Will there be more countries?

by on January 26, 2017 at 1:39 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Scott Sumner asks that question, I say this is an overrated pseudo-trend.  Quebec secession didn’t happen, Scotland said no, Catalonia limps along but the smart money is betting against actual secession, and Belgium is still together.  A weaker EU, NATO, and American hegemon lower the rate of return to striking out on one’s own.  China, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria probably are more unified than they ever have been in their histories.  Even Iraq is still holding together, sort of.  Brazil and Mexico are two pretty large countries that show zero signs of splitting up.  The two Yemens ended up back together again, albeit in a disastrous situation.  An Irish reunion, while unlikely, is no longer so unthinkable post-Brexit. Some of Africa still could splinter, but that wouldn’t make this much of a global trend, especially not in gdp-weighted terms.

So where is the trend?  Here is a list of ten possible new countries.  South Ossetia and Transnistria and West Papua are not impressive entries!  I do give some chance to Scotland and Catalonia, but nothing close to 50-50 odds.

How about the United States?  No way, we are…united.  The hatreds and polarizations don’t match up with state lines so simply, and it is hard to imagine an actual process of secession with focal boundaries and sufficient consent.  Neither “racists, unite!” nor “pearl clutchers, unite!” is going to carry this one across the finish line.

I thank Noah Smith and Ben Casnocha for a useful conversation related to this point.

1 MOFO January 26, 2017 at 1:47 pm

“The two Yemens ended up back together again, albeit in a disastrous situation. ”

I hadnt realized that things had “ended” there.

2 Thiago Ribeiro January 26, 2017 at 2:30 pm

It may not be the end or even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.

3 dearieme January 26, 2017 at 3:59 pm

China: back to the Warring Kingdoms.

4 Mike D January 26, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Follow-up question: will there be more states?

If we added 50 states (either thru expansion or splitting existing states – California should be 3 at minimum), we’d have roughly the same representation in legislature as when we added Alaska and Hawaii

5 Roy LC January 26, 2017 at 2:02 pm

The political balancing involved in adding new states is so difficult we have only done it three times and each other extreme circumstances.

Vermont was just not going to let itself be governed by NY, this was more like CT being forced to give up the Western Addition in Ohio.

Maine was split from MA as part of the Missouri Compromise, balancing free states and slave.

West Virginia was the result of civil war, Virginia had to be utterly vanquished on the battlefield, Richmond burned, etc… to let this happen.

I think a civil war is possibly more likely, though I suspect that would mean the attempted creation of a bunch of new states

6 Jay January 26, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Brings to mind D.C.’s never ending fight for statehood that will never happen due to it’s homogeneous voting nature.

7 prior_test2 January 26, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Not to mention the pesky need to amend the Constitution.

8 TMC January 26, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Why worry about that? I see an Executive Order coming soon.

9 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:56 pm

No need. It’s disposable federal property.

10 mulp January 27, 2017 at 10:42 am

90% of of the remaining DC can be returned to Maryland just as 31% of DC was returned to Virginia in 1846. Then only Federal land would remain with only about two families resident in DC, but they are legally required by the Constitution to be resident/citizens of two separate States.

I suppose the two spouses could claim to be residents of DC and thus decide who gets the three electoral college votes of DC, but Congress could establish residency requirements of 10 years to become a voting citizen of DC. With no voters in DC, how would three electors be selected?

11 Evan Þ January 27, 2017 at 5:49 pm

How would the electors be selected? “In such manner as the Congress may direct.”

12 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:58 pm

DC is a fragment (< 15% of the total) of a metropolis with more than 4 million people resident. All the less populous states in the union are an assemblage of small cities, small towns, and countryside.

13 John January 27, 2017 at 11:08 am

More than that I suspect if it were to loose it’s federal classification it would revert to MD as the part south of the river reverted to VA (if reverted is the correct term).

14 prior_test2 January 26, 2017 at 3:27 pm

‘Virginia had to be utterly vanquished on the battlefield, Richmond burned, etc… to let this happen.’

Speaking as a native Virginian, this is simply calumny against the citizens of West Virginia. The Wikipedia quote is long, but extremely relevant to how West Virginia became a state –

‘West Virginia was the only state in the Union to separate from a Confederate state (Virginia) during the American Civil War. In Richmond on April 17, 1861, the 49 delegates from the future state of West Virginia voted 17 in favor of the Ordinance of Secession (of Virginia from the United States), 30 against, and 2 abstentions. Almost immediately after the vote to proceed with secession from the Union prevailed in the Virginia General Assembly, a mass meeting at Clarksburg recommended that each county in northwestern Virginia send delegates to a convention to meet in Wheeling on May 13, 1861. When this First Wheeling Convention met, 425 delegates from 25 counties were present, though more than one-third of the delegates were from the northern panhandle area, but soon there was a division of sentiment.

Some delegates favored the immediate formation of a new state, while others argued that, as Virginia’s secession had not yet been passed by the required referendum, such action would constitute revolution against the United States. It was decided that if the ordinance were adopted (of which there was little doubt), another convention including the members-elect of the legislature would meet in Wheeling in June 1861. At the election on May 23, 1861, secession was ratified by a large majority in the state as a whole, but in the western counties 34,677 voted against and 19,121 voted for the Ordinance.

