Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations (1957, 1978).

Chapter Nine


'These monsters of nationalism and mercantilism must be dismantled.'

Smallness the source of bliss. The most enchanting picture of God -- a baby in Mary's arms. The small-cell principle as the principle of federal union. Successful federations: United States, Switzerland, Holy Roman Empire. Unsuccessful federations: League of Nations, pre-Bismarck German federation, United Nations, United States of Indonesia. The cause of their failure -- cancer. The small-cell principle as the principle of all government. Its application in centralized states: Great Britain, France, Hitler Germany. Its application in cities. The need of the dismemberment of great powers if the United Nations are to survive.

The Administrative Argument

Up to this point our effort has been directed towards establishing the principle of the small cell as the fundamental principle of health, and the principle of division as the fundamental principle of cure. Having traced both through their most significant manifestations we have seen that nearly all problems dissolve into non-problematic proportions if the organism of which they form part is reduced in size. This is why, within our smallest social units such as families, villages, counties, or provinces, we can nearly always be happy even if we are not endowed with great wisdom. In fact, these are the only entities within which we can be happy at all. For no problem can arise there which could not be brought under control as easily as a chain reaction within tlie cantonized structure of an atomic pile.

But once we broaden our scope to regions beyond the horizon, and extend our affections to vast multitudes such as nations or humanity, everything begins to elude our grasp. What was ours in our ponds has been lost in the oceans, and our previously undisturbed emotions are now forever subject to the disturbances occurring on these vaster scales at every moment. In our villages, there may be an upsetting murder once in a decade. The rest of the time we live in unruffled peace. In a large community, on the other hand, there is murder, rape, and robbery every hour in some distant corner. But since we are linked with every distant corner, every local incident turns into an issue, a cause, a national calamity clouding our skies not once in a decade but all the time. From our local newspapers we learn that none of the massive misfortunes depressing the world ever happens in our own town. Yet, we must suffer because our unifiers have forced us to participate in millions of destinies that are not ours. This is the price of modern vast-scale living. Having drawn the entire human race to our anxious bosom, we have to share in all its miseries.

Largeness, then, seems the real cause of our misfortune, and small-ness the source of our bliss. This is why we visualize God not as a giant infinity which we cannot grasp, but as an individual. Indeed our most captivating picture of Him is that of a child, a mere baby in Mary's arms. To hold Him in the smallness of our person, we must think of Him as a person too. As He created us in His image, we have created Him in ours. The supreme concept of might, wisdom, justice, and love, we thus do not attach to something existing as a group or a nation, of which so many of our politicians say that it is greater than the citizen, .but to someone existing as a sharply circumscribed individual. Only the collectivist differs in this. His god is as impersonal as the aggregates he worships -- party, people, nation, or mankind.

All this insistence on littleness offends our global unifiers to whom everything bigger is greater. But since the road of bigness has no end, and since the unifiers can never find a greatest element beyond which mass ceases to accumulate, they cannot arrive anywhere except in the asylum of the infinite. There, they become die great worriers on behalf of mankind, never stopping to wail since there is cause of worry somewhere all the time. Unable to enjoy a moment's peace, they are for ever driven to project their present trouble into the future and then to anticipate the future miseries to make their present doubly sour, conjuring dangers as yet unborn, but suffering from their vision already now. They try to solve the problems of all future generations while dying from their inability to solve their own. Like the unfortunate inhabitants of Laputa, 'they are so perpetually alarmed with the Apprehensions of these and like impending Dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their Beds, nor have any Relish for the common Pleasures or Amusements of Life'.1

But now we have manoeuvred ourselves into a peculiar position. Having deprecated the aims of unionists and unifiers, and having put the small on the pedestal from which we have tried to pull the big, we have arrived at a point where the world unifiers may bless us yet. For the principles of smallness and division, solving so many other problems, solve also the problem of union. They are, in fact, the most fundamental principles underlying all successful regional or continental unions, international federations, or world states. Only small states can be united into healthier larger organisms. Only small states are feder-able. Wherever a large state participates in a federal union, the federation cannot last. In due course, it will either become a centralized state operating in the interest of its largest participant, or it will break into its component parts once the immediate reason for its creation, such as fear of a common enemy, has disappeared. If survival is desired none the less in such a case, it can be accomplished only by applying the principle of division to all disproportionately large members who are to a federation what cancer is to the human body. This may be impossible. But if large member states such as participate in the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or the European Council, cannot be divided, their union cannot last even if it is technically possible to bring it into existence. The only thing that can ensure continued union is a cancer-free small-cell pattern.

