the first megacity-state
a FutureViews Exercise
The THESIS of this Paper is simple: That Switzerland is a Megacity-State and as such has a great deal to show the world in terms of possible future development.
I will not attempt to do the deep research necessary to prove this Thesis here - I will merely state it along with the design assumptions which have led me to this idea over the last 7 years of visiting Switzerland and how what I have observed fits with my concepts of megacities and the future of the Nation State.
Therefore, at this stage of development, this Thesis is an idea - an idea, while not developed, which contains many intriguing design assumptions and ramifications for how Humankind may create a sustainable economy-ecology-governance on Planet Earth over the next generation.
This is not to suggest that Switzerland is the perfect state nor that all problems related to a sustainable future have been solved by this society. It is to observe that a number of potentially scalable solutions have been created in this part of the world - how they were created is a subject of further inquiry - and that these represent, prima fascia, design principles of great power and potential.
In writing this, I will try not to claim too much as there is a great deal of research necessary to put the flesh on the bones of this Thesis - at the same time, I will be bold as a declarative approach is better for building a model that later can be argued, proven valid or not, and will ultimately prove to have value - once more work has been done and will lead to some useful conclusions.
A Way of Looking at Switzerland
The following observations about Switzerland can be made that in combination make an unique set of conditions among nations and regions of the world:
Switzerland has been free of large scale state warfare since winning independence from the Austrian Empire. This is an extraordinarily long period compared to other nations.
Switzerland by its location and geography is an easily defendable nation. By fortification, the employment of a citizen army, hardening against aerial attack and the appropriate mix of high technology and conventional defense, Switzerland has taken full strategic advantage of its geography. Short of a use of force aimed at total obliteration - not likely given the point below - any military attempt to subdue this nation would be heavily paid for.
Switzerland, through its banking and financial services, has gained a measurable immunity from invasion and built a global trading network suitable for sustaining a 21st century economy.
Switzerland is rich in the basic resources necessary for both an independent and a high tech trading economy. From agriculture, craft, to manufacturing, Switzerland has a diverse economy supported by a skillful and educated population. With the evolution of each economic era, Switzerland - unlike many other regions - has not thrown away the capacities of the prior eras. Instead has accommodated them and built a rich synergy.
The landscape of this region is rich and diverse and appears largely pastoral with the major population located in a few dense cities. This is somewhat illusionary. This is in fact a nearly 100 percent managed landscape which is an artful creation of nature and human. From defensive structures built deep into the mountains, the ubiquitous electrical, communication and transpiration systems, the amazing density of the “rural” population, this is in fact one of the largest, and effective mega-structures on the planet which is an unique model of a potentially integrated ecology-economy.
Switzerland is an example of extreme mixed-use. Residential, commercial, manufacturing, infrastructure, office, recreational, entertainment, hospitality - large and small buildings - are all intermingled and tightly integrated. All of this is done carefully creating a clean and pleasing landscape.
Unmatched by few places on Earth, Switzerland has built a brand. Chocolate, Watches, Davos, Banking, Neutrality and an Attitude about perfection not to mention the world’s happiest and most friendly cows - all as a gestalt. These aspects and more make the brand. Other places in the world have done this and some new regional brands are emerging. None, however, have yet combined this with the attributes listed above.
Switzerland is a confederation of smaller states. Within its boarders and distinct traditions and languages and people of several histories and cultures. Yet, this has become on place with many parts exercising a large degree of autonomy and exhibiting great diversity - all with an unusual degree of harmony.
The Swiss are an outdoor people and use their varied transportation system (trails, roads, trams, trains, cars, bicycles) to reach and employ their landscape fully. Switzerland can be called the largest city in the world and also, at the same time, the largest park.
These attributes, the essence of the place which we call Switzerland are unique to any time. They become important when considered along with my assumptions, listed below, regarding the future of the Nation State and its possible resolution to a new economic-ecological regionalism. It matters not if Switzerland, like all Nation States, faces sever future challenges or if it came by its present circumstance by the execution of a brilliant strategy or random luck. What matters is understanding what Switzerland has achieved - including the critical attributes of good design involved - and applying these, as a set of active design principles in the creation of a sustainable, harmonious human, Giaian economy-ecology. This provides us one possible model for a viable future.
A Way of Looking at the Nation State
It has long been my position that the Nation State has long outlived its welcome. It belongs now to history respected for what it has accomplished and remembered for its grievous errors. The Nation State is an architecture and as such it is bound by its own intrinsic logic. It is a creation of humanity and so humanity seems to believe that its architecture can be overcome if only the right laws, economics and leadership - all in the right combination - can be found. In light of the evidence, it would seem more humility is in order and certainly it is time to analysis this structure more carefully. In the last 100 years, we have attempted to scale this Nation State design way beyond its intrinsic capability and created an engine that inevitably leads to the same outcome. The Nation State once the benefactor has become the plague bringing all that it sought to overcome. For a period it freed Humanity from arbitrary violence, terror and systemic exploitation - now it is the greatest source of wrongful death and terror on this planet. It established a framework for the creation and free employment of wealth. It separated religion from law and economics from state control and now it squanders this legacy with the unholy alliance of State Capitalism and numerous religious and political ideologies the only remaining argument is seems being which combination you vote for. If budget is any indication of focus, the principle occupation of the nation State seems to be preparation for war and to criminalize its own people. Yet, this is not the intent of the average citizen who, believing the myths of old, seems oblivious to the things done in his/her name. The turning of the Nation State upon itself and its people is a consequence not a cause. It is the consequence of a structure which has grown beyond reasonable size in a world environment far more complex than its structure can absorb. It is time to redesign the governance system and architecture to be requisite with our times. I believe that this will be composed of smaller entities based on regional bio economic, cultural patterns which engage one another based on an entirely new set of covenants. Security, in this model will be a factor of the whole community of political units not of any superpower(s) or “world” government.
The Matter of Scale
Size matters. In real life, structure cannot scale infinitely. This is why you have never seen a 10 pound ameba. The relationship between the parts alters with growth. To remain viable, the structure must change - as will as its processes - when size does.
A critique of Switzerland as Architecture
Looking at Switzerland as if it were a megacity-state, how can it be considered as architecture and what does it imply about the future of Human habitats on Planet Earth?
FutureViews Exercise - Links
organizational transformation
building commonwealth
capitalism for the rest of us
energy soluton
first mega city-state
how to run for president
no place like home
wage slavery
future views index
Return To Index
Matt Taylor
April 8, 2008

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posted: April 8, 2008

revised: April 12, 2008
• 20080416.212259.mt • 20080412.200129.mt •

(note: this document is about 15% finished)

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Copyright© Matt Taylor 2008

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