the medieval and Early Modern periods.

Just the territories of the Holy Roman Empire at times accounted for more than a thousand!

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The Holy Roman Empire during the time of the Hohenstaufen Emperors.

Then the rise of the great gunpowder empires and European colonialism rapidly whittled down the numbers of independent states to a few dozens, with even the Latin American independence movements of the 19th century making nary a blimp at the global level.

But then the 20th century saw the collapse of the European monarchic empires, the emergence of national self-determination as a legitimate consideration in international law, the decolonization of the Third World, and the collapse of Communist federative states such as Yugoslavia and the USSR. The number of independent states, including unrecognized de facto polities, now numbers over 200.

As the cliodynamician Peter Turchin points out, the optimal size of a polity has varied throughout history:

We know empirically that the optimal size of a European state took a step up following 1500. As a result, the number of independent polities in Europe decreased from many hundreds in 1500 to just over 30 in 1900. The reason was the introduction of gunpowder that greatly elevated war intensity. The new evolutionary regime eliminated almost all of the small states, apart from a few special cases (like the Papacy or Monaco).

In today’s Europe, however, war has ceased to be an evolutionary force. It may change, but since 1945 the success or failure of European polities has been largely determined by their ability to deliver high levels of living standards to their citizens.

Consequently, under a liberal globalism that is true to its ideals, that is, one free of authoritarian coercion or Malthusian selection for big strong states, it appears that runaway national fragmentation is inevitable.

And these aren’t even the only trends militating against national consolidation.

1. Clever, high-functioning regions breaking away from stupid, corrupt regions. The classic example of this is, of course, Italy, where the 103 IQ, highly productive north has gotten increasingly fed up with the 93 IQ nepotistic, lackadaisical south.

There are variants of this in other countries as well. Catalonia is the headline example as of the time of writing. There is evidence this could become an issue in Brazil. Even the Russian nationalist slogan “Stop feeding the Caucasus” is an implicit statement of separatism.

The industrialized Donbass, at any rate, has already had it feeding the rest of the Ukraine (this wasn’t the main reason for the rebellion, but it was a reason).

Although there are many “experts” who parrot the idea that separatism is economically ruinous, that doesn’t seem to be at all obvious. All else equal, it would instead seem to be that, say, a Northern Italy freed of the obligation of having to pay extra taxes to feed their southern neighbors will allow them to spend more money on their own infrastructure, or to save it up; being more intelligent and less clannish, they will also likely create better institutions without the “contributions” of their southern former countrymen. Nor will the companies of the new North Italian states lose the markets of the states they break away from, since they will all remain within the single European economic space (at least in an ideal, non-hypocritical world; after all, protectionism is bad, according to liberal globalism).

This is important, because with the Liberal-Left’s discreditation of “nationalist” justifications for the existence of current nation-states, we are left with just the materialist, economic ones. But they are not necessarily in their favor!

2. The rediscovery of ancient local identities. The collapse of “artificial” Communist constructs in the face of resurgent nationalisms hid the fact that the modern nation-state is also in many ways a relatively new and pretty artificial construct based on a shared literary corpus, Tombs of the Unknown Soldier, and sappy tales about semi-mythical heroes of yore like the Yellow Emperor, Barbarossa, Joan D’Arc, Ivan Susanin, and Paul Revere. A construct that was competitive in the past 200 years, to be sure, but will not necessarily remain so in a 21st century more characterized by a resurgence of ancient local identities and alternate models of sovereignty.

The drive towards Italian and German unification began at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and cultimated by the 1870s, a blink of an eye in historical terms. The rise of a strong American national consciousness dates to the late 18th century, and is now being actively deconstructed by Leftist and Black nationalist ideologues (e.g. stressing that the Founding Fathers were slave-owners, that Columbus was an occupier, etc). The way is being cleared for the disintegration of the United States and its replacement by its constituent ethno-cultural units.

English, French, and Russian national identity is considerably older, and have a long history of centralization around London, Paris, and Moscow as opposed to the more distributed arrangements of Germany, Italy, or Spain, so they might be expected to hold out the longest in Europe. However, even their “core” territories have regions with distinct local identities – Cornwall, the North, and the region around London in England; Britanny, the Vendée, and the South in France; Ingria, Idel-Ural, “Green Ukraine”, and the Kuban in Russia. These units, though very much underneath the surfaces, are still recognizable and some of them have even made themselves felt in past civil wars, so their reemergence during this century is not out of the question.

