Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations (1957, 1978).
DISUNION NOW'I believe in the virtue of small nations.'
The new map of Europe. The solution of the problem of war by making war divisible. The automatic dissolution of minority problems. The dissolution of national hostility. Ineffectiveness of medieval small-scale wars. How the Truce of God made war divisible in time. The effect of Maximilian's Eternal Truce of God: great power wars. Terror of modern warfare. Causes of modern wars still as ridiculous as causes of medieval wars. Great power not productive of wisdom. The Duke of Sully and Saint Augustine on the misery of bigness and the greatness of small states.
The unfortunate thing about the conclusions of the preceding analysis is that they are contrary to everything the twentieth century appears to be fighting for. All our statesmen seem to have in their mind in order to cope with the threat of atomic warfare is the unification of mankind. But where does this lead to? Exactly to where it did. Unification means the substitution of fewer units for many or, in political terms, of a few large powers for many small ones, with the result that by now not only the number of small states but even that of the large powers themselves has begun to shrink. Before World War II, there were still the Big Eight. After the war, there were the Big Five, then the Big Four, and now the Big Three. Soon there will be the Big Two, and finally the Big One -- the single World State.
However, as we have seen by contemplating the physics of social size, and as we can see by simply looking from our windows at the political landscape of our own day, the process of unification, far from reducing the dangers of war, seems the very thing that increases them. For, the larger a power becomes, the more is it in a position to build up its strength to the point where it becomes spontaneously explosive. But not only does unification breed wars by creating war potentials; it needs war in the very process of its establishment. No great power complex in history has ever been created peacefully (except, perhaps, the Austro-Hungarian Empire which grew by marriage). And the greater the unity that emerged, the more numerous and terrible were the wars that were necessary to create it. Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany -- they all were the result of a series of wars amongst the very members subsequently composing them as their conquered, not their voluntary, parts. The League of Nations was the product of World War I, and the United Nations of World War II. None of these glorified vast-scale organizations was ever worth its price, and it makes one shudder to think of the price of an ultimate single World State.
But even if a single United Nations World State would come into existence, it would solve nothing. It would still be composed of the reduced number of state organisms crystallizing around the remaining great powers. Not a single advocate of world unity in a position of political authority has as yet visualized a world organization in which the United States, Great Britain, France, or Russia would dissolve to the extent that they would lose their identity. Thus, whatever form the United Nations take, there will still be the great powers, and there is no reason to believe that they would behave differently united than they do disunited. As the Korean or Egyptian campaigns have shown, they wage wars against each other as members of a world organization as uninhibitedly as they did as non-members, and always for the same reason: where there is a critically large volume of power, there is aggression, and as long as there is critical power, so long will there be aggression. As Professor Henry C. Simons wrote with singular clarity:'War is a collectivizing process, and large-scale collectivism is inherently warlike. If not militarist by national tradition, highly centralized states must become so by the very necessity of sustaining at home an inordinate, "unnatural" power concentration, by the threat of their governmental mobilization as felt by other nations, and by their almost inevitable transformation of commercial intercourse into organized economic warfare among great economic-political blocs. There can be no real peace or solid world order in a world of a few great, centralized powers.'1
Having seen where the unifiers have brought us -- nowhere -- let us apply the philosophy of the size theory and see what solution the opposite direction might hold for us. Instead of union, let us have disunion now. Instead of fusing the small, let us dismember the big. Instead of creating fewer and larger states, let us create more and smaller ones. For from all we have seen until now, this seems the only way by which power can be pushed back to dimensions where it can do no spectacular harm, at least in its external effects.
l. Europe's New Political Map
So let us divide the big and envisage the possible consequences! For the sake of a simplified illustration, the principle of division shall in the following be applied only to Europe and, to make it simpler still, to Europe minus Russia. Since the main complexities of our time have their historic origin there, a continental European study provides the same variety of aspects and arguments as a discussion of the entire globe.
This, then, would be the new political map of Europe. With the great powers of France, Great Britain, Italy, and Germany eliminated, we now find in their place a multitude of small states such as Burgundy, Picardy, Normandy, Navarre, Alsace, Lorraine, Saar, Savoy, Lom-bardy, Naples, Venice, a Papal State, Bavaria, Baden, Hesse, Hanover, Brunswick, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, and so forth.
