May 26, 2020

The End of the Nation State?

A thing of the past?

What does the near future of human civilization have in store? If there’s one thing we’re terrible at as a species, it’s predicting change. Looking at predictions of the past is an instructive exercise in the folly of attempting to prognosticate. The biggest hazard appears to be the mere projection of current culture, and imagining that such a linear progression will go on forever. While everyone imagined we’d have flying cars and robotic servants by now, everybody completely missed the rise of Twitter, Ebay and Paypal.

We’ve written before about how tech has changed the fine art of indie travel in our lifetime, mostly for the better. We’ve noticed something else afoot on the road, and wonder if it might have a larger implication.

What we propose now may be pure hubris, as we attempt to join the ranks of futurists of the past.

We propose that the days of the traditional nation state may be numbered, or at least become an anachronism in our lifetime.

Impossible, you say? Who will make laws/fight wars/collect taxes and do all of those things that need to be done, but maybe aren’t immediately profitable?

Well, what intrigues us is the rise of alternative forms of currency and financial translations through means that aren’t connected to a national bank. Things such as Bitcoin, Apple pay, and mPesa to name a few. Or discussions of returning to postal banking, as proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders during the current election.

We recently read How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation and the Threat to Democracy by Mehrsa Baradaran and realized that a future form of banking is arising that isn’t connected to a national bank. This is a big deal. Banks are fueled by the trust put in them, and if Millennials turn away from traditional modes of banking, such institutions might simply disappear, taking the clout of the nation state with them.

What would such a world look like? Certainly, we tribe-loving humans would still rally around something, be it a cooperation, a commune or a cause. One can just as easily imagine a dystopian nightmare world as a result of the demise of the nation state, as much as a shiny white Star Trek-style future.

And perhaps, the nation state will survive the 21st century in some capacity, though it will be effectively declawed. We still have a Pope and the UK still has a monarchy, for example, though they no longer wage wars or behead people. And this might be a good thing, as where goods and services cross old borders, tanks and troops won’t. Already, the number of conflicts worldwide is diminishing. We nearly reached having a conflict free Western Hemisphere last week for the first time in the history of, well, ever, before FARC rebels rejected the cease-fire proposal put forth the Columbia government (c’mon, guys!)

Western Hemisphere: number of conflict free days = 0.

Still, there’s hope. Institutions that were deemed essential to the functioning society such as slavery are largely a thing of the past. Perhaps a future citizen will look back with amazement (and a little horror) at things we take for granted today, such as debt slavery (mortgages, credit cards, etc), working for a boss, and swearing allegiance to a sovereign state.

One thing is for sure: change is afoot. And speaking of which, I’ll miss examining all the strange pocket change in our travels.

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