Secession threats magnify petty resentments (there is no core, ultimately)

Here is the latest:

David Cameron faces a “bloodbath” at the hands of Tory MPs after all three parties pledged to continue high levels of funding for Scotland if it rejects independence.

The Prime Minister is facing mounting dissent among English backbenchers after promising that Scotland’s special funding arrangements will continue even when the country is given control over its own taxation and spending.

One Tory MP said the promise to Scottish voters, issued by Mr Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in the Daily Record newspaper, “smacks of desperation”.

Under the Barnett formula, devised in the 1970s by Labour Treasury minister Lord Barnett, spending is allocated according to population size, rather than the amount each country actually needs.

Critics say this gives Scotland an unfair share of government spending and even Lord Barnett has called for it to be replaced.

According to research at Stirling University, England loses around £4.5 billion of public spending every year because the money is handed to Scotland instead

In other words, this story will not end with a “no” vote from Scotland, unless it is strongly decisive.  Regardless of the result, allowing this referendum to go forward likely will go down as one of the greatest unforced errors in recent times.


I genuinely do not understand Tyler's emotional take on Scottish independence. I am skeptical that independence will be positive for the Scottish people, but god knows this is far from the first time that people have wanted policy I am skeptical about. Why the vehemence? Why the rhetoric about "allowing" the referendum? Isn't a big part of liberation thought that self determination is a right and a good even if we'll meaning experts think you ought to choose differently?

"Well" meaning experts, of course.

I agree. I wish Tyler would give a dispassionate explanation of why he is so against self-determination for Scotland.

Because he cries when he lands in England - no, really.

'Every time my plane lands in England I shed at least a tear, maybe more, out of realization that I am visiting a birthplace (the birthplace?) of liberty. This is not a joke and during my trips there I never quite snap out of that feeling....'

If the Scots vote to become an independent nation, they would make such heartfelt dedication to a (the?) birthplace of liberty look ridiculous.

Not to mention being the most ringingly public renunciation of Thatcherism and its adherents in a generation.

(And for fun - the acquisition of the Minecraft gaming empire by Microsoft cost more than this estimate of how much independence will cost Scotland to set up. 'THE cost of creating the ­government machinery needed to run an independent Scotland would be between £600 million and £1.5 billion, according to a leading academic.

Professor Patrick Dunleavy, a public policy expert at the London School of Economics, said voters "can be relatively sure" set-up costs for the new state would fall within this range over the first 10 years after it left the UK.'

Yep, that is the scale we are talking about.)

I have a Google Doc of hilarious predictions about Scottish independence; I shall add your Minecraft reference. The confident predictions of the Yes campaign re: economics, governance, etc are an obvious comedic goldmine for 5-10 years from now. I may be wrong, but probably not...

I fully support the right of self determination, and a Yes vote should be recognized as legitimate. But just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Please share.

At this point, isn't it quite clear that Scotch independence will be a boon to England? Draining the public treasury to bribe a strategically unimportant province to remain attached is a permanent loss to the donor country.

If Scotland were to put troops on the border with England and demand US$8 billion in tribute every year forever, it would be an act of war and the English would spill blood to resist. But now the Scotch ask the English to stop paying tribute and offer the English their independence without even fighting and somehow it's the worst thing ever.

It might be a boon to Scotland, too. Obviously, whichever can pawn off the North Sea Oil onto the other will benefit most. But either way, Scotland without the English tribute will be able to force its national legislature to stop wasting the efforts of the people on farming subsidies from massive English government, Opening the productive private sector and making Scotch government leaner and more effective at public services should grow opportunities in Scotland like never before.

cowen is generally for whatever the establishment is for.
The establishment likes large nations have large voting districts. Large districts contain more factions. More factions means less unity. Less unity means the majority has less control, which means the corporations have more control.
Divide et impera--divide by combining. That is the founding principle of the USA and the EU. And the UK, at least to a lesser degree.

That is why the establishment is anti-secession. And Cowen gets attention from the establishment by providing dispassionate, bloodless rationales to support establishment goals. More attention from the MSM means more money in tyler's wallet.

I will vouch for this comment as it pertains to the USA.

Cowen is a vicarious English or British nationalist who cries when his plane lands in LHR (he has said so). If you start out believing that, then of course weakening UK power over Scotland in any way is an error.

"Cowen is a vicarious English or British nationalist" English and British nationalism are not the same thing. English nationalism wants decentralization and self government for England as a political unit. It wants an English parliament for example. It is the mirror image of Scottish and Welsh nationalism. British nationalism subsumes all local identity to into a British one. For example a British nationalist might call themselves English but wave a Union Jack as a symbolic representation. An English nationalist will wave the Cross of St George.

