Via the good - and I really do mean 'good' - offices of Arts & Letters Daily comes a review by Alan Wolfe of two books linked by a common theme but approached by the two authors concerned from opposite directions. Apparently both of them feel that the nation-state is failing and that city-states might be a solution, even if they both seem to disagree on why! One of the writers is Pierre Manent, a tremendous French swot on History, Economics and Everything who is, rather surprisingly for a French intellectual, a free market conservative. (I came across him a few months ago and wrote about him on this blog but, dammit, I can't find the reference.) His opposite number in this clash of ideas is Benjamin R. Barber, an American 'liberal' which, of course, may or may not mean liberal!
This discussion chimes with me because I remember, with some embarrasment now, that a few years ago I floated the idea that London and its surrounding counties should consider breaking off and 'going it alone'! At the time the impression was strong that the City, by which I mean the financial hub, was worth more than the rest of the country put together and that the city slickers freed from governmental interference could make enough money to keep the south of England in clover. Shortly after that prognostication we had the financial slump, so it was a bit like one of my less-than-shrewd political forecasts!
Even so, it seems to me that today there is a 'pull-me-push-you' tension between cities and nations somewhat akin to that in an old and stale marriage where the husband can't see why he should go on supporting the increasingly unattractive wife forever, whilst she is determined to remind him that they have been coupled for a very, very long time and such bonds cannot easily be cast aside. There is no doubt that cities, to use the modern jargon, is 'where it's at'. They are exciting and stimulating and dangerous! From personal experience I can tell you that outside the city we move at the speed of the slowest tractor - and I kid you not! I'm sure the two brain-boxes above will have some erudite and sophisticated theories to explain what should happen but in the end it will be the usual "events, dear boy, events" that will decide the matter and probably in a totally unexpected way.