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Beyond Nation States?

Should we strive for a political order that doesn’t have nation states as central entities? How would alternative approaches look like?

The following article portraits the emergence of nation states and recent developments that seem to shift political power and influence away from nation states:

Here’s what I commented on Facebook with respect to how a Fractal Future might look different from the present:

Networks will become increasingly important. But the real question is: Networks made out of what? People? Cities? Regions? Nation states? Corporations? NGOs? Non-profits? Interest groups? Network-Tribes? Something else? All of them? Does it even matter?

And if you have networks of delocalised units, then you have the problem that currently political control is managed on a territorial basis. Units without a territory cannot easily give themselves law-like rules, especially when they stand in contradiction to territorial laws. To make delocalised networks work, you’d need to limit the power of territorial entities first, which is extremely difficult, since you’d be working against centuries or millennia of bloody history that cemented
territorial control.

In any case, the problem of effective global governance needs to be solved somehow, whether that involved nation states or not. Otherwise, we will be unable to arrive at satisfactory solutions to global problems like climate change.

So, what’s the solution? It’s not clear at all. We have to start developing potential solutions, otherwise we will be stuck in business as usual, or slow devolution. Both of which are probably far from optimal.

Potential post-nation state approaches

This thread is about developing those potential solutions that transcend nation states. Here are some suggestions for plausible, or possible options:

  1. Networks of cities / metropolitan areas / city states
  • A single global government with regions being administrated in a subsidiary fashion
  • Continental governments?
  • Large scale states united by certain ideologies?
  • Corporations gaining formal political control over certain territories?
  • Bottom-up delegation democracy?
  • Virtual nations / Polystates?
  • Fractal states? This is an idea of mine that I’m presenting in this thread for the first time.

What is a fractal state?

The purpose of a fractal state is to create regions of higher memetic coherence, so that it becomes easy for like-minded people to cluster on one single location. How would that work? By rearranging a part of the world (or the whole world) according to what I’d tentatively call themes. Themes can be anything that is shared by a set of people. It could be a common ideology, common personality traits, common cultural aspects, for example languages, lifestyles, or customs, common physical characteristics (this might become interesting once morphological freedom becomes mainstream), and so on.

A fractal state starts with a primary theme. There are no restrictions to what is allowed to be a primary theme, or a secondary theme, and so on, but I guess some themes make more sense as primary themes. Any fractal state can have substates that also have a theme. Such substates are fractal state in their own right, but their themes needs to be compatible to the superstates they are part of. An Islamic state (whether such a thing is actually desirable might be worth considering) cannot have an atheist substate, for example.

Do the substates of a fractal state need to be in the same “class of themes”? For example, when a substate is based on a certain economic system, do other substates of the same superstate have to use economic systems as themes, too? Not necessarily, although it might make a lot of sense to organise fractal states that way.

How does governance work in a fractal state? Well, that depends on the governance themes that are used. What unites fractal states is that they are clearly based on themes. Inhabitants who do not agree with the themes of the state they live in, should relocate to a fractal state that they agree with more, at least in the long run.

But why?

There are a number of reasons why fractal states would make sense:

  • They enable effective testing of new ideas and systems
  • They reduce the necessity for making suboptimal political compromises, fractal states implement one idea with full dedication
  • They reduce internal political conflicts by arranging people in a more natural way, so that there are clusters of large memetic coherence
  • They make it easier for people to come together with people that have a lot of common interests and features
  • They allow “network tribes” to get their own territory
  • They avoid the potential chaos that is expected to be present in polystates by having a single coherent set of laws enforced on a clearly defined territory

Of course there are lots of problems that have to be solved before we can have a well functioning fractal state, but the idea in itself is quite interesting.

What do you think?


Sounds like an interesting idea, but it would be hard to get modern nation-states to reaorganize that way.

I think that the first Fractal States will probably have to be “start-up” states, which means that small groups of like-minded people would get together and join resources in order to build artificial islands or to colonize unocupied lands (like in Antarctica or something).

It might make sense to create some sort of organization to help these made up states to get started.


This is consistent with my own notion that the predominate forms of human organization in the future will be intentional communities–akin to Hans Widmer’s Bolos–and their associated adhocracies linked to a global commons administered mostly through digitally managed resource and production networks. With the influence of technology on culture, I think civilization is evolving toward a global Georgist philosophy States today are a reflection of the underlying logistics of economics and production and the concentrations of power they create. They are, today, predominantly economic constructs intended to define boundaries of economic control and exploitation for a set of economic interests. But these have long been eroded by Globalization and its expansion of economic interdependency intended to mediate risk for those interests. The hierarchies of the Industrial Age and the power structures they established are now being broken down by advancing information, communication, and production technology. Production is evolving toward an increasingly generic, localized, commodity and ultimately toward a kind of utility integrated into the municipal infrastructure. But obstacles remain for a smooth transition to a Post-Industrial socio-political architecture, particularly in old concepts of property and the enclosure of the original resource commons by the market.

I think a transition to a new system starts with the cultivation of a New Commons built on the resources overlooked or discarded by the market, which we have seen in the case of open software and more recently in the networking of independent renewable energy systems. Today intentional communities have a compulsion to seek an ideal, hermetic, autarky through agrarian subsistence–in large part because their use of green architecture compels them to the physical fringes of civilization. We should think of new social systems less as a construct of some package of philosophies and more as a package of services (reflecting core ideals/principles) and architecture that can compete with the existing market and governments for a functional personal model of lifestyle. That’s what you’re trying to offer. A better lifestyle. What characterizes that lifestyle and what are the logistics of creating and providing it?


Well, at least that would be reasonable, efficient, and appropriate to the technological means we currently have. The transition towards that system will be slow and cumbersome. Most of the big players wouldn’t want it to happen, because they would lose control or market share.

I would welcome that happening, but I’m not seeing much of that actually happening right now. Have you evidence that people are actually transitioning towards a Georgist philosophy?

This reminds me of the Singularity 1on1 interview with Marcin Jakubowski on Open Source Ecology:

Combining open source blueprints with localized additive manufacturing would really transform our current industrial system.

Indeed. How can these obstacles be overcome? Can democratic nations be enlightened about what might be possible, so that they vote parties in power who put the new Georgist system into place? Would that even work on a national level, or are transnational approaches necessary?

Yes, that’s already happening. I’m writing this on a computer that runs on Linux. Unfortunately, Linux has had a pretty hard time penetrating the private OS market. Most people still prefer convenience to the advantages of the New Commons.

Agrarian subsistence might be fine for some, but the appeal to autarky to myself is quite limited. We reach a high degree of efficiency by collaborating on an industrial scale. But I guess, if you really want to escape the current socio-economic system, you need to start with the basic foundation of agrarian autarky. @acta_non_verba is quite interested in anything related to autarky. You should get in contact with each other. :slight_smile:

Competing with the existing market is feasible, if you are willing to live frugally, but competing with governments is quite a different animal. After all, governments claim the monopoly on force on their territory, and use that to enforce their laws and regulations. Virtual governments can offer some services that were traditionally provided by governments, but how do you deal with governments in a way that doesn’t end in either submission or total defeat?

I don’t try offering a better lifestyle. I’m merely conceiving a framework that enables a vast number of diverse lifestyles. The logistics for each lifestyle would be different, depending on the economic basis that’s necessary for that kind of lifestyle.