Runaway national fragmentation is inevitable

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

One of the strongest and most consistent geopolitical trends of the past 200 years has been an explosion in national entities, Anatoly Karlin notes:

But it wasn’t always like this. I don’t know if anybody has quantified this precisely, but the number of states or state-like entities in the world must have constituted many thousands during the medieval and Early Modern periods.


Just the territories of the Holy Roman Empire at times accounted for more than a thousand!


Then the rise of the great gunpowder empires and European colonialism rapidly whittled down the numbers of independent states to a few dozens, with even the Latin American independence movements of the 19th century making nary a blimp at the global level.

But then the 20th century saw the collapse of the European monarchic empires, the emergence of national self-determination as a legitimate consideration in international law, the decolonization of the Third World, and the collapse of Communist federative states such as Yugoslavia and the USSR. The number of independent states, including unrecognized de facto polities, now numbers over 200.


Consequently, under a liberal globalism that is true to its ideals, that is, one free of authoritarian coercion or Malthusian selection for big strong states, it appears that runaway national fragmentation is inevitable.


  1. Graham says:

    Globalism as presently on offer is at best post-liberal, if not anti-liberal, in everything except commerce. Strictly, even in commerce it advocates pretty maximum free flow of everything, but the assumptions are not really liberal free trade either.

    It might still result in extreme political fragmentation, though, as that could be useful.

  2. Sam J. says:

    There’s a set of books that explain this as a response to technological change and the balance between offense and defense. It’s based on what they call Metapolitics, which is merely how power is expressed through violence. The technological basis for violence determines the society. The key is the cost of offense vs. defense. If offense is stronger, political areas will coalesce into larger units. If defense is stronger, then political units will split up into smaller units. Some examples are the Greek city states, which could afford armor due to their olive crops, a high-profit, easily stored and transportable product. Another is gunpowder. Gunpowder blew away the the feudal system. It concentrated power in large states that could raise the money for cannons and large armies. A large stone castle could be blasted to bits in days instead of a year-long siege. To control an area took a lot of men, not just one small castle. We are still in the aftermath of that system. Now the microprocessor is lowering the cost of defense. If you can have an intelligent missile, you can fire it out of sight and hit your target. Bombs can be remote controlled. On line news can bypass the media with multi-million dollar radio transmitters. Facebook replacing newspapers with large printers…and their large cost.

    Blood in the Streets: Investment Profits in a World Gone Mad (1987)
    The Great Reckoning: How the World Will Change in the Depression of the 1990′s (1994)
    The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age (1999)

    The authors were wrong about a lot of the financial advice, or at least the timing, but I don’t think they were wrong about the basics of Metapolitics and their discussion of it. The last book used be cheap, a dollar and postage, but recently it’s gone up. The other books are written for investors but have a lot of really good history and background information that explain the past and the present.

    The powers that be may decide that all these humans are more trouble than they are worth and try to get rid of them all. I believe Zbigniew Brzezinski said, “It’s easier to kill people than it is to control them.”

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