A division of the great powers alone, however, would not be enough. With France, Italy, Germany, and Great Britain dissolved, the present medium powers such as Spain, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Poland would loom disproportionately large in the new set-up of nations. This means that, if left intact, they would no longer be medium but large powers. Their sub-critical mass would have become critical and nothing would have been gained by dividing the others. So these must be divided too, and as a result another crop of small states appears on our new map such as Aragon, Valencia, Catalonia, Castile, Galicia, Warsaw, Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Ruthenia, Slavonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Transylvania, Moldavia, Walachia, Bessarabia, and so forth.
From this extensive list, one fact emerges already now. There is nothing artificial in this new map. It is, in fact, Europe's natural and original landscape. Not a single name had to be invented. They are all still there and, as the numerous autonomy movements of the Macedonians, Sicilians, Basques, Catalans, Scots, Bavarians, Welsh, Slovaks, or Normans show, still very much alive. The great powers are the ones which are artificial structures and which, because they are artificial, need such consuming efforts to maintain themselves. As they did not come into existence by natural development but by conquest, so they cannot maintain themselves except by conquest -- the constant reconquest of their own citizens through a flow of patriotic propaganda setting in at the cradle and ending only at the grave.
But nothing that needs so colossal an effort for its survival is natural. If a Celtic-speaking inhabitant of Brittany knew by instinct or tradition that he is of the same French nationality as the German-speaking Alsatian, the French-speaking Burgundian, or the Catalan-speaking inhabitant of the South of France, he would not have to be told so all his life. Even so, the various groups composing the great powers grasp every opportunity of freeing themselves of the propagandized glory of greatness, trying instead to recede, whenever they can, into the narrow limits of their valleys and provinces, where alone they feel at home. Hundreds of years of joint living and great power propaganda could neither erase sentiments of autonomy nor accomplish what every small state has achieved without effort -- natural loyalty and meaningful nationality.
Hence, the division of the great powers, whatever it might signify, would not constitute a return of Europe to an artificial, but to its natural, state. But this does not touch our main problem. The principal question still is: would such a Europe be more peaceful?
2. The Elimination of War Causes
Yes, indeed! This is the second point that emerges from the mere enumeration of the names of small states. Nearly all wars have been fought for unification, and unification has always been represented as pacification. So, paradoxically, nearly all wars have been, and in fact still are, fought for unity and peace, which means that, if we were not such determined unionists and pacifists, we might have considerably fewer wars. The most terrible war of the United States, the Civil War, was fought for the preservation of unity. In Europe, unification usually meant that a larger state wanted to unify with its territory a smaller one. This process began to radiate from various centres at the same time with the result that the small states were gradually absorbed by the broadening central states until the now emerging great powers reached common frontiers. With every chance for further extension gone, they began to dispute each other's latest acquisitions, their border territories.
But what are the names of these border territories which were originally small sovereign states, and became the cause of major disputes not in their own right but as a result of their absorption by major powers? They are the same names we have encountered in our new map -- Alsace, Lorraine, Saar, Slesvig, Holstein, Macedonia, Transylvania, Trieste, Slovakia, Savoy, Corsica, South Tyrol, and a host of others. They are the very states for whose possession the vast majority of European wars were fought. Ever since they lost their independence they became synonymous not with progress but with conflict. As a result, they have never been fully absorbed by the powers now dominating them, and they will therefore for ever be areas of irritation in anybody's flesh except their own.
The re-establishment of small-state sovereignty would thus not only satisfy the never extinguished desire of these states for the restoration of their autonomy; it would disintegrate the cause of most wars as if by magic. There would no longer be a question of whether disputed Alsace should be united with France or Germany. With neither a France nor a Germany left to claim it, she would be Alsatian. She would be flanked by Baden and Burgundy, themselves then little states with no chance of disputing her existence. There would be no longer a question of whether Macedonia should be Yugoslav, Bulgarian, or Greek -- she would be Macedonian; whether Transylvania should be Hungarian or Rumanian -- she would be Transylvanian; or whether Northern Ireland should be part of Eire or Britain; she would be nobody's part. She would be North Irish. With all states small, they would cease to be mere border regions of ambitious neighbours. Each would be too big to be devoured by the other. The entire system would thus function as an automatic stabilizer.
