Friday, June 18, 2021

End of My Week of Explanation: Is The Nation State Headed the Way of the Dodo?

I have decided to end my week of explanation with a question that has been occupying my mind. What's next for humanity?

I read George Friedman's The Next 100 Years and The Next Decade. (Good books, although, his prognostication of the next 10 years was not so great). But he simply draws forecast from the current state and moves it forward. I'm not sure that is correct, in fact, I'm almost positive it isn't correct.

I think that, moving forward, the common worries (except climate change) are not going to be our big problems. Most futurists or social commenters on the future have called out two big changes for "humanity". First, the coming hacking of our genes, first to reduce diseases and then to modify our future generations. They are worried this will split humanity into those modified (the rich and powerful) and the rest. Their second worry is that Artificial Intelligence will run amok. Although number 1 may happen, it would be a long time from now. As for AI, I tend to think we are overestimating the difference between human thought and AI non-human knowledge. I could be wrong, but that is what I think (AI is great at a task, but not so great thinking up tasks.).

Credit to A R Tuladhar - 2015

Instead, I think the first big change might already be happening. And that is the end of the Nation State as defining unit of mankind.  Oddly, while investigating this I found a GREAT article from the Guardian about this from 2018. If you're interested it has a lot of their assumptions. I haven't read the actual article itself yet, because I wanted to pontificate myself before I do (smiley face).

General Idea

The richer and more educated people of the rich world feel less and less tied to a single nation state. As the nation state becomes less sentimental and important, does it wither away?

Casually, you can see this in the astounding number of people for whom travel is almost a way of life.  You see free-lancers that can work from anywhere, rich people that have a second of third home in a different country and those of us who very close friends outside their home country.

More formally, you see some people actively preparing for trouble and unrest in their home countries.

For example, after Trump was elected, many liberal and rich Americans got a second passport (either through European roots, Caribbean islets, or pay as you go European countries like Portugal, Malta or Cyprus). They worried that a Trump administration would make the US less hospitable, and they wanted to bolt if necessary. 

In Russia, the rich (often oligarchs) have homes in London, New York and Cyprus in case things go south at home. In China, the rich usually choose New York, Singapore or Australia as their safety home. Europe defines itself as union of nations, but many Europeans are fully at ease traveling between "nations". Even rich Brazilians and other South Americans have homes in Miami.

What all of these people have in common is the desire and possibility of leaving if their home country  becomes inhospitable. Their worth (in work output or money) is not tied to where they live. But what about if people chose to leave for opportunity or pleasure or a better cultural fit?

The world is smaller than ever. One work trip I literally traveled to Singapore, Jakarta, India (Chenai) and Hong Kong visa less. I returned and flew to England to spend a holiday with friends. And I am NOT rich, but this was all east to do. I worked at a non-profit in Bosnia AND New York. I plan to retire overseas. I still consider myself an American and love the country. But if it goes in the shitter, I will get out of Dodge, not take up an AK-47 to fight the idiots in Mississippi.

As for companies (at least big companies) many are tied to home markets often, but their executives are not tied to a country. I worked in England for Xerox for 6 months. I was invited to work in Munich for Siemens. 

Contrary Evidence

So what to make of Brexit and the January 6th insurrection? "Don't those prove the country is still the binding glue of a people, Scott?"

No. Look at Brexit. The vote was won by people that wanted to "take their country back". But the vote was lost among the young, among London (which was an is more tied to the international community that England) and in Scotland which has already devolved to a regional identity.

There is a reasonable case to be made that isolationist, reactionary backlash - whether Trump, Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Orb├ín and others - is just a the final, knee-jerk reaction to progress. 

In many ways, these would-be dictators might soon be as forgotten as the Taiping Rebellion. That was rebellion against dynastic rule - where over 30 million Chinese Christians rebelled but were subdued about the final Qing dynasty. The dynasty, although it won, didn't last another 50 years - a blink in a history of 3,000 years of Chinese Emperors. And the Imperial system in China was done. Similarly, Trump lost the Presidency and the Republicans feel they are fighting a losing battle agains the take over of America by... anyone they don't like. If they give up, or tear up the country on their way out is up for debate.

What's Next

I don't know. This could all be a quiet evolution as more people become international with the occasional national reaction (in the 2010s, for example, the Chinese Government stopped the purchase of second homes in new York and America - but then those purchases just moved to other countries).

Less wealthy, but still safe countries, right now encourage either tourism or relocation. Countries as diverse as Bosnia, Thailand, Cape Verde, Vietnam and Costa Rica all encourage and welcome expats. Countries less safe, like Cambodia, Peru, the Maldives and Tanzania work hard to make tourists feel safe in a specific locations and provide first world amenities like wifi, cable television and western class hotels. In fact anyone can become an electronic citizen of Estonia with just a computer, a bank account and about $500.

Conversely, America and China could try to clamp down on their citizens, freezing assets and opportunities.* Will it work? We will see with England post-Brexit, although all signs and experience would indicate this is a losing battle.

As for me. I like being an American that travels and lives in multiple places and countries. But, still, I feel more at home in London suburbs than I do in the American South or Texas. It is not that I feel British, I am very much an American. Yet, when I see what is going on in this country, I don't always feel very valued by my countrymen here. I watch as Governors of Texas and Alabama vilify liberals. I watch as state legislators in Florida, Georgia and Arizona make it legal to overturn elections. As megachurch pastors fuel hate and danger.

I think this change won't happen fully during my lifetime, but it seems inevitable to me. And, to those of you that have asked, yes there will always be a 2nd bedroom. You just can't stay longer than 10 days.


*Russia and the European Union probably won't do this because the leaders are already post-nation state players.

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