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Chalk and cheese

“Our Italian colleagues from University of Rome Tor Vergata and University of Parma proposed 
an idea that [as far as] public feelings of security and trust in the judicial system, southern and northern Italy should be treated as two separate countries. 
In their view, they are as different as chalk and cheese: in the northern part,
the sense of necessity in terms of obeying the rules and moral condemnation of corruptive conduct in authoritative organs is much higher than in the South.”  
(E.U. Ethics Standardization Team member)

How many ‘nations’ can a nation contain?  Depends on whom one asks.  Inhabitants of the former Yugoslavia, the former Sudan, the former Rhodesia could perhaps enlighten us.  Or those living in the current Kashmir, or Caucusus, or Flanders.

Richard Griggs and Peter Hocknell have pegged the number of actual nations existing on planet earth at between 6000 and 9000.  Europe alone, they say, is home to over one hundred.  Lines drawn on maps by generals and statesmen tell us lies and half-truths.  One nation, different beliefs, different values, different characters: What can a map really tell us?

Here, for example, is the nation known as the Italian Republic:

What is a nation?  By what can national or cultural values be measured?  By the relatively successful functioning of one’s institutions?


By one’s measured public corruption levels?
[higher score = lower corruption]


Golden, Miriam and Picci, Lucci, ‘Proposal for a New Measure of Corruption, Illustrated with

Italian Data,’ Economics & Politics, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 37-75, March 2005.

By the nepotism levels reigning in academia?

Data source: Stefano Allesina, “Measuring Nepotism Through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia,”  PLoS ONE 6(8): e21160. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021160
By one’s monetary wealth-producing capacity?
Data source: Eurostat
By one’s arrival at widespread literacy?
Emmanuel Todd, ‘L’Invention de l’Europe’ (The Invention of Europe), Paris:  Seuil, 2e edition, 1996.
One’s performance on standardized tests?
Map by A Reluctant Apostate, data from OECD
What can one’s electoral history tell us about values, past and present?
  Three above maps from Emmanuel Todd, ‘L’Invention de l’Europe’ (The Invention of Europe), Paris:  Seuil, 2e edition, 1996.
Is there a causal relationship, in either direction, between our government systems and us?
Putnam, Robert D., Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy,  Princeton University Press, 1994.
What does how we say we would like to be ruled say about us?
What about that of our history of civic functioning?
Can our marriage practices tell us anything about who we are and what we value?
 Data source (average 1930-34 and 1960-64), drawn from Cafalli-Sforza et al. 
Further analysis at HBD chick 
Difficult as ever to say what makes a ‘nation,’ what lines one can draw around it, what it believes, what it values, from whence its values come.

Nation and ‘nation’ will shift again, as they long have.

It would behoove us not to conflate the two.