Together with the problem of contested border areas, a small-state Europe would automatically dissolve a second source of constant conflict -- the problem of minorities. Since from a political point of view there is no limit to how small a sovereign state can be, each minority, however little and on whatever ground it wishes to be separate, could be the sovereign master of its own house, talk its own language when and where it pleased, and be happy in its own fashion. Switzerland, so wise in the science and practice of government, has shown how she solved the problems of minorities by means of creating minority states rather than minority rights. In spite of the fact that her cantons are already quite minuscule, three of them were subdivided into sovereign halves completely independent from one another when internal differences developed that would have created minority problems and necessitated a greater degree of mutual submission than could be reconciled with the ideals of democratic freedom. Hence, tiny Unterwalden was subdivided into Obwalden and Nidwalden as far back as the thirteenth century, each following an independent course in Swiss politics ever since. In 1597, under the impact of the Reformation, the canton of Appen^ell, rather than forcing her hostile groups into a continued but now unwanted unity, divided herself into the Catholic and predominantly pastoral Inner Rhoden and the Protestant and mainly industrial Ausser Rhoden. Again in 1833, the canton of Basel subdivided itself into the now independent half-cantons of Basel-City and Basel-Land, after the rural districts had revolted against the undemocratic rule of the urban trade guilds. Division, not union, was the device by which the Swiss preserved their unity and peace, solving at the same time, as one of the few nations to accomplish this, their minority problems.
Finally, a third of the world's most bothersome problems would disintegrate of themselves. A small-state Europe would mean the end of the devastating and pathological proportions of national hostility which can only thrive on the collectivized power mentality of large nation-states. Germans, Frenchmen, and Italians, weighed down by the perverting influence of their history of blood and gore, will always hate each other. But no Bavarian ever hated a Basque, no Burgundian a Brunswicker, no Sicilian a Hessian, no Scot a Catalan. No insult mars the history of their loose and distant relations. There would still be rivalries and jealousies, but none of the consuming hatreds so characteristic of the perpetually humourless and mentally underdeveloped big.
3. Harmlessness of Small-state Wars
Here, objections become audible. Is it not ridiculous to maintain that a small-state world would eliminate wars? What about the dark Middle Ages during which both small states and uninterrupted warfare prevailed?
Quite. But the purpose of this analysis is not to furnish another of those fantastic plans for eternal peace so peculiar to our time. It is to find a solution to our worst social evils, not a way to eliminate them. The problem of war in modern times is not its occurrence, but its scale, its devastating magnitude. Wars as such will, of course, always be fought -- in a world of great powers as well as in a world of little states. A small-state world dissolves the most vexing but not all of the causes ot wars. It does not eradicate aggressiveness or any other of the inborn evils of human nature. Nor does it eliminate the possibility that even small social organisms might develop occasionally a laboratory quantity of critical power leading to their release. But what it can do is to bring them under control, reduce their effectiveness, deprive them of their sting, and make them bearable.
From the point of view of war, this is all there is to the virtue of a small-state world. It reduces the problems which overpower the great to proportions within which they can be checked even by the little. Since every problem assumes die proportions of the body in-which it is embedded, the proud and great powers are terrorized by the dangers which the little states take unfearingly in their stride. It is for this reason that a great-power world clings so pathetically to the hopeless illusion of the good man with all his better sides, and strives so pitifully for eternal peace. For every minor wickedness and every slightest and peripheral disturbance scares the wits out of its bulky brain, and shakes it in its very foundations. A little-state world is untroubled by all this. Its wars mean little, and are as little as the states between which they are fought. Its hatreds whittle down to rivalries, and it never suffers the double heartbreak of the great-power world which is constantly out to achieve the unachievable, and then invariably succumbs to the unpre-ventable.
