When we look around the world at places where there is conflict and violence, even war, we can distill the root causes into two basic struggles:
- the right of self-determination
- control over natural resources
In most ways these two struggles boil down the same issue: the rights of communities to govern themselves. Why is such a basically obvious matter the cause of so much strife? Because the monolithic structures of our outdated political systems have no framework or mechanisms within which local autonomy can be accommodated.
We live in a world where the predominant guiding principles of government have more in common with benevolent imperial dictatorship than with modern democracy. Our nationstates are based on borders defined by cartography more than geography and by control more than empowerment. Having created unnatural and artificial boundaries, it becomes necessary to invoke the appeal of false identities crudely fashioned from a mix of projected ideals, fostered fears and caricatured qualities in order to create any national unity or social cohesion. Because these nationalist identities are so invented, they actually represent no one and are fertile ground for those who would abuse power to satiate their personal foibles.
As rigid, brittle entities our nationstates feel threatened by unique or differentiated identities within their limits and are drawn to suppress their expression lest they lead to separatist intentions. Yet in the very act of suppressing separatism they encourage it by demonizing the separatists while they eviscerate the freedoms of the whole population. The direct negative consequences flowing from these retarded, legacy constructs include: border insecurity, terrorism, migration instability, environmental degradation, inefficient resource utilization and, most significantly, low quality of life for everyone.
Let’s look at these in turn to understand how they go wrong today and how allowing self association would result in better outcomes.
The current attachments of nationstates to cartographic definitions of their borders is only natural given that those borders are the primary defining characteristic of their identity. The result is a disproportionately muscular attention to border security and, in many cases, actual wars fought over the cartographic definition of the borderline. (Let’s call this “borderline insanity”: the maniacal attachment of ruling elites to remote survey points.)
Now imagine two neighbor nationstates that adopt MLR constitutions and you will see that the two large blocks of color on a flat map will be replaced by a multitude of tiny fragments covering the areas inhabited by both states — each fragment representing a community. The communities will freely self associate into regions and those regions into states. Initially a map that only showed the new states may well look very similar to the nationstates they replaced, but there will be one crucial difference. The borders between the states are now defined by the self association of the communities in those locations, and they are free to change their association from one region to another, and in so doing the border between the states changes by that one small fragment represented by that community. No international treaties required, no wars, no fuss and no one’s business save the citizens of that community.
Now imagine that scenario played out in your conflict area of choice: Israel/Palestine, Kosovo/Serbia, India/Pakistan, UK/Ireland or Russia/Chechnya?
The futility and frustration that spawns the cultures from which terrorism leaps out to thrust insane violence on the innocent are nurtured by the rigid nationstates’ incapacity to accommodate differentiated identities.
Freely associated communities would never harbor the decrepit mentality of terror and anyone disposed to such perspectives would be stifled at their emergence by the lack of shelter, succor and support.
Individual terror is a hazard of the human condition, “terrorism” is the progeny of unnatural social orders resulting from suppressed freedoms.
Centrally controlled, monolithic societies with rigid borders have a bipolar relationship with migration: they encourage it in good times and demonize it in hard times. Furthermore, the sublimation of community authority makes their migration policies crude at precisely the point where refined and nuanced practice is required.
When migration is managed by the communities that must accommodate it, it assumes the very human dimension that it autonomically has and which larger entities cannot provide. Migration is the movement of individuals between communities and it is at that level but it must be managed. When communities have authority over, and responsibility for, their own configuration migration is rendered moot at any higher level of social structure.
The control of resources, be it water, minerals, land or energy, is often the driving force behind conflicts between nationstates. The justification used is that the inclusion of these resources within the boundaries of that state will be of benefit to all their citizens.
The actual practice of resource management and exploitation at a macro state level reveals two fundamental flaws in the arguments proffered to support state control. Both of these flaws have their origins in the same characteristic: remote decision-making. The cost-benefit analyses computed by even the most well-intentioned remote actors are based on such poor data that the costs are underestimated and the benefits overestimated. With weak and/or selfish state actors the situation deteriorates further into environmental carnage that results only in the aggrandizement of corrupt central politicians and dealmakers.
The devolution of resource responsibility to democratic local communities results in much more accurate cost assessments and much greater disinclination toward environmental destruction. Local resource management also extracts much greater benefit from the resources at the same time that intercommunity trade, interaction and negotiation are stimulated because full value extraction from the resources requires trade. These trading relationships ensure that the benefits are more evenly and deeply integrated into the societies involved in exploiting the full value of the resource, with lower negative environmental impact.
Large-scale, remote, state actors making poor decisions based on poor data tend to underestimate the true costs of exploitation and so sell the resources at below optimal pricing, resulting in distorted markets where undervalued resources are used inefficiently, because of their low price.
Local ownership that insists on environmentally sound practices and understands the full cost of exploitation will price the resulting resources more accurately, leading to more efficient use. Additionally this fair resource exploitation removes any need to spend money (i.e. other resources) suppressing, repressing and corrupting local populations in the originating region who resist unfair exploitation and may even stimulate separatist ambitions, further exacerbating the cycle of inefficiency.
Quality of life
The fundamental challenge in the development of human society is to leverage peace for the benefit of all. Violence can deliver short-term benefits for the few and if that is only matched by peace, then there is a temptation to gamble on the outcome. Either way, if the benefits only accrue to the few the system is inherently unstable and destined to fail, at which point it is likely to be detrimental to all.
The nationstate is such a system, it subjugates the rights of self-determination in the name of resource control that invariably delivers benefits to the few. Peace is the period during which the few build up resource imbalances and war is the period during which resources are used to protect or enhance the imbalances.
To break out of this destructive cycle it is necessary to adopt social structures which allow for self-determination without social fragmentation. The principle of self association within a multilayered organizational structure that protects local rights while encouraging inter-social cooperation provides the framework for the development of human societies that can exploit the peace dividend for the greater good of all in an inherently sustainable way.
The devolution of the primary organizing structure to our fragmented communities, that then freely self associate into larger and larger social groupings is possible, natural and most likely to ensure our survival and prosperity.