Good post by Jim Bennett about his recent trip to England. (Previously referred to here by Helen Szamuely, in this post.) Bennett discusses the various Anglosphere polities as “state-nations” rather than nation-states, i.e. they are not primarily states formed out of ethno-linguistic units, but states which formed out of political structures. As he puts it, the Anglosphere countries are composed of “Burkean communities” which have by agreement bound themselves into “Lockean bargains”. RTWT.
Bennett’s discussion of the political arrangements struck by various communities in the Anglosphere is pertinent to the ongoing and perhaps accelerating process of increasing regional autonomy or even independence by smaller and smaller units in Europe. As Chirol discusses over at Coming Anarchy, the recent move to independence by Montenegro, while a seemingly small thing, is having repercussions, including further separatist steps in Catalonia. As Jim Bennett notes in the comments to that post, it is the wealthy regions which want out of the larger units that formed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Other questions: How well will the Europeans do with such map-rewriting? They have usually killed each other over such changes. Also, how will a Europe composed of smaller units do in the face of the hulking monolith which is the EU government? Will they be too weak to resist it? Or will they demand autonomy and get it, as they did from their national units?
And what of the security dimension? As John Robb notes, in a world where security threats come mainly from terrorism and criminal gangs, not from mass armies — since nuclear weapons make mass armies obsolete for conquering people — then smaller units may actually have a security advantage. I am not sure of how true this really is, but it is an interesting idea. I think a decentralized, federal arrangement is still optimum. We need more of that in this country, but not formal devolution. So sayeth I.
Chirol also noted the curious fact that Japan was quick to recognize Montenegro and agree to end the 102 year old formal state of war that has existed between them since Montenegro gave its symbolic support to its larger Slavic cousin in the Russo-Japanese war. I speculate that this historical curiosity is really about Japan jabbing China in the eye. If there is anyone out there who is horrified at the prospect of devolution, and of prosperous regions spinning off and doing their own thing, it is the Chinese leadership. Apparently the Chinese are particularly horrified at the course that Kosovo is taking, since it was an organic part of Serbia, and I read somewhere that they think the US supporting independence for Kosovo is “really” a signal we are sending them about Taiwan. If only we were capable of such deep and clever behavior. I am sure the “Kosovo team” at the State Department is doing its own thing in blithe ignorance of China.
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One minor nit — Montenegro was never an organic part of Serbia, unlike Kosovo. It was always an independent republic of Yugoslavia. Montenegro was the bunch of extra-stubborn hill folk who were never conquered by the Turks and kept a little Christian kingdom going way up in the hills. The real meaning of the vote was the final, unmistakable end of the dream of Yugoslavia.
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