"Isn’t a big part of liberation thought that self determination is a right and a good"?

Yes, but at what level? Should I be able to secede from the country along with my acre of land? If not, then at what level should this right exist?

By allowing the referendum, UK leaders have largely conceded the position of the SNP that Scotland is an autonomous region that has the right to determine its own fate.

'Should I be able to secede from the country along with my acre of land? If not, then at what level should this right exist?'

And man is that causing some sleeplessness among any number of Europeans. After all, it isn't as if what is going on in Scotland is typical.

What is going on in Ukraine is - and notice how this web site seemingly has lost all interest in that? Nationalism and Realpolitik leading to the death of thousands - just another dog bites man story in Europe.

Hmmm, shall we go over the list of recent European border alterations and country breakups to determine what's typical?

Because it seems to me that peaceful breakups are the norm these days, and certainly would be in the case of any other potential Western European secession movements.

Economists love stability, well, most people do. If priors are constantly changing, their job will be much harder.

I would say that economists love scale. And to a macro-economist, trembling with almost sexual excitation over the latest grand social engineering scheme, there can never be enough scale.

I question how libertarian economists in general make peace with the conflicting economies of scale argument and the states' rights argument.

They don't.

When in doubt, the market > democracy and self-determination.

How long can the Scots be expected to endure living under the alien lash of David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and Tony Blair? Have you ever watched the British sitcom "The Thick of It" in which Malcolm Tucker, enforcer for the English Mafia that dominates the Labour Party, bollocks genteel Scottish cabinet ministers?

That show is fucking awesome.

You are completely correct, it won't end until the vote is no and there is an independent Scotland, so let's just hope for a yes and get on with it.

What is your problem with people getting a vote in their destiny Tyler? I find it disturbing to hear this "fear-mongering" from the "political-financial-economic" elites. Like always they seem to be afraid of hearing the voice of the people (remember the infamous European Constitution?). "allowing this referendum to go forward likely will go down as one of the greatest unforced errors in recent times." Given american history as a former british colony, I also fail to understand why so many americans think that scots voice should not be heard, or why they are not more sympathetic with the Yes camp.... Finally, if they dont to pay for keeping Scotland, why not give independence right away? This will probably end with a "no", but given the intrinsic uncertainty regarding a future referendum (specially if this is 51-49), it would be better to give them full independence, and end the uncertainty.

At the George Mason economics department, they favor charter cities where only chess nerds get to vote. Everyone else is deemed 'irrational'.

How often should people get to vote on their destiny?

Seriously, given the costs involved, this should be an object of study. What's the opportune interval for independence votes. What if we voted every week? Every year? Every ten years?

It wasn't an unforced error. Once the SNP won a majority in Scotland they could hold a referendum. A legal challenge to the Scottish Parliament's power to hold a referendum was unlikely to succeed. A vote by the Scottish people to authorise the parliament to request negotiations on independence would be effectively impossible to ignore.

The referendum was pretty much inevitable following the 2011 Scottish election as it was part of the SNPs manifesto. They therefore had a mandate to hold one. The most that Cameron could do was, by cooperating, have some input into the question. That is why it's a two-option rather than a three-option vote.

Why is only a simple majority of Scottish voters required for an historic change? Why doesn't the rest of the UK get a vote?

Seriously, in 2002 I was one of the majority of San Fernando Valley residents to vote for independence from the city of Los Angeles, but our vote was ignored because the rest of Los Angeles voted to continue to milk their tax cow.

So... then don't you agree that it's good for the Scots to get a vote? It doesn't sound like the situation you describe is a model you want to emulate.

It sounds like he's sick of double standards. Almost like a bunch of people who insist that states can't secede from the union are also aghast that Scotland not be allowed to leave.

Some might think that reflects a good deal of mauvais foi like Sartre called it. Put in nursery rhyme terms indivisible compact for me spite-laden secession for he.

This country has a vigorous tradition of voting on other peoples' rights. Look at gay marriage.

Which country? And how does something get to be a 'right' if it was never enacted in law and no one had ever given it any thought prior to about 1987?

US. Human right.

As a matter of practical politics we made a commitment that the status of Northern Ireland would be determined by the people of Northern Ireland. In that case it was to assure the Unionists that we wouldn't transfer Northern Ireland to the Republic without the consent of the population. A referendum including either the whole UK or an all-Ireland referendum would certainly have voted for a united Ireland. The reason it hasn't happened is that the Unionists are a majority in Northern Ireland so the rest of the UK are stuck with them. An all UK referendum would produce a comfortable majority for ceding the North to Ireland in Great Britain and a clear majority for remaining part of the UK in Northern Ireland itself.

