We can see many successful nation-states in our world today: France, the United States, and Japan are just a few examples. Sadly our world also shows us quite a few examples of “failed” or even “collapsed” nation-states. According to the book “The Failure and Collapse of Nation-States” by Robert Rotberg (Princeton University Press), here are a few leading indicators of utter failure:
“1. Enduring violence–this engulfs significant areas of the state and is mainly directed at the existing government or regime.
2. Growth of criminal violence–arms and drug trafficking become common. Citizens turn to warlords or other figures for protection.
3. Flawed institutions–if legislatures exist at all, they exist to ratify the decisions of executives. Democratic debate is absent.
4. Effective education and medical systems are informally privatised–Literacy rates fall. Infant mortality rises.
5. Declining GDP–Declining real national and per capita levels of annual gross domestic product.
6. The government or regime loses legitimacy. Rulers are perceived to be working for themselves and their kin rather than the state. As a result, their legitimacy, and the legitimacy of the state declines.”
This is a decent summary, but I would like to add and correct a few statements. First of all, privatized medical systems are actually a good thing. The more the state is involved in the medical field, the more it can control citizens and use health care to either reward “loyalists” or punish “traitors.” In failed states there simply aren’t enough doctors, clinics, or hospitals, regardless of their standing with a central government.
Secondly, those in government are not to be “working for the state.”. Glorifying the state or living to please the state should not be anyone’s aim in life. In a free society, it is “we the people” who elect others to briefly represent us in government to safeguard our liberties. We do not exist to be serfs who endlessly obey “rulers.”
I would like to add that a failed state does not protect/defend their borders. Anyone, any terrorist, any drug dealer, any human trafficker, any army, anyone at all at anytime can waltz into that nation’s sovereign territory and can dictate to its citizens.
As the nation breaks down into warring gangs and clans, basic services we take for granted in America just disappear or are in desperate need of repair/supplies: clean drinking water and sanitation services, communication systems (radio/internet), a free press, decent roads and bridges, a postal system, factories where people make things to sell to other countries, and shopping centers where people can safely gather.
This is what we see in Somalia, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Eritrea, Liberia, Burundi, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. I could add probably a dozen more countries to this tragic list.