Sunday, December 28, 2014

The debate of 2015 (and beyond): what federalism?

The big debate of 2015 (and certainly beyond) should be and I believe will be (although perhaps not with these words) "what federalism?." That is, in front of enormous problems at a global scale and the insufficiency of the nation-state to solve them, and also in front of the populist identity movements that ignite local grievances, how to manage diversity, and how to build large democratic aggregates will be a major issue. Of course, there are different ways to do this, and the solutions will differ across the continents. There are different solutions to square the formula of divided power, degrees of consociativism and malapportionment in the represenation of hypothetical or real territorial chambers. It is not easy to respect asymmetries, without creating privileges (in Spain, the UK, Europe, America, Africa, the Middle East, Ukraine...), but it can be done, and it is being done. How to avoid the slippery slope of local and regional powers that opportunistically use their resources to promote secession is a big problem. But we must solve problems at its optimal level. We must decide things democratically, respecting the laws of time and space. That is, not everything can be decided at the same time (because there are time-inconsistency or commitment problems) and not everything can be decided at the same level of spatial aggregation: I'm sorry for Catalan secessionists, but climate change will not be fixed with an independent Catalonia. I insist: issues must be governed at its optimal level. Some are optimally decided at the household level, others at the building level. Many issues can be managed at the municipal level, while others at larger levels of aggregation. Increasingly, issues have a continental or global dimension. And I am not the first to believe that one day this optimal level will become, for some issues, universal, that is, encompassing outer space. And you don’t even need to incorporate alien creatures to the argument (with them, Star Trek already had a role for federations: this is a place where someone has gone before). Happy new year.

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