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The Forum > Article Comments > The size of nations > Comments

The size of nations : Comments

By Andrew Leigh, published 8/2/2010

Why are countries these days breaking up quicker than a Hollywood marriage?

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Larger states are more efficient administratively and economically. Smaller states give expression to ethnic and religious unity of various subgroups of humanity.

However, if we want to live with a higher standard, organise our resources efficiently and combat environmental and global warning we need larger states.

We can look to the United States for the solution. The United States, in spite of its current economic woes, is a tremendously productive and powerful nation. In fact it is the only superpower. One factor that has made the United States what it is was expressed by its president in his State of the Union speech.

“We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we're all created equal; that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.”

With separation of religion and state and separation of ethnicity and state the citizen’s religion and ethnicity is no business of the state.

One reason smaller states arise is because oppressed subgroups cannot find adequate expression for their religion and ethnicity in a state that is identified with another religion or ethnicity.

When people are free to express their religion and ethnicity without drawing a political boundary around themselves the need for smaller states disappears. That freedom exists when the state does not concern itself with the ethnicity and religious belief or lack of it in its citizenry.
Posted by david f, Monday, 8 February 2010 10:24:00 AM
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Fantastic article Andrew you practically hit the nail on the head, although I would like to point out that size is far from a limiting factor- as countries with smaller populations like Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway make trememndous amounts of money per capita too.

And personally, I think smaller sovereign democracies are the way to go: It means that each region is governed by a body that will be more likely aware of the regional environment (I wouldn't be surprised if there were federal politicians who didn't know what "Salinity" means):
And more importantly, the government will more likely reflect the wishes of the people and address the needs of the people than a large federation whose best equivalent is a massive compromise for each part (or to the largest province). And to top it off- judging from other small nations, the government seems to answer to the people more than big ones- and THAT is something I think is true depending on nation size (on a scope of both democracies and autocracies).

As for the Australia-New Zealand divide- considering how differently our two countries are governed I seriously doubt New Zealanders would want to give it up for our political circus that jumped into the Iraq War.

And going further to a larger union, you would start to see the wishes of an educated, secular nation compromised against tribal nations and fundimentalist religious states- either the biggest group gets to force its government on the other groups, or the most maligned group will be suppressed by the other groups trying to prevent it from winning- again, compromise for the worst reason makes the government. Unless you put in "special" rules to dull down the effect of a government- which starts to lessen the will of the people.

Large nations simply don't work if satisfying the will of the people factors particularly highly in one's criteria of success (and I'm aware that for lots of individuals, it simply isn't a factor).
Posted by King Hazza, Monday, 8 February 2010 10:51:01 AM
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Isn't identity a key issue here and perhaps one of the underlying reasons that the notion of 'What does it mean to be Australian?', 'What is our national identity?' and the like keep getting raised?
I happen to be anglo-saxon, christian, western australian etc etc.
If I place one (or more) of those things above being 'Australian' them seperatism becomes a live issue.
This is really the trial for the large states - it isn't to eliminate difference or increase homogenaity but rather to strengthen national identity over tribalism/sectarianism. I suspect this is the answer to the Germany question. The peoples of East and West Germany were German first, and everything else second. In contrast, at least for awhile, the Rwandans became Hutu or Tutsi first, Rwandan second.
Posted by J S Mill, Monday, 8 February 2010 2:37:49 PM
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Actually the wealthy nations are getting bigger and the poor smaller.

From the European Union and NATO making western Europe effectively a single nation, and seccession movements in Spain (Basque) Ireland (IRA) and so on collapsing, we see the wealthy nations getting bigger - and less fragmented.

Meanwhile the poor world is being constantly wrenched by secession movements and civil war.

Why are there these two competing trends?

1: A middle class. Only if you have a large middle/professional class can you hold a country together. Middle classes have similar values and have an ability to support a democracy. The Western World's insistence in imposing democracies on nations without large midle-classes are doomed for failure or at least ineffectivce goverments.

The poor poor have small horizons. They don't travel, don't have access to nation-wide infastructure (even credit-cards making travel simple) Their lives are based on their village, province and their religious sect. The nation is irrevelant to their daily lives.

2: Birth-rates. The poor world have high birthrates - often doubling the population every 25 years... (
This is why they are poor... doubling the schools and hospitals is theoretically possible, but doubling the farm land is impossible. If your kids are starving you steal... if your ethnic group is starving, you have civil war (sometimes labeled genocide as in Serbia and Rwanda - where rapidly growing populations resulted in increasing suffering)

Meanwhile the middle-class world (and especially the middle/professional class indiviaduals within middle-class nations like Australia) are dying out... with each two professional adults producing only a singe child on average... a halving of the population every generation. This is the real genocide!

Just as 'educating women' reduces population growth in overpopulating nations, the 'over-empowerment of women' leads to population colapse.

Feminist supremicism has resulted in an under-supply of professional me for all the professional women (man drought) and the divorce courts have meant that many men refuse to become fathers... because it's a rigged game. The 'man drough' is real... Even the left-feminist leaning New York Times acknowledges the problem...Not enough men, afraid of commitment.
Posted by partTimeParent, Wednesday, 10 February 2010 9:04:28 AM
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It's really sad that so few people are replying to this thread- it's probably one of the only interesting topics present at the moment.

Maybe it doesn't hit any left/right nerves?

Anyway, I should also point out that a good many "poor" nations are absolutely gigantic in terms of population and land area, and the very richest nations are also rather small- including all of the very smallest. Of course, there are also plenty of poor island states that have populations of only a few thousand.

The only logical relationships between wealth and population are:

-More businesses for a larger population by virtue of the fact that there are simply more people to start businesses and too many people for one business to handle alone to the satisfaction of customers.

-Higher competition- but also a tighter share on resources, thinning down the share of the infrastructure.

-Smaller democratic input unless the nation is subdivided into sovereign more localized states (which seems to be what's happening).
Posted by King Hazza, Wednesday, 10 February 2010 2:53:41 PM
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