Space is only noise if you can see: An anthem for panarchism

I knew there was a reason why I love Nico Jaar’s music so much.

For me, this song is about the futility of political borders; or rather, visible, territorial ones. Then, is it any wonder territorially-sovereign-monpolistic-majoritarian-democratic states suppress informational signals? Inquisitive minds will get my drift, but I’ll add a fuller interpretation to this post when I get the time.

For now, meditate on these lyrics and let your mind wander. “Space is only noise if you can see” – whatever could that mean?

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A Political Coase Theorem?

I want to make the argument that the Coase Theorem can be applied to a bargaining problem between two (or more) states. More specifically, I want to suggest that the logic of Coasian bargaining potentially undermines the idea of a monopolistic state, and any such state can only be justified insofar as it does not suppress the formation of new states (i.e., does not quell secession). This has implications for theories of territorial secession and federation, the protection of territorially dispersed minorities, and the emergence of non-territorial, ‘virtual’ states.

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My thesis in three minutes (it’s more the general vibe of it really)

Here’s a transcript from my entry into RMIT’s three minute thesis competition. I attempted to give the presentation off the top of my head – and managed to fumble my way through it reasonably well – but it makes for better reading in script form.

So here’s my thesis for the layperson, in roughly three minutes:

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The rise of the modern state and the rise of Europe

I recently read a couple of interesting economic history papers on the interactions between institutions, economic and political power, and economic growth. The first was the econ-famous paper, The Rise of Europe: Atlantic Trade, Institutional Change, and Economic Growth, by Harvard economists Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson, which has managed to rack up 682 citations (so says Google Scholar). The second was the less-cited (12) but equally-good paper, The Open Constitution and its Enemies: Competition, Rent Seeking, and the Rise of the Modern State, by Oliver Volckart of LSE.

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Schumpeter and the end of Western Capitalism: Can crypto-currency prove him wrong?

I recently came across a newish article titled ‘Schumpeter and the end of Western Capitalism’ by William Kingston in the Journal of Evolutionary Economics. This line in particular caught my eye: “The decline of capitalism began when financiers were released from this discipline, and it ended with the catastrophe caused by belief that bureaucratic control could replace it.”

Overall the paper sketches what is a very interesting thesis (Schumpeter’s, that is) placed in the context of the GFC and beyond. Well worth the read. It is good to see someone calling out the crisis for what it was – something of a Schumpterian-Minskian-Olsonian-Hayekian Frankenstein’s monster. The common thread: overcentralisation and the pathology of control. It blows my mind that people writing decades ago, up to a century ago, could be so prescient.

The abstract is below and a link to the article is here.

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Natural and artificial non-territorial groups: Part II

In part I, I introduced a distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ non-territorial group formation as a basis for looking at examples of non-territorial practices in governing. In this post, I’ll go into a bit more detail on the natural category, and how particular examples from the past have facilitated non-territoriality.

The first commonality between historical cases of non-territorial governance, e.g. Roman Empire, Icelandic Free Commonwealth, establishment of extra-territorial consular jurisdictions, Austro-Hungarian Empire, territorially-dispersed minorities (Maori in New Zealand, Sami in Norway), and Belgium; seems to be that they tend to occur when already-existing ‘group identities’ are incorporated, marginalised or homogenised by an encompassing state or dominant group.

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Natural and artificial non-territorial groups: Part I

One of the things I have been looking at recently is the concept of ‘non-territoriality’ in governance.

The idea bears some relation to the political philosophy of panarchy:

PANARCHY (pan-archy: many chiefs; multi-government) is a system of competing, co-existing governments which conduct their operations within the same geographical territories without making any claims to those territories, and whose only powers derive from the consent of those they govern, i.e., those who voluntarily agree to submit to a particular government. These voluntary governments are constituted and operate on the basis of contractual personal law rather than the coercive territorial law of the Nation-State.

David Taylor (1989), For Panarchy

Non-territoriality also crops up in the (small) literatures on functional federalism (FOCJ) by Bruno Frey and multi-level governance by Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks. Not to mention to concept of extraterritorial jurisdiction that dates back to medieval merchants and modern(-ish) colonial practices.

Two questions stick out: (1) has non-territorial governance ever came to be?; and if so (2) when, where, and why?

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