The Second Wheeling Convention met as agreed on June 11 and declared that, since the Secession Convention had been called without the consent of the people, all its acts were void and that all who adhered to it had vacated their offices. The Wheeling Conventions, and the delegates themselves, were never actually elected by public ballot to act on behalf of western Virginia. An act for the reorganization of the government was passed on June 19. The next day Francis H. Pierpont was chosen by other delegates at the convention to be governor of Virginia, other officers were elected, and the convention adjourned. The legislature was composed of 103 members, 33 of whom had been elected to the Virginia General Assembly on May 23.

This number included some hold-over Senators from 1859 and as such had vacated their offices to convene in Wheeling. The other members “were chosen even more irregularly—some in mass meetings, others by county committee, and still others were seemingly self-appointed” This irregular assembly met on June 20 and appointed Unionists to hold the remainder of the state offices, organized a rival state government, and elected two United States senators who were promptly recognized by the federal government in Washington, D.C. Thus, there were two state governments in Virginia, one pledging allegiance to the United States and one to the Confederacy.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Virginia#Separation_from_Virginia

A lot more detail concerning a complicated series of events is available, and there is absolutely no question that West Virginia arose out of what became the Civil War, but the process of West Virginia becoming a member of the Union in June 20, 1863 did not involve the yet to occur burning of Richmond, nor the still to come utter vanquishing of Virginia on the battlefield.

(And as for that burning, here is a bit of information concerning how that happened – ‘Davis and his cabinet left the city by train that night, as government officials burned documents and departing Confederate troops burned tobacco and other warehouses to deny their contents to the victors. On April 2, 1865, General Godfrey Weitzel, commander of the 25th corps of the United States Colored Troops, accepted the city’s surrender from the mayor and group of leading citizens who remained. The Union troops eventually managed to stop the raging fires but about 25% of the city’s buildings were destroyed.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond,_Virginia#Civil_War )

15 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 11:03 pm

You wouldn’t need to add any states. You could reconstitute extant states as confederations. They’d have the same representation in the U.S. Senate, and might have some joint commissions and conventions for residual common functions. Otherwise, the components of such a confederation could live separate lives. California breaks naturally into 4 pieces, Texas into between 4 and 6, Florida into 4, New York into 2, Pennsylvania into 2.

16 Larry Siegel January 27, 2017 at 3:01 am

Western Reserve (I used to live there), not Western Addition (which is in San Francisco).

17 62656 January 26, 2017 at 2:44 pm

In a perfect world, something that reflects the way regular people live their lives would determine state lines (say commuting patters as seen at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/11/us-commutes-reveal-new-economic-megaregions-map/ ). In practice, it is probably impossible to get people to ignore short-term political reasons for where they would want state lines or adding new states. It would probably be more productive to have the federal government change immigration policy to avoid immigration’s continuing to contribute to the big sort that’s contributing to our divisiveness that existing within states, not just between them, by engaging in policies that result in greater evenness of the percentage of each county’s population that happens to be foreign-born.

18 Milo Minderbinder January 26, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Exaclty, If I moved 5 miles from Delaware County, PA to Newcastle County, DE, I would be pretty upset to learn that a bunch of technocrats had decided I really belong in PA (and their high property taxes) because of commuting patterns.

19 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Agreed. You have a number of dense settlements bisected by state boundaries. Exurban commuters are generally a modest minority, however.

Misplaced areas include the area around Vancouver, Wash; Council Bluffs, Ia; Rock Island, Ill; Lake County, Indiana; Superior, Wi’ New Albany, Indiana; the South Jersey counties, &c.

20 too hot for MR January 26, 2017 at 3:02 pm

>>California should be 3 at minimum

I’d rather let them leave than grant them four new senators. From Nevada I can carry my gun any direction unbothered except west.

21 TR5749 January 26, 2017 at 9:26 pm

I would like to see statehood for Guam, which would make the US unequivocally a West Pacific nation and send a powerful signal both to China and to our allies in the region.

But the balancing would be difficult. Guam tends to lean Republican, so we’d have to extend statehood to Puerto Rico or to the District to keep things balanced (in the Senate, anyway).

22 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 11:14 pm

Guam has a population < 1/4 that of the least populous state, no cities, and a large mass of people who speak Chamorro.

23 TR5749 January 26, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Guam & the Northern Marianas have a population roughly 1/3 that of Wyoming. Small, yes. Too small? That’s a political question.

24 Ricardo January 27, 2017 at 2:05 am

Just as with Puerto Rico, I doubt the federal government would stop them from statehood if that is what the people there vote for but they will probably not vote for statehood. They would start owing federal income tax and might have to give up the special visa rules that boost tourism by allowing certain Asian nationalities to visit visa-free.

25 Doug January 27, 2017 at 5:05 am

I never realized why states don’t recognize the political power of semanating into more states. All California does is complain about how their votes matter so much less than Wyoming. Good, then fix ithe by sub-dividing.

For example even if just a handful of red states split in two, they’d then control 3/4 of the state’s and could amend the Constitution unnopposed.

