John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine” may come to mind when we’re asked to ponder a world without nations; fewer lines on a map and no boundaries keeping people in or out of a given area. It’s difficult to comprehend because so much in regards to international affairs has to do with countries. Despite this, an increasing number of economists and political scientists believe that an end to nations would benefit everyone in the end. Widespread issues like the food supply and climate should be handled on the international stage, while smaller issues can be handled by individual cities and regions. The concept of putting an end to nations isn’t foreign, as it wasn’t that long ago when a person could travel across Europe without needing to have their passport checked. The real question is: how do we organize ourselves?
Robin Dunbar from the University of Oxford found that people can’t keep track of more than 150 people’s activities and social interactions. If you look at your Facebook feed, you’ll probably agree with this stat. If there were an end to nations, however, we’d want to make sure that we had a larger group of people surrounding us when inevitable events like war happen. If you had 150 people or less in your community and war broke out, a large portion of your population would be decimated.
If we look back at the largest of the Eurasian empires, populations grew bigger wherever there was the most fighting. It’s also important to note that the groups who lost to these empires had no place to go after their defeat, so they ended up being absorbed by the empire. Still, these empires from long ago seem to have had way more than 150 people, so how did that work? The answer is hierarchy. Villages banded together under a chief and several chiefs were grouped under another chief, so on and so forth. This allowed leaders to organize large groups of people without burdening anyone with keeping track of more than 150 people.
Still, this kind of organization seems too simple for the 21st century. What is the ideal organization method given an end to nations? Grouping by ethnicity won’t work, as horrific ethnic cleansings would happen too often and one’s identified ethnicity can change over time given sociological factors. One solution is to follow Canada’s lead and divide a large area up into multicultural states where each local community has control over issues. This kind of organization works in other places like Tanzania, a place that boasts more than 120 ethnic groups and around 100 languages. The key is for people from multiple ethnic groups to live together in harmony.
In today’s complex world, however, it’s hard to pick the perfect way to organize people and whether there will ever be an end to nations. Although the current grouping doesn’t necessarily make sense when we consider large global issues, nation states are important to providing security and the numbers prove this. Human violence numbers are at an all-time low right now. Although no movement to a country-less world is happening now, it’s vital that we consider our options now for a potential end of nations in the future.