Some people might be wondering why the world of Neon Twilight is so fragmented,
and why Europe and Asia are filled with so many tiny nation-states, when the
power of the state is apparently very strong across the globe. The reason lies
not only in ethnic loyalties, but also in the nature of an integrated world economy.
The main historical purpose of large nation-states has been to provide internal
(police, law & order) and external (army, navy, spies) security to its citizens.
The second purpose which became more apparent as industrialization proceeded apace
has been to provide a large integrated market with common standards, regulations,
predictable taxes, and stable economic policies. A large nation-state provided
companies with the ability to easily expand and take advantage of economies of
scale, as well as government research contracts, subsidies, and protective barriers
against foreign competition. High international tariff barriers meant that almost
all companies had to rely on a large domestic market to become significent players.
The advent of free trade and firm military alliances changed all this radically.
In a world where free trade is the norm and international trade treaties (such as
those negotiated by the World Trade Organization) provide equal footing for all
companies no matter their country of origin, the need for a 'home country'
becomes diminished. Small countries now have access to vast markets which were
previously denied them. The puny negotiating power of a small city-state is now
replaced by the global power of the WTO or World Bank. If a small country can
benefit from security alliances with larger patrons (such as Singapore with America,
or Gibraltar with Britain), then there is less need to be part of a large nation-state.
The cumbersome nature of many large states can all be detrimental to local
regional development. Many federal governments also siphon tax funds from rich
regions to poor ones, to the great irritation of those living in the wealthier
places. Witness North & South Italy, or Ontario vs. the Maritimes in Canada.
All this means that enterprising city-state dwellers can often benefit more by
forming a small nation-state than by being part of a large one. In a world
stitched together with tough agreements, alliances and treaties (such as those
enforced by Protocol), the need to be part of a grand state is more than offset
by the benefits of living in your own ethnic (often racially pure) statelet.
If the region is blessed with an abundance of some vital resource (eg: oil in Kuwait)
or feels repressed by the majority of the country (eg: Quebec, Eritrea, Singapore)
the desire to separate will be very strong.
The key here is a global free-trade framework that applied to all or most countries,
with dependable dispute-resolution and enforcement mechanisms. Given such conditions,
tiny countries could flourish. Without such a framework, countries will join into
regional economic unions to protect their interests, with the possible creation of
rival economic blocs such as Fortress Europe, Confucian Zone, and North America.
Neon Twilight assumes the former, because the latter would degenerate into a
1984-esque scenario which, while suitably grim, would not have the chaos of a true
Today, at 193, the number of countries in the world is astonishing. By 2038 that
number may well rise to 250 or 300 nation-states, depending on the fate of Russia.
Statelets may or may not be wealthier, but in a world of free trade and global
communications the old barriers to wealth creation will be fewer than today.
Today small countries such as Iceland (pop 230,000), Finland (pop 3m), Singapore
(pop 2m), and Mauritius (pop 5m) have some of the highest per-capita income in
the world, and can operate on a global basis.
However, a world fully fragmented into statelets would probably be too unstable
and ridden with factional fighting to be able to enforce the kind of free trade
and Protocols needed to maintain peace and smooth business transactions. That is
why Neon Twilight includes several large countries which dominate regions and
provide a stabilizing factor in regional power politics. The United States - despite
its troubles at home - maintains its Pacific Zone, Russia rides roughshod over
the Central Asian Steppe,
the European Union Commission keeps its member-states in reasonable balance,
Cathay exerts power over democratic China, Azania over large chunks of Africa,
and Brazil over most of Amazonia.
Nevertheless, the pressure exerted by selfish Clans and secular Intercons
continues to fracture many parts of the world into small, politicall-malleable
micro-states. As a final influencing factor, the onset of the New Mutation
also greatly speeded up fragmentation by alienating neighbors, feeding
xenophobia, inciting injustice against national minorities, and promoting
the need for isolation. The tough restrictions on international travel and
the pervasive paranoia of the Biosafety Protocols adds to regional self-determination.
After all, as 'everyone' knows, it's always foreigners that bring bad luck.