Innovation on its own is useless. Who gives a damn if Edison or Tesla can electrify things in their laboratories? What matters is that they can deliver electricity to millions of people across thousands of miles of varied terrain. Who gives a damn if two brothers can get themselves in the air for a few minutes? What matters is getting everyone in the air for hours on end.
Innovation is prologue. The story that matters is what happens once innovation is socially implemented. The Chinese invented print before the Europeans, but the Chinese never figured out what to do with it, which is why Europeans wound up ruling the earth and the Chinese didn’t.
Innovation is hard, but social implementation is harder. Whether we’re talking about dams, interconnected roadways, the internet, or space programs, what is needed is not only a few nerds to figure out how things work in theory or in labs but also a massive concentration of resources to fund a large-scale implementation of the things that nerds figure out.
Contra libertarians, a central tax-levying state power has historically proven to be an efficient means by which to accumulate money for funding the social implementation of innovative technology. (However, contra progressives, private companies have also proven themselves capable of accumulating enough wealth to scale up their innovations and spread their use.)
Of course, the problem with a central tax-levying state is that the state is not only capable of delivering tech and public utilities en masse but of delivering law en masse. The accumulation of capital that calls itself Time Warner can spread internet connection from New York to California but it cannot tell people living from New York to California how to educate their children, how to run their businesses, or what substances they can’t put in their bodies. In contrast, the accumulation of capital calling itself a State or Federal Government may be capable of ensuring that everyone from New York to California has drinkable water flowing into their homes, but it can also dictate to people living in those territories how to educate their children, how to run their businesses, and what substances they can’t put in their bodies.
State governments built interstate highway systems and put men on the moon. Only the loons at GMU’s Economics Department will tell you that centralized state spending is always and necessarily wasteful and inefficient. Taxes can pay not only for the nerds who innovate but also, and more importantly, for the amassing of resources and infrastructure needed to implement innovation on a large scale. But states, unlike private enterprises, also come with the liability of social and moral control.
A state that did not exert social and moral control but still collected taxes for utility delivery and innovative technology implementation would be in essence a corporation that could force everyone to buy its services. Mildly Orwellian, but far less so than the states we live in today. That’s why I agree with Justine Tunney and Mencius Moldbug that Rule-by-Corporation is preferable to Rule-By-Elected-Leaders, even without getting into issues of long-term state solvency.
Now, in an ethnically, religiously, culturally, and in all others ways homogeneous region, in which everyone can more or less agree on the sort of moral/social control it will tolerate, then monolithic democratic governance can be great (see Norway and Denmark). Scandinavia seems more than happy to let the state deliver its law and its water supply precisely because the only people in Scandinavia are Scandinavians. However, in an ethnically, religiously, culturally, and in all other ways heterogeneous region, monolithic governance of any sort will at best foster a fragile equilibrium of competing forces, either through strong-man rule to keep all but one of those forces from power (see pre-invasion Libya and Iraq ) or through complex Constitutional rules to ensure entropy among all the forces (see U.S.A.). It is only by continuing to deliver water and tech that such states retain stability.
At worst, though, as history shows time and again, monolithic governance of heterogeneous peoples can lead to violent conflict, whether or not the water keeps running. In the alt-right formulation: Diversity + Proximity = War.
The regions known as Syria and Iraq are of course heterogeneous, as far from the Scandinavian model as you can get. Assyrian Christians, Kurds, Turkmen, Druze, Shia and Sunni Arabs . . . how could these groups ever agree on the social and moral laws under which they all might live? Yet that is exactly what the West is asking them to do by forcing them to live under a solitary, monolithic government system, i.e., to live in a nation state. To ask that Shia and Sunni Arabs, Assyrian Christians, Turkmen, and Kurds all agree to live under a secular, democratic monolithic system is of course the most idiotic request of the millennium.
Yet despite nationalistic bluster, it seems like each of these groups knows that forming their own ethno-states is not really a viable solution because there simply aren’t enough Assyrians, Kurds, Druze, or Turkmen in Syria or Iraq to create a state capable of becoming anything but an international ward.
Why? Resources, resources, resources. Money and manpower.
It’s everything I was just saying, a state delivers moral control but it also must deliver utilities; it implements social power but it also must implement the large scale social adoption of innovative technology. Iraq and Syria are thus in a bind when it comes to state formation. None of the groups in the regions could ever agree on what sort of law and governance should reign supreme; yet, on their own, none of the groups possesses the resources to provide material, technological benefits (of a 21st-century variety) to their own.
The obvious solution to the impasse is Government-By-Corporation. Is there a method by which all the resources of the region and its peoples can be pooled only for material, technological ends? Can the region develop a state that delivers water but not law?
The problem, at the moment, is that the most potent force in the region—ISIS—is interested in delivering moral control but not water or technology. ISIS won’t be launching a space program or building medical colleges anytime soon. What Iraq and Syria needs is an anti-ISIS: a group dedicated to uniting—not the people—but the money and resources of Iraq and Syria, providing all the benefits of technology and infrastructure of a modern state but leaving the people themselves to their own devices, just as Time Warner gives me cable and internet but doesn’t stay to tell me how to worship.