Re: The Sovereign State and Its Competitors

anonymous (
Fri, 28 Mar 1997 17:34:51 -0800 (PST)

Nation-states tended to come sooner, and took up more of the
totalitarian Justinian code, on the Continent than in Britain.
Remote outposts like Iceland were able to hold out for several
more centuries. I judge this to be due to the public goods nature
of defense technologies and strategies, favoring centralization more
on the Continent where there is greater exposure to invasion,
and more dependence on fixed agriculture.

But this trend is not inevitable. Totalitarian centralization had
earlier reached such stifling proportions in the late Roman Empire that
tribes with Germanic, anarchic codes similar to Iceland's were able
to overrun it. But in converting from mobile to fixed land
production, the public goods problem among the conquerers came
to resemble those of the Empire, and empires (e.g., Caliphates,
Caroligians) re-emerged, and later still nation-states.

Our modern U.S. tax code stresses dependence on locale, especially
in the form of mortgage deductions. This serves to keep subjects
vulnerably fixed, dependent on geographical jurisdictions to solve
their defense problems. With our transportation and communications
technologies, our mode of production of itself no longer stands in
the way of returnining to non-state law; indeed in the case of the
Internet the application of geographical law is increasingly seen
as ludicrous. The fixed vulnerability of industrial plant and rail is
giving way to mobile capital, with political institutions adapting at
their typical excruciatingly slow pace.