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Technology and information are rendering today’s political structures increasingly obsolete

Technological, cultural and economic change look likely to drive political change, rather than the other way around

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Will the "Jamaica" coalition take Germany on its first step away from Federalism?

Federalism is under threat.

If that isn’t clear to federalists it’s pretty clear to everyone else from Vladimir Putin to Donald Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and even to Theresa May.

Whether it’s clear to Jeremy Corbyn isn’t known, but the UK’s Labour leader isn’t exactly rushing to embrace federalism: Brexit hasn’t even been debated at this week’s Labour Party conference. And Brexit was essentially an entire nation voting against federalism.

So it’s a bear market for federalism at the moment - the only leader standing up for the federalist ideal is Emmanuel Macron, who is not in any case of an established political party.

And his latest overtures to Angela Merkel look likely to fall flat while she grapples with the issue of putting together what’s been dubbed a “Jamaica” coalition in Germany.

But that doesn't exactly augur well either: Jamaica had its own experiment with Federalism in the 1960s, linking up with other of the West Indies. It fell apart almost as soon as it was formed.

So far the only really successful Federalised country is the USA, but it’s becoming increasingly noticeable that the US's highly vocal liberation and right wing groups all cite Federalism as an agency of tyranny.

Thus it was the Federal Bureau of Investigation that shot up Waco in conjunction with another Federal enforcement arm of government, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

A similar combination erupted in bloodshed at Ruby Ridge a few years later in Idaho, and when the Montana Freemen took a stand against government outside the town of Jordan it was again the FBI who dealt with the situation, although this time more successfully.

But it’s not just violent insurrectionists that take against Federal power.

It was Federal land that was at the heart of the Bundy dispute, when Cliven Bundy refused to pay grazing dues to the Federal authorities. And it’s Federal land that’s much harder to build mines on, as Donald Trump occasionally highlights.

So this idea that states and nations can come together harmoniously in a greater whole for the greater good does not sit well with all constituents alike. Technocrats like it of course, because it means greater and more powerful governmental apparatus to administer.

And free marketeers like it because an absence of tariffs leaves more money in the economic system and tends, in theory, towards greater wealth for wealth generators.

But electorates will only tolerate it up to a certain point. The Southern States didn’t like the idea much in 1861 and went to war to get away from it.

The Germans have had a go a few times, starting with the Zollverein customs union of the nineteenth century, moving on to the Bismarckian form of tyranny now so feared by US libertarians, then with a truncated Weimar Germany, then with Anschluss and now with the European Union.

In fact, you could say that nowadays the Germans can’t get enough of Federalism, and it’s partly because they’ve tried everything else as well along the way, from Communism under Rosa Luxembourg and her ilk to Nazism.

But could it be that even Germany will shortly try a new path? Certainly markets took the recent German election result as broadly negative for the European project.

The great selling point of European federalism was always that without internal borders the European economy could apply efficiencies and economies of scale in a manner similar to those applied in the US. But with the Jamaica coalition that may have to go, or at least be watered down.

After all, the precedent isn’t wholly without its problems. The great racially-characterised migrations that took place inside the US in the twentieth century were accompanied by greater levels of internal tension than had been seen since the Civil War.

And when Chancellor Merkel attempted to atone for Germany’s crimes in World War Two with the acceptance of a million Syrian refugees into Germany, she was taking an undemocratic, but essentially unpoliced and Federalist decision on the part of member nations with differing histories and different things to atone for.

Not all populaces accept that a million incomers of an alien culture ought to come in to the Federal system to which they are, at least as of today, signed up to.

Hence the rise of the AfD in the recent German elections, the success of the Brexit campaign, the long-standing popularity of the Le Pens in France and the rise of Donald Trump.

So for any hand-wringing liberals wondering: why is the right on the march, the answer is simple. The liberal consensus is no longer delivering what the people want. And this poses educated liberal elites with a quandary. If they are right in their beliefs, should they or should they not impose them anyway?

After all, the week just gone is one when in a Republican election in Alabama Donald Trump backed the more moderate candidate, and lost.

If the world is closing in on you, it doesn’t matter if your masters are kind, middle-class and cultured. What matters is escape.

It’s why gold remains a consistently popular asset class in the face of a relatively strong dollar; it’s why bitcoin is making waves in financial markets to the point where it’s now being banned by the Chinese government; and it’s why populists are on the rise in France, the UK, the USA and most recently Germany.

Indeed, it may be that with technology leaping forward again, with information available at the touch of a button, with power turning increasingly to renewables, new forms of human organisation will emerge. The political structures they will take on are yet be clear.

But one thing’s for sure: economic, technical and cultural developments are rendering existing ones increasingly obsolete.

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