The Industrial-era nation-states were a marriage of convenience. The central government took too much power from local states. It’s distant and unresponsive yet it gobbles up money and runs up an unsustainable debt. So why not break-up? In today’s world with free trade and currency unions, why bother with the central state anymore? Power is shifting back to the regional communities.
Even in Europe, the nation-state is facing breakup.
After several months, Belgium still doesn’t have a government and no one seems to much care. Flanders and Wallonia are virtually two separate countries. One speaks Dutch, the other speaks French, and they vote accordingly. Today, 43% of the Flemish want independence and the number is rising.
The Economist notes the same thing. Belgium was never a real nation-state in the first place and it seems to have outlived its usefulness.
But when they vote, as they did on June 10th, they do so along linguistic lines, the French-speaking Walloons in the south for French-speaking parties, the Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north for Dutch-speaking parties. The two groups do not get on—hence the inability to form a government. They lead parallel lives, largely in ignorance of each other.
With freedom now taken for granted, the old animosities are ill suppressed. Rancour is ever-present and the country has become a freak of nature, a state in which power is so devolved that government is an abhorred vacuum. In short, Belgium has served its purpose. A praline divorce is in order.
Belgians need not feel too sad. Countries come and go. And perhaps a way can be found to keep the king, if he is still wanted.
Remember, Belgium is supposed to be the bureaucratic capital of the new European transnational enterprise.
Britain is not fairing much better. The Celts vote Labour and the English vote Conservative. And now a majority of Britons want to end the United Kingdom. A majority of English and Scots want independence for Scotland. A plauralty want independence for England, and a supermajority want Home Rule for England.
And don’t laugh at the Europeans. There are Americans at home who are try very hard to create their own little independent Vermontistan.
I’m not declaring the nation-state dead yet. It’s got many years left. But there is a growing dissatisfaction and no one quite knows what to do.