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Monday, 14 March 2016

Change: urbanisation, City States and Democracy

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, societies did not experience large rural-urban migration flows primarily due to the inability of cities to support large populations. Lack of large employment industries, high urban mortality, and low food supplies all served as checks keeping pre-industrial cities much smaller than their modern counterparts. Ancient Athens and Rome had estimated peak populations of 80,000 and 500,000 paling in comparison with their current populations. (Wiki)

The ongoing global trend of rural depopulation will ultimately result in global City States which will probably be trading and working together similar to the medieval Hanseatic League (see my 28 February 2015 blog). What will happen to governments and supranational institutions like the EU? And perhaps even more important: what will happen to Multi National Corporations (MNCs)?

Apple's new HQ (see picture) is being built in Cupertino, a medium-sized town of 58,302 people (2010). This town is not likely to become a global City State.

The impact of its top employer (15,000 people) must be heavy on local government. The impact of MNCs on global City States is likely to be more profound than their impact on national governments, let alone supranational institutions like the EU.

To put things in perspective: if a billionaire like Donald Trump can buy his way into the 8 November 2016 US Presidential Election then how much influence could MNCs like Apple, Facebook, Google or Microsoft buy in a global City State??

Given the expected fluidity - or flowability - of the populations in a global City State, the traditional way of democracy would not fit its governing system. This could further enhance the influence of MNCs. I suppose that global City States would more or less resemble the governing model of the current city-state Singapore.

In my view, this would be a positive development as the Western style democracy may well be at the end of its life cycle. The political deadlock in the EU and USA is the result of a fight against inevitable Change as the national pie stopped growing and individual slices need to be shared with more and more people. Democracies work fine as long as slices are getting bigger. In the absence of a Western style democracy, long-term planning works fine in China.

The current left-right (vertical) pillars in Western democracies could be replaced by a horizontal and business like focus on top priorities (eg, elderly care, healthcare, housing, jobs, security, welfare) in order to be able to embrace the inevitable Change. 

The population would determine the order of priorities and the execution is in the hands of non-politicians. Actually, this idea resembles the direct democracy of the ancient City State of Athens in which participating citizens voted directly on legislation and executive bills. 

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