Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A bigger nation isn't always better

For thousands of years, historians and strategists have known that small but well-organized units of power can wield an influence out of all proportion to their actual size.

The perimeter walls of classical Athens were no measure at all of the extraordinary extent of the Greek presence, which ranged from Sicily to Egypt and northwards into the Black Sea. Many centuries later, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain were geographical pygmies in terms of domestic acreage, though that did not stop them from placing their footprints on much of the rest of the globe from 1500 to 1900.

In today's world, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai punch well above their weight, again for historical and geopolitical reasons.

But if small does not predestine insignificant, perhaps larger doesn't always mean greater.

A bigger nation isn't always better

NVDL: In the coming years what will be crucial is a sort of power-to-weight ratio (specifically it is population size relative to arable land under cultivationg) in countries. To the extent that a country is smaller, has enough land for food, but not huge distances of wasteland that must be covered to get anywhere, countries will thrive that are smaller. But smaller countries that are overpopulated will also suffer a great deal when importing food becomes first probibitively expensive, and then no longer possible. New Zealand looks like quite a good deal.

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