Just a random thought this morning: history has progressed to this point, and seen several revolutions in the formal arrangements that govern societies.
Since pre-history, people lived in chaotic tribal groups, often warring with their neighbors. Power and leadership coalesced around the warlord. Eventually warlords ceded some power to a King, who could ensure a peace over a broader territory. Kings eventually gave way to classically liberal regimes, like Napoleon or the English Parliment. At the close of the 1800′s Europe, and soon the world, was ruled by a sense of tribal-nationalism, centered around the idea of a unified volk, or common people.
At each revolution, history has spread the liberal ideals of peace, prosperity, and a higher standard of living to a broader and broader base of people.
So what’s the next revolution? The time of the nation-state is, if not drawing to an end, than at the very least stagnating. Even volk as statistically insignificant as the Inuit have their own nominal nation-states. The nation-state franchise has been extended about as far as reasonably possible.
The forces of progress have never let a social equilibrium rule forever. It took thousands of years for Kings to bend the warlords knees. It took centuries for Parliament to sever the divine link between the sovereign and the deity. It took less than a 100 years for nationalism to sweep Europe, it’s colonies and the world, instigating two world wars in the process.
No stasis lasts forever, so looking ahead, what is the next step in the social progression of human societies?
It seems probable that given the broadly liberal trend of increasing freedom and franchise, we might find something based on the associative freedom of the 1st Amendment.
Such self-selected communities could have several advantages over the nation-state. Most notably, they would likely categorically reject the one-size-fits-all prescription of state action. The downside is that they would be, at least on the surface, creating more chaos in the social order, something the march of history has been against on balance.
But there’s some evidence that such associative arrangements are chaotic only to outside observers, and that for the participants these communities provide a much deeper security or stability than might otherwise be found.
A few questions spring to mind. Are these kinds of communities a good idea? What disadvantages would they have? Would you live in one? If so how would you like it structured, and what unifying principle would you endorse? Would this lead directly to a world like this, and if so, would that be so bad?
Interestingly, Neal Stephenson chronicles technology’s path from chaos to order to distributed order, a path which mirrors our own as societies.