1. Successful Federal Experiments

To understand this better, let us examine first a few successful and then a few unsuccessful federations. The two outstanding examples of the former are the United States and Switzerland whose governments, except in times of crisis, are so weak that the mystery of their cohesiveness has puzzled many a political theorist in search of a formula of union. Functioning seemingly almost on their own momentum without the requirement of strong governmental cement to hold them together, it was decided that the secret of their success was the good will of their citizens and the common cultural background of their peoples. As a result, the first aim of every world unifier is the creation of good will on earth and the production of a common culture 'irrespective of race, colour and sex' through such instruments as UNESCO whose zealous exponents of the gospel of uniformity a witty Frenchman called with appropriate disgust 'ces gens sans race, sans couleur, sans sexe'.

Yet, neither the United States nor Switzerland is built on good will or common cultural concepts. If they were, they would not only have broken down long ago; they would never have come into existence in the first place. Why should the peoples of Switzerland have entered into a union with strangers rather than their German, French, and Italian blood relatives? And why should America have struggled away from an England with whom she is even today united in a common culture? So irrelevant are cultural bonds to political union that Bernard Shaw quite justly attributed the undercurrent of hostility separating the English and Americans to the fact that they spoke not a different but a common language, and that they competed not for opposite but for the same ideals.

The great lesson of the Swiss and American unions is not that good will and common culture led them to success, but that both succeeded in spite of severe eruptions of ill will and, as in Switzerland, even in the absence of a common culture. Neither of them is a fair-weather institution relying on a perpetually saintly disposition and unearthly political wisdom of its citizens. On the contrary! Their foundation is of such inherent strength that -- unlike the United Nations which threatens to break apart at the slightest difficulty though boasting of the most concentrated gathering of the world's diplomatic talent -- they seem able to withstand almost any degree of strain or political imbecility without any harmful effect whatever.

As already indicated, the reason for their success is very simple. Not that their member units are lacking in desire to break away from their union. They do not, as we can see from the numerous secessionist sentiments expressed with undisguised relish in regions such as Colonel McCormick's Midwest or Texas. They lack in the power to break away. And they lack in the power because their unions are built on a pattern free of political cancer. Neither the United States nor Switzerland, one of the largest and one of the smallest countries on earth, contains within its frame a member unit so strong that it could effectively challenge the federal authority. For deliberately or accidentally, both have incorporated in their structure the health-preserving principle of the small cell. And it is this, not wisdom, will, or culture, that accounts for their success. Why?

The basic problem of every federal government is the possession of sufficient executive power to enforce its laws on all its members. In order to succeed, it must be slightly stronger than its strongest member state. This is not political theory but administrative arithmetic. In a small-cell organization, superiority of federal power over its strongest unit is easily accomplished because even the strongest unit is weak. In a large-power arrangement, on the other hand, this is all but impossible. In the first place, the costs of the necessary police force would be prohibitive. In the second place, none of the powerful members would be willing to contribute the funds for an executive organ capable of overshadowing its own position. And the small member states could not conceivably make up for the deficiency of the big. Hence the pathetic emphasis of large-power unions such as the United Nations or the European Council on good will. But good will has no executive authority, and without executive authority no political organism can exist. As a result, large-power unions are able to live only by the grace of their large members who can, and do, veto them out of existence at will.

How essential the small-cell principle is to the success of federal union we can discern if we visualize what would happen if the United States, for example, now a patchwork of forty-eight small states, were to consider adopting the large-cell principle instead. We would then argue in this manner: 'Let us do away with the heap of disunited political entities and their wasteful duplication of local governments, legislatures, courts, and laws. Let us simplify their set-up by reducing their number into four or five regionally integrated units. This would be all the more reasonable as, economically, the United States divides not into forty-eight but into only four or five regions in the first place.'

