Friday, August 28, 2009


Systemic Breakdown and Non-State Actors

This is kind of an offshoot from the previous post, in which I disagreed with the author of the discussed article by saying that the global system will not grow more complex, but rather now start breaking down, giving way to chaos and simplification. Somewhere way back (I can’t find the post right now), I said that non-state actors would increasingly challenge state power as they perceive the chinks in the armor of state power. Since that time we have seen this trend advance as the Somali pirates and Mexican drug cartels become ever bolder. Just the other day there was a report that Somali pirates had used a large-caliber weapon to fire on a US Navy helicopter. And there are reports that Mexican drug cartels have likewise armed themselves with military-grade weapons, and are launching attacks on such targets as police stations. And then there are the so-called “terrorist” groups (I put this in quotes because, as we know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter).

A crucial question here is what will happen to the extensive infrastructure of industrial civilization as such increasingly powerful non-state actors take aim at the apparatus that keeps our civilization and societies going. Nigeria is a microcosm of this situation. What happens when it erupts on a worldwide scale? State actors will find their resources stretched when they are obliged to field military units to protect long pipelines, sea lanes, high-tension power lines, and the many facilities that supply our everyday needs. As state power inevitably wanes, non-state actors will step into the power vacuum and take over portions of the infrastructure, either holding it hostage, or perhaps running it for profit.

The answer for us Little People, of course, is to wean ourselves off dependence on this infrastructure to the greatest extent possible. That said, many people are in a position enabling them to take little action in that direction. But in truth, most people simply believe — or want to believe — that we’ll pull out of the “recession” and resume the happy days of economic growth. I wish them the best.

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