Should Scotland leave the UK?

by on May 31, 2014 at 3:08 am in Current Affairs, Law, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

I very much agree with the recent FT columns by Martin Wolf and Simon Schama.  The Union of 1707 was one of the great events of the eighteenth century for Britain, and it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution, Adam Smith, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, and much much more, including the later United States and many of the Founding Fathers.  And yes some of the excesses of imperialism, exploration too.  That union truly was a cornerstone of the modern world, of the sort they might put into a book subtitle in a corny way and yet it would be quite justified.

Maybe you think the partnership hasn’t been as fruitful in recent years.  Still, I view it this way.  For all its flaws, the UK remains one of the very best and most successful countries the world has seen, ever.  And there is no significant language issue across the regions, even though I cannot myself understand half of the people in Scotland.  Nor do the Scots have a coherent or defensible answer as to which currency they will be using, or how they would avoid domination by Brussels and Berlin.  If a significant segment of the British partnership wishes to leave, and for no really good practical reason, it is a sign that something is deeply wrong with contemporary politics and with our standards for loyalties.

I find this entire prospect depressing, and although it is starting to pick up more coverage in the United States and globally, still it is an under-covered story relative to its importance.

This is a referendum on the modern nation-state, an institution that has done very well since the late 1940s but which is indeed often ethnically heterogeneous at its core.  While I expect Scottish independence to be voted down, if it passes I will feel the world’s risk premium has gone up, even if the Scots manage to make independence work.

Addendum: Is this the sort of debate that the great British Parlamentarians of history would have approved of?:

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister who is leading the campaign for independence, said on Wednesday that each household would receive an annual “independence bonus” of £2,000 – or each individual £1,000 – within the next 15 years if the country votes to leave the UK.

The UK government, in contrast, claimed that if Scots rejected independence each person would receive a “UK dividend of £1,400 . . . for the next 20 years”.

Was that the sort of discourse you wanted?  Was “being British” simply not good enough for you?

Das May 31, 2014 at 3:22 am

“the modern nation-state, an institution that has done very well since the late 1940s but which is indeed often ethnically heterogeneous at its core”

The modern nation state was mostly successfull where it was ethnically homogeneous. Just look at how well the modern nation states of Yugoslavia, USSR, India, the whole middle east (Syria!), etc. did.
In fact what makes a nation state modern as opposed to outdated is its ethnical homogenity. Look at the nation states of Germany 1971-1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire, Czarist Russia, the Ottoman Empire, post-colonial Malaysia (no Singapour then!)…

Oh. And how well the whole nation state thing has worked in Africa! But in some African countries it did work you say? Well, how ethnically heterogeneous are these exceptions? Ah…

What do you think would happen if the Chinese central government tumbled to say the Uigur regions and Tibet?

david May 31, 2014 at 3:41 am

Causality flows the other way around, surely. The modern state is successful where it most convinces Prussians and Swabians that they are actually German and should prioritize their German identity over any other: sacrificing Prussian and Swabian interests for German interests, rather than aligning along Protestant/Catholic or liberal/reactionary lines. Modern Germany has lost of half of Prussia and half of Swabia.

Das May 31, 2014 at 4:25 am

Interesting point.
But I still think my point is valid I would just add yours like so:
Additionally there is a rare set of policies and circumstances that allow nation states to superimpose a new and homogenous ethnical identity on its subjects so that old indentities become irrelevant over time.

I argue that is is rare because when I look at the nations which started out ethnically heterogeneous few of them still exist *and* work well at the same time. Most either disintegrated along ethnical lines, or fought/fight disintegration forcefully. Also Germany while managing to unite the German speaking peoples of Prussia and Swabia didn’t manage to assimilate the Poles like that – even way before the wars of the 20th century.

david May 31, 2014 at 5:47 am

Are those policies really rare? What eliminated the continuum of Germanic dialects in northern Europe? The language spoken in the modern Netherlands and Belgium used to be merely one end of the continuum of Germanic languages, what drove its separation from the German language, so bordering regions between Dutch and German-speakers became more sharply defined? That standardized Parisian French as the only dominant language of France – why not Arpitan or Occitanian French? Which dialect spoken in the islands of Japan is considered Japanese? What about China, which dialect is considered Chinese, with all other dialects merely considered local variations?

States create ethnic identities and use them against other states, or would-be states. That’s why Scotland, almost all of which doesn’t speak Scots Gaelic themselves, nonetheless makes a big deal about it.

Crowstep May 31, 2014 at 7:20 am

Particularly since Gaelic was NEVER the language of Lowland Scotland (as in, the part where everyone lives). It was the language of the Irish, who conquered large parts of Western Scotland.

I think they emphasise it because it’s distinct from English, unlike Scots (the traditional language of Lowland Scotland) which is too similar to British English to distinguish it as its own language.

david May 31, 2014 at 8:44 am

Yes, exactly. They don’t speak it now. Their forefathers, either by blood or geographic, didn’t speak it in the past. And yet here we are.

This is not the first time a desire for a distinctive national mythos has led to bizarre choices of nationalist totems – Macpherson almost certainly forged the works he attributed to Ossian. And this is universal – Southeastern European Slavs have spent the last century being fought over by competing nationalisms that all sought to identify distinctive identities amidst a continuum of interlocking loyalties. See Macedonian nationalism for a particularly egregious example.

Brad May 31, 2014 at 11:47 am

There was a Brittonic (Insular Celtic) language spoken in lowland Scotland — Pictish — but it was extinct by the end of the first millennium.

GiT May 31, 2014 at 9:23 am

” Additionally there is a rare set of policies and circumstances that allow nation states to superimpose a new and homogenous ethnical identity on its subjects so that old indentities become irrelevant over time.”

Rare? Pretty sure that’s pretty much prototypical of what nation states do. “Imagined Communities” is still a classic, yes?

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 6:09 am

‘and half of Swabia’

I live in Baden-Württemberg – when did half of the land of ‘Schaffe, schaffe, Häusle baue’ leave Germany? Not that anyone in Baden would care if they left, mind you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swabia

Chris Purnell May 31, 2014 at 8:10 am

Most of the Scots I know will vote for independence so that they never have another Tory Government stuffed full of Southern public school boys.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 10:07 am

In other words, due to random social resentments. Attractive.

Mark Thorson May 31, 2014 at 10:20 am

Today Scotland, tomorrow Texas.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Given the behavior of Hollywood and the appellate judiciary and elements of the central government, decent parts of the country have reason to leave. What situation compels this in Britain?

Careless May 31, 2014 at 5:43 pm

AD: the few I’ve heard express their desire to vote for independence want to get away from the “right wing extremists” running/ruining the country.

TMC May 31, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Careless: this probably goes away when the methadone clinic reopens.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 8:47 pm

AD: the few I’ve heard express their desire to vote for independence want to get away from the “right wing extremists” running/ruining the country.

Some people are stupid. What you gonna do?

ElamBend June 2, 2014 at 1:50 pm

So you assume that a new political class would not devolve in just the same way (and maybe even the same schools).

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 8:02 am

States tend to succeed when they “carve nature at its joints,” as Plato would say. For example, the United Arab Republic of Egypt, Syria, and Yemen in the 1960s didn’t succeed, but the merger of West Germany and East Germany did succeed.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 10:50 am

You have three non-contiguous pieces of territory speaking vernacular dialects which are mutually unintelligible, having within one piece complicated tribal politics, having within that same piece a persistent insurgency, having wildly different settlement patterns, and all having to answer to a fascistoid praetorian autocrat – no, doesn’t sound too promising.

FE May 31, 2014 at 10:43 am

Surely we should hesitate to call the nation-state based on German identity an especially successful one. The results from 1910 to 1990 were not so great.

Jermaine May 31, 2014 at 5:28 pm

What’s your definition of success? For most of 1910 to 1945, Germany was the second biggest economy in the world after the U.S. In the same period, it was arguably the most culturally and scientifically prolific country in the world. In 1945, Germany was physically destroyed, shrunken and partitioned with millions of refugees displaced to it. Nevertheless, within 10 years West Germany was the second biggest economy in the world, and for almost its entire history East Germany was the richest communist state eventhough the Soviets looted most of it.

German reunification was the most complicated and disruptive undertaking that any developed country has endured since the war. Nevertheless, 25 years later it’s a massive success, and at least politically Germany is more successful than it’s ever been before. Only idiots (including Germanophobes) can deny that such a nation is a stupefying success.

Adrian Ratnapala June 1, 2014 at 1:07 am

I don’t know about Swabia, but I think Prussia lost the mostly Polish speaking half of its former domain. Germans are not ethnically or culturally homogeneous but they reasonably close. Indeed Austrians and Dutchmen are more similar than Punjabis and Bengalis. And yet India and Pakistan both inherited half of the Punjab and Bengal.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Not half, but most of the province of Posen and portions of Silesia and West Prussia. East Prussia, Pomerania, Brandenburg, Magdeberg, Westphalia, the Rhineland, and various odds-and-ends they kept.

Nyongesa May 31, 2014 at 4:09 am

Not sure how “Africa!” exemplifies your point. Outside of Ethiopia, Egypt and Northern Sudan, every other African state is a pure creation of colonialism. In hundreds of hours of discussion on the topic, I have yet to have heard a plausible argument on how nation states more successful than what currently exists here would have formed organically. Aside form the obvious D.R.C. which had successful kingdoms in Katanga etc. and undoubtedly would have done better sans King Leopold, the multiferous small independant tribal groups that comprise even tiny states like Burkina Faso don’t lend themselves to easy organic coalescence. One other factor is the massive interventionism of both the Cold War which was fought in “proxy” all over Africa, and the “NO FIGHTING ANY WERE” obsession of the post WWII traumatized winners, stamping down on organic nation state building by force. Although it may not seem readily obvious atop the western plateaus, but many of us in the African complainosphere have quietly turned positive on Africa.

david May 31, 2014 at 4:19 am

Contemporary borders of Malaysia also reflect colonialism: the border between Indonesia and Malaysia represents the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824. arising from post-Napeleonic war settlement. The line drawn across Borneo, or the numerous islands of the former Johor Empire, are as arbitrary as any drawn in Africa.

Nonetheless, there’s been a tremendous amount of successful cultivation of national identities to fit the new borders.

Careless May 31, 2014 at 5:46 pm

watching Malaysian nationalist propaganda cartoons for children was fascinating.

Das May 31, 2014 at 4:34 am

“Not sure how “Africa!” exemplifies your point.”
Well, you basically made my point. I believe what we call “modern nation state” might not be the only or even best answer to how people and geographical regions should organize themselves. It works for some sometimes, under certain conditions. But in Africa for example the nation state regime didn’t work out so well.
And while Africa may hopefully turn out positive in the end, I am quite sure this positive end could have been achivied sooner and with less pain.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 8:08 am

There hasn’t been much cross-border war in Africa, which is how most other continents built nation-states.The Eritreans have a fair degree of nationhood from fighting the Ethiopians (e.g., trench warfare in the 1990s). Rwandan Tutsis have built a strong state by conquering Rwanda in the 1990s and engaging in predatory raids in Congo. But these tend to be the exceptions that validate the tendency.

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 4:37 am

In hundreds of hours of discussion on the topic, I have yet to have heard a plausible argument on how nation states more successful than what currently exists here would have formed organically.

Pretty much the same way they did in the West – the militarily powerful would have taken the territory and the women of the militarily weak. Until there were a lot fewer ethnic groups.