26 JWatts January 27, 2017 at 10:06 am

” I never realized why states don’t recognize the political power of semanating into more states. All California ..”

Because most of the politicians of California would lose big in such a scenario.

27 Hadur January 26, 2017 at 2:04 pm

It’s really sad that some de-facto independent countries (Kurdistan, South Ossetia, etc.) will never get recognized because of the strong international norm against violating 1992 borders.

28 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:54 pm

South Ossetia has about 55,000 people in it. The only nominally sovereign countries on that scale are some medieval relics in Europe and a scatter of insular states in the Caribbean and South Pacific, &c.

29 Deek January 27, 2017 at 5:12 am

South Ossetia is far from de facto independent.

30 Turkey Vulture January 26, 2017 at 2:05 pm

I will go ahead and predict that the current world political map will not be the same in 500 years, if there is even anyone around to make one.

31 msgkings January 26, 2017 at 2:07 pm

That’s too easy. How short a time would you go to make the same claim? 300 years? 100? 50? 10?

32 Turkey Vulture January 26, 2017 at 2:26 pm

If we want to be hyper-technical and accept any change at all, I might go as short as 10 years.

If we are talking a substantial redrawing of the map in some way, with the break up of a current national empire or the creation of a new one, I’d be tempted to go 100 years.

33 msgkings January 26, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Sounds plausible. If you had to guess which national empire is most likely to split up, or to emerge? Empire is too strong a word but my guess is in the next 20 years there will be new national boundaries in the Middle East, especially in and around Iraq, Syria, and Turkey (obviously I’m thinking Kurdistan, but not just that).

34 Turkey Vulture January 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm

I’d agree that the Middle East seems the most likely candidate, along with Africa, and neither would involve much of an empire splitting up. But they could be places where larger, more imperial states emerge.

I don’t have a particular break-up candidate in mind. That’s more of a “eh lots of shit can happen in 100 years” thought.

35 Turkey Vulture January 26, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Actually, I’ll say the Brazilian Empire is doomed.

36 Josh K January 26, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Agreed. Also, Jordan is a powder keg.

37 Jeff R January 26, 2017 at 4:31 pm

The Israeli Empire.

38 AlanG January 26, 2017 at 3:32 pm

What happens when Florida is submerged by global warming? Does it cease to become a state? What happens to Mar-a-Lago?

39 Brian January 26, 2017 at 6:06 pm

The main part of Florida, the panhandle, will remain safely above the rising water.

40 jonfraz January 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Parts of central Florida will remain above water as a chain of islands, as during the Pliocene, the last time the polar ice caps had mostly melted

41 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly January 26, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Poland alone has appeared as an independent country, vanished, re-appeared, vanished again, re-re-appeared, and been forcibly moved west in those 500 years. Of course the map is going to change.

42 Datroof Jackson January 26, 2017 at 2:53 pm

How many Poles does it take to draw a map?

43 JWatts January 26, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Zero, … the Germans and Russians do it for them.

44 msgkings January 26, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Thread winner!

45 Eric J. January 26, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Depends on the projection, but you need 2 to make a globe.

46 MatteoZ January 26, 2017 at 2:25 pm

“Most recently, citizens of Venice and its surrounding region voted in April of 2014 in an online referendum on independence with an overwhelming 89% in favor of seceding from Italy”

it was a joke not a referendum, you can’t compare Veneto with Scotland or Catalogna.

47 Jay January 26, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Agreed…I stopped taking it seriously at the words “online referendum”

48 Thiago Ribeiro January 26, 2017 at 2:39 pm

“Brazil and Mexico are two pretty large countries that show zero signs of splitting up.”

One can’t compare Brazilian enlightened policies with the world norm. When the south rebwlled against the Empire in the early 1800s and was crushed, the peace treaty was so generous that it was sad it is impossible to say who had won and who had lost just by reading it. Brazilians are not motivated by territorial aggrandizement or domination. Also, Brazil’s territory is an organic whole, Brazil never fought a war of conquest in its history – the only important power to ever refrain from dominating its weaker neighbours. For this reason alone, a Brazilian poet called the Brazilian flag “a sacred flag,
the banner of justice and love!”

49 Thiago Ribeiro January 26, 2017 at 2:40 pm

* it was said it is impossible…

50 Managing History January 27, 2017 at 2:51 am

Brazil (or any latin american country) do not fight wars of territorial conquest because the United States wouldn’t allow that sort of behavior in its hemisphere.

51 Thiago Ribeiro January 27, 2017 at 3:22 am

Even before the rise of the United States, Brazil always rejected territorial aggrandizement. Compare and contrast with the Paraguayan aggressor, that tried to conquer Brazil, or Chileans stealing Bolivia’s shore.

52 Jay January 27, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Pretty easy to say when you’re the country that ended up with half the continent.

53 leppa January 26, 2017 at 2:48 pm

I liked this sentence:

“Somaliland is not recognized as such by any foreign governing body (outside of the City Council of Sheffield, U.K.).”

54 Jan January 26, 2017 at 5:53 pm

The joke is that the Sheffield Council governs.

55 F.F. Wiley January 26, 2017 at 2:55 pm

I know it was meant to be funny, but “hatreds and polarizations” have at least a little bit to do with the ridiculous idea that half the country is racist (as in “racists, unite!”).