It is thus quite true that a small-state world might not be peaceful at all, but constantly bubbling with wars such as characterized the Middle Ages. But what were these famous medieval wars like? The Duke of Tyrol would declare war on the Margrave of Bavaria because somebody's horse had been stolen. The war lasted two weeks. There were one dead and six wounded. A village was captured, and all the wine drunk that was in the cellar of the inn. Peace was made, and the sum of a hundred thalers was paid in reparations. The adjoining Archbishopric of Salzburg and the Principality of Liechtenstein learned of the event a few weeks later and the rest of Europe never heard of it at all. In the Middle Ages, there was war in some corner of Europe almost every day. But they were little wars with little effects because the powers waging them were little and their resources small. Since every battlefield could be surveyed from a hill, opposing generals would sometimes end a fight without a single casualty, and without ever giving the signal to attack, as when they realized that the enemy had hopelessly outsmarted them. Hence the term manoeuvre wars which, bloodless as fhey were, were as real wars as any. What a contrast to the modern giant-scale conflicts which are so beyond the vision of even the greatest generals that, like blind colossi, they have no other alternative, if they want to discover the prospective winner, than to fight to their gasping ends.
The great thing about the earlier condition was that war as well as peace was divisible. To hear this praised as an advantage will undoubtedly shock the theorists of our unitarian age. Yet it was an advantage. The small-state world with its incredible parcellation of sovereign territories allowed conflicts to remain localized and, whenever war did break out, prevented its spread across the entire continent. The numerous boundaries acted constantly as insulators against the expansion of a conflict even as the parcellation of an atomic pile into a composite of small bricks acts as a barrier,' not to the occurrence of an atomic explosion which, within such narrow limits, is harmless and controllable, but to the devastating and uncontrollable chain reaction which would occur if the brick sovereignties were unified into a single frame as in the atom bomb.
The paradoxical result of the constant occurrence of warfare during the Middle Ages was the simultaneous prevalence of peace. We fail to realize this because history records primarily disturbances of peace rather than the existence of peace. As a result we see the medieval wars as we see the Milky Way, which appears so dense with stars only because we view this disc-shaped galaxy from its outer regions at a horizontal angle. Hence, we know all about a war between Bavaria and Tyrol in some specific year while ignoring the fact that at the same time there was peace in Bohemia, Hungary, Carinthia, Salzburg, Flanders, Burgundy, Parma, Venice, Denmark, Galicia, and where not. The war picture of the Middle Ages is thus one of bubbling numerous little waves washing over this and that region, but never unifying its particles into the proportions of a tidal wave rolling over the entire continent. And what strikes one upon closer study are less the wars than the frequent conditions of peace. As many a nostalgic traveller through Europe discovers, the Middle Ages built much more than they destroyed -- which would hardly have been possible if our war picture of that era were correct. As in so many other respects, the dark ages of medieval times were even in their war aspects more advanced than our modern age with all its peace desires and its smug detractors of medieval backwardness.
4. The Truce of God
The Middle Ages enjoyed such relatively numerous periods of peace not only by making peace and war divisible in space as a result of the boundary-ridden small-state system. With a true touch of genius, they made them divisible also in time. Their leaders never believed in the unattainable nonsense of an eternal peace, and therefore never wasted their energy in trying to establish it. Knowing the substance of which man was made, they wisely based their systems on his shortcomings, not his pretensions. Unable to prevent war, they did the next best thing. They tried to control it. And in this they succeeded signally through an institution which they called Treuga Dei, the Truce of God.2
This truce was based on the concept that war, as it was divisible regionally, was divisible also into separate actions and periods. According to its original provisions, all warfare had to be interrupted on Saturday noon and could not be resumed until Monday morning in order to ensure the undisturbed worship of the Lord on Sunday. Subsequently, the period of truce was extended to include Thursday in honour of Christ's ascension, Friday in reverent commemoration of the crucifixion, and all of Saturday in memory of His entombment. In addition to these time limitations, a number of places were declared immune from military action. Thus, even in the midst of war, neither churches and churchyards, nor fields at harvest time could be made the scene of battle. Finally, entire groups of persons such as women, children, old people, or farmers working in fields were placed under special protection and had to be left unmolested. Infractions of the Truce of God were punished by the Church as well as the State, and particularly severe violations with long years of exile in Jerusalem.