What would be the result of such an arrangement which, as we immediately perceive, approximates the pattern suggested by the world unifiers on a still larger scale? They, too, advocate the establishment first of regional unions through the elimination of existing state units, and then their ultimate fusion into a super union. Applied to the United States, it would mean the end of the United States. Emotions of dissidence and secession, characteristic of every states-rightist or provincial but utterly harmless in small political units, would in larger aggregations swell to such formidable proportions that they could no longer be kept in check. While all the world laughed when the late Colonel McCormick of Illinois, an important figure in an unimportant state, referred to the members of the national government in Washington as 'those foreigners', the same world would have been seized with panic if the same Colonel had said the same thing as an important figure of an important unified and large Midwestern state. His pronouncement might then actually have turned the members of the Washington government into foreigners. Similarly, while a Huey Long or Herman Talmadge are able to cause only minor trouble to even a weak federal government as long as they are confined to Louisiana or Georgia, as governors of a great Southern state, which fortunately does not exist, they would be fearful Hitlers whom even a powerful federal government would be unable to control.

To enforce its laws, Washington, as the capital of a small-state federation, needs only to be stronger than New York, a state that seems a giant compared with tiny Rhode Island but which is none the less insignificant in relation to the whole of the union. As the capital of a large-power federation, on the other hand, composed of four or five members including, let us say, a Midwestern state of 50 million inhabitants, it would find it impossible to marshal the enforcement power necessary to keep such monsters together. Like the United Nations, it could function only with the consent of its Big Four or Five who would not only claim the right to veto any and all federal decisions but, if denied, exercise it anyway. For veto power is not the result of right but of might -- a condition beyond the regulatory authority of even the strongest federal government.

A simplified large-state organization on the soil of the present United States would thus not foster a more efficient union, as many seem to believe, but disrupt the existing one by rendering the purely mathematical problem of federal law enforcement insoluble. Instead of securing smoother operation it would lead to a duplication of the European experience of uninterrupted strife and warfare. Indeed, when the American union at the beginning of its existence was composed of so few members that some of them ranked as quasi-great powers in relation to the others, sentiments of hostility amongst the states were at times as violent as those felt against England, and war threats and secession movements were as commonplace as they are now rare. If all this is unthinkable today, it is not because we have become wiser but because the power behind regional ambitions has become smaller under the impact of our present tightly sealed compartmentalized little-state pattern. But when in the midst of our growth a number of states, previously linked with each other only through Washington, suddenly began to coalesce on a cancerous regional pattern, the federal union not only threatened to break asunder; the simplified North-South division presented the world with one of its great catastrophes, the American Civil War of 1861. Common education, common language, common history, common heroes, good will -- they all proved meaningless assets in meeting the administrative problems arising not from the shortcomings of human nature or local disaffections but from the volume given them by the overgrown size of their integrated provinces.2

A similar picture unfolds itself if we look at the superbly functioning Swiss federation which so many of our political experts have the habit of praising for the wrong thing. They hold it up to the world as an example of the peaceful living together of some of the most diverse nations on earth. Actually, nothing is further from the truth. The percentages of Switzerland's three national groups (not speaking of the Romansch, her minute fourth nationality) are roughly: 70 per cent for her German, 20 per cent for her French, and 10 per cent for her Italian speaking population. If these were the basis of her famed union, the inevitable result would be the exercise of dominion of the large German-speaking block over the other two nationalities which would be degraded to the logical status of minorities representing, as they do, no more than 30 per cent of the total population. The rules of democracy would not impede but favour such a development, and the reason for the French- and Italian-speaking communities to remain in a chiefly German enterprise would be gone. A union of this kind would have met with no greater success than a union of the nation-states of Germany, France, and Italy as a whole.

However, the basis of the success of Switzerland is not that she is a federation of three nationalities, but a federation of twenty-two states, the cantons which, far from uniting her unequal national blocks, have divided them into so many small pieces that no single federal unit has a sizeable preponderance over any other. By this the essential precondition of every well-functioning federation was created: a pattern which furnishes harmony and manageability by ensuring the physical and numerical balance of all participants on a small enough scale to enable even a weak central authority to execute its decisions.