One other factor is the massive interventionism of both the Cold War which was fought in “proxy” all over Africa, and the “NO FIGHTING ANY WERE” obsession of the post WWII traumatized winners, stamping down on organic nation state building by force.

Apart from Angola, it is hard to think of anywhere the West intervened in Africa during the Cold War. It wasn’t actually a site of proxy fighting. It was the site of Africans taking aid from the Communists and fighting their colonial rulers, but that is another matter. Nor has anyone stopped Africans using force against each other, in the name of state building or not. Certainly no one bothered about, say, Biafra at all.

Although it may not seem readily obvious atop the western plateaus, but many of us in the African complainosphere have quietly turned positive on Africa.

Well let’s hope so. I see no reason to be positive about Africa at all, but I hope I am wrong.

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 4:27 am

By any measure the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a success. As can be seen by those countries lucky enough to be ruled by them and their neighbors who were not. Even those parts of Poland that were compared to those parts that were not.

Its abolition was one of the greatest mistakes of the 20th century.

Das May 31, 2014 at 4:35 am

But would you call it a “modern nation state”?

Daniel May 31, 2014 at 5:40 am

You can blame the Hungarians for that. Actively trying to stamp out the other languages and cultures – when they made up less than half the population of Great Hungary – won’t win you any friends.

Marian Kechlibar May 31, 2014 at 5:49 am

A Czech here, interested in history.

Austria-Hungary was at the same time *very* economically successful and a quagmire of nationalist resentments. These things can go together, and indeed often do, see contemporary Catalonia or Belgium.

If there is any lesson in the fall of Austria-Hungary, it is: “Contrary to the common wisdom of the academia, diversity is weakness, at least from the viewpoint of fighting wars.”

A-H would probably survive if the ruling class continued the ancient Habsburg wisdom of doing politics through marriage instead of guns. Unfortunately, the German-speaking Vienna elite got infected with Prussian militarism, for which the fragile empire was absolutely unusable.

(This is also a good example of how memes travel in cultures that share common language. The Hungarian part of A-H elite, though very repressive against minorities, was much less happy about the coming Balkan war than the German-Austrian part thereof).

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 6:39 am

I don’t think you can accuse the Austro-Hungarians of being warmongers. The Serbian government trained and funded people who shot the Crown Prince. If ever a cause for war was just, this was it. The A-H had to act.

It did become a quagmire of national resentments, but the peoples of the Empire did not turn against it. The Americans did, listening to a tiny number of cafe intellectuals who mostly turned out to be utterly vile to their own minorities and generally incompetent in every way. By rejecting Franz Josef they got Adolf and then Uncle Joe. They should have kept Otto Hapsburg, shot their own petty intellectuals and everyone would have been better off.

However it is the cultural impact of the Empire that really matters. Those parts of Eastern Europe that got it are even to this day immediately recognizable – and generally vastly more pleasant than those parts that did not. In no small way, the EU project is just an effort to bring back the Empire but without the Emperor.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 8:12 am

The role of the last Hapsburg pretender in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is interesting. In the late summer of 1989, he organized a picnic on the Austrian-Czech border and invited the Czech border guards over for a few beers. Afterwards, they stopped shooting people crossing into Austria. Since the Warsaw Pact had no internal borders against tourism, this meant anybody could leave if they wanted to travel to Czechoslovakia. Eventually, the crisis reached Berlin and the guards stopped shooting people leaving.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm

the EU project is just an effort to bring back the Empire but without the Emperor. –

The foundational states of the old EEC included the Netherlands (never a Hapsburg dominion), France (ditto), Germany (a compendium of those parts of Germanophone Europe where the Hapsburgs had little property), and Italy (within which the Hapsburg dominions were limited to Lombardy, Venizia, and parts of Tyrol). Of all the Hapsburg territories there’d ever been, the only ones which joined the EU prior to 1986 were the aformentioned Italian provinces and the old Hapsburg Netherlands (a.k.a. Belgium).

Marian Kechlibar May 31, 2014 at 4:04 pm

The Empire did not go immediately to war with Serbia.

At first, just an “ultimatum” against Serbia was issued and the Serbian government conceded on 9 of 10 points thereof, which was quite remarkable, given the atmosphere after the assassination.

At that moment, saner heads might have prevailed and the crisis could have been solved by diplomatic means. But too many of the movers and shakers in Vienna wanted to embark on a war of conquest.

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm

The foundational states of the old EEC included the Netherlands (never a Hapsburg dominion), France (ditto), Germany (a compendium of those parts of Germanophone Europe where the Hapsburgs had little property), and Italy (within which the Hapsburg dominions were limited to Lombardy, Venizia, and parts of Tyrol). Of all the Hapsburg territories there’d ever been, the only ones which joined the EU prior to 1986 were the aformentioned Italian provinces and the old Hapsburg Netherlands (a.k.a. Belgium).

The Netherlands was part of the Hapsburg territories. All of it. Even Fresia. The Hapsburgs were Kings of Germany before they were the Emperors of Austria. The castle from which they take their name is now in Switzerland but it used to be in Swabia. The EU started out as a recreation of the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne by a group of very reactionary Catholics. It is that Empire, inherited by the Hapsburgs, I meant.

Marian Kechlibar May 31, 2014 at 4:04 pm

At first, just an “ultimatum” against Serbia was issued and the Serbian government conceded on 9 of 10 points thereof, which was quite remarkable, given the atmosphere after the assassination.

Well yes and no. They refused to allow A-H officials to enter Serbia and observe the investigation. Which seems reasonable enough. But they weren’t exactly going to implement the other points either. They more or less accepted them in principle, with the intent to evade them. But I assume they realized what a mess their intelligence organizations had got them into. They did, eventually, shoot those responsible in 1917 as part of peace talks with the Austrians.

I don’t see how anyone can say A-H over-reacted.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm

The Netherlands was part of the Hapsburg territories.

Acquired by marriage, held from 1482 to 1581.

Michael D. Abramoff June 1, 2014 at 12:03 am

The crown topping the belltower of the Westerkerk in downtown Amsterdam is a copy of the crown of King (later Emperor) Maximilian II of Habsburg. It was put there in 1638.

Adrian Ratnapala June 1, 2014 at 1:14 am

@Art Deco, the Netherlands certainly were a Hapsburg dominion!

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

@Art Deco, the Netherlands certainly were a Hapsburg dominion!

Thanks for the correction chaps. I think it rather rum to describe the EU as an attempt to reconstitute the Hapsburg Empire given that 80% population of the founding states had never been under Hapsburg sovereignty and 40% of the remainder had been held by the Hapsburgs for 100 years of their 700 year run as influential European dynasts.

Daniel May 31, 2014 at 7:02 am

The Hungarian part of A-H elite, though very repressive against minorities

The Hungarians were a minority themselves.

Roy May 31, 2014 at 8:13 am

But no less repressive for it

Marian Kechlibar May 31, 2014 at 4:06 pm

In the Hungarian part of the dual monarchy, the Hungarians were the dominant nationality. If they had over 51 per cent there, I do not know, but they were by far the most powerful group there (or “privileged”?)

Note that since 1867, only a few policies were “federally” administered (military, currency, foreign policy, railways…?), and aside from that, Hungary was practically independent of the central government.

Daniel May 31, 2014 at 7:48 pm

The Romanians and the Slovakian put together outnumbered the Hungarians.

So the Hungarians denied them suffrage and subjected them to an intense campaign of Magyarization. No wonder the thing fell apart upon military defeat.

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 6:12 am

‘By any measure the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a success.’

In its roughly 50 year history, it went from failure to failure, until its final dissolution at the end of WWI.

‘Austria-Hungary (also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy) was a constitutional union of the Empire of Austria and the Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary that existed from 1867 to 1918, when it collapsed as a result of defeat in World War I.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austria-Hungary

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 7:42 am

“By any measure the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a success.”

Except on the field of battle in the Great War.

World War I was a test of legitimacy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was found wanting in the department of how many young men would die for it.

Personally, I like living in a world without vast European wars. But still …

Marian Kechlibar May 31, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Steve, you have some misconceptions with regard to the last years of the Danube empire.

Austria-Hungary did not lack the manpower and young men willing to die for it, indeed the loss of life was very high and most of the units on the front would fight on.

The fatal blow to the integrity of the empire was the fact that the domestic economy basically collapsed in early 1918 and hunger was rife. With the population starving in masses, the régime lost legitimacy. The same process unfolded in Germany and tsarist Russia.

Unlike Germany, A-H was much more linguistically fragmented and the competing nationalist groups prevailed in the power vacuum that followed.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Its abolition was one of the greatest mistakes of the 20th century.

It fell to pieces in a matter of weeks at the end of World War I. Germany and Italy did not and even the Ottoman dominions put up something of a struggle. There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

Marian Kechlibar May 31, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Yes, “abolition” is not the suitable word. As of November 11, 1918, it was no more possible to “abolish” the empire as it is possible to kill a fresh corpse.

Remarkably, the young emperor Karl was not particularly respected by the people, and there was visible lack of any other legitimate pretendents.

Jermaine May 31, 2014 at 4:51 pm

“By any measure the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a success.”

You overstate your case, but I agree with the tenor of your comment. Austria-Hungary is one of the great states of Western Civilization, and it represents the golden age for the most of the territories included in it. Probably my favorite legacy of the Hapsburg Empire is the architecture (see the 19th century buildings of Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Lviv).

Anon. May 31, 2014 at 6:08 am

What about the US, though?

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2014 at 8:22 am

A time-limited experiment, and that time is coming to an end.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:52 pm

The ‘experiment’ has been ongoing for 400-odd years.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2014 at 2:24 pm

It blew up in 1776, and again in 1860.

JonFraz June 1, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Most of the classic European nation states were not ethnically homogeneous.In fact only Portugual was (discounting the Jews, who were of course expelled eventually). Spain included Castilians and Aragonese and Basques. France included the Bretons, and the southern provinces neither spoke French not considered themselves French until the early 1800s. England included the Welsh and Cornish. Denmark included the Norwegians (until 1814). Sweden included Finns (until 1809) and Lapps. Even trhe ZNetherlands had an ethnic minority in the Frisians.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 6:46 pm

About 6% of the population of France lives in Brittany. Not much of a minority. Your assertion about the identity formation of the Occitan is dubious.

honkie please May 31, 2014 at 3:27 am

Perhaps this could be a clarion call to central planners everywhere to stop sucking.

As to the addendum, this could not more precisely recall or validate De Tocqueville, albeit in the wrong country.

An Australian May 31, 2014 at 3:45 am

+1 to the stop sucking

8 May 31, 2014 at 3:41 am

The Empire long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.

Larry Siegel May 31, 2014 at 5:17 am

Ugh. I guess that’s a reasonable anthropological view, but it’s terrible policy.

Anonymous coward May 31, 2014 at 6:00 am

It’s not a policy prescription — it’s the first line of the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 7:43 am

Thanks. I did not know that. Sounds like a useful quote.

The Wobbly Guy June 1, 2014 at 1:06 am

Given that ‘Romance’ reached its final form somewhere in the 14 century after centuries of modification, it shows that the Chinese, at least, were cognizant of historical cycles.

I’ve often found it interesting that of the 4 classic Chinese works, two end in tragedy (Outlaws, Red Mansion), one is ambivalent (Romance), and only one ends on a somewhat triumphant note (Journey to the West).

