On Governance of Nation state and Cities

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I recently came across a book called “If mayors ruled the world” by Benjamin Barber, which boldly advocates an intriguing idea of a world ruled by cities, by distributing power of federal and state governments to a government of cities, thereby empowering them for their own good and easing overall governance of the world.

Barber asserts that cities, and the mayors that run them, offer the best new forces of good governance. Why cities? Cities already occupy the commanding heights of the global economy. They are home to more than half of the world’s population, a proportion which will continue to grow. They are the primary incubator of the cultural, social, and political innovations which shape our planet. And most importantly, they are unburdened with the issues of borders and sovereignty which hobble the capacity of nation-states to work with one another.

Why mayors? Through rigorous research and extensive surveys, Dr. Barber demonstrates that regardless of city size orpolitical affiliation, local executives exhibit a non-partisan and pragmatic style of governance that is lacking in national and international halls of power. A planet ruled by cities represents a new paradigm of global governance – of democratic glocalism rather than top-down imposition, of horizontalism rather than hierarchy, of pragmatic interdependence rather than outworn ideologies of national independence.

(courtesy benjaminbarber.org)

Now, the Idea that Dr. Barber proposes in his book, has been ventured upon by other people out there as well like Vishaan chakrabarti in “A country of cities”. The idea itself holds immense conviction, considering current state of the world with rising economic woes and subsequent loss of faith in nation states.

I feel democracy is the most powerful form of governance there can be, used well and intelligently can create sophisticated beauty out of disorder, but misused can wreak havoc and damage civilization. We have been used to various forms of democracies like parliamentary, presidential or a hybrid form of both. There is a federal government, several state governments and local government of cities working together to manage a nation. There is a sharing of power between federal and state governments with local city governments accountable to respective state governments. The increasing population at a tremendous rate and the implications associated with it that we are witnessing worldwide, demands a further breakdown of power in the democratic system of governance.

It is well known that, population tends to accumulate in and around major cities due to availability of adequate infrastructure and opportunities. As the population of a nation increases, there is a limit to which existing cities can afford a certain amount of population, which leads to formation of satellite cities or instigates small towns to transform into startup cities. The current world scenario also exhibits that there is also a limit to the democratic systems in place to manage the continuously rising population.

Now considering the case, by further planned division or transition of power between states and cities, allowing each city to be governed independently by a mayor and empowering them with absolute welfare and development of their realms, facilitates better management of resources and ensures policy execution. The mayor and his administration legislated by a local city parliament will only be accountable to the people of the city, with minimal interference from federal and state or territorial governments. We can look at existing cities and their model of governance, for examples of performance. I feel it is an interesting scenario to be considered even only for the purpose of pure thought, but with plausible ability to affect real solution to issues, which are essentially local but subsequently lead to global problems.

This is a matter that requires great due diligence, before, if, any nation chooses to adopt such an approach. As with the rise of cities, there could be a redundancy of power as well. The role of state or territorial governments would have to be calibrated to manage districts that remain outside the realms of cities due to their fragmented nature and sparse population, but if possible, the formation of cities could completely abolish the state governments leading to formation of smaller more easily manageable clusters. Probably in earlier times with absence of technology it could be a challenging case to manage numerous large number of cities, but with current and rising technology there could be a recipe, that may serve current governance demands.

To infer, its essentially a further and further break down of state level governance to smaller clusters, until its more manageable with minimal redundancy.

In the end, it is in the nature of matter to flock together due to the fundamental forces that led to its creation. And so is in the case of human beings or other conscious species, that we tend to flock together and live in communities, it ultimately comes down to the effectiveness of a system, that allows the species to co-exist efficiently and harmoniously.

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12 thoughts on “On Governance of Nation state and Cities

  1. I’m all for it if it means we no longer have to pay taxes to state and federal governments. Mayors at least have to live in the towns they preside over, so taxpayers can hold them accountable. It is reminiscent of the Greek city-states, the closest thing to real democracy this planet has ever recorded, or to the tribal cultures of the Native Americans.

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  2. I agree even if there is a tax, coz it can’t be avoided to federal government because they will deal with federal issues that cities won’t be concerned with, the tax percentage can be really less and maximum will be towards their respective cities. BTW seen you after a long time hope you are well.

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  3. It’s imploding everywhere the whole world , I think I have said that if you read, hence the cities as future of welfare state, but the federal is required to deal with federal issues national security, immigration, Global policies and to manage the government of the cities. The role of federal government could be calibrated and limited while making the cities independent in their own way. It’s like the system of governance that exists needs to be further fine tuned to be useful else it will continue to fall apart like it’s already doing right now.

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  4. Political lines in the sand will not stop immigration, legal or illegal.

    “National security” is an artificial construct created by governments jealous of their own power. It means the government itself is insecure (for good reason). If there were no large governments, there could be no large wars, and this individual would feel much more secure.

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  5. You might not approve because they might not be doing the thing as they are actually supposed to.

    The inability to manage the gap between between policy legislation and execution and even vice versa Is the issue most governments everywhere are unsuccessful

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  6. Well I am agreeing on the idea that if we are looking at a scenario of a nation or more broadly a world of cities, there sure would have to be serious restructuring in taxes with majority to be directly paid within their respective cities. A small portion could be paid as a federal tax for other various appropriations which lie outside the city ‘s purview depending upon constitutional amendments I guess.

    I know and I agree on the fact that it sure hurts when your hard earned tax money is put no good use.

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