The speech of the year was given by the UN Kenyan ambassador, Martin Kimani, warning about the obsession about changing borders to ethnically purify nations. African borders were drawn in distant metropolis. “Today across any border live people who share bonds. We didn’t choose to pursue states under ethnic lines. We pursue continental integration. Rather than form nations that look back in history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward, to follow the rules of the UN, not because we liked our borders, but because we wanted to build something greater, forged in peace.”
If it was functional to the expansion of markets and capitalism a few centuries ago, today the economic functionality of the nation-state is over. Rodrik’s trilemma cannot be solved by eliminating globalization (think of the Internet and climate change, but also of moral universalism), and we must choose between combining it with jurisdictional (in taxes, regulations, etc.) competition or combining it with a progressive (both in the sense of evolving, and in the sense of social progress) democratic global federalism. The European Union should be only the beginning of this.
The federalist alternative to post-colonialism has been much more successful than the replacement of colonies by small countries. Africa and Latin America could have chosen to go the way of North America or India, but they chose (or others chose for them) to go the way of the small country with its flag, its currency and its army. There is no need for more of them.
The war that started in 1914 has not completely finished and we still see nationalism as one of the big political forces of our time. Yugoslavia shows the logical conclusion of the domino effect: from an integrated federation, nationalism threatens to push ourselves through a slippery slope where at the end each individual will remain on top of their roofs waving a different flag.
The times of Wilson and his opportunistic push for self-determination (of the territories in the losing empires) are gone. Perhaps state competition had some benefits until the nineteenth century, but after the catastrophes of the twentieth, they are over. The nation-state locks us in an inefficient evolutionary equilibrium. Many potentially better institutional innovations remain unexplored.
Happy new year.