The greatness of the Swiss idea is thus the smallness of the cells from which it derives its guarantees. The Swiss from Geneva does not confront the Swiss from Zurich as a German to a French confederate, but as a confederate from the Republic of Geneva to a confederate from the Republic of Zurich. The citizen of German-speaking Uri is as much a foreigner to the citizen of German-speaking Unterwalden as he is to the citizen of Italian-speaking Ticino. Just as there is no intermediary Prairie government between Wisconsin and Washington, so there is no intermediary organization between the canton of St. Gallen and the Swiss federation in the form of a German-speaking sub-federation. The power delegated to Berne derives from the small member republic and not from the nationality. For Switzerland is a union of states, not of nations.

This is why it is important to realize that in Switzerland there live (in rough numbers) 700,000 Bernese, 650,000 Zurichois, 160,000 Genevese, etc., and not 2,500,000 Germans, 1,000,000 French, and 500,000 Italians. The great number of proud, democratic, and almost sovereign cantons, and the small number of the individual cantonal populations, eliminate all possible imperialist ambitions on the part of any one canton, because it would always be outnumbered by even a very small combination of others which at all times would be at the disposal of the federal government. If ever, as a result of our modern unification and simplification manias, an attempt to reorganize Switzerland on the basis of her nationalities should succeed, the twenty-two 'superfluous' states with all their separate parliaments and governments would become three provinces -- not of Switzerland, however, but of Germany, Italy, and France.

2. Other Successful Federations

The small-state device, which alone accounts for the success of the American and Swiss federations because it alone solves the all-important problem of enforceable executive authority, is also responsible for all other successful experiments of international union. It prevails in the federations of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela. It prevails in Australia and Canada. If it is somewhat less effective in the last-mentioned country where national frictions arise occasionally between English- and French-speaking citizens, it is because Canada has not applied it with the necessary clinical detachment. Two of her provinces, Ontario and Quebec, holding more than seven out of a total of fourteen million inhabitants, have become so large in relation to the other eight that they might eventually wreck the Canadian uinion with their emerging intra-federal great-power complexes. Since the restoration of a smoothly operating balance amongst the unequal provinces can be accomplished only by applying the principle of division, proposals have already been advanced 'to settle Dominion-provincial differences by dividing Canada into 20 provinces'.3 The particular danger in Canada is that, unlike Switzerland, one of the two mationalities lives in a single large state, the province of Quebec, thereby creating the basis of national solidity and consciousness which has been eliminated from the Swiss scene through the division of nationalities and the creation of cantonal consciousness instead.

The most significant illustration of the small-state principle as the mainspring of federal success is, however, not provided by contemporary examples but by one of the most unique politiical structures of the past, though it invariably produces nothing but jolly laughter amongst our sophisticated modern theorists when its name is mentioned. This is the Holy Roman Empire of which Lord Bryce has quite properly remarked that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. It was a loose federation uniting in a single framework most German and Italian states, and lasting for the fantastic period of a thousand years. Still, our theorists, who are so infatuated with virile longevity and whose creations nevertheless rarely outlast even a decaide, smile at it in inane tolerance. But with all its weaknesses it accomplished what Napoleorn, Hitler, or Mussolini could not accomplish with all their strength. And with all its superstitious mysticism it achieved what our modern efficiency experts cannot achieve with all the enlightenment of science.

The reason for its singular success and its extraordinary duration was that it was easy to rule. And it was easy to rule because of its small component parts. Like every political organism, it was besieged by thousands of frictions and problems. But none of these ever outgrew the small power of its central government. Even its largest unit was so weak that an insignificant Swiss count, a Bavarian margrave, or a Luxembourg duke could hold it together with a handful of soldiers plus the symbol of the imperial crown. However, the latter added so little to their little power that Edward Gibbon could write of the great Charles IV, who ruled from 1347 to 1378 and hailed firom the Duchy of Luxembourg, that 'such was the shameful poverty of the Roman Emperor that his person was arrested by a butcher in the streets of Worms, and was detained in the public inn, as a pledge or hostage for the payment of his expenses'.4 When the Empire eventually began to break down, it was not because it was ramshackle and weak. That was the reason for its success. It was because at last, after nearly a thousand years of romantic and ineffectual existence, strength began to develop in its corners, producing on its soil the unified great powers of Prussia and Austria. Regional union thus meant not the preservation but the destruction of this much-ridiculed though great and truly international realm. What had survived a millennium of small-state existence was finally smashed by the cancer of its own great powers.