All this was very trying to the unhappy warriors who found their chances of fight reduced to three days per week and so atomized that, sometimes, they had to break off battles after they had hardly shot their first arrows. At other times, the prolonged week-end interruption had such a dissipating effect that they failed to resume their hostilities altogether. But the main feature of this singular institution was always in evidence: in spite of the numerous enforced periods of peace, there was a sprinkling of days when war was legitimate. Care was taken that the safety valve through which aggressiveness could blow itself out in small and controllable bursts was never plugged. That is, never until Emperor Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire made a fateful step.
Maximilian, ruling from 1493 to 1519 when the Middle Ages gave way to the modern epoch of history, was a great idealist, and is often referred to as the Last Knight. It would be better to call him the First Modernist. For, as is typical of modern theorists, he felt that great ideals and grand concepts could be established by imperfect man in this imperfect world in uncompromising completion. So he calculated, if peace could be preserved on church ground and farm lands, why not everywhere? If it could be respected with regard to old men, women, and children, why not with regard to all men? And if it could be maintained from Thursdays to Mondays, why not on all days, in all weeks, in all years? Why not make peace indivisible?
This is what he tried. He promulgated the Eternal Truce of God. As the statesmen of our own day -- likewise delighting in totalities such as total triumphs, total surrenders, total peace -- were to do centuries later, Maximilian outlawed warfare for all time to come. And what was the result? After the promulgation of the Eternal Truce of God, wars were fought not only on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, but on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays as well; not only on permitted battle grounds, but in wheatfields and in churchyards; and not only against soldiers, but against women, children, and old men as well. Something had indeed become total -- but not peace.
Viewing the small-state world of the Middle Ages, we thus find that it provided by no means heavenly perfection. On the contrary, it was full of shortcomings and weaknesses, and full of the problems confronting life in general. But -- and this was its great virtue -- it was never terrorized by them since, on a small scale, even the most difficult problem dwindles to insignificant proportions. This is what Saint Augustine had in mind when, contemplating the clumsy misery of hugeness, he asked in the City of God (Book III, Chapter X):
'Why should any empire make disquiet the scale unto greatness? In this little world of man's body, is it not better to have a mean stature with an unmoved health, than a huge bigness with intolerable sickness? To take no rest at the point where thou shouldst rest, the end, but still to confound the greater growth with the greater grief?'or when he quotes Sallust who wrote in praise of the power-free world that appears to have existed at the dawn of history:'Kings in the beginning were diverse in their goodness: some exercised their corporal powers, some their spiritual, and men's lives in those times were without all exorbitance of habit or affect, each one keeping in his own compass.'
As the kings in the beginning, so the 'reactionary' Middle Ages were characterized by the fact that, in spite of their weaknesses and conflicts, they were 'without all exorbitance or affect', and that every problem could be contained with the narrow limits of its 'own compass'.
5. The Curse of Unification
Now let us turn our back on the Middle Ages, and see what happened when the small-state world with its ever-feuding parts and operetta wars gave way to our modern large-power system. The reason and apology with which it introduced itself to historians was the pacification of large regions previously torn by tribal warfare. In this it unquestionably succeeded and, because most of us grunt with delight whenever we hear the word peace, it is applauded on this account to this very day. But was the result of this regional pacification peace? Hardly. For as soon as the new nation states had established themselves on firm ground and pacified their new dominions into reliable and well-co-ordinated units, their natural aggressiveness began to assert itself in exactly the same manner as was the case with their smaller predecessors whom they had wiped out because of their peace-disturbing quarrelsomeness. Once their acquisitions were properly digested, they looked again beyond their boundaries for outlets of their energies -- and a new cycle of wars began, wars, however, that were qualitatively different from the earlier ones.
