Dragging Behind the Horse: Making States Bigger

Though history, states have been getting bigger. From tribes, we expanded to city-states, from city-states to feudal states, and from feudal states to the consolidated modern states of today. This process has never been easy, however. There has always been resistance to the expanding, consolidating state. The unifications of Germany and Italy required extensive military campaigning, the United States fought the civil war over the south’s resistance to a strong federal government, the French monarchs struggled to break the back of the nobility for generations, and the British struggled with rebellions from Scots, Welsh, and Irish. Yet, in the end, all of these countries unified and centralised, because it was economically necessary–as more territories became economically interlinked, the same economic laws needed to apply to larger swathes of territory. There was no other way to keep the medieval guilds in line, to achieve coordinated economic policies in the interests of the whole of society, rather than for one region against others, to reduce the need of every town and region to be self-sufficient in every economic category. The economy is the horse driving the  cart of the enlarged state, but there are always people dragging behind the cart, and they’re usually the very sort of people behind setting up the previous, smaller state. But this is not merely an historical tale–states are getting bigger right now for economic reasons, impeded by people who are, once more, dragging behind the horse.

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