Having made such a commitment to self determination to one part of the UK it would be hard to justify not extending the precedent to Scotland.

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

The Great Stagnation in political systems is over!

ooh, it's interesting that Tyler writes "Regardless of the result, allowing this referendum to go forward likely will go down as one of the greatest unforced errors in recent times."

I am English and I have been following the referendum obsessively. After the SNP's victory in the 2011 elections, the Unionists needed to hold a referendum as soon as possible, and a referendum that unambiguously rejected independence - anything else would be a propaganda victory for the SNP and leave crucial months where Independence is within the Overton window of Scottish swing voters. A third option of more devolution would only make a future referendum more likely, and on a battleground more favourable to separatists. The same for Salmond's best case scenario, a referendum now to open negotiations on separation, and then a referendum in two years to accept the settlement. Cameron didn't really have any option.

I would imagine, aware of this, the SNP threatened to drag their heels, and so extracted better terms. The SNP is arguing 'yes' rather than 'no' - we could have had the question 'should Scotland remain in the UK?' which would have been easier for Unionists to campaign positively on. The SNP also managed to disenfranchise Scots living in England, who as things now stand would be numerous and Unionist enough to guarantee a No victory.


Scottish devolution may be unforced error (same goal?) but the referendum not.

And given that the refrendrum is legally meaningless, a yes vote may mean far less than we assume.

Who are the true winners of a "Yes" vote? In economic terms. My guess: low-income English regions, Wales. The 5bn pound a year transfer will be redirected to those areas.

They've learned from Quebec. Hundreds of billions transferred from the rest of Canada to sustain a welfare state and appease the separatists.

The irony is that this wealth mostly comes from the (waning) free market province of Alberta.

Socialism works when someone else pays for it,

Can you blame Scotland or Quebec? If the UK/Canada are so desperate not to loose some territory they should pay.

Why are they so desperate to keep them? Is it purely for sentimental reasons?

Quebec was for a long time the basis for victory in a Federal election. If you won Quebec, you had a majority. The Liberals and Conservatives competed on giving Quebec what they wanted in hopes of getting the vote next election. Interestingly the equations have changed recently, where most seats in Quebec are in the opposition; the Bloc Quebecois or the NDP. The economic core has moved west, Quebec is no longer central, you can win without them.

This year the provincial election looked like it was going to the Parti Quebecois and it was met with yawns from most everywhere else.

It may very well be that the Conservatives wouldn't mind seeing a core Labour voting bloc disappear from the electoral map.

I have no idea which way Scotland will go, but seeing two close referenda here the polls don't tell us what people will do in the ballot box. It is a big step for the electorate, and the results mean something significant.

How would Cromwell have handled the situation? That's what we should be asking ourselves.

I kid, I kid.

Quebec's GDP is $320 billion. They receive a little under $20 billion from the national government annually, which compromises about a quarter of the provincial budget. This is a net of about $6 billion more than they put in to the federal government. Compared to the difference between the (overwhelmingly liberal) states that pay more in the US and the (overwhelmingly conservative) states that pay less, it's a pretty small difference.

So I'd say the conclusion to draw is that both left-wing and right-wing policies can produce a deficit or a surplus depending on exactly what those policies are, and the idiosyncratic specific situation. Besides, it wouldn't make sense to try to equalize federal spending to make sure each state gets back exactly what it puts in, so who cares?

And Tyler comes out against self-determination by democratic means.

To tell the truth, if I had a vote in this referendum my head would be telling me to vote no, but opinions like the one Tyler expressed here would probably drive me to vote yes in a fit of pique.

There is no greater incitement to separatism than disputing people's right to even have a say in the question.

Just trying to get a sense of the commentariat here. Can US states secede from the Union? Cities? Towns? How far does the right to self-determination go? It's not like Scots can't vote in the UK today.

'Can US states secede from the Union?'


But then, the federal government of the United States has yet to lose any territory from its formation, nor any territory it conquered, bought, or otherwise acquired. Whereas the UK has experience in being forced to leave areas it considered part of itself, as the Republic of Ireland demonstrates.

"nor any territory it conquered, bought, or otherwise acquired"

The US got the Philippines from Spain in 1898, recognized its sovereignty in 1946.

Panama Canal Zone, 1903 to 1979/1999.

There are other, smaller examples.

We also gave away the northern edge of the Louisiana Purchase to Britain in return for another chunk of territory in Minnesota so as to even out the northern border to the 48th parallel.

