It is possible to preserve nation-states despite a history of oppression, oppression, tyranny and war. Remember that before this recent creation, life was not always a piece of cake for everyone.
For a more positive defense, suppose that every individual and family on Earth was given a plane ticket to get to wherever they wanted to be, no questions asked. Those who prefer self-reliance and personal guns can go to the US. Those who love wine and sensuality can go to France. Those who like friendly, smiling people, such as Prisoners Village, can move to the UK. Those who prefer vast uninhabited places with no guns and wall-to-wall Medicare can move to Canada. Those who prefer strict social norms and choose themselves India or Afghanistan. Those who like environment and poverty can go to Bhutan or Burundi. People who want freedom from choice (except where to line up and how to survive) will move to Venezuela or North Korea. These are just examples; Choose your own according to your preferences and standards. (I take values to mean preferences for world states, as opposed to preferences for individual consumption and activity.)
Once the new borders are drawn, the world will be made up of nation-states based on truly common preferences and values. Nationalists imagine them now, in contrast to the current reality of larger artificial assemblages where coercive authorities impose arbitrary identities on most of their subjects. If one of these new nation-states imposes a common identity, it corresponds to what all its subjects want. Even the Awakened could arguably create their own nation-state where they would live amongst themselves under a secular theocracy. The convergence of individual preferences and values will prevent the Condorcet paradox and the irrationality of voting predicted by Arrow’s theorem. Instead, the median voter will always rule but, since all individuals are the same, every voter will be the median voter and everyone will enjoy the median outcome.
However, they have many problems with this simplistic model of the perfect nation-state. It would be difficult for individuals to start self-selection according to their own preferences, why would the current rulers and their clients find it in their interest to dismantle the playgrounds of their exploitation? But let’s ignore this obstacle.
As migrations progress and new nation-state configurations emerge, many individuals will have to relocate again. Many rounds of the process will be required before an equilibrium is reached, where all individuals or a large fraction of them are satisfied and stop moving, assuming such an equilibrium exists. This can be seen with simple computer simulations built on the famous Thomas Schelling model of isolation. A very large number of plane tickets would probably be required – conceivably consuming all of GDP. A mechanism must be developed to solve the problem of individuals attracted mainly by the welfare states of (predictably) rich countries, because parasites without a host are not a stable solution.
Yet, if we respect “national sovereignty,” many individuals are bound to be dissatisfied. There are about 200 countries in the word, and only two people out of billions of people alive have exactly the same preferences and values.
Ultimately, each individual or family will need their own country, but the jury is still out on whether anarchy, even if desirable, is possible. Even in our ideal self-selected countries, there will still be majorities exploiting minorities. The latter may be smaller, but this may make them more exploitable. The only solution to absolute “nationalism”, it seems, is for every country to have some sort of minimal or classical liberal state. The whole practice of secession would only prove that the peaceful coexistence of different peoples requires either the subordination of some people to others or else a minimal state. As I indicated earlier, the President of Sildavia can only be President of all Sildavians if he strictly limits his interference in the lives of Sildavians.
If the foregoing is correct, then the practical goal would be for each of us to try to push it toward a minimal state under his own more or less tyrannical nation-state. This, along with free movement (when possible) and a cosmopolitan outlook, is the only way to increase the number of people whose choices are not constantly overruled. The possibility of creating and maintaining geographic space to achieve this goal without the intervention of foreign tyrants seems to be the only good defense of the nation-state system, although both “nation” and “state” require fear citations.