Cooperation and integration have (much) more to offer 

Warthog in path of hunngry lion

Security also is in numbers (Source)

It now seems that conflict and fragmentation are ‘stronger’ than cooperation and integration and increasingly dominate the dynamics of the System. Why this is the case, I will discuss in another article; in this article, I discuss some obvious advantages of cooperation and integration that are too often ignored, or not understood.

Through cooperation – or even the simple ‘grouping’ of individuals – security is enhanced. In case individuals combine their ability to observe and process information, the overall situational awareness increases; threats are identified faster, and better understood.

With groups, it is also possible to increase the ability to defend and attack. Through cooperation economies of scale and scopesynergy effects – can be exploited: 1 + 1 becomes 3.

But security not only can be achieved by exploiting economies of scale and scope, in some cases security simply is in numbers, and becomes a matter of probability.

If a single person must cross the path – the killing zone – of a hungry lion alone, his survival changes are zero. If, however, a person is a member of a group of ‘n‘ persons, his survival changes increase with the size of the group (even if above mentioned advantages are ignored): his or her survival changes become 1 – 1/n.

Other examples of cooperation are ‘money’ and a single currency; money and a single currency are economic multipliers.

In a society without money – when barter is the method of exchange – each product or service has many prices, as many prices as there are other products and services. Such an ‘economy’ lacks transparency, which hinders exchanges. Also, is barter – exchange of goods and services – not possible if nobody wants to make the proposed exchange.

Different currencies – the lack of a single currency – have similar negative effects on economic growth and development.

why_money_was_invented_090306_1450

Cooperation also enables specialisation and diversification, important preconditions to exploit economies of scale and scope. If each family in a society is responsible for the education of its own children, they would (for sure) be less well educated, and the fact that an adult member of each family must focus on education, means that he or she is not available for other tasks. Through specialisation economies of scale can be accomplished (one teacher can take care of circa 24 pupils), the teacher can better develop his or her teacher skills, and more labour is available for other tasks. Better education, and more food at the same time.

If the fulfilment of basic requirements and survival changes can be improved through the exploitation of economies of scale and scope, this can set in motion a self-reinforcing process of cooperation and integration; not only in the economic, but also in the security domain.

Increasing size of social systems not only positively impacts on their defence capabilities, but also on their ability to attack. Increased attack capabilities require competing groups to (further) expand to ensure that they are still able to defend themselves.

Such positive (self-reinforcing) feedback structures – the exploitation of (increasing) economies of scale and scope – dominated European economic and security dynamics during the period 1495-1945, and contributed to the development of Europe from a collection of circa 300 diverse ‘units’ with a total population of circa 83 million in 1495, into a coherent (still anarchistic) system of 25 highly connected and standardised states, with a total population of circa 544 in 1945.

However, the exploitation of economies of scale and scope do not come without challenges, even risks. It is the task of the integrative subsystem (the political system) to organise (and legitimise) cooperation and integration.

The Soviet Union is an example of the ‘collapse’ of cooperation and integration: The Soviet Union could not sustain ‘cooperative’ structures that were necessary to fulfil the basic requirements of its citizens; furthermore (and consequently) the integrative system lost its legitimacy. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.

Collapse SU

Despite some significant differences between the Soviet and European Union, the European Union – ‘Brussels’ – now confronts a similar challenge; which also involves its already fragile legitimacy. The European Union also disappoints its member states – the citizens of its member states – because of its inability to adequately fulfil their basic requirements.

While in case of the collapsing Soviet Union, the driver for fragmentation and collapse was (to a high degree) about a lack of economic well-being, in case of the (collapsing?) European Union, it is above all about identity and security, and a dysfunctional integrative system.

At the same time as balance is lost, the pressures on the European Union and its member states increased (and still increase) through a combination of external threats, and internal dissatisfaction and fragmentation (Brexit). Europe is ‘stuck in the middle‘: States have transferred (some) sovereignty to Brussels, while the centre is not yet fully developed. Presently, 1 + 1 = 1,5 in Europe.

Further fragmentation and destabilisation of the European Union and its member states, is a realistic scenario. Processes of integration or fragmentation (in this case), have the tendency to create their own momentum (because of a self-reinforcing mechanism that dominates the system’s dynamics).

Collapse EU

To maintain a certain functional order and avoid stagnation – also to ensure cooperation and integration – continuous energy input and adaptation (change) are required. Stagnation means decline.

Despite these continuous efforts, advantages that can be accomplished with cooperation and integration, far outweigh the sacrifices that must be made.

That presently 1 + 1 only adds up to 1,5 is not because economies of scale and scope do not exist, but because we are not able to bridge simple differences – mostly only of opinion – that now block further progress.