3. The globalist population replacement project. As one Italian has recently told me, separatist sentiment in the North has ebbed somewhat in the past couple of years, thanks to Merkel’s immigrants helping them realize that they still have so much in common. However, I suspect this will be a short-term and fleeting phenomenon.

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Meet the new Germans.

When you affirm that any African or Asian can be a Briton or a German, you implicitly devalue those very national identities – at least relative to both localized and globalist alternatives to sovereignty (which is what really matters). This is because all nation-states have at least an implicit ethnonationalist basis. Increasingly strident denial of this fact, backed up by hate speech legislation, may be a short-term way of short up the legitimacy of the new multi-cultural chimeras popping up in Europe, but at the same time it will doom their long-term prospects – unless they abandon pretenses and start outright apeing the United States (and the USSR) by becoming explicit “proposition” nations. But too bad for them, the EU already has that “niche” cornered.

4. The rise of alternate models of sovereignty. These include:

  • Regional economic blocs, such as Mercosur, the African Union, and of course the most advanced example of this, the European Union.
  • Corporate-friendly globalist trading agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Outright global government in the form of the United Nations.

The utopian globalist option enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the immediate wake of WW2, but was soon displaced by the cynical realitities of the Cold War.

The regionalist and corporatist options really began to flourish from the 1970s and haven’t looked back since, minor disruptions such as Brexit and Trump regardless. The EU is now arguably more influential than any single European country.

This is a very important development because the existence of massively supra-national and globalist frameworks nullify many of the economic arguments against localist separatism.

5. It only takes one domino. New polities tend to emerge in waves – as Lenin pointed out, “There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.” This is unlikely to change in the future.

Jose Ricon spells this out with reference to Catalonia:

So the referendum lacks any sort of legal backing. But what is being attempted in Catalonia, if successful, could serve as a precedent for the future. If unilateral independence is possible by peaceful means, and the international community eventually recognised Catalonia as a State, this would move the state of the interpretation of the right to self-determination more towards the side of Liechtenstein: That any territory, if it just feels like it, can become independent by passing a vote. This is what is being attempted, even though it is not being made explicit: to appeal to what is considered right to change what is considered legal.

This principle would also allow for the independence of Barcelona, or of London, for example, if recognised in a non-hypocritical way. …

This could be just another footnote in a history book, or an opening passage in the chapter that explains how you got an explosion in the number of states that began around 2017.

As local, pre-imperial identities are rediscovered, we could be looking at something like 400 states by 2100, if we project linearly, or closer to 1,000, if we project exponentially.

This is a very weird prospect to be sure, but stranger things have happened before.

After all, there are still no shortage of countries riven by ethnic identity – Wilsonian self-determination taken to its logical conclusions should product at least another 100 states in Europe and the former Soviet Union, another 100 in the Middle East, several dozen in India, and who knows how many in Africa.

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If African borders correlated to ethnic identity.

There are also no shortages of wealth gradients even in mono-ethnic regions of the world. Such a result is indeed expected in countries that cover several latitudes by dint of Richard Lynn’s Cold Winters Theory of IQ. As GDP per capita hews closer and closer to the levels predicted by average population IQs, as we can expect to see in our future biorealistic world, the pressures for separation will grow ever more manifest, everywhere.

And since national breakup is coterminous with the march of liberal globalism – which enjoys the near unanimous support of the cognitive elites – can it even be stopped?

Perhaps one of the key arenas of international competition in the coming century, apart from dealing with global warming and the race towards IQ augmentation and machine intelligence, will revolve around struggles to foment separatism in your neighbors before you fall apart yourself. With its authoritarian government and one billion strong Han core, I expect China to win this “race” as well.

And yet this world will not necessarily be a uniform mishmash of different races and colors and cuisines and dialects with no identity of their own. When you are a technocrat ruling over 80 million people, it is easy for you to listen to your economists and invite in millions of supposed “doctors and engineers” to augment your workforce, protestations from stupid racist hillbillies in the boondocks be damned. Quite a lot harder if you’re the mayor of a small city who has to justify his decisions to a combatative citizens’ gathering in a townhall – the bulk of opposition to Merkel’s immigration decrees was at the local level.

Besides, what is nationalism but globalism at a smaller level? The Duchy of Aquitaine and the Most Serene Republic of Venice had their own culture, their own identities, their own values – and there is no reason to expect things to be any different in the future world of city-states and corporate fiefdoms from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to the Canton of Zurich.

This essay was first published at unz.com HERE