Events - 07.05.2015 - 00:00 

“Goodbye to the nation state”

At the launch of the 45th St. Gallen Symposium, the retired Zurich economics professor Bruno S. Frey pleaded for moving away from thinking in terms of political borders which are a product of historical accident and have nothing to do with the rationality of the present day.


7 May 2015. Bruno S. Frey was thinking aloud and deliberately provocatively about “new entities” which would do justice to the requirements of the 21st century – by attributes such as flexibility, dynamism and the appreciation of diversity, which was not least a key for the creation of innovations. He pleaded for turning the fossilised thinking from the nation state era of the 19th and 20th centuries on its head and for asking first what the problems were in order to be able to determine in what “community”, in what “entity” they should then be tackled.

Inevitably, the refugee tragedy in the Mediterranean comes to mind as a negative example which quite obviously cannot be solved by an individual “entity” that thinks in national borders. Bruno S. Frey, who is an Honorary Doctor of the University of St.Gallen, presented stimulating thoughts at a time in which most recently, right-wing parties in various European countries have been baiting an astonishing number of electors with woolly rhetoric about vague notions such as “identity” and “self-determination” – notions which in the 21st century are in urgent need of renovation.

Referring to the lead topic of this year’s St. Gallen Symposium, Frey raised the debating point whether “Proudly Small” was really the only recipe for success. He mentioned very successful small states such as Switzerland, Singapore and Denmark, but at a global level also dominating countries like the USA or globally operating corporations such as Volkswagen and Zara, who are correspondingly “large”. Both sizes worked, said Frey, both “Proudly Small” and “Efficiently Large”. In order to find the better recipe on the basis of the problems in hand, he suggested that thinking should be released from the fetters of the nation state. As an example, Frey mentioned the Hanseatic League, which was an economically very successful community from the 12th to the 17th centuries without being a national unit. “Let’s stop thinking in terms of nation states,” challenged Bruno S. Frey, “let’s move into the 21st century.”

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