56 msgkings January 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Where do you get ‘half the country is racist’ from?

57 too hot for MR January 26, 2017 at 5:10 pm

I believe he’s remarking on Tyler’s adoption of the notion that [Trump voter = racist; alt-right = racist; immigration misgivings = racist] etc. To a lot of the country, the other half is racist.

58 Danton January 27, 2017 at 3:30 am

it’s not ridiculous, but a lot of the other half is racist too tbf

59 prior_test2 January 26, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Not a single person has mentioned Libya splitting – based on geography, if nothing else.

‘Libya (Arabic: ليبيا‎‎ Lībiyā[6][7]) is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world.[8] Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world.[9]

The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million[10] of Libya’s six million people. The other large city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.’

Anyone wish to guess what sits between those two cities? Not much of anything except desert is the simple answer. If one faction gains power in Tripoli, and another in Benghazi, Libya could easily become two separate nations.

60 Jon Frazier January 26, 2017 at 3:30 pm

From antiquity on Libya generally was two polities, beginning with the Greek city states in the east and the Phoenician city states in the west. Libya owes its unity to the fact that Italians cemented the two halves together in the 20th century.

61 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Tripolitania and Cyrenaica use the same Arabic vernacular, distinct from Egyptian, Tunisian, and Algerian vernacular.

62 jonfraz January 27, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Flemish and Dutch are the same language yet the one attempt to cement Belgium and Netherlands did not last too long

63 Art Deco January 27, 2017 at 7:27 pm

There you had both confessional distinctions (Protestant v. Catholic minority in the Netherlands; Catholics v. masonic lodges in Belgium) and linguistic ones (the Francophones in Wallonia and Brussels).

64 msgkings January 26, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Good point, Libya definitely a possibility.

65 Barkley Rosser January 26, 2017 at 6:11 pm

I agree that Libya is a possibility, and the eastern and western parts have far more often than not been separate from each other. However, the claim that “there is nothing but desert” between Tripoli and Benghazi is very far from true. What is between them, with a lot of it around the potential border, is oil. That makes such a formal split very difficult as exactly where that border would be involves a lot of money being going to one side or the other.

66 Brian January 26, 2017 at 6:11 pm

“Not much of anything except desert”

I hate to quibble, and there may not be much rainfall there, but I take issue with calling any land that is always covered by water five thousand feet deep a desert.

67 Edgar January 26, 2017 at 3:14 pm

So are the 1/3 of Californians, mostly of Mexican origin, who favor secession “racists united” or “pearl clutchers”? I read a lot if Mexican newspapers, Reforma, La Prensa, the New York Times, and it seems l like they really want their territory back.

68 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 5:22 pm

It was hardly theirs. The population of Mexican peninsulares, criollos, mestizos, and mission Indians in California in 1840 was in the low 5 digits.

69 Jan January 26, 2017 at 5:54 pm

So it wasn’t theirs?

70 Jay January 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm

They settled it forcibly, and someone came along and took it away from them so defining “theirs” is as easy as saying who “won” last.

71 RustySynapses January 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm

I think most of that 1/3 isn’t thinking “let’s become part of Mexico” – they’re thinking “let’s be a really big (in $) country that doesn’t get pushed around by a bunch of flyover states.

72 Axa January 26, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Veneto? I need a lot of popcorn to watch independence during a banking crisis. That kind of changes can be done in any poor region because things are already in bad state. People is already poor, people dies young, maybe there’s already a civil war, so…..independence is not going to make things worse. Independence does not mean a more comfortable life. It means living under martial law for an unknown period of time.

Catalonia? If only they had less people they could be water independent. In the last drought they had to build desalination plants and get water by ship. They are “rich”, but paying for desalination plants can eat away the wealth. From the comfortable life they have today, they’d have to adopt Israel’s way of life.

Then, you talk with these people on the beach having fun and drinks. I fail to see how young people would trade a life of hedonism for martial law. Could it happen?

73 Thiago Ribeiro January 26, 2017 at 7:51 pm

“From the comfortable life they have today, they’d have to adopt Israel’s way of life”.
Because the Arabs will try to throw the people of Catalonia af the sea?

74 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm

A velvet divorce between Quebec and Anglophone Canada would benefit both parties, as would one between Flanders and the rest of Belgium. Puerto Rico is indigestible and should be prepared for sovereignty. Were China generous, Tibet would receive a formally sovereign protectorate status, as would the predominantly Uighur parts of Sinkiang; China is not generous. Assembling a free Kurdistan out of Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian territory would be a good thing. Assembling a northern Iraqi state out of about nine provinces in Syria and Iraq would be a good thing. Scottish nationalism is humbug.

OTOH, there are a number of candidates for federation with or appendage to larger neighbors: Kosovo, Moldova, Serb Bosnia, Cyprus.

75 chip January 26, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Quebec has received almost $300 billion in wealth transfers from other provinces over the decades in what is basically a subsidy for their failed welfare policies. So while separation would hurt Quebec in drying this money up, it would force them to be more responsible.

May be useful to divide separatist movements into makers and takers. I think Catalonia is the former, in that it resents handing wealth to the rest of Spain, while Quebec and Scotland are the latter – regions that take money but perhaps deluded in believing they don’t.