Every successful international federation thus reveals the same administrative device: the small-unit pattern. As a result, the conclusion seems neither presumptuous nor forced that the one element common to all cannot be a phenomenon of coincidence. It must be the very cause of their success while, on the other hand, its absence from federal organizations must invariably lead to their failure, irrespective of the auspices under which they may have been established, the good will by which they may be animated, or the determination by which they may be carried out. This conclusion becomes all the more inevitable if we examine in addition to the successful unions a number of unsuccessful experiments such as the pre-Bismarck German federation, the League of Nations, the Western Union, the Indonesian Union, the European Council, or the United Nations. It may be disrespectfully macabre to write funeral orations while some of them are still alive. However, it would be still more macabre to rely on the assumption of their survival if the realization of their certain collapse can save us from both unpreparedness and unnecessary disillusionment.

3. Unsuccessful Federal Experiments

As there is a feature common to all successful federal experiments, there is a feature common also to all unsuccessful ones. None of them has applied the small-cell principle to its system of administration. All suffer from political cancer. All have tried what no healthy social organism can survive -- the union of small with large states without first cutting the latter down to proportions which would permit their frictionless subordination under a federal government. The consequences of such attempts seem always the same. The end is destruction. Only the kinds of destruction differ. If a federation has several great-power participants, it will break apart. It will end in disintegration. If it has only one, it will turn the smaller members into tools of the biggest. It will end in centralization.

Both variations of breakdown occurred in pre-Bismarck Germany. First the federation disintegrated as a result of the conflict for leadership between its two great powers, Austria and Prussia. This phase ended with the expulsion of Austria in 1866. Next came a new federation uniting the smaller German states with the victorious colossus of Prussia. This was bound to follow one of two courses. Either it, too, had to fall apart, as it nearly did, or its central organs had to solve the administrative problem of acquiring a power equal in magnitude to that of its largest unit -- Prussia. But there was only one practical way of amassing a power large enough to enforce federal laws not only on small member states but on Prussia as well. This was to make use of the power of Prussia herself. The enforcement of laws on weaker states such as Bavaria or Saxony would have constituted no executive problem since the necessary power could at all times have been easily obtained through military contributions from half a dozen other states. But no combination of member states could have yielded the power to enforce federal laws on Prussia. This only Prussia could do. Thus, if the new German federation was to survive as a single political organism, it had no other alternative than to become the instrument of its largest member, against whose opposition it could enforce nothing and without whose co-operation it could not be maintained. In spite of the genuine particularism existing in the German states and supported by their monarchical institutions, the federal structure, once this course was decided upon, became a historic fiction, and what actually emerged was not a Greater Germany but a Greater Prussia. Thus, the German federal experiment ended in failure twice, first through partial dissolution brought about by the expulsion of Austria, the rival great power, and then through centralization accomplished by the remaining great power, Prussia.

A fascinating contemporary parallel, and another example of destruction through centralization if a federal union harbours a single disproportionately large power, has been furnished by the short-lived United States of Indonesia. When it was created in December 1949, it was composed of sixteen member states of which one was so large that its subordination without its own consent was impossible -- the Jogjakarta republic. This meant the union was born with cancer. As was inevitable in such a condition, Jogjakarta promptly assumed the lordly role of unification and, in the words of the New York Times of 8 April 1950, 'systematically and progressively dynamited the federal idea'. The result was a counter-movement on the part of the victimized members who wanted to destroy the unworkable federation the other way, through secession. Being too small, however, they had no greater chance of escaping the imperial sway of Jogjakarta, with which they had carelessly and trustingly been joined in union, than the German states had in escaping Prussian domination after the exclusion of Austria. They were bullied and beaten in best great-power manner until, six months after their establishment, they found themselves degraded to the status of centralized provinces of a suffocatingly unitarian state. The federation had broken down not because of the absence of good will or the desire for autonomous freedom, but because of the absence of the only administrative device ensuring success -- the small-unit pattern.