Larry Siegel June 1, 2014 at 3:14 am

+1

Well, I figured it was a quote from something.

dan1111 May 31, 2014 at 3:42 am

“Nor do the Scots have a coherent or defensible answer as to…how they would avoid domination by Brussels and Berlin.”

But Scotland already experiences a significant amount of such domination through the UK’s membership in the EU. Yes, as a small country in the EU, they would have less leverage than the UK does now. But it’s obvious that an independent Scotland in the EU would be far more autonomous than Scotland is in the UK. Ireland, for example, has far more autonomy than Scotland.

“If a significant segment of the British partnership wishes to leave, and for no really good practical reason, it is a sign that something is deeply wrong with contemporary politics and with our standards for loyalties.”

Surely loyalty to one’s homeland over against practical concerns is at a historic low. The fact that this is may happen now is because the cost of leaving is also at a historic low. Scotland does not face any significant military threats. The EU, despite its faults, greatly reduces the disadvantages of being a small country. Leaving is probably an economic hit, but not a massive one. Most important, however, is that the UK is not going to resist Scotland leaving should they vote to do so. This is at odds with the behavior of nations for most of history, and it is precisely because of a decline in the kind of loyalties you decry.

I’m not saying Scotland should leave; I tend to agree that it doesn’t make sense on purely practical terms. But is it truly an unadulterated good for such decisions to made on purely practical terms?

Hoover May 31, 2014 at 3:54 am

“Was that the sort of discourse you wanted? Was “being British” simply not good enough for you?”

Ouch.

What do people think? A survey of 2,500 people this year found that “Many people in the UK feel a growing connection with others in their neighbourhood and the wider world, but shrinking ties with their own country.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26885743)

Although when you dig into the numbers, they don’t look overwhelming.

You wonder about the practical reasons for wishing to leave. One practical reason is the cost-saving: dozens of states have their defence paid for by other states (particularly the US, but in the case of Scotland it would also be the UK).

The remaining UK would also back up Scotland’s public debt issued before independence. The precise implications of that aren’t clear to me, but I sense this promise is a good thing for Scotland.

And a rather theoretical benefit is that the closer you are to your politicians, the better you can keep an eye on them and the better they will serve you. I’m persuaded (though I lack good data) that arrogating power to some distant centre isn’t beneficial to the periphery.

Finally, wasn’t there some debate a few years ago about the natural advantages of being a small state? Greater social capital allowing easier policy consensus, greater capacity to adapt to a changing environment, and all that?

Alex Buchanan May 31, 2014 at 4:10 am

@Hoover.

The UK is not a country and Scotland has no public debt. Westminster has run up all the debt.

Anonymous coward May 31, 2014 at 4:27 am

A very profitable position, indeed. Does UK get to pay your public employee pensions too?

Alex Buchanan May 31, 2014 at 4:36 am

Yes it is a very profitable position.
The Scottish Government has offered to pay it’s fair share if Westminster plays ball in respect to CU etc. but the unionists’ are still determined to scaremonger. they can’t have it all ways.
Yes the UK government is liable to public pensions as well as state pensions in an Independent Scotland as they have been taking the tax for this since day one. They are on record as saying so.

Anonymous coward May 31, 2014 at 5:26 am

Pfui.

Daniel Klein May 31, 2014 at 3:57 am

Arthur Herman’s treatment of the Union of 1707 is fascinating, if only for how improbably and “by the skin of their teeth” it happened and stuck.

As I see it, the most important thing about the Union is that in Scotland it reduced and undercut the cultural eminence of the political class, and relegated much of it to London, leaving the cultural space of Scotland open for Hutcheson, Kames, Hume, Robertson, Smith, etc. And it induced them to be more liberal than they otherwise would have been. Liberalism got lucky, very, very lucky.

See Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, Ch. 2.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 7:46 am

Interesting.

A huge fraction of Scottish talent (Blair, Brown, etc.) heads for London. Would they be disqualified from Westminster if Scotland seceded? Would Scotland be better off with Blair, Brown, and Co. at home? Would England?

Adrian Ratnapala June 1, 2014 at 1:27 am

My guess is yes, but on thin evidence. That evidence is just that the Republic of Ireland is an impressive country, even post 2008 wheras the north seems to be a welfare-dependent backwater.

But it’s hard to judge much from that. Ireland and Scotland are not that similar for one thing. And besides, would Ireland have seemed so impressive in 1940 or even 1980? Finally even if Ulster had been part of the Republic, it’s still likely to have been a welfare dependent backwater.

TMC June 1, 2014 at 11:26 am

Not too sure about your last statement. The north has assets that the south does not – deep ports for one.

I would think they would have done well had they gone with the republic.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I think Ulster was more affluent than the Republic up until about 1980. Also, the Republic would not have been itself with Ulster. The absence of a protestant and Unionist population took communal questions off the table, whereas in the north they were always front and center and the main driver of electoral politics and (to a degree) public service distribution.

Andrew McDowell June 2, 2014 at 2:12 pm

It is difficult to generalize from Northern Ireland, because you have to account for the effects of terrorism, which left Southern Ireland almost untouched. I was brought up in Northern Ireland with one aim – to learn enough to get a job somewhere else. One of my sister’s friends at school tried to organize a class reunion after a few years and found that half of her friends had left. Inward investment was not encouraged by the fate of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Niedermayer. I suspect a centrifugal force even today – I would not wish to return to the village where I grew up because I regard myself as British and do not appreciate the fact that street signs are now in Irish as well as English, because the majority of the population in that area are Nationalist.

Art Deco June 2, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Population of Ulster as follows:

1961: 1.425 million
1981: 1.532 million
1991: 1.578 million
2001: 1.685 million
2011: 1.811 million

Looks like you had people moving in from the mainland to replace your sister’s chums.

JonFraz June 1, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Really, it was King James accession to the English throne in 1603 that brought the two nations together. While Scotland was technically still a sovereign nation (as Aragon technically was in Spain and Brittany in France) in its politics and economy were slaved to London from the day forward. The Scots,m for example, were not able to sit out the Civil war, nor ignore Cromwell. In an alternate world where Queen Anne’s children did not all die in childhood, and the Stuart monarchy continued, the history of Scotland and England would not have been appreciably different.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Vulgar Hanoverian upstarts.

Andao June 3, 2014 at 6:54 am

A Canadian runs the Bank of England. I don’t think they would be disqualified.

Anonymous coward May 31, 2014 at 4:02 am

Is this the sort of debate that the great British Parlamentarians of history would have approved of?

I think that, excluding technology, the great British Parlamentarians of history would find very little indeed to approve of in modern Great Britain.

TallDave May 31, 2014 at 4:04 am

Yes!

The future is competitive, hyperlocal government. Today Scotland, tomorrow Quebec, perhaps someday Texas and California.

Alex Buchanan May 31, 2014 at 4:12 am

Scotland is an ancient country, even more older than England.

Barely Hanging In Here May 31, 2014 at 4:18 am

OMG! California + Oregon + Washington State + Canada – Quebec = ecstatic dancing and ululating… ok..to dream a bigger dream… + Quebec + R.I + N. H. + Delaware + Massachusetts + N.Y. OMG!!!!!!!!….{head explosion} finally the greatest country on earth forms out of a great country,, wonder what we can call it.. the great N.

8 May 31, 2014 at 5:23 am

Only the coasts of Cali, Oregon and Washington would go. America’s Hat would add ear flaps.

Daniel May 31, 2014 at 9:48 am

Do you really think your beloved communists in the State Department would allow such a thing ?

Alex Buchanan May 31, 2014 at 4:07 am

Where to start?
As a Scot living in Scotland and very much intending to vote YES I have to take issue on many things stated here.
First of all your emphasis on the term “partnership”. There has never been a partnership between England and Scotland, Scotland has always been told what to do and if Scotland doesn’t like it Scotland has to lump it.
We are more socially aware of our society with a more caring emphasis on what is good for OUR nation, Scotland, as a whole, not the dog eat dog right wing politics of England which is more of a right wing society. See Tory and ukip voting patterns.
As for the currency we will be using? It will be sterling! Sterling does not just belong to England and if we’re in a currency union or not, we will still use sterling just like many other former commonwealth countries did before.
The matter of us being in the EU is still debatable. Many EU institutions have intimated that Scotland will be welcome with open arms and even some unionist politicians have said we will have no problems joining. Ask your Westminster government they can get the answers.
By the way I don’t think it has escaped your notice that we are already dominated by the EU and Westminster to boot. So what’s new? We can cut out the middle man whose sole interest is to look after London first.
We are also getting an in-out referendum on membership of the EU in 2017. Can you tell me if we’ll still be in the EU after that?
Tell me Tyler? What is the mechanism for evicting an already member of the EU? I don’t think there is one.

You cite that we have no practical reason to leave. Well how about self determination? How about being able to take decisions for ourselves? How about not going into useless wars? How about not having nuclear weapons, that England won’t have, located on our doorstep? Or how about having our wealth squandered on the South East of England while we are accused of being subsidy junkies? Are they practical reasons?

Alex Salmond has sound economics to back up his claim of Scots receiving more money under Independence. UK government records show that we contribute 9.9% (no doubt massaged down) of the exchequer’s total income, but we receive back only 9.3% back in total spend. Whereas the latest treasury figures where disowned straight away by the professor who they used as a source for their findings. The professor said that they had misrepresented his figures by a factor of 12 times more.

No being British is not good enough. I see day-in-day-out my country being turned into a region, a region of Britain you may say, but when in reality we all know what Britain means to the people down in England, don’t we? Britain simply means England in most people’s eyes in England.
If you looked at the latest census carried out in Scotland you would have seen that nearly 75% of the population consider themselves Scottish and not British, only a mere 18% considered themselves Scottish and British.
If it’s any consolation to you I can’t understand many English dialects either. Try listening to a Geordie, Scouser, Brommie, Cockney or even someone from Pashtun.

I expect the YES vote to prevail and I just want to point out to you that ignorant articles like this will hasten that vote.

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 4:23 am

There has never been a partnership between England and Scotland, Scotland has always been told what to do and if Scotland doesn’t like it Scotland has to lump it.

Cameron is, obviously, of Scottish descent. Brown was Scottish. As was Blair. It is a bit absurd to claim that Scots, while running the United Kingdom for the last 15 years, have always had to do what they are told.

But you do set the tone for the rest of the post well.

We are more socially aware of our society with a more caring emphasis on what is good for OUR nation, Scotland, as a whole, not the dog eat dog right wing politics of England which is more of a right wing society.

That is not true. After all, those English Classically Liberal politics came from Scotland. Where the traditional conservative Right has been One Nation and surprisingly wet. What you mean is that Scots know that they depend on British welfare payments and are all in favor of those welfare payments continuing. It is not that Scots care more, it is that they are free riders.

Sterling does not just belong to England and if we’re in a currency union or not, we will still use sterling just like many other former commonwealth countries did before.

Actually Sterling will belong to England and not Scotland. Perhaps Scotland will go on using it, but that would be foolish as the only real benefit of Scottish independence is a decoupling from London’s successful economy, a devaluation and an independent interest rate. Otherwise Scotland will be doing on a smaller scale what Spain has done by tying itself to the D-Mark.

We can cut out the middle man whose sole interest is to look after London first.

The British government’s sole interest is not to look after London. Which is why they hand so much of London’s money to welfare recipients in Scotland.

Well how about self determination?

