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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: A 21st Century Armageddon -- the Collapse of the Nation State
From Hong Kong to Chile, from Syria to Haiti, from Mexico to Catalonia, violent protests have engulfed daily life generating an expansive wave of destruction that seems to unleash a heretofore unknown civil wrath against the very system that has created the longest period of stability and prosperity ever known," writes former Venezuela Minister of Ministers Beatrice Rangel.

By Beatrice E. Rangel

Even to the most uninformed mortal the world seems to be exploding under the mortal fire of civic strife or outright war.

From Hong Kong to Chile; from Syria to Haiti; from Mexico to Catalonia; violent protests have engulfed daily life generating an expansive wave of destruction that seems to unleash a heretofore unknown civil wrath against the very system that has created the longest period of stability and prosperity ever known to mankind.

And while conspiracy theories dot the airwaves, printed media, and cyber space, none of their elucidations succeed in explaining the root causes of this unforeseen wave of discontent that is expressed with violence and resentment.

To be sure, the marriage of the Cuban tyranny with the Venezuelan oil backed check book fails to fit into the Hong Kong conflict confronting Beijing with the old British protectorate.

The Syrian drama outdoes Al Qaeda although this organization actively participates in the conflict.

Rebellions in Iraq and Egypt cannot be attributed to Hezbollah, although this organization profits with the situation.

ETA the Basque terrorist organization is taking advantage of the Catalonian uprisings, but it is doubtful that it lit the fuse.

We thus wonder what the root causes are of so much worldwide turmoil?

An answer could lie in the impact of world trade upon the international system.

The Post War institutional framework was built having as pillars nation-states.

Trade was to take place between nation states and around this proposition a web of institutions was created to foster and channel trade. And the world enjoyed one of the longest periods of growth and stability from 1945 through 1995.

But enter the technology genie and consider the corrosive impact it has borne upon nation-states and the world institutional framework.

First comes economic inadequacy.

Data storage, transmission and distribution have created a seamless trade highway enveloping the globe that surpasses the authority and regulatory ability of nation states. The globalization of value chains has created even more pressure in this direction.

Second, comes political discontent.

Add rising expectations of wellbeing among the population of every nation-state that now has means to compare progress or lack of thereof through the screens of their portable phones. As progress is denied people become impatient and begin to lose faith in their political systems. The feeling that there is nothing to lose becomes pervasive. Violence erupts spontaneously. Ideologized groups take advantage of this wave of discontent and riots take over.

Third, consider next the impact of decolonization that fragmented political entities to the point that the UN saw the light -- with 51 countries in 1945 and by 2011 it had 193 members. Most of these nations are economically or institutionally unviable. Their governments lack full territorial control and the means to promote development.

Sprinkle the mix with Tsunami-size migratory waves going from less developed to relatively more developed nation-states caused by civil wars, political persecution or economic collapse, and facilitated transportation and you will clearly realize that the development wave triggered by technology change cum trade growth has placed great stress on the nation state as political institution.

The world is thus going through a transformational phase bearing similarity to that giving rise to the City State back in the 11th century.

Indeed, by the end of the 11th century, the volume, extent, and complexity of trade had increased so sharply that mercantile unions tied to communes were ineffective to deal with trade induced changes. The need to establish fair and permanent trade relations with external like-minded merchant communities and to standardize norms of exchange and compliance demanded the development of political institutions at the entry doors.

The city state was the best organizational approach.

Trade induced growth demanded support of merchants who needed to rely on an enforceable system of property rights over tradable products. Protection of contracts was paramount. Dispute settlement was essential. City -states as points of entry and departure of trade became the most effective political institution.

But with the development of the capitalist system where market growth must go hand in hand with trade, more complex political institutions were needed. City states began to be ineffective.

By the 19th century city states had all but collapsed and the nation states rose to become the political institution that served as pillar for the first stage of capitalistic development. Today the nation state is facing historical decay as the digital age seems to be in need of an alternative political institution that most probably will be the Mega Urban Region. The demise will of course not be peaceful as nor was it for the city-states.


Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.

 

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