IIRC, the residual non-state territories are populated with U.S. citizens, American Samoa the exception (wherein people have the status of 'U.S. nationals'. I do not think you can revoke their citizenship without a constitutional amendment. This was not an issue vis a vis the Philippines, whose residents did not have U.S. citizenship. The Canal Zone residents commonly did, but they were not all that numerous (60,000 or so, IIRC).

The Philippines was never "incorporated" into the U.S. As early as 1916, Congress passed a law with a clear intent of providing for eventual self-government. Taft and even Teddy Roosevelt made statements much earlier implying that U.S. rule was more of a nation-building exercise than an attempt to incorporate Philippine territory into the United States (unlike in the cases of Texas or California).

I do not think there is a recognizable norm you could concoct. The question is in what circumstances is it expedient for one party, the other, or both. Some considerations:

1. Linguistic distinctions.
2. Insularity.
3. Particularlism apart from linguistic distinctions.
4. Political conflict and sclerosis derived from communal distinctions.
5. Demographic and economic dimensions characteristic of a country which can host a full smorgasbord of local institutions.

The components of Belgium (Flanders v. Wallonia and Greater Brussels) feature 1, 4, and 5. Quebec features 1, 3, 4, and 5. Catalonia features 5 with some degree of 1, 3 and 4. Texas features 5 and a measure of 3. Scotland features 5 and a measure of 3 and 4. Slovenia in 1991 featured 1, 3, and 4.

I'm not very interested in discussing this question in the abstract, since I suspect in each case the details of history, economics, and ethnicity matter the most. But in the actual case under consideration (Scotland), it is certainly relevant that Scotland over its history was an independent nation for longer than it has been part of the UK. Even the UK has always recognized its nationhood, as their differing legal systems and football teams illustrate. The case for Scotland's nationhood is at least as good as the case for Denmark or Norway not to be part of Sweden (or vice versa).

I suppose, but the Union of Crowns occurred in 1603, before British North America existed and at a time when Italy was a patchwork of territories with different (and often mutually unintelligible) vernaculars (and some common use of Latin and Medieval Tuscan for literary purposes).

Norway was part of the Danish monarchy for app. 400 years, then part of the swedish for 100 years.
It has now been fully independent for 110 years or so.
Denmark was never part of Sweden(or vice versa).

Don't ask me, you won't like my answer, I'm from Texas.

I have used this for years with irate Chinese regarding Taiwan, Tibet, and weirdly even Vietnam. Now I get to use it in Europe. I am glad I am able to prove my lack of racism. As to sub national substate units, I think Russia should have let Chechnya go, but then that is a national unit. I guess if Vermont wanted to reject the Union I would say let it, but that is a state. Ok I would be cool with Berkeley seceding, but I would reserve the right to play hardball, and of course I would advocate treating them the way the US treats all its powerless near neighbors.

let the states go. i would pay money to NOT hear about the stupid shit that happens in Texas.

I am sorry o tell you this, you still would. Nobody gets to be free of us, ever. Our hot air can not be contained.

Also we would quickly get nuclear weapons and start to make incursions on New Mexico, so you are better off with us.

Getting away from the original topic but, just so you know, Taiwan is different from these secession cases in that China had ceded Taiwan (permanently) to Japan around 1895. After World War II, Japan renounced sovereignty over Taiwan, but its status was left undetermined until this day. Taiwan is not so much trying to secede from China as it's resisting being annexed by China. A final confusing factor is that, when the Nationalist government was kicked out of China by the Communists, they set up a government-in-exile in Taiwan.

I have not yet found an historical parallel to Taiwan, which may be why so many people are confused about the history. Perhaps, the closest thing would be if China tried the claim the part of India where the Dalai Lama is exiled, by claiming that the Dalai Lama's presence makes it part of Tibet.

Anybody can secede at any level. All it takes is the will and the firepower.

So...not me, I reckon.

Here's my view on states in the US:

If a state voted for secession, I can't see a terribly strong moral case for preventing that secession, with the following stipulations:

* Existing US citizens who did not want to secede maintain their citizenship, and the new country guarantees right of travel for such US citizens.
* Independence happens in an orderly manner over the course of say two years, allowing people who want to not be involved in that place time to disentangle their affairs. In this time, the federal government would also wind down payments into the state to reduce financial exposure.
* Maybe something like the new country agrees to take over some obligations for its new citizens like "for existing seniors, at least, you continue paying out social security," to prevent situations where some state tries to dump its pool of people who cost money while retaining its pool of people who make money.

I always forget about how this website handles formatting. The above post, disentangled:

* Existing US citizens who did not want to secede maintain their citizenship, and the new country guarantees right of travel for such US citizens.