Whether or not Scotland exercises that self-determination, how does actually using it make any difference to whether Scotland has it or not?

How about being able to take decisions for ourselves?

Good idea. Then you can stop blaming the English.

How about not going into useless wars? How about not having nuclear weapons, that England won’t have, located on our doorstep? Or how about having our wealth squandered on the South East of England while we are accused of being subsidy junkies? Are they practical reasons?

No they are not. No wars recently have been useless. Those nuclear weapons are meaningless symbols of Scottish resentment. Whether they are there or not does not affect anyone’s life. The South East is a massive generator of wealth. Scotland is not. The truth hurts, but you won’t stop being subsidy junkies because you’re independent. You will just be poorer subsidy junkies.

Alex Salmond has sound economics to back up his claim of Scots receiving more money under Independence.

If it was sound Salmond would not be making it. His job is to ice the cake. Whatever he claims is as positive as he can get away with without being called a liar.

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 4:38 am

‘Actually Sterling will belong to England and not Scotland.’

Not exactly – here is some information currency Jersey, which itself is not a part of the UK – ‘The pound is the currency of Jersey. Jersey is in currency union with the United Kingdom, and the Jersey pound is not a separate currency[citation needed] but is an issue of banknotes and coins by the States of Jersey denominated in pound sterling, in a similar way to the banknotes issued in Scotland and Northern Ireland (see Banknotes of the pound sterling). It can be exchanged at par with other sterling coinage and notes (see also sterling zone). …. Both Jersey and Bank of England notes are legal tender in Jersey and circulate together, alongside the Guernsey pound and Scottish banknotes. The Jersey notes are not legal tender in the United Kingdom but are legal currency, so creditors and traders may accept them if they so choose.’

As for Jersey itself – ‘Jersey is a self-governing parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, with its own financial, legal and judicial systems,[10] and the power of self-determination.[11]

The island of Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands. Although the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are often referred to collectively as the Channel Islands, the “Channel Islands” are not a constitutional or political unit. Jersey has a separate relationship to the British Crown from the other Crown dependencies of Guernsey and the Isle of Man.[12] It is not part of the United Kingdom,[13] and has an international identity separate from that of the UK[14] but the United Kingdom is constitutionally responsible for the defence of Jersey.[15] The Commission have confirmed in a written reply to the European Parliament in 2003 that Jersey is within the Union as a European Territory for whose external relationships the United Kingdom is responsible. Jersey is not fully part of the European Union but has a special relationship with it, notably being treated as within the European Community for the purposes of free trade in goods.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey

It isn’t as if Scotland could not follow the Jersey model, at least in a very broad sense in terms of existing precedent, as just one example of how complex it is to deal with the UK – and those states with their own government and currency which do not belong to the UK or the EU in a formal sense.

Alex Buchanan May 31, 2014 at 5:02 am

Having Scottish descent doesn’t qualify them being Scottish. On the contrary in an American chat show Gordon Brown refuse to say which country he came from, instead he opted for north Britain.

Make no bones about it, I am a nationalist so you don’t have to think much on my tone.

You confuse British politics with American politics at your peril. Britain has a NHS and a social security system that is arguably more socialist than American.
Can you compare Margaret Thatcher or Winston Churchill to neo liberals? They have to follow the British political structure, if they don’t they will be voted out. Like any society their are all spectrums of the social classes in all political parties in the UK, just so happens the Tories have more right wingers.

“Actually Sterling will belong to England and not Scotland. Perhaps Scotland will go on using it, but that would be foolish as the only real benefit of Scottish independence is a decoupling from London’s successful economy, a devaluation and an independent interest rate. Otherwise Scotland will be doing on a smaller scale what Spain has done by tying itself to the D-Mark.”

Do you know how many former commonwealth countries used Sterling? Using Sterling wouldn’t be that foolish and it is widely acknowledged that this would be an interim policy, say 10 years, until Scotland begins its own currency.
A CU is advantageous to the rUK too as they would get to keep a healthy trade balance and not lose the 10%+ of Scotland GDP.
Do you honestly think tat Scotland and England interest rates would vary that much? Some say that the interest rates are at a disadvantage to Scotland and advantage London and the South East right now. So nothing new there then.

“The British government’s sole interest is not to look after London. Which is why they hand so much of London’s money to welfare recipients in Scotland.”

Well there’s the nub of the matter.
London per head of population receives more benefits more than any region or country within the UK and if throwing 100s of billions, if not trillions, of taxpayers money into London, while centralising all the jobs down there, it will make London a more successful area. Government policy. I can makes stats say what I want them to say.

I’m sorry, I’ve tried to be considerate and debate with you, but I can see by the rest of your comment that it is just full of absurd nonsense.
I’ve no time for this inaccurate rubbish.

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 6:20 am

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 4:38 am

Not exactly – here is some information currency Jersey, which itself is not a part of the UK – ‘The pound is the currency of Jersey.

No, exactly. Not “not exactly”. But literally exactly. If the British government wishes to make the pound pink in color and worth about the same as the Polish zloty used to be, can they do so? Yes they can. Can the good people of Jersey, New or Old, stop them? No they can’t. Therefore the pound belongs to Britain and it does not belong to the Channel Islands. This is fairly obvious. Yes they can and do tie their currency to the pound, but it is still British. Now if Scotland leaves, will Edinburgh fix interest rates? No they will not. Thus it does not belong to the Scots. It will belong to the rump of Great Britain.

So you just wasted a large amount of band width quoting an irrelevant part of Wikipedia to make a point you probably do not understand.

Alex Buchanan May 31, 2014 at 5:02 am

Having Scottish descent doesn’t qualify them being Scottish. On the contrary in an American chat show Gordon Brown refuse to say which country he came from, instead he opted for north Britain.

What does qualify someone as being Scottish? Being born there perchance? You know, like Blair and Brown both were? Brown, in a thick Scottish accent, realize that the situation was too hard for the American audience to understand? Saying you were born in “North Britain”, ie Scotland, disqualifies someone as Scottish as peat bog as Brown from being Scottish?

You confuse British politics with American politics at your peril.

You confuse what you are reading.

Britain has a NHS and a social security system that is arguably more socialist than American. Can you compare Margaret Thatcher or Winston Churchill to neo liberals?

Thatcher, certainly. Churchill less so. Although he was a liberal, of course, for a while. Britain, even England, is a more socialist country that America. What of it? You’re making a point no one is disputing.

Do you know how many former commonwealth countries used Sterling?

Well Ireland did for a long time. And remained a backward looking economy attached to Britain while it did. Most of the rest sensibly opted for something else like the US dollar in the case of Hong Kong.

Using Sterling wouldn’t be that foolish and it is widely acknowledged that this would be an interim policy, say 10 years, until Scotland begins its own currency.

Foolish is another question but if a new currency is sensible, why not a new one right away? Because, of course, Salmond knows he has to lie his way to independence and so is trying not to scare the horses. I did not say keeping the pound would be foolish, it would simply be throwing away the only benefit independence could bring – a separate exchange and interest rate. So the Scots can devalue.

A CU is advantageous to the rUK too as they would get to keep a healthy trade balance and not lose the 10%+ of Scotland GDP.

Scotland does not provide a health trade balance and who cares about the Scottish GDP? Which would, of course, shrink once the welfare tap was turned off.

Do you honestly think tat Scotland and England interest rates would vary that much? Some say that the interest rates are at a disadvantage to Scotland and advantage London and the South East right now. So nothing new there then.

They should. What does Scotland export? The whole of Britain north of, say, the Chilterns is being held back by the success of London. Some will say that and to some extent they are right – Britain has such a successful City sector that the rest of the country suffers from the Dutch Effect – interest and exchange rates are too high.

Well there’s the nub of the matter. London per head of population receives more benefits more than any region or country within the UK and if throwing 100s of billions, if not trillions, of taxpayers money into London, while centralising all the jobs down there, it will make London a more successful area.

London, per head of population, has virtually the only successful economic sector in the UK. The UK is now world class only in Finance Services and aircraft engines. Roll Royce is not keeping the currency up. The City is. Money flows out of London to the rest of the country as welfare payments.

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 7:09 am

‘If the British government wishes to make the pound pink in color and worth about the same as the Polish zloty used to be, can they do so? Yes they can. Can the good people of Jersey, New or Old, stop them? No they can’t. Therefore the pound belongs to Britain and it does not belong to the Channel Islands.’

Except the Jersey pound is part of something resembling a currency union – that is, the English/Welsh part of the UK can certainly declare their banknotes to be pink, and now worth the same as a zloty, but that does not mean that anyone in Jersey (or Guernsey) needs to accept them, or that valuation for their own pound. The same being true (to a much lesser extent, and probably not in terms of valuation) with the bank notes from Northern Ireland and Scotland. (One hears tales – though of uncertain accuracy – about how patriots in England or Scotland do not accept pound notes issued by any bank but their national one). Former UK possessions are even more free than the Channel Islands in rejecting such a change in the pound, of course.

It is a fascinating subject, worth reading about –

‘Sterling banknotes are the banknotes in circulation in the British Islands (encompassing the United Kingdom and the British Crown dependencies), denominated in pounds sterling (symbol: £; ISO 4217 currency code GBP). One pound is equivalent to 100 pence.

The pound is the official currency of the United Kingdom and the Crown dependencies of Britain. Three British Overseas Territories also have currencies called pounds which are at par with the pound sterling.

In most countries of the world the issue of banknotes is handled exclusively by a single central bank or government, but in the United Kingdom seven retail banks have the right to print their own banknotes in addition to the Bank of England; sterling banknote issue is thus not automatically tied in with one national identity or the activity of the state. The arrangements in the UK are unusual, but comparable systems are used in Hong Kong and Macao, where three and two banks respectively issue their own banknotes in addition to their respective governments.

The Bank of England does act as a central bank in that it has a monopoly on issuing banknotes in England and Wales, and regulates the issues of banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Pounds issued by Crown Dependencies and other areas are regulated only by local governments and not the Bank of England.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banknotes_of_the_pound_sterling

dan1111 May 31, 2014 at 7:47 am

@SoMuch, No true Scotsman has ever been in partnership with England!

Mary Turner May 31, 2014 at 11:09 am

Whether or not independence would bring self determination depends on where in Scotland one sits. The North Isles have seen greater centralisation of decision making under the Scottish Parliament than previously; eg on wind turbines. The experience of the N Isles is that Holyrood doesn’t understand or appreciate the unique challenges of the islands any more than Westminster. Edinburgh is as far away from Lerwick as it is from London. As the constituency that voted against the Scottish Parliament, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of the N Isles wants to stay part of the UK; hence the petition to Holyrood to have a referendum allowing the islanders to vote on that in the event of a ‘yes’ on 18th September. Scotland without the majority of its oil would be an interesting prospect for Alex Salmond’s – shall we say, ‘special’ – brand of economics.

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 4:27 am

Don’t worry, Prof. Cowen is a full supporter of self-determination. Such as in Catalonia, where he is quite the enthusiast for Catalonians to breathe free.

But in a country that makes him shed ‘at least a tear, maybe more, out of realization that I am visiting a birthplace (the birthplace?) of liberty’ ( http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/inventing-freedom.html ), the idea that a group of people have a different idea of what liberty means is disturbing. Especially in contrast to the following – ‘the UK remains one of the very best and most successful countries the world has seen, ever.’

That millions of its current citizens disagreee with this is unimportant, apparently.

