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Global Polarization and Nation State Inefficiencies
The Cost of Polarization
Most political parties in Western civilizations are becoming radicalized into two general camps: conservative nationalists and democratic socialists. Many of us have more in common with millions of people in other countries than we do with the opposing party in our own city. This mini-essay will explore the threats of nationalism and the future of the nation-state as we know it.
The Nation State
The idea of the nation-state grew out of Europe and into its full glory during the 20th century as American patriotism powered the US through two world war victories. Since then, we have experienced a relatively peaceful existence where nations have come together to celebrate commonalities. Experiments like the European Union have challenged the idea of nation-states being the ultimate form of government. The EU has created a way for smaller European countries to enjoy the stability of the Euro, free movement of labor and trade, and much more. While the EU may face many issues, one major threat is that of nationalism; Brexit is an easy example of that.
The EU illustrates how the world could operate if continental regions mutualized common goals of peace and prosperity. One issue that is polarizing people around the world is the lack of wealth redistribution. The adoption of capitalistic markets around the world created wealth and technological advancement but left us with an unhealthy national and international wealth distribution. History shows that once wealth becomes too concentrated towards the top, people revolt.
The difference today is people around the world are able to share ideas like never before. The globalization of political ideas decreases one’s attachment to their nation and increases awareness of injustices; financial, racial, and so on. The murder of George Floyd created uproar around the globe. Despite race-motivated police killings happening throughout history, this event found itself at the heart of every racially profiled group from London to Santiago. Social injustices are human issues that have no borders and the world’s citizens are banding together in their respective camps, online.
Political similarities are especially uncanny within Latin America, Europe, and North America, with Trump-like rhetoric taking form in different languages as conservatives adopt Trump's macho-man, nationalistic, flag-waving, mentality in an attempt to repeat his political success.
At the end of December, Chilé's majority voted for a 35 year old progressive named Gabriel Boric to be their next President. His opposition: Jose Antonio Kast, a far-right leader of Acción Republicana and founder of conservative, Chilean think-tank Republican Ideas. Kast has many similarities to Trump but the most obvious being his slogan: "Make Chilé a Great Country."
This is just one example of many that point to a globalization in political strategies. The good news is far-right nationalism is losing at the ballot box. The bad news is democracy may lose its gusto due to gerrymandering and voter suppression. The majority of voters in the US have voted blue in every Presidential election but one (2004) since 1992, yet 40% of the time has been Republican led. The Democratic system is breaking under the weight of the polarization and the January 6th insurrection is a by-product of the dysfunction.
After The Nation State
Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, it is easy to feel doubtful that the other side will agree with you ever again. The continuing lack of bipartisan action in Congress should worry members of either party because the result of continued dysfunction is not going to be pretty. We need to tackle climate change and wealth redistribution for these problems to go away and we should look to globalized efforts in order to do so.
Rana Dasgupta, in The Guardian wrote a piece called The demise of the nation state (2018) which underlines these issues in detail. In it, he points to three global policies we could adopt to overcome the collapse of the nation-state and fulfill the needs of the world:
1. Global financial regulation
Dasgupta notes that iPhone maker, Apple, in 2018, held 94% of their cash reserves outside of the US to avoid being taxed. This has become all too common a technique for mega-companies to exploit the consumers of rich countries and the workers of poor countries without contributing to the social well-being of any nation-state. We need to build systems in which we can track the flow of money globally and redistribute it properly between rich and poor countries (Dasgupta, 2018).
2. Global flexible democracy
Like the EU, Dasgupta (2018) argues, "National governments themselves need to be subjected to a superior tier of authority: they have proved to be the most dangerous forces in the nation-state era, waging endless wars against other nations while oppressing, killing and otherwise failing their own populations. Oppressed national minorities must be given a legal mechanism to appeal over the heads of their own governments – this was always part of Wilson’s vision and its loss has been terrible for humanity."
3. New conceptions of citizenship
Dasgupta says that we need to rethink the way we categorize people in a new globalized way. The advantage given to one person over another merely based off of where they were born is impossible to overcome without the ability to move towards better opportunity. Birth is an accidental disadvantage in which all some can do is work a slave wage to produce riches for someone in a country they are not allowed to live in.
"Contemporary technological systems offer models for rethinking citizenship so it can be de-linked from territory, and its advantages can be more fairly distributed. The rights and opportunities accruing to western citizenship could be claimed far away, for instance, without anyone having to travel to the west to do so," (Dasgupta, 2018).
Being born into a country like the the United States, it is easy to forget that the actions of our government affect the entire world. Monetary policy adopted by the US central bank drastically changes inflation rates in Europe. The excessive energy usage of the US devastates the environment for smaller, coastal countries. The scope of the US' reach can be seen in everything they do.
A global democracy may sound scary if suddenly the Chinese and Russians were voting on US policy, but maybe having a mutual voting agreement is the only way for world peace.
What do you think? Let me know below.