After the fall of the USSR, we immediately saw many European countries splitting into smaller entities, and even after that momentum slowed down, there never was an inversion, but rather a consolidation that took different shapes all the way to the present.
At the same time glocalization has grown to become a mainstream cultural trend: on one hand we keep globalizing as we did for decades, assimilating more and more foreign cultures into our own, enhancing the migration flows and letting our society becoming more diverse, but on the other hand we become more and more aware of what makes our own local culture unique exactly because we now have more elements to compare ourselves with others, thus enhancing the personal bond with our local community.
These two factors work in synergy with many others, and together they are providing an impulse towards a miniaturisation of our democracies.
If we look at many micro- and city-states we can readily point out that many of them are tax havens.
This shouldn’t blind us from the fact that they are also often lean and functional under an administrational point of view, and while the GDP of such countries is immediately linkable with their ethically questionable financial status, we cannot dismiss as just another secondary by-effect the better ranking that they generally score in terms of corruption and distribution of wealth.
Another useful example comes from many of Europe’s non-micro-states that still have a smaller territory or population than others (the Netherlands or Scandinavian countries come to mind). These countries are often considered an example of virtue to be followed in terms of administrative efficiency, and social rights, and I’d like to make a case that this is not by coincidence.
The common denominator, it seems to me, is that by reducing the size of a democracy we keep the population closer to their representatives -whether physically by reducing the land size, or psychologically by reducing the population size.
This results almost invariably in better policies that better represent the instances of the underlying population.
As we said at the beginning, the trend that somehow took momentum after the fall of USSR, is all but fading away, au contraire: we started seeing other impulses in a different but not opposite direction in countries with a more democratic heritage. In Spain from time to time Catalonia makes a new attempt to gain independence, in Italy a federalisation of the taxation system has enhanced regional self-sufficiency, in UK the Brexit is mining once again the Union of the Kingdom, after Scotland was called to vote 3 times in the last 40 years on this matter.
Each one of these attempts is ignited by the same strong belief that splitting the country into smaller units will bring improvements for the local population of at least one of the parties involved.
It is not the purpose of this post to discuss whether this belief will in fact hold true or not, but the fact itself that people may hold this belief, would be a sufficient reason to see local governments taking more and more steps towards independence, whether by means of secession, wider local autonomies, federalisation.
One last word against the counter-argument that a smaller state will more easily fall prey to a larger one.
In general, the glocalization trend mentioned above seem to be well positioned to play a key role in this respect.
More in concrete, supranational organizations are one possible answer that is proving relatively weak in our time. Supranational unions such as the EU, the arab union and others are a second viable solution that proved relatively stronger. Large federations of many micro-states with strong autonomies could be a third way, one that I would be inclined to consider more efficient and likely.