Via the Z blog,

The citizen in a democratic empire

When most people think of citizenship, they think about the constitution of their country or the rights they are guaranteed by law. They will think of their obligations to their country, such as paying taxes, obeying the law and defending the nation. In the West, a citizen is roughly what the dictionary defines, "an aboriginal or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and has the right to be protected from it". It is a set of reciprocal legal obligations, animated sense of duty of the rulers and the governed.

Moreover, at least in America, citizenship comes with the conviction of equality between people and office holders. Every American grows up hearing that no one can be president. The House of Representatives is known as the house of the people, because it was designed to not only represent the people, but also to be populated by representatives of the people. In other words, citizens are governed by their fellow citizens and not by foreigners or hired men paid by foreigners. You can only be a citizen of your country.

In the post-national world, this old definition of the citizen no longer works. In a world where foreigners can only move in, claim benefits and protections from the government, citizenship loses all value. At the same time, the state is increasingly foreign to the people it governs. In the European Union, citizens are no longer governed by their national governments, all major decisions being made in Brussels. In America, political positions are increasingly occupied by weird exotic unrelated to the natives.

The question then is what does it mean to be a citizen in a democratic empire?

The most obvious thing about the new citizen in the new post-national world is that the relationship between the citizen and the state is transactional. The state considers people as assets and liabilities. Their role is guardian. People who serve the interests of the state are treated differently than people who depend on the state for their existence. It's a business relationship, except that people can not be fired, so the useless ones will be hidden while the more productive ones will be put to work.

In the same way, the citizen considers his government according to what he can bring him. It owes no more than the state to the creditor. The rules promulgated by the state must be covered rather than complied with. If the rules work for the citizen or his group, the law is supported by the citizen or his group. On the other hand, if the law is an obstacle, it is subverted or ignored. In a post-national world, respect for the spirit of the law does not make more sense than loyalty to a country.

This means that patriotism has no role in the democratic empire. Fidelity to your country only works if you actually have a country. The residue of patriotism will last for some time, as people will continue to think of their neighbors and friends as well as their compatriots, but over time, as these people are replaced by strangers, patriotism will disappear. In a transactional world populated by stranglers, your first loyalty can not be to the state because it is just as foreign to you as new neighbors who have just arrived from the horizon.

Transactional sterilism is already evident. Consider the changing relationship between employers and their workers. Across America, employment is at will, which means that an employee can be fired by an employer for any reason. In addition, local businesses are atrophying, a global business monopolizing the market. In the past, local affairs were part of all communities, sponsoring small leagues and charitable fundraisers. You will never see your child's small league sponsored by Google or Amazon.

Of course, this will have unforeseen consequences. For example, the military will no longer be able to count on patriotism to be recruited. Since no one is a citizen in the old sense, the army ceases to be a military citizen. Instead, it takes on the characteristics of an army of mercenaries. The decision to join is no different from the decision to move from one job to another. This will also apply to the police. The cops will no longer be citizens protecting and serving their community. They become prison guards at liberty.

Since humans are social animals, the loss of national and regional identity means that something will replace it. In a transactional world where everyone is a foreign citizen, old-fashioned loyalty will become more important. The family, the community and the tribe will be the only identities that make sense. Again, we see the beginnings of this with the administrative layer of the management class. FBI agents who planned to overturn the 2016 elections were motivated by the new emerging identity politics.

This is overestimated in discussions of identity politics. Old identities will surely play a role, such as race, ethnicity and religion. New tribes from post-national relations will emerge. The managing state will begin to fracture and balkanize, while rival power centers will start fighting for power. Again, this is seen in the obstruction of the Trump program by career bureaucrats within the government. They became their own tribe and became aware of their class.

This paradise has a cost. Nations unite for the same reason as communities. Social capital, these invisible links between people breathes life into the organizing structure. Patriotism and civic duty animate the republic. Duty to the king and the people is what drives a monarchy. This social capital is what binds the rulers to the governed. In a highly transactional world, where social capital has been monetized or left out, something else has to drive the system.

This something else must be forced by the personal interest of people occupying positions in power centers. We see some of this with censorship campaigns by tech giants and banks. This will become clearer until everyone has a natural hostility towards everyone outside their social group. The cost of maintaining order will increase, but the means of imposing an order will increase the cost of that order. The empire will have no choice but to become more ruthless in its dealings.

If you want to get a glimpse of the post-national world, look at Lebanon. Every hill and valley is its own nation, so to speak. Groups belonging to the same religious sect or political convictions may form temporary alliances, but Lebanon is not a coherent country with a common purpose. It's just a place on the map that only makes sense for those who are completely removed from the reality of Lebanese life. Future citizens will be very local and coveted by the small benefits that he and his group can derive at all.