May 4, 2012

Problems with Nation-States, part 1


[From HRH Jonathan]
  Anyone looking at Edan from the outside, or, more properly, from the inside of the modern paradigm, is liable to be some combination of confused, shocked, and uncomprehending at the traits we have given our Kingdom. Male-only suffrage has been addressed, aristocracy has been addressed, and many of our unspoken assumptions have been addressed, but there is a glaring omission in our discussion of Edan's paradigm; the fact that we are not a nation-state. All modern countries that exist as more than a scattering of refugees are nation-states, certainly the entire first world is composed of them, and to the best of my knowledge all other micronations have nation-statehood as their aim. But not us!
The immediate response/thought on this from most of you, the readers, is going to be a resounding, "What?" The reason for that is quite simple. Unless you are an advanced student of esoteric political theory, you may not even really know what the precise definition of a nation-state is, let alone how a country can not be one. I will address this. To describe a nation-state, I will ask you a simple question: what is a country? The most technically correct answer is, "Whatever a group of people who want to have/be a country say it is." but that is hardly an actual description.
Throughout most of the world and most of history, a country has been a group of people who pledge their allegiance to a common leader, and all the assets they collectively control. But in the mid-late colonial era Europe encountered a problem. That definition did not work any more. The reason for this was two-fold. First of all, they were colonial powers, who controlled vast swaths of land and huge numbers of people who had never granted their allegiance to anyone who controlled them now, even when colonization was accomplished peacefully. Secondly, and perhaps more insidiously, in many cases the common leader, the King, had been done away with and replaced with a shifting democratic government, leaving them with no one to pledge their allegiance to in the first place. So they redefined their countries. Redefined them to mean an area of land controlled by a particular government.

This had many interesting effects, some of which have been discussed here before. {that "before" should be a link to my 2011 article "Nation-states and War"} It changed the game considerably. In prior times, national borders were ill-defined, rarely more precise than, "That river marks our border," or, "Beyond the mountains it is your domain," and many countries would be mixed-together, as it were. In the north of modern-day France, for example, you could be French, Norman, or Burgundian depending entirely on what language you spoke and what allegiance you gave. There were even villages where multiple nationalities lived side by side on their identical homeland soil! Now, though, this was impossible. France and Burgundy were lines on a map; on one side you had to be French and on the other you had to be Burgundian, or else you would be kicked out for crossing to a land that wasn't "yours". Modern diplomacy is built around nation-statehood, how else can embassies work the way they do? Modern economics are built around nation-statehood, how else could international shipping even make sense? Politics, war, theory, research, laws, all subject to, and built on, nation-statehood.
So what in the world would a more traditional country look like? What would it even be called? The fact is that there are dozens of paradigms now forgotten, and all of them were dramatically different, but in the end they are all just a form of Feudalism. Not Feudalism as you almost certainly think of it, but what Feudalism actually is.  A paradigm based entirely upon loyalty, where a nation exists only as its citizens. A system where nationality and citizenship were derived purely from the oaths and loyalty given by each individual. This is Edan's goal; a more natural, human system.
Such a Feudal-state is totally alien to the way things work today. Even I, who have thought about it so very much, can barely comprehend what it would look like. Citizenship would be fluid, and borders would only be closed to those who had been exiled. Things that would be totally nonsensical in a nation-state paradigm, like officers commissioning in multiple armies or areas of land going ungoverned, would be commonplace. You would need not be naturalized into citizenship, joining a country is as simple as swearing your loyalty to it. When someone was given governing authority over something, it would not be over this jagged shape on a map, but over the area between these 5 landmarks, and all the people and things within it. A more natural system, with fewer rules, not because of any active effort to be simpler, but because those few rules are all you need.
That is what Edan will look like when we become real. We will not claim a place on a map or a region of the globe, we will claim all that our citizens owe to the Kingdom. Our domain will not be a place, but a people.
Still, the question remains, why? Why would we depart so far from what is known? Why would we select this system over all the others? Because we hold it as better. A more natural system that is easier to grasp, easier to work with, and in the long run simply easier to have around. Because it is an incredibly stable paradigm, where countries cannot truly be destroyed or collapse, but just go away for a little while. And because it is the paradigm that everyone who has ever felt frustration over visa paperwork or international bureaucracy has secretly wanted. A more human system, for a more human paradigm.

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