by Mark Nestmann
I’m a child of the 1960s and 1970s. I grew up in the era of the war in Vietnam, hippies, LSD, and “do your own thing.”
My friends and I never understood how the “land of the free” could round up eighteen-year-old boys and force them to fight in a war that was 8,000 miles away.
More than 50,000 US soldiers died in that war, including a few of my friends – and untold millions of Vietnamese people.
My circle of friends thought there had to be a better way. And there is. It’s a decentralized world without nation-states, without government coercion, without war, and without the enforced extraction of wealth via taxation.
A world like this isn’t just a pipe dream, either. Throughout history, societies have successfully existed this way. One of the best-documented examples was in central Turkey, at a site now occupied by the modern city of Catalhoyuk.
My friend and colleague Paul Rosenberg summed it up when he wrote about Catalhoyuk several years ago:
[Catalhoyuk was] the first large human settlement after the ice age and also the most concentrated. [It] had no government and no priesthood. And it thrived for 1,400 years. Two thousand families lived in this compact city between 7,400 BC and 6,000 BC, with no master and no overseer. There was no courthouse, no tax collector, no central administration of any kind …
The first real human city was an anarchy [a state with no central authority] … it thrived for 1400 years; longer than Rome, Greece, or any of the Sumerian or Egyptian Dynasties.
We know these statements are factual based on overwhelming archeological evidence. Catalhoyuk had no large central square that could have been devoted to political gatherings or religious expression. Skeletons of inhabitants display no telltale bone damage that could only be incurred by blunt-force trauma or blades. Every dwelling had its own food storage bins.
Men and women appear to have been equal. Chemical analysis of the remains of both sexes shows that they ate similar diets and spent the same amount of time in their homes.
It’s easy to conclude that Catalhoyuk could never be replicated today. Here’s what critics fear would happen if society moved in the direction of a decentralized world order without nation-states in charge. As Rosenberg puts it:
- The powerful will tell us what to do and we’ll have no choice; their weapons and ours will be grossly unequal. They’ll take our money whether we like it or not.
- The big men will go to war against each other in an effort to rule the whole world if possible. They’ll kill millions of us in the process.
- The powerful will grab our children and force them to fight for them… and they’ll come home dead or in pieces, if they come home at all.
- Millions will be starved as the powerful take away our food for their own use. There will be no way out.
- Minorities will be rounded up, put into concentration camps, and even exterminated. They’ll have no way to escape.
- The friends of the powerful will control our money. They’ll make us beg them for loans and bill us for their mistakes. They’ll turn us into permanent debt slaves.
Read this list again. Does it sound familiar? It should, because it describes the world we live in today.
A world of nation-states doesn’t protect us from these conditions. It facilitates them.
Indeed, an exhaustive study by Professor R.J. Rummel, author of Death by Government, concluded that in the 20th century alone, governments killed some 262 million people. Rummel coined the term “democide” to describe these killings:
The murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder.
According to Rummel, the largest democides of the 20th century were:
- By the Chinese Communist Party (77 million dead)
- By the Russian Communist Party (62 million dead)
- By the German Nazi party (21 million dead)
Rummel’s research concludes that six times as many people died from the actions of governments in the 20th century than died in battle.
Is there a way forward from this incredibly sad state of affairs? I believe there is. A “decentralized world order,” as Rosenberg describes it, won’t happen all at once. Nor will it lead to the immediate end of the nation-state. But I think we’ve already passed the zenith of the nation-state, with the “global village” of the Internet paving the way.
It’s now possible to communicate instantaneously online with anyone, wherever they live (North Korea and a handful of other totalitarian countries excluded).
Talking about the global village sounds cliché, but it’s already here. I have friends in more than fifteen countries. In many cases, I have a great deal more in common with these individuals than with, say, the typical supporter of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. And I have a great deal more to fear from my own countrymen than, say, people in North Korea or Iran.
Decentralized systems are emerging everywhere. For instance, the business world long ago realized that a centralized justice system wasn’t agile enough to adjudicate commercial disputes. That’s how binding arbitration became the preferred mechanism for international commerce.
Thanks to crypto-currencies like bitcoin, the nation-state is losing control over the money its citizens use, and it’s losing the ability to extract forced contributions via taxation. With crypto-currencies, you can now make secure electronic transactions with anyone, anywhere in the world. Much to their chagrin, governments have no effective way to control this, short of shutting down the internet.