Anonymous coward May 31, 2014 at 4:31 am

Apparently. the knee is still nearer than the shin. Quelle surprise!

Nyongesa May 31, 2014 at 5:12 am

Prior, do you ever rest from criticism. I look forward to contrarians to help me decouple form the spinning sensation i get from reading cleverer people, but when the counter-spin is always on, it’s disorientating. It would make you much more useful for navigation.

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 5:58 am

‘Counter spin’ seems about right – does anyone seriously think this web site does anything but spin? And if one truly thinks this place offers more than a pretence of being objective, then this link is recommended – http://mercatus.org/donate

dan1111 May 31, 2014 at 7:59 am

“does anyone seriously think this web site does anything but spin?”

Yes, I am pretty sure 99.9% of all readers think that.

“And if one truly thinks this place offers more than a pretence of being objective, then this link is recommended – http://mercatus.org/donate

People donated money to support the department, therefore everything it produces is a lie. Q.E.D! Unlike the vast majority of academic institutions, which of course, have no wealthy donors at all. The only questions left unanswered are: why on earth do the Koch brothers care so much about Scottish independence, quasi-religious economists, Asian small-clawed otters, modular robotic furniture, chess openings, bitcoin, and Chinese restaurants with bad atmosphere that they need to run a spin operation that covers these topics? Why do they hold such an iron grip on the content yet still tolerate you as a commenter? And why do prominent tenured professors feel so beholden to them?

Nattering Nabob May 31, 2014 at 10:06 am

Apparently 99.9% of its viewers think Fox News is fair and balanced, too…

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:37 pm

As opposed to media outlets which have supplied a couple dozen p.r. operatives for the current Administration (esp. Baghdad Jay Carney), and have consequential employees who are first degree relations of others.

Nattering Nabob June 1, 2014 at 5:29 am

Damn! I thought I’d gotten away with the implication that Fox is unusually partisan, but now I’m being called on my unthinking leftist boilerplate! What am I to do! If only I had some totally obvious response to make, so obvious that it would be the name of some well-known fallacy – “[something] equivalence” has a nice ring to it…

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 11:16 am

Your point is what?

Aidan May 31, 2014 at 5:24 am

“For all its flaws, the UK remains one of the very best and most successful countries the world has seen, ever.”

Is “the UK” being talked about here “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” or “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”? A bit of the union has broken off before, and both parts now seem all the better for it.

The Republic of Ireland went it’s own way about a century ago despite the advantages of being a central part of the British Empire. This was partly due to nationalistic ideals and partly due to economic concerns: London’s priority was encouraging industrial development (in areas including Scotland and Northern Ireland), not in solving the problems of an agricultural area like what was to become the Republic. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if a mixture of nationalism and economic concerns makes the Scots do the same thing now: the UK government seems mainly concerned with developing the financial services industry in the South East of England, and have been pretty happy to stand by and watch Scottish industry die.

TallDave June 1, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Well how about self determination?

Exactly! I thought Sean Connery’s statement was also well-considered.

8 May 31, 2014 at 4:09 am

If Scotland leaves, the Conservatives would have a majority in Parliament based on the 2010 election results. Considering how UKIP is eating into Labor more so than Conservatives (they’re pulling equally but finding more Labour voters plan to vote for them again), if Scotland leaves, politics in England may be dominated by Conservatives and Libertarians.

Chip May 31, 2014 at 7:01 am

And Scotland will sink further into social welfarism.

I think they should separate, so the Scots can fully embrace their statist impulses.

And the consequences.

Both Scotland and England will be better off as a result.

TallDave June 1, 2014 at 9:54 pm

I predict the Scots will be quick learners.

Chip May 31, 2014 at 7:04 am

And an Englishman turned Canadian, I hope the same for Quebec independence, so they too can fully embrace statism without the massive subsidy from the rest of Canada (well, Alberta).

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 7:49 am

Well, then you must think the same about having the Maritimes leave, right? Especially in light of how much higher their per capita equalization payments are, with PEI at getting more than double Quebec.

Or does a certain nostalgia exist for those old imperial possessions, regardless of how much they require Alberta’s wealth to keep them afloat?

Chip May 31, 2014 at 8:31 am

They don’t persistently agitate for independence, have a language police that persecutes people for English signs and then there’s the scale: Quebec has taken over $250 billion from the rest of Canada in the last 50 years with no end in sight.

This is the insane part. Rich provinces that pursue good economic policies and prudent fiscal policies are forced to subsidize provinces who don’t.

And they don’t because they would lose the subsidies.

Subsidizing failure and punishing success.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Good point, but PEI has fewer than 200,000 residents. The Maritimes in toto have a population smaller than metropolitan Vancouver.

If I am not mistaken, Acadiens tend to be skeptical of Quebecois, of their aesthetic opinions, and of their political culture.

bob May 31, 2014 at 4:30 am

I don’t understand what the big deal is. Isn’t peaceful flux in borders a good thing? Shouldn’t lines on the map become less holy. Today Onandaga county is in New York, next year it might vote to join Ottawa, if that doesn’t work out then it can enter a union with Belgium. Wouldn’t that be great?

Willitts May 31, 2014 at 11:56 am

To a libertarian, this would add more arbitrary lines on the map.

Frankly Im astonished at his “depression.” Economists understand that people have different preferences for public goods, and larger social divisions make such provision less efficient subject only to a provision/no provision constraint.

Voting with your feet is better when there are more places within walking distance, and even better when your preferred place comes to you.

Our large federal government has been good for national defense, interstate highways, currency union, and civil rights in thr 60s. It has been less good for everything else.

Urso May 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Wouldn’t it be easier for the guys in Onandaga county who wanted to be Canadian to just move north?

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:50 pm

If you can get a work permit.

Syracuse is a nice town, if you can get used to shoveling snow. What people are most likely to want to shed are the elements of the NYC criminal class suspended in the foetid waters of the state capitol. I suppose appending Upstate to the Province of Ontario might accomplish that…

ao May 31, 2014 at 9:15 pm

They are so disgusted by NYC that they reject massive handouts on the basis that they are paid for by those cretins. No wait, they don’t. They have their hands out 24/7 for handouts.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 11:55 pm

It’s a less affluent area than Downstate, but last time I checked some figures, it did not appear there was much of a net transfer of revenues.

ao June 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Did you last check in the 1880s?

Art Deco June 3, 2014 at 9:12 am

No, within the last couple of years. It was a quick and dirty review and I may have been mistaken. I tend to doubt Sheldon Silver and Andrew Cuomo have the slightest altruistic impulse detectible anywhere in them. By all appearances, Downstate politicians have little respect for their Upstate counterparts; the last Governor from Upstate was Franklin Roosevelt, elected in 1930, and there has been all of one Attorney-General from Upstate since the Depression. Other than Kristen Gillibrand (whose position in New York politics is the consequence of a whimsy of Gov. Patterson which p.o’d Downstate Democrats), the Democratic Party has not in the last 50-odd years nominated an Upstate pol for any statewide office other than the useless Lt. Governorship.

There isn’t much point to state aid to school districts or to miscellaneous county and municipal projects other than to provide a revenue riser for impecunious localities. As it happens, Upstate has a proportionately smaller tax base than Downstate and the Five Boroughs taken collectively are near the statewide average, so the net transfer would be from the four suburban counties to Upstate. Of course, that assumes public policy in Albany is something other than a mess of barnacles (ha ha).

Brad May 31, 2014 at 8:51 pm

That would fantastic. In fact, Canada can have everything north of Poughkeepsie.

Careless June 1, 2014 at 2:39 am

Why the hell would you want to keep po-town?

Roy June 1, 2014 at 8:01 am

Water supply

Brad June 1, 2014 at 9:58 am

Although it’s a long ride, some people do commute from there.

David Wright May 31, 2014 at 4:31 am

Tyler’s tone here is very Burkean: the nation-state has worked well in the past, we should be wary of dismantling it. I’ll grant him the point as far as it goes, but as just a free-floating dire warning it doesn’t go far. I actually see great hope for regionalism to lead to a more libertarian Europe. As long as the EU’s free movement guarantees remain in place, a Europe of microstates will allow people more freedom to choose the economic and social regimes under which they live. There seems little danger of the EU becoming a transfer union on the scale of the US anytime soon, and also little danger of military conflict between EU states on any significant scale.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 7:50 am

I can see both sides: an island is a fairly natural state. On the other hand, Albion covers a lot of degrees of latitude (which usually is more politically salient than degrees of longitude), and the people in the north inevitably have some differences with the people in the south.

dearieme May 31, 2014 at 5:19 am

In many ways the referendum will be a vote about London. You know that many Americans loathe NYC, or Washington DC, or Hollywood? Well, London is those three wrapped up together.

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 6:04 am

It is also a referendum to make sure that the wicked witch’s ashes remain permanently within England, powerless to affect Scotland’s future.

distressed unionist May 31, 2014 at 11:51 am

I think dearieme is spot on here. As a Londoner living in Scotland for the past eight years, I’m really surprised how much the discussion of “Englishness” here is really about Southern England, and in particular a weird caricature of London. This is sad, because the country that Scotland is threatening to divorce is turning more and more into one that I think many nationalists might actually want to be part of – if they weren’t so hung up on caricatures of Tories.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:47 pm

See Jonathan Haidt’s work re American political discourse. Caricature is all they can manage.

Jacqueline Glen May 31, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I think it is Westminster that the majority of Scots want to leave and the drift to the right not helped by the rise of Ukip.

Urso May 31, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I find it hilarious that the Scots are planning on seeking national independence to avoid the pernicious effects of a party that seeks national independence.

Jacqueline June 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I don’t think there is anything hilarious about the situation. If you relying on mainstream media to provide you of motives behind about 40% of the population wanting to vote Yes at present then you have been sadly misinformed. There are other parties involved such as the Greens, Socialist, Labour for Indy and non party affiliated groups such as the National Collective, Common Weal, etc. Difference being most of these groups are left leaning. Most newspapers are not however.

Go have a look at site such as Bella Caledonia you may find another side to the story. One that is about the future.

Michael Cain May 31, 2014 at 8:53 pm

An interesting thing going on in the US indicates that it doesn’t have to be as big as NYC or DC to instill an urge for separation. Several counties in Colorado voted to investigate the possibility of seceding from the state in order to escape the tyranny (one of the organizers uses the term “war”) of the Front Range cities and suburbs. Similarly for multiple counties in Northern California seeking to escape from the California cities. A proposal to split California into six states is polling best in the most rural areas. Western Maryland would like to secede from the central suburban cities. Western Nebraska residents are perturbed that three eastern counties now constitute a one-seat majority in their unicameral.

So far as I have been able to tell — I used to be a state legislative budget analyst — all of these areas would be giving up very large fiscal subsidies if they separated, but it hasn’t stopped them.

Steve Sailer June 1, 2014 at 7:31 am

A dozen years ago, the huge San Fernando Valley voted to secede from Los Angeles, but because it’s a net tax provider, the rest of Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly to hang on to its cash cow.

Michael Cain June 1, 2014 at 10:29 am

Yes, it’s interesting that the latest round of rural secession movements in the US would appear to leave the departing groups worse off economically — in some cases, much worse off. I had a chance to talk with one of the organizers of Colorado’s “51st State” group. He was honest about it, roughly: “No, we won’t be able to afford to participate in Medicaid; yes, we’ll have to cut K-12 education spending pretty dramatically; we won’t be able to afford any spending on post-secondary education; other than the minimums that may be required by the federal government, we won’t have state social or health services. Those are features, not bugs.”

