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News Concept of 'Country' and States.

  1. Apr 9, 2012 #1
    What is the theory behind dividing human society into Countries and States?
    Do the taxes collected from people on a state are meant to be spend for the welfare of the State alone or we sometimes spend the money to help other 'poorly doing' states?
    In a more general perspective, are we trying to 'help the less capable by distributing the earnings of the more capables' or do we not care? Are state leaders in theory Meant to seek for the welfare of their state alone even if it means bad-fare of another state? If we care for another state, do we care for another country? Or are we caring already?
    Type of vague, but you can understand what I am trying to ask.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    in the US, most people live in one of 50 states. There are various kinds of taxes:
    - sales tax a portion may go to the state (ie state legislature defines it), a portion may go o the city or county where the store is located
    - land tax paid to the city or county
    - school tax levied by the school district where your home is located
    - and sometimes there are other kinds of taxes for utility districts...

    next people pay income tax to the federal govt and sometimes to the state depending on which state you live in or work in. As an example people who live and work in Texas pay federal tax but no state income tax. People who work in New York pay state income tax to New York State and if they live in a neighboring state like Connecticut and commute to work in NY they may pay state income tax to Connecticut and some to New York state.

    The federal govt uses the collected taxes to pay for services available to all states. Through congress some states may receive additional assistance for farm programs, welfare, road building...

    Anyway to get back to why we divide people up into smaller and smaller groups it is probably something steeped in ancient military strategy. Organized armies acted more like one unit than hordes of attackers and were more successful on the battlefield. This concept become an organizing principle for countries as well. In the US a person lives in a city/town/village within a county within a state within the US. So say for disaster planning the US govt would hand out money to each state according to need. States with more people get more money. The state in turn distributes the money to the counties according to need and each county would distribute to each city/town/village according to need. In truth it's more complicated and more political but you get the idea.

    The organizing idea of country to state to county makes it easier to distribute resources. Also it reduces the number of decision makers in the process. People don't vote on issues they vote on representatives who vote on the issues.

    It interesting to note that we don't organize our representatives this way. Each person has multiple representatives to each state and federal legislative body. So for example, a person would have:
    - state representative for the state house of representatives (represents a county in the state house)
    - state senator for the state senate
    - federal congressman for a federal district (may represent several counties in your state)
    - federal senator (2 per state)

    The state rep and state senate fight over how to distribute monies to the counties and to statewide services.

    Similarly the federal representatives and senators fight over how to distribute monies to the individual states and to federal services.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  4. Apr 9, 2012 #3


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    The rationale behind such divisions are to allow a level of local democracy. It would be inefficient for a group of neighbours who think that their street needs a ramp on the curb (for a disabled neighbour) to have to go to national government to lodge the request. Firstly it would make national government huge and secondly it would mean that the person you are dealing with potentially doesn't understand your local issue whereas local government makes it far more likely that the people who deal with will understand your situation.

    In the UK there are various taxes that go to local areas only rather than going straight to national government. Council tax for example is paid directly to the local council to spend on local issues. People vote for both local candidates for their council and for MPs for national government but this means that they can have both a say in national government and local.
  5. Apr 10, 2012 #4
    Are you talking about the state-federal relationship specifically in the United States or a more general "Why do we have organized political systems?" When I initally read your question, I thought of the latter (why - generally). Apparently several others have read it in the specific sense...
  6. Apr 10, 2012 #5


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    How far back is one considering - ancient Greek states? Or back further to Sumer?

    A nice summary of ancient history can be found in Susan Wise Bauer's book The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome

    and there is another book, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, which covers history in Europe and Asia from the 4th century to 11th century CE.

    States divided along tribal or ethnic lines long ago, and modern states and countries evolved from older states - or colonies. States and countries reflect regional/geographical political interests - or the results of wars/invasions. Way in the past, it was based around agriculture or some natural resource that awarded benefit to the group that controlled the resource.
  7. Apr 10, 2012 #6
    Thanks all of you for providing some perspective.
    I was thinking that the point was to be co-operative and help each other.
    I am interested on rationale behind general political division.
    1.Would you mind if significant fraction of the tax you pay is used for the benefit of the people on another state?
    2.Would you mind if significant fraction of the tax you pay is used for the benefit of people on another country?
    If someone answers No and Yes to above question, I am wondering whats the difference?
    Even if someone has separate definition for 'what significant fraction is' in above two cases, I don't see any moral reason for the difference.

    If I am not clear enough,Forget everything I talked.
    My whole point is "If you are to love and help a stranger (not your family/relative), why do you need to discriminate between people of your country/foreigner?"
  8. Apr 10, 2012 #7


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    I'm going to answer no for both but with some clarification. When resources are given to others to improve their lives the only possible reason to object I ever have is if: the resources could be better spent to help them or if the cost to "us" is too high. With that in mind giving to people in another "state" will be more likely to have a lower cost because it will have a higher material benefit. For example: if money from my state goes towards improving schools, hospitals etc in another because we are still part of the same country their improvement will result in higher overall economic productivity. This is less likely in another country but I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, just that it changes the equation.
  9. Apr 11, 2012 #8
    Our division into countries/states is, in my opinion, based on animal biology. We have evolved to favor those who share our genetic origins, which manifests in the creation of tribes, nations and states. This pattern may ultimately be to the detriment of the human species as a whole, but it is very hard to change.
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