These wars which, from the establishment of the Eternal Truce of God onwards, characterize the evolution of modern times, had one element in their favour. They occurred at longer intervals than the medieval wars. This is why we are often deluded into thinking that the pacification of large regions and their organization as great powers was beneficial to mankind after all. Even if wars were not completely eliminated, their number was greatly reduced. But it is not the quantity that matters. It is the quality that counts. Being waged by great powers, these wars were no longer little conflicts with their inevitable crop of a few casualties, and their tendency to recur with the regularity of seasons. There were now prolonged spells of peace, with no casualties at all. But when wars finally did break out, they sucked into their maelstrom each time a major part of the world. What might have been saved in the prolonged spells of peace, was now destroyed with a terrifying multiplier. A single month of a modern great-power war costs more in life and wealth than the sum total of casualties and destruction of several centuries of medieval warfare put together.
The great powers, instead of pacifying the world, merely eliminated the much ridiculed operetta wars of the dark ages, giving us the real thing instead. Otherwise, their establishment changed nothing. The causes of war are still as ridiculous as they always were because great powers, while they have become fatter than their predecessors, have not become wiser. Previously, when two customs officials on the bridge across the Rhine linking Strassburg and Kehl engaged in a brawl, and each claimed that his country's uniform had been shamed and must be avenged, the worst that could happen was a war between Baden and Alsace. The states fifty miles in the rear on either side were left in peace. Not being united with the belligerents, they would have considered it silly to take offence at an insult directed at neighbours with whom they had, politically, nothing in common. The same incident occurring in our time will still produce war, and even more so since the big are touchier than the small. But this war will not stop at the boundaries of Alsace and Baden, which are no longer the states on either side of the Rhine. Today, these states are France and Germany, two great powers. This means that into a brawl of two customs officials on a distant bridge on the Rhine will now be drawn the people of Normandy living on the Atlantic, the people of Corsica living on an island in the Mediterranean, the people of Mecklenburg living on the shores of the Baltic, and the people of Bavaria living in the Alps. And because the famous great powers have less confidence in their ability to handle their conflicts alone than have small states and are, therefore, in their perpetual scare, perpetually allied with other powers, great and little, an exchange of slaps between two customs officials at Strassburg will almost immediately be followed by a similar exchange between officials at Vladivostok or Yokohama. With the isolating boundaries of little states removed in the interest of unity, every minor cause of dispute is likely to produce a chain reaction of global proportions. War has become indivisible.
Thus, the fact that modern wars are fewer in number can hardly be considered a praiseworthy contribution to peace if we take into account the misery they spread from one end of the world to the other. No small-state world could ever have produced similar effects, as the history of the Middle Ages shows, or even the contemporary history of the only large area where a small-state arrangement still exists -- South America. There are always wars and revolutions going on in that continent, wars that nobody notices, which come and go like spring showers, which are settled without the expensive apparatus of a United Nations or a continental super-government, and which can be dismissed from the calendar of events by an editorial. The very fact that they inspire composers of operettas rather than profound political thinkers who would be indignant to be bothered with such trifles, shows their harmless nature. But one wonders whether a people would not prefer to be the victim of a ridiculous operetta war that creates a sensation in Hollywood to being the participant in a pompous modern great-power war that creates a sensation in our history books.
The great powers, arising in the guise of pacifiers, have thus given the world nothing but aches. They represent no progress. Instead of solving the problems of small states, they have magnified them to such unbearable proportions that only divine power, and no longer the ability of mortal man, could cope with them. This is why already Aristotle warned that 'to the size of states there is a limit, as there is to other things, plants, animals, implements', and that'. . . a great city is not to be confounded with a populous one. Moreover, experience shows that a very populous city can rarely, if ever, be well governed; since all cities which have a reputation for good government have a limit of population. We may argue on grounds of reason, and the same result will follow. For law is order, and good law is good order; but a very great multitude cannot be orderly: to introduce order into the unlimited is the work of a divine power -- of such power as holds together the universe.'3
A similar conclusion was drawn by the Duke of Sully, the Prime Minister of Henry IV of France, who wrote in his Memoirs that 'It may be generally observed that the larger the extent of kingdoms, the more they are subject to great revolutions and misfortunes.'4 In logical application of his convictions he elaborated together with his king what has since become known as the Great Design, The purport of this plan was 'to divide Europe equally among a certain number of powers, in such a manner that none of them might have cause either of envy or fear from the possessions or power of the others'.5 There were to be fifteen states of equal size -- six hereditary monarchies: France, Spain, England or Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and Lombardy; five elective monarchies: the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy or Pontificate, Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia; and four republics: Venice, Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium. The main victim of this reorganization of Europe was to be the overpowering family empire of the Habsburgs.