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 5:44 am

I suspect that Scotland having its own national soccer team makes secession seem more natural.

alexei May 31, 2014 at 5:50 am

The sooner parts of the US start seceding, the better…

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 5:52 am

You want to have a big country if you are going to fight a lot of desperate wars and need big armies or there are big, deleterious tariff barriers. If not, why not have territorially small governments? For example, I’d like my neighborhood to secede from the Los Angeles Unified School District. My neighbors could run the local public schools a lot better than the top-heavy bureaucracy downtown does. Small San Gabriel Valley school districts like Arcadia benefit from local control and I’d like to have the same privilege.

chris May 31, 2014 at 6:05 am

Politically, Scotland is not like the rest of the UK. They tend to reject the right-wing Conservatives that often gets elected in the UK parliament. Basically, they believe higher taxes invested in education and healthcare etc promotes a fairer, better society.

On the other hand, England generally prefers lower taxes to create jobs and growth. The problem is that the Conservatives in England frequently dominate the whole of the UK parliament; Scotland currently has 72 MPs in parliament – 1 is Conservative. In the rest of the UK there are 578 MPs – 303 are Conservative. These proportions are not unusual in a UK parliament.

The Scots feel that their wishes are being ignored. They consistently reject the Conservatives in Scotland but as the Conservatives keep returning to power in the UK, the Scots find themselves living under a govt they don’t want. It seems reasonable to ask for independence in these circumstances.

However, current polls suggest that many Scots would still vote with their wallets. If they believe Scotland will be financially better off inside the UK, most Scots would vote against independence despite the loss of self-determination. That is why the politicians are talking about money. They should be – It is what the rest of the country is thinking and talking about.

Tom T. May 31, 2014 at 10:44 am

Technically, that’s “voting with other people’s wallets.”

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:46 pm

They consistently reject the Conservatives in Scotland but as the Conservatives keep returning to power in the UK, the Scots find themselves living under a govt they don’t want. It seems reasonable to ask for independence in these circumstances

Given the range in policy preferences to be found in the British political spectrum, it would seem reasonable to leave the military, border control, the currency, and the cash social security system to the center and devolve just about everything else to regional governments.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 6:09 am

An interesting aspect is that while Hadrian’s Wall established (or reified) one of the oldest political boundaries in the world, Scotland was a multi-ethnic country for much of that time, with English-speaking “Saxon” Lowlanders and Celtic-speaking Gaelic Highlanders. The Highlander invasion of England in 1745 accelerated the drive of the British government to crush Celtic culture and Anglicize the Highlands, but before then northern Scotland was radically different from the southern Scotland of Hume and Smith.

Here’s a question: if Scotland seceded now, would the Highlands eventually secede from Scotland? And if you scoff at the idea of an eventual Highlands national capital in Aberdeen, why?

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 6:28 am

There is another ethnic divide in Scotland – the Gaelic speaking Highlands being more or less dead. They are tourist kitsch and little else.

But there is a real divide between the Gaelic-speaking and/or Norwegian-descended Islanders and the rest of Scotland. The Hebrides are the only part of Scotland where Gaelic is spoken on a large scale. Shetland and Orkney have a small population that used to be Norse speaking but the Scots resettled the islands en masse and now they speak an odd form of Scottish English.

So the British government ought to be encouraging a return to the Kingdom of the Isles. If independent, the islands between them would own almost all Scotland’s oil and be wealthy beyond their dreams.

dearieme May 31, 2014 at 2:01 pm

“if you scoff at the idea of an eventual Highlands national capital in Aberdeen, why?” Because it is a Lowland city. Try Inverness.

dearieme May 31, 2014 at 2:10 pm

“Hadrian’s Wall established (or reified) one of the oldest political boundaries in the world”: the Scotland/England border includes no part of the wall, and never has. It’s not even certain that it was the border of the Roman Empire for much of the time: it’s possible that it was often the best defence/control line but somewhat south of the border, with Roman control extending some distance into what eventually became Dumfriesshire and Roxburghshire. It expresses geography not politics: it crosses the isthmus.

Still, people say that the Scotland/England border is the oldest in W. Europe and I understand that that is true.

Anon. May 31, 2014 at 6:14 am

I feel that independence for Scotland, Flanders, Catalunya, etc. are a step in the right direction. There are benefits to a small state, and the EU can provide the things that need a bit of “scale”. It makes for a more interesting world, and hopefully it will generate greater heterogeneity of governance systems. It’s also generally successful people breaking away from unsuccessful leeches, which I must admit would feel very satisfying.

Tom T. May 31, 2014 at 10:45 am

Stupid sexy Flanders.

Memnon May 31, 2014 at 11:34 am

Priceless!

dearieme May 31, 2014 at 6:53 am

“while Hadrian’s Wall established (or reified) one of the oldest political boundaries in the world”: H’s wall has never been part of the Scotland-England border.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 7:56 am

Okay, but why has the political border been roughly in the same place for 1900 years?

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Come again? I think Scotland emerged as a distinct and unique presence in its territory during the early middle ages. You had a multiplicity of kingdoms and peoples prior to that some of which straddled what is today the border.

JonFraz June 1, 2014 at 4:59 pm

It hasn’t been. It was pushed back and forth regularly during the Middle Ages, whenever one country was weak (or distracted) and the other strong enough to grab some land. Something similar happened with the Spanish-French boundary in the Pyrenees. That one did not really stabilize until Bourbons were ruling both kingdoms after 1714– and even so Napoleon did grab Catalonia for France for a while.

Steve Sailer May 31, 2014 at 7:54 am

“Was “being British” simply not good enough for you?”

In general, the vast success of the British state undermines its incentives for solidarity. Peace and prosperity mean you can indulge in the narcissism of small differences more cheaply than 98 years ago when the German High Seas Fleet is challenging Scapa Flow.

Hoover May 31, 2014 at 8:25 am

“the vast success of the British state undermines its incentives for solidarity”

This ought to hold for the USA too, but I see few serious demands for secession.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2014 at 9:26 am

The US is held together by nuclear weapons and cheap credit that is distorting all of global trade in its favor.

Otherwise, the US consists of its majority white ethnics, the two political factions of which despise each other, a permanent minority black underclass who hate the ethnic majority and resent their dependence on them, and a permanent minority Latino peasant class with a strong preference for patron-peon economics. This latter group now outnumbers the blacks.

So far, the dollar is still reserve currency and whites are still signing up for the military.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:02 pm

The US is held together by nuclear weapons and cheap credit that is distorting all of global trade in its favor.

If you’re trying to be amusing, you’re not succeeding.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2014 at 12:10 pm

It’s definitely not amusing.

JonFraz June 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm

The US held together ( apart from the Late Unpleasantness) long before there were nuclear weapons or the dollar had its current status. One factor holding the country together is the fact that Americans have moved around a lot, and many (most?) of us have friends and family all over the country. No one wants to have to deal with passports and customs to visit Grandma in St Pete or their brother in Seattle.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Some have, some haven’t. As of 1995, about 65% of the population lived in the state in which they had been born, and most people within about 100 miles of where they were born. You get a few places predominantly composed of migrants (e.g. Alaska and Nevada).

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:08 pm

That may be, but how important is that vector? Italy has a mess of mutually unintelligible local dialects and a history of multiple sovereignties just five generations back, but regional autonomist parties barely make it into the double-digits on their home turf, German Navy or no German Navy. Germany as of now has no regional parties of any significance, in spite of their vernacular linguistic fissures, the presence of Germanophone states outside German sovereignty, a mess of pretenders (albeit one’s indifferent to their old thrones)…

ChrisA May 31, 2014 at 8:19 am

Well it most unlikely that Scotland will vote for independence, but I for one would welcome it. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Tyler on the historic success of the union, and the nostalgic sentimentalist in me would definitely be sad. But I think overall if would be for the best. The Scots are actually the most conservative, fiscally and socially of all the parts of the UK. They have been hijacked though by anti-English sentiment in the last few years (previously they were heavily Tory, in the 1950′s they voted majority conservative), which has meant that uneasily they are voting left. I speak by the way from quite a lot of experience ( I am married to a scot and still have a house there). So embracing independence will mean that the Scots can revert to their natural politics, which would be much better for them in the long run. Having an independent currency would also be good, London is so successful as the world capital that all the talent and capital naturally looks to their. So the other parts of the UK are really struggling to hold onto their population as people flee to the south east. A depreciating currency could reverse some of that decline for Scotland (hopefully they wouldn’t be so stupid as to opt for the Euro). The implications for the rump of the UK would also be positive. I would rather the UK was more like Switzerland, minding its own business in the world and not caring and investing in such advertures as invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Having a smaller UK would make it easier to say no to these kind of things. This idea that “it is important we have a seat at the table” is one I hate the most, the benefits of having the seat accrue entirely to the politicians, not to the populace. I want politicians worrying about sewage treatment, safe streets and efficient infrastructure, not about the countries prestige, which doesn’t help make my life any better.

But like I say, the Scots aren’t going to vote for independence, they are too conservative to do that.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm

The problem is that the threat to local governance is in Brussels. Britain would benefit from withdrawal from the EU and comprehensive devolution at home. Some Scots particularists seem rather fond of the EU, go figure. I cannot help think this whole movement has little to do with ‘independence’ and a great deal to do with an upraised middle finger at subcultural groups that political sectaries dislike (and which are typified by David Cameron on the one hand and Margaret Thatcher on the other).

ChrisA May 31, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Art Deco
Yes I agree the whole thing is largely driven by childish anti-English sentiments, a sort of echoing of the Irish resentment against their long time English oppressor landlords. A tenant farmer would have good reasons to hate his landlord, and his sons would have good reason to hate the sons of the landlord when they return with their public school accents. So that’s one long standing folk memory driving this. Also Scots also identify bosses with English accents, as most of the bosses in Industry either were public school educated or from England (since talent pool, purely by virtue of the relative numbers of English to Scots was much larger from the English). So that’s another one. English people very often know little and think little of Scotland, whereas for Scots England looms large, especially in culture (TV, books, newspapers etc). So the Scots feel like they are being patronized when not ignored in national decision making. Mrs. Thatcher was really the perfect storm to crystalize all this feeling, She had a strong southern English upper middle class accent and took an aggressive approach to labour relations (fitting the ideal of English middle manager). The final straw was introducing the poll tax in Scotland first, which fitted exactly the mold that the English do not care about Scotland.

If you look at this all rationally, these are actually all fairly trivial or not really real issues. Most of the landlords were long time Scots lairds (unlike in Ireland), and their sons were likely actually going to school in places like Edinburgh. And tenant farming (crofting) is hardly a big sector in Scotland anymore so any injustices there really should not be part of the decision making. Certainly a lot of managers are from England in Scotland, but the reverse is also true, there are large numbers of Scots in the rest of the UK, and if anything they are overrepresented in top level leadership, as has been mentioned the last three prime ministers are all of Scottish origin, and the last but one was extremely Scottish in both speech and personality (IMHV). The Poll Tax was indeed a mistake, but one that was quickly rectified. So at the end of the day the resentment of the Scots against the English is a childish emotion, but that doesn’t mean that separation would be a bad idea as I said in my original post. Nation states are not people. The US and Canada are a good example of what you might call the irrelevance of borders, culture and genes drive behaviors, not borders.

