I have been a proponent of abolishing, outright, the Bureau of Indian Affairs for a long time. In its place, I would either grant the Indian tribes full-fledged sovereignty with reparations for stolen property, or would grant the reservations statehood into the union of the United States federal republic.
If you’ll notice, this proposal goes hand-in-hand with my other writings on decentralizing political power in other various parts of the world, and I think that the issue of sovereignty for Native Americans goes along nicely with this theme. Tyler Cowen recently directed me to a piece in the Economist that writes about just this topic, so I am not nearly as idealistic and young as some of you might think.
I think this decentralized process is happening for a reason, and that the reason is overwhelmingly good: the world’s markets are becoming increasingly integrated, and as a result, political power is becoming increasingly irrelevant except on a largely local or regional scale.
If we want to avoid the mistakes of the past, including slavery and horrific, large-scale wars, then we would do well to realize and affirm that decentralized governance and integrated markets are extremely beneficial to mankind. In affirming this, we would likewise do well to recognize that when people want more autonomy in governance we should grant it to them, especially in cases where post-colonial states exist. States themselves are largely illegitimate, and the post-colonial ones are the most guilty of this crime. There is no reason to pretend that we have to respect the sovereignty of post-colonial states ruled by dictators, and every reason to respect the wishes of large swathes of the people in these post-colonial states for more political autonomy.
This process of decentralization is not only ongoing in the post-colonial world though. It is also happening in Europe, where an integrated market has helped delegitimize the nation-states there and encourage secessionist movements to demand ever more autonomy from centers of power that these aspiring secessionist regions have not considered to be legitimate.
Think, too, of the fact that even in Europe today there are fifty states in an area only a third the size of Africa, which also has fifty states. If Africa were to decentralize, it would develop much in the same way as Europe has. The same concept can be said of China, of Russia, and of Latin America.
The end result of this decentralizing tendency, if it allowed to flourish, is a world in which political entities are so small and irrelevant that the horrors of the past will seem as barbaric as the most sophisticated modes of governance of Roman and Mongol seem to us today. Let us work together for a more peaceful and prosperous world. Remember, we need to keep our focus of free trade, individualism, the rule of law, private property and internationalism. These are the keys to an open society. These are the foundations that have made the West great.
Oh, and here is the Economist piece on Native American sovereignty.