Note on States and Systems

In places where a Western-style State does not exist there is still order be it the order of warlords or tribes or families. Appeals have been made to a large State as a means of protecting a population from the aggression of other States, and there would appear to be some truth to this. For certainly a State looks to procure for itself and its moneyed interests the assets and resources of weaker states, when it is expedient, through war or trade. The question of how a population without a State would protect itself would appear to be an important question.

But does the State really protect its population, safeguarding the country's resources for its people?

In Colombia, for example, because the domestic corporate elite remains underdeveloped, the State has aligned itself with foreign corporate interests to develop and take to market the country’s abundant raw materials. In doing so Colombian politicians have enriched themselves and no doubt provided employment to Colombian workers. But the greater part of the profits from these deals leave the country to foreign corporate interests. Has the Colombian State failed or succeeded in protecting its population?

The American State differs from the Colombian in that its privileged corporate interests are for the most part domestic ones, and, additionally, that it is better equipped to use war, treaty and tariff to promote those domestic interests. But both the Colombian and American State make the argument that their alignment and privileging of certain corporate interests is ultimately beneficial to the populace at large. It is the oft-made argument of a kind of trickle-down economic effect, one in which the immediate (and measurable) economic benefits to the ruling and corporate elite are argued to far outweigh the negatives for even the poorest of its citizenry. It must be noted that these secondary, trickled-down economic effects are mostly difficult to measure.

Indeed much of the American economic success can be attributed to a State highly skilled and committed to promoting its corporate interests abroad and working with other, comparatively weaker States, often with lesser developed corporate elites, to extend American corporate interests. The American State is the best among the State agents of plunder and it is no coincidence that it is backed by the world’s most powerful military (as well as an expansive prison system).

Larger systems are constructed upon injustices. In dealing with aggregates, macro ideas, and anonymous others, the large system is unable to respond to the injustices committed against the few. It is only the threat of violence from those that maintain the larger system that contains those against whom these injustices are committed from rising up against it. A strong military is thus essential to the larger system, as much to deter violence from within as from without.

By contrast, within smaller systems, a family or small village for instance, any injustices are addressed immediately by the elite of the smaller system. One does not easily or profitably take advantage of one’s neighbor without consequences. Hence, smaller systems are more easily changed for the benefit of their membership and, indeed, smaller systems do not require military power to deter violence from within.

Additionally, the smaller system is more robust than the larger. In the case of its breakdown the effects are limited to a smaller number of people. The members of the smaller system are less specialized than those in the larger (with fewer members they are required to perform more tasks) and are thus less system-dependent and more able to survive should the system collapse.

Much of the larger system's power derives from that one cannot say exactly what it is.

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