The Other Jim May 31, 2014 at 8:26 am

So open borders is a great idea, but people losing confidence in nation-states is scary?

All righty then.

The Anti-Gnostic May 31, 2014 at 11:15 am

Of course. You need a State to have “open borders.” Because in an actually libertarian regime of “no borders,” people get to draw their own.

Roy May 31, 2014 at 8:30 am

In 1921 Eire left the UK, was this a mistake? Ireland remained desperately poor and underdeveloped for 60 years, was this a mistake? I would note that much of England is pretty miserable today, including some major bits of Scotland.

In 1905, Norwegians regained an independence lost in the 1300s. It remained poor and backward until oil in the 1970s, Norway was also brutally occupied by a foreign power that left its most recent former overlord, Sweden, unmolested. Was Norwegian Independence a mistake?

What will an independent Scotland look like in 60-70 years?

Roy May 31, 2014 at 8:33 am

I could also ask about Iceland, should the Icelanders have remained under Danish rule?

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 11:54 am

No clue how anyone got the idea that Ireland was ‘desperately poor’ until suddenly around 1990 they threw off the Church and turned overnight into a hot high-tech financial services powerhouse. Ireland was one of the few occidental countries which skipped the Depression, experiencing an increase in industrial production during the early 1930s. Growth in per capita income exceeded the occidental mean for decades and exceeded by a considerable margin those of the West’s anchor economies. By 1960, it qualified as a middle-income country of modest prosperity, sporting a per capita income about half the British mean and a quarter the American mean; by 1990 they had reached 55% of the American mean and 75% of the British mean. For 35 years, the country has been indubitably First World, not Third World.

dearieme May 31, 2014 at 2:18 pm

My mother visited Ireland, home of half her ancestors, in the 60s. She was reduced to tears when she tried to describe the place – “utterly shoddy” would be the polite version.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 4:30 pm

So what?

TMC May 31, 2014 at 7:35 pm

I was there in 1970. Not so bad, even in the boonies. Can’t imagine it improved that much in 10 yrs given everything was old as hell.

carlospln May 31, 2014 at 10:58 pm

“For 35 years, the country has been indubitably First World, not Third World” (snip)

Not in the ’80′s. In Nov., 1987 The Economist featured it in a Country Survey (gatefold) entitled: ‘The Poor Man of Europe’

http://www.economist.com/node/149369

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 12:03 am

Not in the ’80′s. In Nov., 1987 The Economist featured it in a Country Survey (gatefold) entitled: ‘The Poor Man of Europe’

So what? Cretin journalists want to sell magazines. The Irish PCI was about 25% lower than that of Britain. I take it you fancy Wales is a third world country as well.

TMC June 1, 2014 at 11:35 am

Well the UK is at about 80% of Ireland now (world bank ppp 2012), so I guess we now know the range of the dividing line between third world and first.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 11:57 am

Norway was not ‘poor and backward’. bar for oil. Gas and oil discoveries of commercial interest do not predate 1959. Norway in terms of PCI had already at that time surpassed Britain (though not yet the U.S.).

Brad May 31, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Give it a rest with this “Eire” business. Within the margin of error, no one in Ireland speaks Gaelic. It’s the opposite of what happened with Hebrew.

Roy June 1, 2014 at 7:59 am

Eire because it is easier to write than The Irish Republic. Northern Ireland is still Ireland too. It has almost nothing to do with gaelic.

Carl June 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm

R.O.I ?

Z May 31, 2014 at 8:55 am

It’s fun to contemplate what comes next and why, if they actually vote to leave, but the polling looks a lot like what we saw with Quebec. There’s that solid 40% against independence. The 40% in favor is colorful and boisterous, getting the attention of the press. That gives the impression that enthusiasm is on their side. That’s an illusion. The strongest most passionate arguments are made in living rooms and across the dinner table. The people making those arguments are not dressed up in funny outfits and marching in the streets.

That said, the world is a different place than 20 years ago and Scotland is a different case than Quebec. Still, the smart bet seems to be on the “no” side of the vote.

Bill May 31, 2014 at 9:44 am

Does Scottish nationalistic secession become easier because of the existence of the European Union, and oil resources.

It takes a lot to make a nation state…but, the EU has created a superstate which performs many of the functions–regulations, passport, trade rules–performed by the nation state. For small countries, it is easy to take a free ride and simply use the EU infrastructure.

What is the minimum efficient scale of a nation state within the EU as a result of the EU infrastructure?

Does this mean we will see smaller nation states in the EU–a Basque state, a Sicilian state, etc.

Z May 31, 2014 at 10:02 am

The march of history is toward larger and larger organizational units. Tribes->villages->towns->cities->city-states->principalities->nations->currency unions->??

The small countries are simply giving up on being countries. Instead they are opting to be cantons of the super state. The big countries are following on as the dominant cantons

Bill May 31, 2014 at 10:55 am

Yes, but the question is: are sections of a nation state–Scotland, Basque, Sicily, Catalonia–now going to be able to secede from one nation state (England, Italy, Spain) more easily and become their own nation state because of the EU.

Z May 31, 2014 at 11:37 am

It is a good question. The old answer to “why can’t we go off on our own?” started with security and ended with economics. Scotland does not have to fear invasion from Vikings and the economic benefits of being in the UK are debatable. If the Scots do vote “yes” the reason will be the failure of the Brits to provide a suitable answer.

Of course, maybe the Tories think they benefit from losing the mostly socialist Scots. That’s the other side of the coin. When do we start seeing referendums of throwing a group out of the country? I bet 60% of New Englanders would vote to give the Old Confederacy their freedom. I’d vote to give Puerto Rico back to Spain.

So Much for Subtlety May 31, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I wonder how the “Malcolm X Memorial ‘Give them Four Acres, a Mule and Mississippi’ Act” would go down with the American public.

Terribly racist of course, but I suspect it would be as popular among Whites as Obama is among Blacks, and about as popular among Blacks as Wayne Newton is.

Carl June 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Cameron seems awfully keen on keeping the Scots, even though (according to several comments here, at least!) it would mean electoral advantage for his lot.

Tyler’s “argument” that Union = Smith, Hume etc is too daft to contemplate. X preceded Y, therefore…

Chris D. May 31, 2014 at 10:10 am

A disappointingly provincial post from such a well-traveled human. It may be difficult for an economist to accept in a given moment, but not everything important is about money and rationality.

Jacqueline Glen May 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Very good point. I happen to think things like making decisions regarding defence strategy, foreign policy, social policy are hugely important. These are things Scotland has no say in, hence why we have nuclear weapons 30 miles from our major city.

dearieme May 31, 2014 at 2:20 pm

“These are things Scotland has no say in”: aw, grow up, Hen.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 4:33 pm

File that the same place with the complaint that Florida ‘has no say’ in defense policy. That’s not a function that can be readily farmed out and there is no component of the UK that ‘has a say’ the way you insist that Scotland must. While we are at it, the West Country and the Home Counties have even less discretion over social policy than Scotland.

Stephen O'Donoghue May 31, 2014 at 10:29 am

Strange logic in the original piece that because something was great before, we should should hang onto it because of former glories. Also the thoughts regarding currency and EU.

When I see the achievements of my devolved parliament and the successes it’s delivered it’s a source of pride. However it’s tempered by the knowledge that much of its time, energy and resources are used to mitigate the problems imposed by my main parliament at Westminster. Is the writer asking me, in these moments, to remember the UK’s glorious past? He shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s imperialist past brings me little comfort.

Similarly the scant acknowledgement that the union “hasn’t been as fruitful in recent years” is by the writers reckoning ok as long as we wrap ourselves in the comfort blanket that is the history of Great Britain. This understatement of the current situation the UK finds itself is pretty staggering when u consider some of the detail.

I’m not going to list all the problems the uk has regarding inequality, poverty, etc because it would take too long and much of it is in the public domain. However the following three points illustrate the economic basket case the uk has now become. Firstly, the uk is the worlds 7th largest economy. Secondly we are sitting on a debt mountain of around £1trillion. Thirdly, the Red Cross handed out more food parcels last year than at any time since WW2.

Has the writer not considered that the uk is broken? That an independent Scotland could be the catalyst for change that is required for all constituent parts of these islands.

These points inform my belief that questions around currency carry far too much weight. How much does it really matter what currency we use when the uk pound underpins an economy that is so unbalanced? Notwithstanding the fact that an independent Scotland would indeed have a range of currency options.

With regard to the EU the writer ignores the advantages that an independent Scotland would bring to the EU. It would be in their interests to have oil rich, wind/wave energy rich, resource rich Scotland as a member. Or do Spanish fisherman no longer want the fish in the North Sea?

Overall I find it, to quote the writer, “pretty depressing”. Especially the notion that Scottish people exercising their sovereign will, could be considered an act of disloyalty to the uk. Equally the idea that the world will somehow be a less safe place if Scots, through a legal, democratic act of self determination, vote yes and agree to manage their own affairs.

prior_approval May 31, 2014 at 11:09 am

‘could be considered an act of disloyalty to the uk’

Well, in all fairness, leaving the United Kingdom is not an act of loyalty to the UK.

The distinction is whether feels one a member of the United Kingdom, or not. Obviously, the citizens of the Poblacht na hÉireann did not feel themselves members, and thus left. (Yes, the history is just a bit more complicated, including Continental intrigue and religion – and a partition involving those members of the United Kingdom who had no desire to be considered anything but citizens of the UK.)

Stephen O'Donoghue May 31, 2014 at 4:25 pm

“….leaving the United Kingdom is not an act of loyalty to the UK”

Whilst this is unarguably true in a literal sense, it’s the fact that it’s framed in this way that makes it so depressing. Disloyalty has overwhelmingly negative connotations and this idea that somehow the people of Scotland are in the wrong should be rejected regardless of where you perceive your nationhood to be. The inference is treachery and to my mind that is a pretty distasteful slur.

It’s a crude analogy but consider a husband who cheats on his wife, the wife leaves him but then suffers the second indignity of being accused of disloyalty on account of the fact she is leaving. Oh well perhaps she should have stayed and consoled herself with memories of the good times.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 10:41 am

The irony of this is that there are two obvious candidates in the occidental world for a velvet divorce, both countries suffering linguistic divisions and both countries with national politics distorted and disfigured by ethnic questions: Canada and Belgium. Yet, for some reason, Belgium and Canada persist while the secession is a serious option in Britain and Spain (which have much less severe linguistic fissures and where ethnic parties tend not to complicate the formation of ministries). The other irony is that Britain has had for some time asymmetric decentralization wherein the Celtic fringe had more local autonomy than anyone else, and yet it’s that fringe that’s agitating rather than the English North or West Country. We have someone whinging about being ruled by English public school boys, when David Cameron is the only such specimen who has sat in the Prime Minister’s chair in the last 50 years.

dearieme May 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

“David Cameron is the only such specimen who has sat in the Prime Minister’s chair in the last 50 years.” Aye, and look at his name.

Art Deco May 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

it is a sign that something is deeply wrong with contemporary politics and with our standards for loyalties.

That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you about Bryan Caplan et al.

Kevin Lees May 31, 2014 at 12:29 pm

The most entirely bizarre aspect of this is that Mariano Rajoy, perhaps more than Alex Salmond or Mark Carney or George Osborne, will have a greater impact on whether any experiment in Scottish independence succeeds.

The Orkney/Shetland point is also crucial.