The same structural weakness, and nothing else, caused the collapse of the League of Nations. This idealistic enterprise functioned well only in relation to its small members. Naturally, for these were units of a size that could be controlled. But, like other badly organized unions, it was afflicted with the cancer of big powers. While little was needed to keep the small ones in line, the League would again on grounds of sheer arithmetic have required an executive power larger than that of its largest member if it was to be effective over all its component parts. This, only the largest member itself, Germany, could have furnished. As a result, the League could have functioned only as a tool of Germany even as the German federation could function only as a tool of Prussia. However, being a structure composed of more than just one great power, its destruction could not have been brought about through centralization but disintegration. And this was the course it took. When it proved itself helpless in the face of Japanese aggression in China, Italian aggression in Ethiopia, and Russian aggression in Finland, it fell to ashes. And why? Again because no political organism containing large subordinate units can produce the enforcement power capable of holding them together.

The cause that wrecked the League wrecked also the Western Union, that already forgotten attempt of one group of member states of the United Nations to enter into a separate regional union for the significant purpose of protecting itself against another group of members of the same United Nations -- an organization ostensibly created to make such separate mutual-help associations unnecessary. Though composed of the closest of friends -- Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg -- the Western Union foundered after it had hardly been launched not because of any lack of devotion but because two of its members were too large to be absorbed. This meant that again a union was born with political cancer. And again, the results were the same. Not only were its founders unable to solve the problem of executive power; every manifestation of existence threatened to become a problem, and every problem threatened at once to assume elephantine proportions. In a small-state federation such as the United States, for example, no one would ever have been so touchy as to protest against the appointment of a Chief of Staff on the ground that he is a Virginian or Missourian, or that he is not a New Yorker. But in the Western Union, the appointment in 1949 of an Englishman as Chief of Staff and of a Frenchman as head of the naval forces provoked such a storm of national misgivings amongst the peoples supposed to live in harmony that both Great Britain and France felt compelled to assure their citizens that the French would still be commanded by a French general, and the British navy by a British admiral.5 Which was tantamount to declaring that neither of the participating great powers even dreamt of accepting the implication of union unless it could make the union its tool. As a result, another federal experiment fell by the roadside a victim of untreated political cancer.

This leaves us with the European Council and the United Nations. But there is no reason to assume that they would have a greater chance of success than their respective predecessors. For they, too, represent examples of the pathetic attempt to live with cancer by incorporating within their structure several untreated great powers. As Milton Eisenhower suggested at the UNESCO conference of Beirut in December 1949 with regard to the United Nations, and as may with equal validity be suggested with regard to the European Council, to render them effective it would be necessary to place at their disposal a police force stronger than any nation's armed forces or those of 'any likely combination of states'.6 However, here again, only the great powers amongst these two associations have collectively the means of furnishing such colossal forces. But what are great powers? States which by their very definition recognize no master. Understandably, they have no interest in the world to assist in the establishment of an international authority whose effectiveness would spell their own eclipse. No wonder that the Big Five appeared for once in brotherly unanimity when they proposed through the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations the creation of a world force of such ridiculous proportions that it could handle 'only disputes among small and medium powers', since the United Nations would at any rate 'be unable to take action against any aggression by one of the five great powers'.7 As if little states were the peace disturbers against whom a pompous world organization had to be on guard!

But let us assume the great powers were willing to endow an international organization such as the European Council or the United Nations with the forces necessary to render them effective also in the face of their largest participants. The result would be a military and economic burden on the world of such monstrous proportions that it could not be supported for any length of time since the great powers, in addition to their federal contributions, would of course continue their own stupendous armament expenditure in order not to forfeit their coveted diplomatic pre-eminence. And if it could be supported for any length of time, the result would be the establishment of so formidable a controlling organ that what the world might gain in unity, it would lose in liberty. For only an executive authority of the most tyrannical omnipotence could keep such uneasy, clumsy, and cancerous colossi from disintegrating in violent explosion.

This explains why none of our present large-scale union experiments is able to bear us consolation. Instead of freeing us from war and fear, they have made them our permanent companions, since we have long become aware in our subconsciousness that, the more they succeed in solidifying, the closer they come to the critical mass where fission sets in not only helplessly and hopelessly, but spontaneously. Before they came into existence, the world had at least occasionally a spell of unperturbed peace. Now it has become an arena in which the advocates of a united mankind try to keep us huddled together by painting, like many a minister in his Sunday sermon, not the blessings of paradise but the horrors of hell. True, they offer us unity and peace, but a peace by threat, and unity by terror.

