Tag Archives: Arab Spring

Is Multinational Democracy Possible?

Vaclav Klaus

Vaclav Klaus

While chewing on my Frosted Shredded Wheat this morning, I read a thought-provoking speech by the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus.

A highly educated economist as well as a top politician in his country, Dr. Klaus says that Europe’s current economic malaise is the result of a decadent and paternalistic economic culture, especially in the wake of increased unification and the implementation of a single currency.

After distinguishing between integration (a good thing) and centralization (an ominous turn away from democracy), he spoke the line that really caught my eye:

It was forgotten that states are the only institutions where real democracy is possible.

His ideas are an interesting counterpoint to my last post, Morality, Fractals and the Arab Spring, where I waxed optimistic about the increasing scale of democracy in the world.

You can read his speech here: The Crisis of the European Union: Causes and Significance.

What do you think? Can democracy function at a super-national level, or is the nation-state the largest scale where it can be accountable to the people?

Morality, Fractals and the Arab Spring

Fractal Flower

Fractal Flower

As freedom unfolds this year in the Arab world, we can enjoy watching a beautiful fractal develop another level. What do fractals and the Arab Spring have to do with each other? Let’s first talk about fractals and morality.

A fractal is a “rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole,” according to Benoit Mandelbrot, one of the pioneers in the field.

Morality has been summarized as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A central idea here is cooperation.

It occurs to me that morality — in the sense of cooperation — is like a fractal: composed of many nested parts, with the parts at each level similar to the ones at other levels.

Protocell (Theoretical)

Protocell (Theoretical)

The first protocells may have been composed of only two types of molecules: a fatty-acid membrane with RNA inside. The molecules weren’t doing much, but they were cooperating to form something which would later mutate into the cells we know today.

Modern cells display more developed cooperation, with specialized organelles providing energy, reproduction and other functions.

The Haj

Muslim Pilgrims - The Haj

Building up from there, we have the body, again composed of specialized, quasi-independent parts in cooperation.

Fractal levels continue, including the family, the neighborhood, the town, the state and the nation — all based on the cooperation of somewhat autonomous agents. Religions display similar characteristics.

These fractal levels developed over time, elements of one level (e.g., the town) coalescing into the next (the nation-state). I say that this, like any fractal, is beautiful to contemplate.

The latest development has been called the Arab Spring. Across the Middle East, peoples are re-forming their governments along the cooperative model of democracy. That’s one level of progress — one fractal level.

Above that we have the international community dealing with one of the last beneficiaries of the Arab Spring, namely Libya. As Fareed Zakaria has observed, the United States, under the skillful leadership of President Obama, has engineered better balance between us and the Europeans to bring the Gadhafi regime to heel. Most surprising and encouraging of all has been the Arab League’s role in disciplining one of their own.

What’s next? Interplanetary cooperation? Galactic? Hmm… There is a resemblance…

The Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way Galaxy