Zach May 31, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I’m wary of any independence movement that wants to keep the form of the current government. (Exceptions for colonial independence movements, but then again, those haven’t been too successful since WWII, have they?) If you like a parliamentary system, like the currency, don’t want trade barriers, and don’t want a separate national defense, why do you want independence?

Independence because the bigger nation keeps voting for the wrong guy is the worst motivation of all. The best case scenario is that you replace an old and stable ruling class with a new and rapacious ruling class. Look for big policy changes with economically questionable motivations, as new coalitions try to buy off different voting blocs.

Bill May 31, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Instead of secession, let’s think of the obverse: countries that might join other countries.

If you had to choose between two different countries joining the United States….

Would you choose Canada or Texas.

Justin Millar May 31, 2014 at 8:30 pm

It’s so weird to me to hear the Conservative Party described as “right wing.” Doesn’t David Cameron support gay marriage and the NHS? And the EU? And massive scale immigration?

Just how leftist are Scottish people?

ChrisA May 31, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Scottish people are not actually leftist, In my experience they are extremely conservative both fiscally and socially compared with the English. This is actually a good reason for Independence, it is hurting the politics of both countries. The Scots are voting left out of childish anti-English sentiment, not because they are naturally left leaning people. Their voting is distorting the politics of the entire UK. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Labour party would never have won its recent general elections without the anti-English voting from Scotland. The national success of the Labour party has created a leftist leaning media in the UK that have undue influence on the national policy. Both countries would be better off separate as a result.

prior_approval June 1, 2014 at 2:41 am

‘The Scots are voting left out of childish anti-English sentiment’

They just loved Thatcher, right?

bc June 1, 2014 at 10:40 am

You keep throwing the “anti-english” accusation about, I’d be curious if you can back it up by pointing to any kind of evidence. In my extensive experience, Scottish nationalism has absolutely nothing to do with “anti-englishness”, and people who say it does are saying it due to their own prejudice rather than anything evidence-based. Of course, I live in Scotland and have been to many an SNP event, I don’t just “own a house there”.

As far as Scotland voting left distorting the politics of the UK, I hope you are aware that since 1945 there have been 18 general elections and only one of them would have been substantially effected by the withdrawal of Scottish MPs: http://wingsoverscotland.com/why-labour-doesnt-need-scotland/

Mind you, the idea that some ocean of redness seperates The Conservative party and the Labour party is in itself laughable.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 1:21 pm

We can start with the gentleman above, who offers this sentiment

“Most of the Scots I know will vote for independence so that they never have another Tory Government stuffed full of Southern public school boys.”

A political order that has pantomime competition run by an impregnable political machine (think Singapore or Mexico prior to 1988) is not a congenial political order. The opposition will have its turn at the wheel from time to time.

If I am not mistaken, close to half the population of Britain lives in Greater London, or the Home Counties, or East Anglia, or the West Country, or Hampshire, or Oxfordshire, so you’re bound to have a great many from southern England in any ministry.

Sorry to break it to you, but you’d be hard put to find any occidental country where politicians were not drawn from an educated minority; someone like Sarah Palin gets a mess of grief from having a quantum of schooling which puts her in the 73d percentile rather than the 90th percentile as regards the amount of time she spent in classrooms. What hits you more than the number attending private high schools is the number with a credential like “Jesus College, Oxford”, but I suppose if you made an issue of that you’d end up fragging the current Labour Party boss, so let’s just drop it. (The more plebian Mr. Salmond attended the University of St. Andrews, founded 1410).

bc June 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm

It seems to me he’s complaining about a lack of representation, and I think it is fair to complain that westminster politicians no longer have anything in common with those they rule over. and follow a depressingly cookie-cutter career – public school, PPE at oxford, low paying (or even no-pay) job in a political back office, backbench MP etc etc – without reality ever intruding.

In our current parliament, 20 MPs were educated at Eton – one school! – 19 of whom are tories. 54% of tory MPs went to public school, compared to 7% of the general population. I think it is fair to say that tory MPs largely come from a narrow background and can be expected to defend and promote that narrow background as a result.

“Southern public school boys” are not synonymous with “the English”.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm

You have a parliament with 650 people in it. The Etonians cannot make it smell that bad.

Again, if you examine the biographies of Mr. Cameron’s cabinet, you discover that about a third merit that description, of whom several admitted had off-beat social backgrounds. David Cameron is the only Southern public school alumnus to serve as Prime Minister in nearly 50 years; he is the only Conservative Party leader in 50 years to have a tony background of any description. Michael Howard (ne Hecht) is from a Jewish immigrant family, Iain Duncan Smith’s an army brat, William Hague’s parents owned a small factory in the north of England and he attended state schools, John Major came from an impecunious lower-middle class / working class family, Margaret Thatcher father was a small time small town merchant in Lincolnshire, and Edward Heath’s upbringing was half working class / half bootstrapping striver. What’s the cookie-cutter that produced this crew?

There are a number of Scots in the cabinet, who comprehend all of 7% of the national population. IIRC, there’s no one there who grew up in the West Country, or East Anglia, or Hampshire.

If you want people with local roots, decentralize. That means regional governments in Bristol and Colchester and Norwich and Coventry and Leeds as well as Edinburgh. That also means ever blessed EU treaty singed since 1957 gets torn up. If you’re serious.

Amber June 1, 2014 at 9:31 am

London has undoubtedly prospered as a money center, thanks to its promoters being adept at bringing Arab, Russian and Indian money into its coffers; it further benefits from the Anglophone solidarity it shares with America, whose financiers have found in London a culturally amenable offshore location. Sadly, there is not much to the “United Kingdom” outside of this (excepting the still significant contributions to human knowledge made at Oxford and Cambridge by British but also non-British scholars).

Scotland is even less consequential, and it is quaint that its “greatness” is justified by reference to scholars who lived 100-300 years ago.

No, no, young man, the future is somewhere else!

bc June 1, 2014 at 10:52 am

OK then, I’ll be sure to vote “no” so that Tyler can keep his sentimental notions of glorious Britain intact. I’m not sure why Scotland’s departure would tear them to shreds and render him depressed when the departure of Ireland has not, but whatever. All I see here is breathtaking ignorance and dismissiveness of the substantial aims of Scottish nationalism, and nothing about why Britain is such a great nation today or in our best interests in the near future – just some vapouring about hundreds of years dead history.

I’m also sure Ireland will soon be fed up of being dominated by Berlin and seek to return to the union where it won’t be dominated by london at all, like Scotland.

Still, it is correct to say that the “great parliamentarians” would not have given a damn about the fiscal concerns of everyday folk, or sought to appeal to people based on such concerns.

I think I will vote “yes”, but I guess wanting control over our own economy, the NHS, budgeting, education, not having to send hundreds of our citizens to die in pointless wars, nukes, stimulating growth and encouraging immigration.. none of these are “real practical reasons” I just hate the English or don’t have any clue what I am doing except some sort of incomprehensible spite.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 11:43 am

Your problem is in Brussels. Why not take an interest in Westminster when you’ve dealt with the threat from the Eurotrash element imposing its preferred social policies and bleating about ‘European values’? While you’re at it, you might take a reciprocal interest in someone else’s local autonomy.

It’s also rather rum to complain about being ruled by ‘Southern English public school boys’ when two-thirds of Mr. Cameron’s cabinet does not fit that description at all, when some of those who do are Jews or grew up abroad or were on scholarship, and when there is almost no one in his cabinet drawn from the nobility or gentry.

bc June 1, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I don’t believe the problem is in Brussels, but if I did I’d rather Scotland had a seat at the table on its own account – at the moment it is in brussels without one.

Secondly, I didn’t complain about “Southern English public schoolboys” – are you arguing with an imaginary nationalist rather than me? Those imaginary nationalists certainly do constantly make stupid – even racist – comments, I can see how they annoy you.

Art Deco June 1, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I don’t believe the problem is in Brussels,

I know. That’s what discredits your stated concerns.

Secondly, I didn’t complain about “Southern English public schoolboys” – are you arguing with an imaginary nationalist rather than me?

Use the ‘Find’ function under the ‘Edit’ menu on your browser. Nothing ‘imaginary’. He commented here, quite unselfconsciously.

neli21 June 1, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I very much agree with the recent FT columns by John Malcolm and Lt Col James Chalmers. The establishment of Jamestown in 1607 was one of the great events of the seventeenth century Britain, and it paved the way for the expansion of the British Empire. And yes there were some excesses of imperialism and exploration too. That the American colonies have made the Empire truly a cornerstone of the modern world, of the sort they might put into a book subtitle in a corny way – yet it would be quite justified.

Maybe you think the partnership hasn’t been as fruitful in recent years. Still, I view it this way. For all its flaws, the British Empire remains one of the very best and most successful the world has seen, ever. And there is no significant language issue across the colonies, even though I cannot myself understand half of the people in Virginia. Nor do the Americans have a coherent or defensible answer as to which currency they will be using, or how they would avoid domination by the French and the Spanish. If a significant segment of the British partnership wishes to leave, and for no really good practical reason, it is a sign that something is deeply wrong with contemporary politics and with our standards for loyalties.

I find this entire prospect depressing, and although it is starting to pick up more coverage in England and globally, still it is an under-covered story relative to its importance.

This is a referendum on the modern empire, an institution that has done very well since the late 1640s but which is indeed often ethnically heterogeneous at its core. While I expect American independence to be voted down, if it passes I will feel the world’s risk premium has gone up, even if the Americans manage to make independence work.

Addendum: Is this the sort of debate that the great Parlamentarians of history would have approved of?:

>>> No taxation without representation!

Was that the sort of discourse you wanted? Was “being British” simply not good enough for you?

Nathan W June 1, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I think the Scots will get whatever autonomy they press for if they feel they really need it. The English have had long enough of imperialism in the past, and in particular close to home I think would rather just try to get along in some sort of unitary structure for practical purposes in order to move forward socially and economically.

But perhaps if things feel too oppressive, the Scots will start to make the case again. They already have their own parliament, for example. I don’t think they are really all that eager to get into foreign affairs on their own account, for example, except perhaps to join some curling or kilt history appreciation clubs.

Tom June 1, 2014 at 10:36 pm

All my sympathy for Scottish separatism died when I saw the documentary film “You’ve Been Trumped.”

It tells the story of how Donald Trump overcame local and conservationist objections to acquire some of the last pristine Scottish coastline. When the local government in Aberdeen turned Trump down, he ran to the new devolved Scottish government and they kissed his feet and overruled Aberdeen. They naively looked at Trump with awe as the billionaire who would rain wealth upon Scotland, but of course he was just planning to sell the project on and when the GFC hit he walked leaving behind a lot of bulldozed formerly pristine coastline.

I frankly suspect the Scottish elite’s reason for wanting independence are rather more like those of Vladimir Meciar’s reasons for wanting to break up Czechoslovakia.

Tomasz Kłosiński June 3, 2014 at 5:50 am

Arguments in favour of the union seems strinkgly similar to arguments of the euro-federalists. “European miracle” is effect of inter-judical and fiscal competition. The more tax and law competition we have between the states the better. Therefore, the more secession we have the better off all Europeans will be.

I reommend to your attention an article by Gerard Radnitzky regarding the topic of “European Miracle” and EU:
http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/histn/histn041.pdf

LOL June 4, 2014 at 12:01 am

Europe needs to be nuked and all whites deserve to be exterminated.

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