The great globalisation revolution was supposed to lead to a united world – the earth is flat, in prize doofus Thomas Friedman’s phrase – but one of the most immediate effects is the way it’s being driven apart, with the fracturing of big nation-states and federations into autonomous regions.

Yugoslavia has been the first to go, with Kosovo about to become the seventh independent nation to be carved out. The Caucasian republics are full of half-states and semi-states, in the UK Scotland appears to be moving inexorably towards breaking up the Union, Iraq is, well, isn’t, and Africa has always been a set of post-colonial pseudo-nations.

Now the process seems to be spreading to Bolivia, where the mining centre of Santa Cruz is making noises about claiming full autonomy. Departmental governor Ruben Costas, now apparently no longer managing the Partridge Family, has warned La Paz not to “invade them” – which is pretty strange coming from an internal department of the country.

The Santa Cruz region has always been dominated by rich land and mining interests, and attempts at secession predated the election of Evo Morales. But his recent attempts to have ratified a constitution putting in place the platform he was elected on – redistributing oil and gas wealth and giving indigenous people a better shake — has really put the cat amongst the pigeons.

The richer provinces have drafted their own rival constitution, and warned that they’ll raise their own police force and resist any attempt to impose sovereignty.

I owe a hat tip to the Catallaxy mob, for this story, if only because their headline – capitalist revolution in Bolivia – is so wilfully naive, as if it was some sort of novelty. It isn’t a capitalist revolution at all, it’s a counter-revolution, an inevitable process when change is threatened.

One of the virtues of larger states is that they draw rich and poor areas together, allowing for reforming governments to redistribute. The ultimate result is a series of statelets increasingly dominated by powerful interests, if not outright gangsters. Whatever power the state had to stand against the market is dissolved.

Will there be heavy conflict? The FT doesn’t think so, so probably yes. And Morales has every right to crush it utterly, in the name of the 65% of people who voted him in two years ago.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey