Monday, January 2, 2017

Should even Chile be interested in modern federalism?

Chile (I'm spending some days here) is a unitary country that is geographicaĺly relatively isolated, and it has been successful in developing stable institutions and a good economic performance (not perfect, inequality is still way too high). I thought that being a relatively successful geographically isolated centralized and unitary country, if I can argue that if even Chile can take advantage of federalist ideas, then any country would benefit from them.
Let's try.
By modern federalism I understand a multi-level democracy where no single level has the monopoly of sovereignty, because of the obsolescence of the nation-state. Accepting this idea would be a severe blow to the Chilean military, but perhaps it would be good for everybody else (even for some generals with an open, international and professional mind). Members of Parliament in Chile are now considering the democratic election of regional powers. Regions already have some powers, but regional presidents are appointed by the central government, not a characteristic of a multi-level democracy. As the size and complexity of government has increased in the recent decades, apparently politicians are finding it interesting to discuss the possibility of applying the subsidiarity principle to their arrangements. Of course it is no panacea, and they should make sure that new democratic powers use their budgets not to undermine the whole system but to strengthen it. Chile has an increasingly conflictive Mapuche problem and an old general problem of racial discrimination; ideas form how federal countries deal with cultural and linguistic diversity can be of help here. They also have a territorial dispute with Bolivia, which would become a lesser problem if South America or Latin America became more integrated. A good sign is that some of the big private corporations that are so important in Chile agree with this orientation: the national airline LAN-Chile (LAN meaning National Airlines) has now become LATAM (for Latin America I guess) after a series of acquisitions. And by their own choice the Chileans live in a very open globalized economy, and therefore all the problems and challenges (in the labour market, the tax system or climate change) that apply to the obsolsence of the nation-state in the times of the Internet and big data also apply to them. The argument seems to work. Then it works for any country.

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