At the end of the day, separation in to smaller, more responsible states is best for both makers and takers. Bring it on.

76 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Quebec has received almost $300 billion in wealth transfers from other provinces over the decades

It’s a reasonable wager the source that told you that is using an accounting method which does not belong in a poker game.

Quebec is less affluent than the rest of Canada, but its production levels and standard of living compare favorably to New Zealand’s. Its total population is similar to Austria’s and it’s largest city exceeds in size Vienna, Stockholm, and just about any British city other than London and Birmingham. Perfectly viable. It just needs to jack up its fertility rate (as do most European countries).

77 Chip January 26, 2017 at 7:15 pm

A standard of living subsidised by other provinces, mostly the energy rich provinces in the west. The irony is that Quebec often obstructs these same provinces from developing their energy industries. A hypocrisy borne of long-term dependency.

Of course, Ontario has fully embraced the same socialist, green mush and has transformed from Canada’s richest province to the biggest recipient of money from other provinces, surpassing Quebec as the biggest sponge.

One of the main reasons socialism persists in Canada is that it’s failure is rewarded with subsidies from more free-market provinces.

78 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:39 pm

A standard of living subsidised by other provinces,

Those were production statistics I was quoting. Net transfers to Quebec account for about 3% of the province’s gross income. An abrupt withdrawal of transfers would generate a disagreeable one-off recession which they’d have to work through over about four or five years.

79 dearieme January 26, 2017 at 4:01 pm

The only border in W Europe, perhaps in all of Europe, that’s actually old is Scotland/England.

80 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 5:41 pm

‘Old’ defined how? France’s functional borders date from the end of the Angevin period, bar about a half-dozen of its 40 traditional provinces (four of which are in the northeast). The rest of its territories were acquired in the 17th century, for the most part. Portugal in its current boundaries dates from the high middle ages. Spain’s portfolio of territories was assembled by the end of the 15th century.

81 dearieme January 26, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Except for her borders with, let us see, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the German lands and Belgium. About Luxembourg I’m not sure.

82 Barkley Rosser January 26, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Belgium grabbed about half of Luxembourg in the 19th century. Its easternmost province is named “Luxembourg.”

83 dearieme January 26, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Did they, by golly? Did that change the Lux/French border at all?

84 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:41 pm

Collectively, it amounted to about 15% of present-day French territory. Territorial adjustments since the 17th century amount to < 2%.

85 Barkley Rosser January 27, 2017 at 6:10 am


Lux/French border unchanged by the move.

What had kept Luxembourg’s independence for so long, but also made it subject to aggression by outsiders is that it had a very well-defended fort in the capital city partly due to the terrain of the city, which no neighboring nation wanted any other nation to own. This made others periodically attack it and also fear others getting it. What finally really solidified Luxembourg’s independence, after Belgium made its land grab, came in the 1870s when Luxembourg agreed to tear down the fort, which it did. Of course, Germany conquered it twice during the 20th century, but never formally annexed it or altered its borders, and aside from those unpleasantnesses, Luxembourg has kept its borders unchanged and been at peace with its neighbors since the 1870s.

86 dearieme January 27, 2017 at 6:59 am

The discussion was about borders not about internal areas. Do keep up!

87 Jan January 26, 2017 at 6:05 pm

This blog is mostly American readers. “Old” to us is Louisiana Purchase days.

88 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:43 pm

Except she’s contending that 17th century borders are not ‘old’ (or perhaps 15th c borders, or perhaps 13th c borders. She never specifies).

89 SoySauce January 26, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Don’t sleep on the Compact of Free Association Counties in the equatorial Pacific (Fed States of Micronesia (FSM), Palau, Marshall Islands). I’m not sure if we’ll see a net gain, net loss, or same number of countries, but change is possible when, in 2023, FSM loses the bulk of its massive (for the FSM) payments from the USA.

Already there has been a somewhat serious groundswell of support for Chuuk secession from the FSM. The 4 states of the FSM were just a political alliance from the post-war Trust Territory days and are culturally and linguistically distinct, and often quite far apart. Yap is closer to and much more like Palau than the other states in the FSM, for instance.

You could see Yap joining Palau, Chuuk trying to become an independent state, Kosrae or Pohnpei or both trying to become Marianas-like territories of the USA, joining the Marshall Islands, etc.. You could even see one or more of the states (maybe Yap best candidate) forming a much closer relationship with China, which could have impacts on its future status.

I wouldn’t say any of these is over 50% chance but a definite possibility exists for the region to undergo some border changes after 2023.

90 peri January 26, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Do the Catalans not think of themselves as Spanish, or as more Spanish than the rest? Can someone explain to this non-traveler the cultural division there, or whether it’s only linguistic?

91 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Nearly everyone in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balaerics speaks Castillan Spanish. A minority are bilingual. In the Basque Country, about 35% of the population speaks the local language at home. In other parts of Spain, the preference for the local tongue is lower.

92 Potato January 26, 2017 at 11:02 pm


What are the numbers for that pre Franco? Not trolling, just not sure what the magnitude of the Franco language policies was.

