aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Eamonn Kelly & the future of the nation-state
Moira Gunn’s conversation with Eamonn Kelly is the most intellectually exciting thing I’ve heard in ages. I will likely be quoting more in the weeks ahead, but for now, he weighs in on my recent topic of inquiry, the past and future of the nation-state:
[my rough transcription of this clip] In the 17th century we saw the coming of the nation state… at that point in history the idea of the nation state as being the supreme level of governance really took hold. Up until then in history there were many ways of thinking about where government ought to reside and where power ought to reside, be it the church, be it the clan, be it the tribe etc. At that moment in history the idea of the nation state being the supreme level of government got locked into place.
I would argue that when you think about the challenges we face today—the economy is truly global and doesn’t conform to national boundaries, the environment and the climate clearly doesn’t conform, hurricanes don’t stop at national borders, lawlessness and crime don’t conform to national boundaries, viruses...national borders are not going to do anything to resist that, and of course terrorism which is a profoundly important topic for all of us today, again no respect for national borders—so I think that we have an idea of the nation state as being the supreme level of governance and the organizing principle for how we think about who we are in the world, but in fact the important things in the world just now, and of course the internet has been a huge factor in that in terms of communication and connectivity as well, the world is much more truly global and the nation state’s genuine importance is in my opinion declining. And yet we haven’t reconciled that with other ways of thinking about the governance challenges that then presents for us.
So far so good. So what of the future?
[my rough transcription of this clip] When I look ahead and look at the three big possible ways in which these geopolitical and technological and societal trends might converge and settle out, I see a possibility of three different worlds and I think we’ll see a combination of them but in different proportions.
Two of them are worlds in which the idea of the top down model, the more centralized organization, the more hierarchical ways of organizing to succeed really kind of hold and the bottom up emergent open source collaborative models don’t really get traction.
One of those scenarios I call the New American Century. I think we can see the United States really coming through what has been a difficult few years for it in terms of its role in the world, to really be the driving force and the dynamo economically—but also in terms of political systems and technologies—that it has been for several decades now. That’s a world that most of us are well-prepared for and perhaps many of us assume will happen.
I think it’s a very realistic scenario, but I actually think another top-down scenario is equally plausible and I call that the Patchwork Powers scenario, and that’s a scenario where we go from a very uni-polar scenario of the US really driving the agenda for the world to some extent and acting as the world’s policeman… to a much more distributed worrld where there is a kind of patchwork of authority and alliances are struck and new institutions, multi-lateral institutions, where things are negotiated more. Where different actors and different voices set the rules differently.
To put either of those in context, I recommend yet another Moira Gunn interview, this one with Robert Kaplan, who discusses his new book, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground. That totally put my pre-conceived notions of the meaning of our imperialist global presence in a different context. I’ll be reading his book.
But my favorite of Eamonn’s three is this:
[my rough transcription of this clip] The final scenario that I think is an interesting one for us to contemplate is one where actually neither of those things [above] hold true. The top down model doesn’t really crack it in this extraordinarily difficult complex world. It is actually more about what happens when you start to connect 6 billion citizens and give at least now a couple billion of them the opportunity to interact with each other in new ways.
That really we start to see the world being shaped more by people and by passion than by the institutions and the markets that have shaped the world today. There are little clues of that just now… The idea of an emergent “global we.” A global citizenry that really makes its voice heard and has a point of view on how we share this fragile home that’s the only one we have. I think it’s another scenario which I’m intrigued to see how it will play out.
I note that this third is the least articulated, and it’s the one I’d like most to see explored. He starts his interview with a 500 year old quote and moves forward through the centuries. That’s the context I’d like to place my notions of emergent democracy facilitated by the nation-state’s successor: the corporate state.
The the next Google may not harken that corporate-state. But it could well be the company after that.
Golly. They’re surprised by the bubble:
For more than eight years, big banks lobbied aggressively to make it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy.
Now that the new bankruptcy law has taken effect, was the investment worth it? The early data suggest that sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for.
Bankruptcy filings were supposed to snowball in the months before the tough new law went into effect on Oct. 17. But the avalanche of petitions, and the lines of debtors streaming out the courthouse doors caught even the credit card issuers who supported the new law by surprise.
Poor banks. Now “the bottom-line benefits of the new law will now take longer to materialize.” Boo-hoo.
THESE NUMBERS MEAN SOMETHING REAL!!!
I don’t buy for a minute the chief financial officer of bank of America’s comment, “ For the long term, it is neutral to positive.”
This rings more true to me:
“The banks are saying that we expect bankruptcy-law-related losses will subside because of the rush to file,” said David A. Hendler, an analyst with CreditSights, an independent research firm based in New York. “But the undertone of credit quality is worsening.”
Even before bankruptcy filings began rising this spring, an American Bankers Association survey of 350 member institutions found that credit card delinquencies had been increasing when measured by the number of accounts past due. (When measured by dollars lost, it has declined). In September, it reported that the rate rose to a record of 4.81 percent during the second quarter, driven in large part by the higher price of gasoline. And it is not expected go down anytime soon.
A friend is involved in developing the financial education curriculum that is now required by the government of all who file for bankruptcy. I immediately pointed him to Christopher Hayes’ How to Turn Your Red State Blue.
I was particularly impressed with Hayes’ notion of building a movement around credit reform. The idea hasn’t really gone anywhere. It should!
I’ll be badgering my pal.
Disclose the code!
We should fight for this in every way we can:
Lawyers for 150 Floridians accused of drunk driving have asked a court to order the disclosure of the source code for software running in the breathalyzer machines used by police to analyze their blood alcohol level, according to a Tom Sanders story on vunet.
The defendants say they have the right to examine the machines that accused them, and that a meaningful examination requires access to the machines’ software. Prosecutors say the code is a trade secret.
Felton makes clear that disclosure is only to plaintiff’s attorneys, so the issue is “not about open source, but about ensuring fairness for the accused.”
He answers those who say the manuals have enough of that information by observing that “knowing how the maker says a machine works is a poor substitute for knowing how it actually works.”
I’m with him.
Zogby on Bush
President Bush, his job approval rating beleaguered by poor marks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, rebounded from historic lows this summer to 45% in Zogby International’s latest poll, with job approval numbers bumping back up into the range where they have hovered for most of his second term.