Whenever something is wrong, something is too big

Posted: July 10, 2009 in books, cornish independence, regionalism, self determination

Just finished Leopold Kohr‘s -The Break Down of Nations- and much of what he writes remains valid today. A long-neglected work that shows big is anything but beautiful – for nations, economies, military forces, government programs, labour unions, businesses, neighbourhoods, and all other human endeavour.

It can’t be denied that the growing American and Soviet empires of the 20th century, fixated as they were on bigness, led us all to the very edge of the abyss. When one is on the edge of the abyss the only thing left to do is step back. Step back to what? Kohr responds with small states. Small nations living in confederation. No single country big enough to threaten the peace and existence of any of the others.
Would an independent Cornwall have stood much chance against Nazi Germany? No, but would Hitler have been able to menace the world if he had come to power in a small independent Bavaria? Would Stalin have been such a danger if he had been the state communist leader of an independent Georgia minus Abkazia, South Ossetia, Adjara and perhaps even Swanetia?
On Cornwall Kohr as early as 1957 wrote: “In Cornwall guide books greet the English tourist by telling him, gently and humorously, but still telling him, that as long as he is on Cornish ground, he must consider himself a foreigner”.

Some of the works of Leopold Kohr can be found online here
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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    You're right, Kohr's book is still relevant today. In fact one of his maps of a potential Europe is almost exactly as it is now post the independence of the Soviet nations.The biggest problem with the book is the title. It should be 'The Breakdown of States' as a lot of what he promotes is smaller states which are based on the size of most 'small nations' – Wales, Denmark, Cornwall, Estonia, Austria etc.Worth a read by all good people.

  2. cornubian says:

    Agreed, but I wonder what his take on large nations would be? Nations like England, Turkey, Russia and even regions like Occitania that, even after having all their dependent nations removed, would still be far to big.The English question for example. Fine we can give independence and confederation to Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, Man, Brittany and any number of other small European nations, but England with 50 million inhabitants would simply be too big for Kohr.So does that mean England must be broken up (Break Down of Nations)?Not very fair for the English nation even if it would empower your average English person far more than an English parliament.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Suerly though, there is an equally valid argument that most things that were, difficult, expensive, groundbreaking and revolutionary have required the resources of large groups, large economies and large countries.Would the Isle of Wight have managed to land on the moon? Could an economy the size of Cornwall have researched and broken the sound barrier?Economies of scale is a powerful thing that put what seems to be out of reach within the grasp of ordinary people. Even "UK plc" now tends to embark on major projects in partnership with Europe, the US or Japan.The world becomes better when we focus less on "me" and "my corner of the world" and we recognise we are all one race – the human race – and we share common experiences but with our own distinct flavour. If we ever all strove together towards a single goal as one nothing could stop us.

  4. cornubian says:

    Should we have wasted all that money on going to the moon?But anyway your point is taken. Some things need a continental or even global scale of cooperation.That's why some form of balance between confederation and autonomy is required.Is the European Union a step in this direction? I thought it was but I'm becoming less sure as the years pass.

  5. Decentralist says:

    To cornubian"Not very fair for the English nation even if it would empower your average English person far more than an English parliament."Well the obvious answer here is regionalism. I'm an English(or British regionalist.). England or Britain can be decentralised and confederated without being broken up.Kohr is one of the gret decentralist writers, imho a joy to read."Is the European Union a step in this direction? I thought it was but I'm becoming less sure as the years pass."No it is a step in the wrong direction, it is about centralisation and is simply unneeded. It does not even possess the same kind of ideal of confederation and autonomy that the US had in the 1780s.To Anonymous"Economies of scale is a powerful thing that put what seems to be out of reach within the grasp of ordinary people. Even "UK plc" now tends to embark on major projects in partnership with Europe, the US or Japan."Economies of scale are very much overdone. Kohr touches on this in this work but other decentralist authors explain it very well like Kirkpatrick Sale, E.F Schumacher and Kevin Carson.\"The world becomes better when we focus less on "me" and "my corner of the world" and we recognise we are all one race – the human race – and we share common experiences but with our own distinct flavour. If we ever all strove together towards a single goal as one nothing could stop us."I completely disagree. Though we should not forget all humanity we should focus on our corner of the world most because it is what we know and what effects us. Interfering in other parts of the globe will simply bring more trouble than it will solve.

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