93 Bob January 26, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Spain has a few regions with their own language: Galicia, Asturias, the Basques, and Catalonia. The level of the languages in those regions changes over time, and the use doesn’t really line up very well with political boundaries. Valencia and Catalonia have a very similar regional language, but they don’t share much of an organizational structure, and you won’t find people in valencia wanting their own country, or wanting to become catalonian.

As far as catalonians feelins Spanish or not and all that, it’s a big power grab caused by the Spanish system, which resembles federalism. In 1996, the Spanish conservative party won, but not with over 50 percent of the seats, and were handed the Government by a Catalonian regional party with similar economic views, in exchange of handing them a few bonus decisions, like an independent department of education. They quickly made Catalonian not just a language taught in school, or one you could use in class, but the main language at both public schools and universities, tightening the use of Spanish as they went. There were other changes, like what was taught in history class, nudges to regional art, making it harder to talk to the regional government in Spanish… the list of tweaks is long, but they were all created to make people feel more Catalan than Spanish, and as long as he got to govern, Jose Maria Aznar was ok with anything. 20 years of that means that many of those kids now vote, and feel far more Catalonian than their parent ever did.

When the financial crisis shook the world, the Catalonian government was in big trouble economically, and quickly decided that the whole thing was the Spanish government’s fault, and that nothing wrong would have happened if they were their own country. If that was right, that the Republican party in the US should have also sent some letters of condemnation to the Spanish government too, as their incompetence must have costed McCain the election.

So if you ask me, it’s all a case of Spanish Caciquismo, along with those terrible decisions in the 90s. I think it’s a good lesson though: No matter how post-propaganda we might think ourselves in the 21st century, government spending on culture, education and media has effects in the long term.

94 peri January 27, 2017 at 12:01 am

Thanks, all!

95 Brett Champion January 26, 2017 at 4:24 pm

The only new country that I would give a greater than 50/50 chance of coming into existence within the next 25 years is Scotland. Other possible states with a higher than 10% chance are Catalonia, Kurdistan, and Somaliland. The key issues in new state formation is whether or not the West has a vested interest in keeping the parent state intact and whether or not the West is willing to use force or to support the parent state’s use of force to keep the secessionist region from leaving. Force is off the table inside the West itself, so it is really just a question of local desire and constitutional law. Kurdistan is the most state-ready non-Western region, but I doubt the West will let it secede. Somalia, however, might be inconsequential enough to the West that the West would be okay with Somaliland breaking from Somalia, especially if they see Somaliland as a possible basing location in the region.

96 Donald Pretari January 26, 2017 at 4:36 pm

You mean an internationally sanctioned country. I believe ISIS did declare itself a country.

97 Barkley Rosser January 26, 2017 at 6:12 pm

And it may be on the verge of disappearing again.

98 Donald Pretari January 26, 2017 at 6:30 pm

G-d willing!

99 Ed January 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Orania in South Africa could well become its own state.

1. There’s historical background for an Afrikaner republic in the region — the former countries of Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic.

2. The existing ANC government has gotten more and more corrupt and is losing support of its population.

3. Current population growth of 10% per year, albeit from a tiny base.

4. Sentiment among Afrikaners as a unique cultural group within Africa.

100 Michael Caton January 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm

In California, immediately after the presidential election there were the slightest of murmurings about secession, but it’s been quiet since then. Partly because the central organizer of the secession movement was in Russia immediately after the election getting more funding. Calexit is in the interest of no one except other large countries who see the U.S. as an enemy.

101 The Other Jim January 26, 2017 at 5:21 pm

>Calexit is in the interest of no one

No question.

But repeatedly bringing up Calexit (or any other StateExit) is very much in the interest of listless econ professors that are still feeling humiliated that their tribe lost the deeply historic 2016 Presidential Election.

102 Moo cow January 26, 2017 at 10:18 pm

Deeply historic??? You really are a nuthanger Hahahahaaaaaahaha.

103 Art Deco January 26, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Calexit is in the interest of no one

Except everyone of sense in the rest of the country. Kick ’em out!

104 TR5749 January 27, 2017 at 11:12 am

on possible Calexit scenario would be for California to secede, then the US invades, conquers, governs as a territory, extracting economic value without having to give political representation.

105 msgkings January 27, 2017 at 11:54 am

That’s only part of the story. The Republic of California would take down the internet and make the US nukes launch and hit DC, NYC, and Seattle. Then CA would actually conquer the US. If we’re doing stupid speculation.

106 Turkey Vulture January 27, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Your coastal types will die of exposure trying to occupy Western New York. And I doubt the loyalty of your mountain people.

107 msgkings January 27, 2017 at 12:25 pm

We don’t need humans to occupy the US, our robots and AI will take care of things. Don’t tread on us!

108 Turkey Vulture January 27, 2017 at 12:38 pm

A century from now in a hand-dug Human Resistance cave, my great-grandchildren curse the short-sighted Californians who unleashed Skynet.

109 msgkings January 27, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Yes, this is a risk. But sometimes you have to destroy the village to save it.

110 Dan Lavatan-Jeltz January 26, 2017 at 5:34 pm

We can just divide into two countries based on which precincts voted for Clinton vs Trump. Everyone will be willing to go along with it once the amendment passes allowing Trump family members to be President for life.