As a result, if we are interested in creating international unions not only effectively but also economically, peacefully, and democratically, we must fall back on the organizational principle which alone contains the secret of success, the small-cell principle, and apply the curative principle of division to every federal structure containing big powers. Thus, if our present unifiers really want union, they must have disunion first. If Europe is to be united under the auspices of the European Council, its participating great powers must first be dissolved to a degree that, as in Switzerland or die United States, none of its component units is left with a significant superiority in size and strength over the others. In their present shape, Germany, France, and Italy can never be successfully joined together. Nor could France and Great Britain, as was demonstrated in the case of the Western Union. But Alsace, Burgundy, Navarre, Bavaria, Saxony, Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, Lombardy, and Parma can. Not only have they the federable size; unlike the present great powers, their history is free from the mortgage of such far-flung perpetual hostility as disturbs the relations of France, England, and Germany in a measure that not even their union could blot it out. The same applies to the United Nations if anybody cares for their preservation. Their present two chief antagonists, the United States and Soviet Russia, must likewise be dismembered, lest their struggle for hegemony break the enterprise which both must either dominate or leave. However, great powers are as tenacious in their resistance to division treatment as is cancer, and dismemberment may not be feasible. But then, union is not feasible either.

4. The Principle of Government

One final point should be made with regard to the small unit as the only workable basis of social organization. It underlies not only all successful federal government, but all government, federal as well as centralized. In other words, it represents not only a principle of government, but the principle of government, and politics, however incredible this may_ appear to the politicians of failure, cannot disregard it any more than physics can disregard the principle of gravity.

For this reason, effective administrators, rulers, and conquerors, instead of ridiculing it, have made it the constant stratagem of their success. Since time immemorial they have tried to increase the power of their government while simultaneously decreasing their governmental problems not by the difficult method of increasing the size of governmental power, but by the simple method of reducing the size of the governed unit. The Medes and Persians built history's first great centralized empires by splitting their conquests into numerous small satrapies whose domination was as simple as that of the large undivided blocks would have been difficult. Alexander's empire, which failed to apply this device, needed an Alexander to keep it together and promptly collapsed after his death. But the Romans applied it again, dividing their vast and long-lasting empire into countless small controllable provinces in which no power could ever develop in competition to the relatively small power of the Roman proconsuls. They also gave the principle its classic formulation: divide et impera -- divide and rule. And the Catholic Church applied it on a still larger scale by dividing the entire world into such a finely spun network of dioceses that it can assert its rule by moral authority alone.

As empires applied it, so did individual states. France, when she was reorganized by that efficient administrator Napoleon into a modern centralized power, dissolved her few unequally large and particularist duchies such as Burgundy into more than ninety small mathematically denationalized departments. These alone could be successfully ruled by Paris without the requirement of a disproportionately large force which, being recruited from previously hostile states, might in addition have been more of a danger than a helpful tool in the hands of the central government. Politically, France therefore no longer knows a Burgundy, a Picardy, or an Alsace. They have been dissolved not into one but several departments in order to prevent any future development of autochthonous regional power on the soil that formerly constituted sovereign duchies.

A similar operation was performed by Great Britain who united her unequally large and mutually hostile nations by destroying them as political entities and replacing them with small and easily controllable units of approximately equal size, the counties. Politically, there is today neither an England, nor a Scotland, nor a Wales. What little chance a union of British nations rather than of British counties would have had can be seen from the fact that the moment one of them, the Irish, succeeded in reorganizing itself as a national unit, it burst the frame of the United Kingdom and broke away. There are similar attempts at national reorganization in Scotland and Wales. Should they succeed also, it would mean the end of the United Kingdom altogether. It would break the small-county organization which now enables London to rule effectively in all corners of the British Isles. Once this gives way to national organization, London would confront accumulations of political power which could be kept under control only by military pressures of such magnitude that, as the case of Ireland has proved, not even a great power can impose them indefinitely.

A similar administrative device was applied in Germany when she was reorganized as a tightly centralized state under the nazis. To strengthen his hold, Hitler transformed her previous large-unit into a small-unit pattern. For the historic German states, with their unequal size and power, would have constituted an element of danger even to such formidable masters as the nazis. Thus, as France cut her states of ancient and dangerous glory into departments, and Great Britain hers into counties, Germany divided her old historic Länder into nondescript Gaue. In all three cases, the reasons were the same. The new artificial units had no history, no disruptive hatreds, no competing ambitions, and no power to obstruct the rule of a central government intent upon dominating a maximum of area with a minimum of means. The small-cell device permitted this. Prussia was thus divided by Hitler, not the Allies, as the Allies believed. If he did not touch historic names and titles, it was merely to hide the enormity of his innovation and to soothe the impact of his revolutionary measures. But where he applied them with a vengeance, as was the case in Austria which had caused so much of his early misery and had defied him for so long, he not only eliminated the state as an administrative unit, but even tried to strike the ancient name from the pages of history for ever.