No one, however, has exposed the shortcomings and misery of excessive social size, and castigated its worshippers, more scathingly than Saint Augustine. Advocating in a famous passage (The City of God, Book III, Chapter XV) that there should be in the world as many kingdoms as there are many families in a city, he lashes out at the glorifiers of the big in these words (Book IV, Chapter III):'Now then let us examine the nature of this spaciousness, and continuance of empire, which these men give their gods such great thanks for;... But first, I would make a little inquiry, seeing you cannot show such estates to be anyway happy, as are in continual wars, being still in terror, trouble, and guilt of shedding human blood, though it be their foes'; what reason then, or what wisdom shall any man show in glorying in the largeness of empire, all their joy being but as a glass, bright and brittle, and evermore in fear and danger of breaking?'
What reason indeed shall any man show in glorying in great powers whose only virtue is that they are big? And this, as the world has painfully discovered, is not a virtue. It produces neither strength nor courage. Being 'evermore in fear and danger of breaking', the policy of the big is considerably less daring or inspiring than that of the small states. In the pre-World-War-II struggle with Hitler, only little states such as the Netherlands, Austria, or Switzerland dared to challenge the mighty man. They claimed their independence by virtue of their existence, not by the dictator's gracious offers of guarantees, which they turned proudly down. On the other hand, the great powers, in abject though justified fear of developing cracks in their huge immobile hulks at the slightest disturbance, betrayed all their principles for the sake of unprincipled expediency, accepting, as in the case of France, gratefully the indignity of being 'guaranteed' by a foreigner.
If the great powers had at least produced superior leadership in their process of growing so that they could have matched the magnitude of the problems which they produced! But here, too, they failed because, as Gulliver observed, 'Reason did not extend itself with the Bulk of the Body.'6 Political wisdom, like many another virtue, seems to thrive only on smallness, as we shall see later on. Little states produce greater wisdom in their policies because they are weak. Their leaders could not get away with stupidity, not even in the short run. It is not by accident that the politically and socially most advanced countries of the world today are states such as Switzerland (4 million inhabitants), Denmark (4 million), Sweden (7 million), Norway (3 million), Iceland (less than 160 thousand). Large powers, on the other hand, can get away with stupidity for prolonged periods. But who amongst us, if he feels that he can get away with stupidity, which can be had so effortlessly, will ever take the trouble and pains of being wise?
For all this the great powers, which have grown by destroying the small, giving us nothing in return except problems which even they can no longer handle in spite of the vastness of their strength, must at last themselves be destroyed if we are to get anywhere at all. They are the world's principal peace disturbers, not the small whom they are ever so ready to blame. What Saint Augustine reasoned seems, therefore, still as sound today as it appeared to him when he contemplated the meaningless vastness of Ancient Rome: that 'the world would be most happily governed if it consisted not of a few aggregations secured by wars of conquest, with their accompaniments of despotism and tyrannic rule, but of a society of small States living together in amity, not transgressing each other's limits, unbroken by jealousies'.7
1 Henry C. Simons, Economic Policy for a Free Society. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1948, p. 21.
2 The first documentary evidence of the Truce of God dates back to the year 1041, when several French bishops communicated its outlines for acceptance to the Italian clergy. In 1042, Duke William promulgated it in Normandy. In 1095, Pope Urban II confirmed it as a general institution at the Council of Clermont. In 1234 its rules were codified by Pope Gregory IX, and incorporated in the Corpus juris ccnonici.
3 W. D. Ross, The Student's Oxford Aristotle. London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1942, vol. 6, 1326 a.
4 Duke of Sully, Memoirs. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1856, vol. 4, p. 225.
5 Ibid., p. 244.
6 Jonathan Swift, op. cit., p. 140. 68
7 This summary of Saint Augustine's views is from John Neville Figgis, The Political Aspects of S. Augustine's 'City of God'. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1921, p. 58.