111 Barkley Rosser January 26, 2017 at 6:16 pm

The US state that could easily split into multiple parts is Texas, which has as a condition of its joining the union the right to split it into up to four states, although there has never been any move in that direction. More likely would be a secession of the whole state.

The potential nation missing from that list of 10 linked to, although vaguely on Tyler’s list, but which in fact may really be heading soon to being a newly independent nation, is Kurdistan in northern Iraq. According to Juan Cole the Kurdish leaders have obtained an agreement from the central Iraqi government to secede in the near future, and this may well come about very soon. That may be the top near term candidate.

112 peri January 27, 2017 at 12:10 am

If Texas did split up now, at least one of the resulting entities would probably be an interstate, which would be weird. But Texas will never split up for the simple and obvious reason that as things stand, it has the very best state shape.

113 jonfraz January 27, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Any state can divide into multiple states as long as Congress agrees. The subdivision agreement with Texas was a one -shot deal to be exercised upon annexation only (Texas chose mit to, but did yield some territory which was later incorporated into other, later states). It was an agreement to allow for division in perpetuity other than as the Constitution allows

114 Cooper January 26, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Trump’s election makes the partition of Syria far less likely. Russia now has a free hand to smash all opposition to Assad (ISIS or otherwise).

115 Chip January 26, 2017 at 7:21 pm

So Russia has a free hand now, and not during the previous administration which saw Russia go from non-entity to major player in the Middle East?


116 derek January 26, 2017 at 8:50 pm

You people with this fixation on history, dredging up ancient controversies. That was 2016 for pete’s sake. What does it have to do with us today?

117 Cooper January 27, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Obama was weak on Russia. Trump is even weaker.

Surely you’d acknowledge that.

Trump is more willing to tolerate bad behavior by Russia than Obama was. The Obama administration was willing to say nasty things about Putin, Trump isn’t. Obama was willing to increase sanctions, Trump has signaled willingness to weaken sanctions.

118 jorgensen January 26, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Ukraine should let Crimea and “New Russia” go in exchange for guarantees of cheap natural gas from Russia.

Then make a trade deal with Europe.

119 dearieme January 26, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Western Australia voted in a referendum to secede but WWII got in the way. The Oz constitution gives NZ the right to join if it wants to.

120 jorgensen January 26, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Hindsight is 20/20 but it sometimes seems as though the world would be better if the South had been allowed to secede in 1861.

A million or so lives would have been spared. Much property damage would have been avoided. Slavery would have collapsed on its own in the South around 1880. The South would not be burdened by the sense of that cripples it to this day.

121 Cyrus January 26, 2017 at 9:23 pm

Or the bloodletting would all have deferred until the Union and Confederacy ended up on opposite sides of WWI.

122 JWatts January 27, 2017 at 9:23 am

At least as far as Harry Turtledove speculates:


123 TR5749 January 26, 2017 at 9:23 pm

might the CSA have then allied itself with Germany in WWI? This is the jumping off point in Harry Turtledove’s alternate history The Great War: American Front (and others in the series)

124 Sam Haysom January 27, 2017 at 1:06 am

Seeing as how the Confederacy in this scenario would have likely been a Caribbean spanning empire I doubt they would have done anything to get on the wrong side of the British Navy. If anything without the south the north would have been vastly more German and potentially have sided with the Kaiser.

That said I sincerely doubt relations between a separate north and south would have been all that contentious. Puritan moralism would have quickly found a new domestic target for its censure and moved on from slavery very quickly and other than slavery an separate north and south wouldn’t have had much to fight over since slavery didn’t really work much west of the Mississippi but did work well south of the rio grande so they would have expanded in perpendicular directions.

125 JWatts January 27, 2017 at 9:25 am

“might the CSA have then allied itself with Germany in WWI”

No, you have it backwards. The US aligns with the Central Powers (Germany,etc) and the CSA aligns with the Entente powers (UK, France, Russian, etc).

126 Turkey Vulture January 27, 2017 at 12:13 pm

So then the Central Powers win, and no Hitler? Does that mean Lincoln caused Hitler? Mind blown.

127 Massimo January 26, 2017 at 11:45 pm

Slavery would have collapsed immediately. Secession would have implied the nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act, most slaves would have had just to walk to non-slaves States. History classes in the statist schools of course censor it, but the most important concrete proposal by Abolitionists in the North was the Secession OF THE NORTH, in order to eliminate the Fugitive Slave Act. Of course it was politically impossible, because the North would have lost the Southern captive market, as it actually did in the months after the first Secession and Fort Sumter.

128 Sam Haysom January 27, 2017 at 12:59 am

But there still would have been slave states in the Union in that scenario (Border States, Virginia) No way the North in that scenario would have given Virginia the pretext to leave the shrunken Union by suspending the fugitive slave acts and the south could have worked out a deal with Virginia to have their escaped slaves returned to the Confederacy via Virginia based slave hunters etc. Keep in mind that in this scenario the Sourh likely expands its control over the Caribbean and likely would have seized Cuba and parts of Central America.

The south probally would have turned into a imperial quasi-police state, but slavery would not have collapsed immediately.