Finally, to complete the picture, the small-unit device, which we have traced through federal as well as centralized political organizations, prevails also on the level of local government. The individual states dividing the American federation are themselves subdivided into a number of counties of approximately equal size. Moreover, whenever one of them shows a tendency to excessive growth, the administrators of their superior units, instinctively anxious to preserve the small-cell pattern, immediately draw their knives and cut them back to size, redrawing boundaries, or creating new counties altogether. The same is lastly true of cities which the principle of sound administration forces us to divide into boroughs. But even this is not the final step since boroughs are divided into wards, and wards into blocks. Below that, the social organism begins to dissolve into the sphere of individual existence, and only then does the process of division stop. We have arrived at home.

Thus, wherever we look in the political universe, we find that successful social organisms, be they empires, federations, states, counties, or cities, have in all their diversity of language, custom, tradition, and system, one, and only one, common feature -- the small-cell pattern. Permeating everything, it is applied and reapplied in unending processes of division and subdivision. The fascinating secret of a well-functioning social organism seems thus to lie not in its overall unity but in its structure, maintained in health by the life-preserving mechanism of division operating through myriads of cell-splittings and rejuvenations taking place under the smooth skin of an apparently unchanging body. Wherever, because of age or bad design, this rejuvenating process of subdivision gives way to the calcifying process of cell unification, the cells, now growing behind the protection of their hardened frames beyond their divinely allotted limits, begin, as in cancer, to develop those hostile, arrogant great-power complexes which cannot be brought to an end until the infested organism is either devoured, or a forceful operation succeeds in restoring the small-cell pattern.

This is why such attempts at international union as the European Council or the United Nations are doomed to failure if they continue to insist on their present composition. Comprising within their framework a number of unabsorbably great powers, they suffer from the deadly disease of political cancer. To save them it would be necessary to follow Professor Simons who said of the overgrown nation-states that:

'These monsters of nationalism and mercantilism must be dismantled, both to preserve world order and to protect internal peace. Their powers to wage war and restrict world trade must be sacrificed to some supranational state or league of nations. Their other powers and functions must be diminished in favour of states, provinces, and, in Europe, small nations.'8

This is, indeed, the only way by which the problem of international government can be solved. The great powers, those monsters of nationalism, must be broken up and replaced by small states; for, as perhaps even our diplomats will eventually be able to understand, only small states are wise, modest and, above all, weak enough, to accept an authority higher than their own.


1 Jonathan Swift, op. cit., p. 186.

2 What a contrast to the ease with which thirty years earlier President Jackson solved an almost identical secession problem when South Carolina tried to invalidate a federal tariff law and, indeed, the whole purpose of the union by her famous Ordinance of Nullification of 1832. Though she went so far as to call for a volunteer army, the then prevailing small-state pattern enabled Jackson to accomplish with the determined waggling of his presidential finger what Lincoln almost failed to accomplish with the help of a huge army and by means of a ruinous war. This shows how essential the small-state pattern is to the success of federal union. It also shows the potential danger of the as yet unimportant beginnings of regional consolidation as manifested in the occasional regional governors' conferences. If states should go further on this treacherous road of regional union, it would spell the end of the national federation.

3 See editorial in Ottawa Citizen of 13 October 1948, discusssing the proposal of Professorr A. R. M. Lower of Queens University, Kingston, (Canada.

4 Edward Gibbon, op. cit., vol. 5, pp. 308-9.

5 An identical difficulty arose in 1951 among the great-power members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization when the appointment of an American as Supreme Naval Commander was considered such a staggering blow to British pride that, instead of creating union, it threatened to create division.

6 New York Times, 8 December 1949.

7 Thomas J. Hamilton in the New York Times, 20 April 1950.

8 Henry C. Simons, op. cit., p. 125.