Over het deugen van kleine naties is er de jongste jaren heel wat wetenschappelijk onderzoek verricht, waarvan de positieve resultaten druppelsgewijs ook in de media kwamen (denk aan Alberto Alesina en Enrico Spolaore, The size of nations; zie ook het recente stuk van Gideon Rachman in de Financial Times van 4 december 2007). Die deugden hangen overigens ook samen met het juiste dan wel verkeerde gebruik van de term diversiteit: diversiteit is immers een rijkdom als het complementariteit betekent en een verarming als het vertrouwen en dus sociaal kapitaal verzwakt. Ik zal daar te gelegener tijd nog wel wat meer over schrijven. Maar bij mijn lectuur herontdekte ik de zoals omzeggens steeds treffende analyse van Aristoteles, meer bepaald in zijn Politika, VII-4, 3-5. Ik citeer uit de Engelse vertaling van Benjamin Jowett (op http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.html):
"Most persons think that a state in order to be happy ought to be large; but even if they are right, they have no idea what is a large and what a small state. For they judge of the size of the city by the number of the inhabitants; whereas they ought to regard, not their number, but their power. A city too, like an individual, has a work to do; and that city which is best adapted to the fulfillment of its work is to be deemed greatest, in the same sense of the word great in which Hippocrates might be called greater, not as a man, but as a physician, than some one else who was taller And even if we reckon greatness by numbers, we ought not to include everybody, for there must always be in cities a multitude of slaves and sojourners and foreigners; but we should include those only who are members of the state, and who form an essential part of it. The number of the latter is a proof of the greatness of a city; but a city which produces numerous artisans and comparatively few soldiers cannot be great, for a great city is not to be confounded with a populous one. Moreover, experience shows that a very populous city can rarely, if ever, be well governed; since all cities which have a reputation for good government have a limit of population. We may argue on grounds of reason, and the same result will follow. For law is order, and good law is good order; but a very great multitude cannot be orderly: to introduce order into the unlimited is the work of a divine power- of such a power as holds together the universe. Beauty is realized in number and magnitude, and the state which combines magnitude with good order must necessarily be the most beautiful. To the size of states there is a limit, as there is to other things, plants, animals, implements; for none of these retain their natural power when they are too large or too small, but they either wholly lose their nature, or are spoiled. For example, a ship which is only a span long will not be a ship at all, nor a ship a quarter of a mile long; yet there may be a ship of a certain size, either too large or too small, which will still be a ship, but bad for sailing. In like manner a state when composed of too few is not, as a state ought to be, self-sufficing; when of too many, though self-sufficing in all mere necessaries, as a nation may be, it is not a state, being almost incapable of constitutional government. For who can be the general of such a vast multitude, or who the herald, unless he have the voice of a Stentor?"