Jun 26, 2007

The Basic Theory behind Edan, plus a little history

The Kingdom of Edan started with a very simple idea: government is no more or less than what people believe it to be. The modern idea of a “nation-state” is a rather new one and was only really nailed down in the Montevideo Convention of 1933. Even the Convention, which is the international law of what a country is, is rather vague. Further, the real world shows that there are exceptions to this rule, such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. While membership in the UN or recognition by other nations is sometimes seen as “proof” that a nation is a “real” nation, Taiwan is not a member of the UN nor is it recognized by most “real” nations – yet it has an army, navy, territory, parliament, president, dealing with other countries, etc. Since to collapse of the Soviet Union more than 30 “new” countries have come into existence,; of course, many of these nations existed in one form or another before the Soviet Union or they had been striving for recognition for many years.

The UNPO is a group that represents nations and peoples that are not recognized by the UN or most other international organizations. There are currently almost 70 members of the UNPO, including Tibet, Taiwan, and Kurdistan.

There is some attempt to draw a difference between a state, a nation, and a nation-state. This is very, very understandable; scientists, even social scientists, want to be able to label and describe what they are studying in concrete terms. Unfortunately, the idea of ‘nation’ is too slippery and fuzzy for this to work. The Montevideo convention, a legal treaty, defines a ‘state’ as not needing recognition by other states to exist. Further, the Montevideo Convention does not mention that a state must either totally control its own territory nor that others recognize any territorial claim – just that the state have a territorial claim.

Again, it is very clear that a country is whatever people agree it is. This sort of “Tinkerbell Effect” (if enough people believe it, it is real) has always been the case when it comes to the definition of a nation.

Being largely aware of all this in the 1990’s, I was interested in the rapid creation of literally dozens of ‘new’ countries in that decade. All over the world, people were striving to define themselves in smaller and smaller countries. Russia only held onto what territory it did because of a combination of ethnic identity, economic ties, and brute force. I kept wondering what the cause of this desire for smaller nations could be until I developed my own theory – people like things on a human scale.

The development of very large, centralized nations is really a modern one. Sure, Rome and China had massive empires, but they were forced to have local contacts and connections due to the limits of travel and communication. As railroads and telegraphs spread and industrialization caused urbanization, the empires of the modern world grew larger and more impersonal. I am far from being the first to notice this and a slew of great thinkers have addressed this dehumanization within the modern world.

The explosion of new, smaller nations in the 1990’s was, I believe, caused by the confluence of a desire for smaller, direct, personal government and rapid political change. People saw an opportunity to create a nation-state that they wanted and seized it. Unfortunately, these attempts sometimes meant terrible violence and death.

The world is currently undergoing as drastic a change as what was seen in the 17th and 18th Centuries (that led to the rise of the modern nation-state) or in the 11th (the beginning of the Great Kingdoms) or even in the 6th (the rise of feudalism). While not all great changes lead to new forms of government, I think that the continued development of new nations shows that this trend will continue. As the most “mature” (and post-industrial) nations of the West are pinning their hopes on ever-larger trans-national organizations like the UN, EU, G8, etc. the average citizen wants a Serbia or a Montenegro.

Further, the socio-economic underpinnings of the modern nation-state are beginning to fray. The Second Demographic Transition could very well signal the end of social welfare programs throughout the world within the next 50 years, an event that could bankrupt the wealthiest nations in history in just a few decades. Even without the collapse of social programs (i.e., all nations simply cancel them before their economies collapse) modern international economics is based upon perpetual growth – this is untenable in a world with a shrinking population.

In the end it boils down to something simple; people like to know their fellow citizens and they like to know their leaders. French theorist Pierre Manent argues that the lure of totalitarianism is that it provides the feeling that leaders are well-known to citizens individually and that those leaders share the values of the people. In other words, in the modern world tyrants seize power by using populism to create the illusions of a smaller, more intimate nation.

These facts and theories led to my conception of the Kingdom of Edan as an inherently personal, intimate nation. Citizens not only know their leaders but have a personal connection with their leaders. While capable of growing into a large nation, the social contract between citizen and government would always remain explicit instead of implicit and personal rather than impersonal. Since constitutional monarchies are, in my opinion, arguably the most stable form of modern government, I began with that as the basis for the creation of a constitution.

The first thing I am doing with this blog is to go over how I revised the constitution in the face of more research, thought, and discussion with others. When I finish with recounting the last, oh, eight years of development of the constitution, I hope to move on to the final version right here.

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