Failed States

After examining Ukraine’s depopulation, Edward Hugh asks “whether it is not possible that some countries will actually die, in the sense of becoming totally unsustainable, and whether or not the international community doesn’t need to start thinking about a country resolution mechanism somewhat along the lines of the one which has been so recently debated in Europe for dealing with failed banks.” Joshua Keating ponders this:

I suspect that even in the bleakest, Children of Men-style population scenarios, most countries would fight to the bitter end before surrendering their sovereignty. The exception might be places like Ukraine that have a relatively recent experience as part of a larger geopolitical entity and a large ethnic population with ties to a neighboring country.

A country couldn’t be liquidated quite as neatly as a company — even if the state goes away, there’s still a chunk of land and some people living on it to deal with. The main obstacle to countries being “dissolved” may be that other countries may not want to take on the responsibility of dealing with them — what country really wants to take on a new sparsely populated, economically stagnant region?

McArdle looks at similar problems closer to home. Why Detroit is in trouble:

The problem is that the old infrastructure is still there, and still needs to be maintained. Detroit might have the makings of a nice 50 square mile city within its population. But it has to maintain 139 square miles of water and sewer, electric, police and fire coverage, transportation, and so forth. It also needs to maintain legacy pension costs that were incurred when the city was more prosperous. For the last five or six years, Detroit has made up the mismatch between taxes and spending by borrowing money and deferring its pension contributions. But this only means bigger bills in the future, when Detroit may be even less able to pay.