Nation States and Other Extremities
@3 December 1999


The state as an instrument of power will always be hostile in its purpose and ultimately corrupt in its methods. The nation-state, so conceived, has serious limitations.
The state as an instrument of service has always had trouble maintaining the integrity of its service because its agents have always succumbed to the methods of power.

Power is a primitive form of social organization, which for humans in the mass is mainly sourced in a struggle for sexual supremacy. That sexual drive is sublimated into many disguises throughout our cultures. The supreme challenge for the next step in human organization is to find some principle of service that is organic in its appeal, and universal enough to supplant the lust for power.

Not so easy. The supposedly beneficent intentions of Communism were betrayed by human frailty almost before the ink was dry on Engel's manifesto. Nowhere is there a charter, a resolution, a philosophy or a system of religion that has not been seized upon and subverted from its expressed design.

The various forms of democratic government are scarcely defensible if we take their rationales to be a formula for efficiency, competence and innovation. The best thing the best of them have going for them is some tendency to "keep the bastards honest". That is, the best democracies are structured with incentives which keep the worst depredations of power lust under control. In the worst democratic systems, honesty is at such a low ebb that they suffer the worst of all possible worlds.

A panacea preached in the palaces of capitalism is the impartial hand of "market forces". There are certainly many sectors of market economies where bad men are kept tolerably honest by the need to stay in business. There are comfort zones for the lazy and opportunistic which are kept from complete dissolution by the bleak discipline of a bottom line. But market forces are not pure spirits ruling from an Olympian height. They are emergent conditions from the mathematics of complex systems. They can be and are skewed by human scheming in ever more erratic ways.


All opinions expressed in Thor's Unwise Ideas and The Passionate Skeptic are entirely those of the author, who has no aim to influence, proselytize or persuade others to a point of view. He is pleased if his writing generates reflection in readers, either for or against the sentiment of the argument.

"Nation States and Other Extremities" copyrighted to Thor May; all rights reserved 2000

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