Additionally, I wonder just how accommodating the North would have been to a mass influx of slaves into the north. I can see a situation where Ohio and Indiana close their borders to runaway salves as their states get overwhelmed with refugees from slavery. The upshot is probally that Liberia gets a lot more populated very quickly.

129 Cooper January 27, 2017 at 4:04 pm

There’s no way that lily white Indiana, Ohio, etc. in 1860 welcome hundreds of thousands of refugee slaves.

Racism was rampant on both sides of Mason Dixon. It was costless for the white northerners to support emancipation because they knew they never had to live next to African Americans.

I bet if Ohio residents in 1860 had known that abolition would mean a majority black Cleveland some day, they would not have volunteered to fight for the Union.

Granted, it’s difficult to impose modern views on race relations to people living 150 years ago.

130 Moishe January 26, 2017 at 7:19 pm

From their tremendous number of supporters there, the so-called “Palestinians” should declare Berkeley, California, as their homeland. I’d gladly see it leave California anyway.

131 steveslr January 26, 2017 at 7:30 pm

We currently have about 200 countries, judging by how many teams compete at the Summer Olympics. In other words, the de-imperialization process has gone a long way, and most people seem to be more or less satisfied with the current arrangements.

132 BBurke January 26, 2017 at 9:09 pm

If the EU falls apart, Scotland, Catalonia and Belgium will follow. There won’t be anything left keeping them together.

133 Barkley Rosser January 27, 2017 at 6:15 am


Not obvious. It has long been argued that the existence of the EU has made these regional separatist movements stronger because they could rely on being in the EU rather than their old nation states. Now it may look like it now given that one reaction to Brexit has been increased talk of Scottish secession. But that would be to rejoin the still existing EU. If the EU itself fully fell apart, that would no longer be an option.

Note that Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, this past year briefly held up ratification of the EU-Canadian trade agreement, it has that much autonomy and authority within the EU framework.

134 Affe January 26, 2017 at 10:45 pm


135 Tom G January 27, 2017 at 7:43 am

Kurdistan is coming, 80% within the next 20 years.

South Sudan has room, and tribal hatreds enough, for further splitting, but you’ve said you’ll ignore Africa.

136 Eric January 27, 2017 at 9:02 am

In Washington state there has been much talk over the years to split along the cascades and the eastern portion would become the state of Lincoln. People often cite that King county decides entire elections in our state. There have been times when eastern Washington voted over 80% one way only to have king county easily swing the election the other. Lincoln would be a deeply red state but Washington is deeply blue. We, of course, would still root for the Seahawks though 🙂

137 Jay January 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm

To be fair, 80% of blue states could be described this way.

138 AlanW January 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm

There was a similar, but even stupider, proposal to do that with Northeast Colorado. Why they didn’t want to just join Wyoming, I can’t say.

Eastern Washingtonians would be driving on gravel roads without Seattle taxes. They’d be better off joining Idaho.

139 Art Deco January 28, 2017 at 11:27 am

Eastern Washington has a population of 1.5 million, a key city with a population just north of 300,000 and it has a mix of desert and coniferous forest. It’s a replica of Idaho, but with more of the land held by private owners.

140 Michael Gardner January 27, 2017 at 11:43 am

“How about the United States? No way, we are…united. The hatreds and polarizations don’t match up with state lines so simply, and it is hard to imagine an actual process of secession with focal boundaries and sufficient consent. Neither “racists, unite!” nor “pearl clutchers, unite!” is going to carry this one across the finish line.”

but what ARE the possible results if such does not happen?

141 Turkey Vulture January 27, 2017 at 10:45 pm

I think the most likely future candidate involving the U.S. would be ethnic-based desires for secession in the border states. This could be to form their own federation or even to join Mexico, though I think the latter would only be a possibility once Mexico and the U.S. get close on GDP per capita. Most of the changes we have seen in recent history and expect to see in the future involve ethnic identity, so it is odd to assume the US is immune from the possibility.

142 Mohit January 28, 2017 at 4:33 pm

I don’t think this is really possible, as it’s highly unlikely scenario, so we don’t need to worry too much. As being a trader, I don’t worry how many countries are there, as long as I am able to figure out the happening with their economic scene, so that’s the only thing we need to keep in mind. I never worry much as OctaFX broker that I work with helps a lot with their market updates regularly and is absolutely free!

143 Mark January 29, 2017 at 5:29 am

It’s been one of the great macro-trends of our time for new countries to form. But by all means, declare it over because you choose 4 that didn’t and ignore:

Czech Republic
East Timor
South Sudan

Iraq has almost zero chance of remaining one
Serbia may well not remain one

It’s arrogant to assume the United States is a given. A few more weeks of this and California secession will absolutely pass in 2018. A few more months and it might not be the only state. Is the gov’t going to shoot Californians to keep the state in the union? Pacifica, formed of the three coastal border states, looks like a very viable nation. Texas would do fine as well. Why are these states going to continue to subsidize the taker states of the south and the midwest exactly? For “freedom”?

Wouldn’t be surprising to have an additional 100 countries 100 years from now. The new Garibaldis will be those that cleave the city-states off their “oppressive” central gov’t’s. They won’t be the “uniters”.

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