* Independence happens in an orderly manner over the course of say two years, allowing people who want to not be involved in that place time to disentangle their affairs. In this time, the federal government would also wind down payments into the state to reduce financial exposure.

* Maybe something like the new country agrees to take over some obligations for its new citizens like “for existing seniors, at least, you continue paying out social security,” to prevent situations where some state tries to dump its pool of people who cost money while retaining its pool of people who make money.

As I understand it, the Scots are not voting to secede unilaterally. The referendum is intended to give the Scottish Parliament a moral and political mandate to negotiate a secession with the UK Parliament. Similarly, states in the US would probably need to generate sufficient political pressure to get Congress to agree to secession, at least if they want the secession to be constitutional.

Any entity has the right to unilateral *extra-constitutional* secession/revolution if such revolution is necessary to protect individual natural rights. Such does not appear to be the case in Scotland. In fact, quite the opposite, one of the motivations for independence is to decrease liberty by expanding the welfare state.

Why all the emotions around self-determination? That's an issue for the Scots and their southern neighbors.

For the rest of us, this is a "real-world" experiment. Things like independence and monetary policy can't be tested in the lab. Scotland's independence gives the pundits a great opportunity to play with predictions. If people playing the predictions game hurt other people sensibilities....what would you do?

[Disclaimer: Scot and yes voter]

I find the coverage of the referendum here quite disappointing, compared to the usual interesting fare. Tyler falls victim to the same sentiment a lot of No voters have, in pining for a grand British state that doesn't exist any more. I've been following the referendum closely for nearly a year now, and have hardened under the crushing, brutally negative scare campaign from the combined mainstream print media, British state and BBC. I, and a lot of Scots, simply do not want to be ruled by a political establishment that would treat us like this. No lie was too big to tell, no story too tasteless to run (eg Gordon Brown on organ donors and pensions, the Telegraph and the soldiers who died for the UK, and countless more) - they must win at any cost.

I started as very much pro-devolution and anti-independence, and there could so easily have been a Devo agreement (and Salmond wanted it on the ballot), but they wanted to win and win hard.

We aren't subsidised - we get more public spending but put more in to compensate for this. As a result of this, Wales and low income English regions will not benefit immediately, but may be inspired to seek a better arrangement for themselves.

Emigrant Scots are not being disenfranchised - how would you possibly arrange a referendum to include them? First gen Scots regardless of residence? Second gen? The Scottish granny rule? Would you exclude immigrants? Allow permanent immigrants and exclude temporary (eg students)? The only fair rule, in line with the civic nationalism of the SNP and not the ethnic nationalism of your typical right wing nationalist party, is current Scottish residents.

Re: disenfranchised emigrants - I don't think I phrased that well. I suppose they are being disenfranchised, but there is no way around it.

NB you really don't appreciate the UK mystique. Do you think the US would have supported any other nation except England in a war like the Falklands? No. Ditto WWII Likewise, if the UK becomes Britain alone, it loses its mystique. All the old Imperialists knew that, but you don't. That's why "NO" is the right vote. I am of Greek/US background now living in the Philippines and could care less, just saying the obvious.

Trivia: Scotland's population is roughly 5 M people; compare with Greater DC at round 8M people and a GPD that is over twice that of Scotland alone. In the USA and in the UK, the sum is worth more than each part, as any schoolchild can intuit.

Bonus trivia: England is about one-third the size of California in area. Quite small and if you look at GDP per capita even smaller. But their bark is louder than their bite due to their "UK" mystique.

not the ethnic nationalism of your typical right wing nationalist party,

Uh huh. The Peronists currently in charge of Scotland wish to leave Britain but remain in the European Union and spend many pixels denouncing the United Kingdom Independence Party. This has little to do with an interest in authentic self-government and much to do with a flashing of an upraised middle finger.

"We aren’t subsidised – we get more public spending but put more in to compensate for this."

Would you be willing to flesh this out a bit? Everything I have read suggests that Scotland is a net recipient of transfer payments, because taxes are assessed based on economic activity (which Scotland has comparatively less of), while spending is allocated based on population.

The calculations are complicated. The key detail is the revenue from oil. Oil is included in UK tax revenue but not attributed to any specific part of the UK. About 80% of the oil lies in waters that would if the usual conventions for maritime boundaries (line of equidistance) are followed be Scottish. If you attribute 80% of the oil revenue to Scotland then it more or less balances out. If you go by the current boundary of Scots Law (a straight line running due east from the coast) then a rather higher proportion of the oil is Scottish.

If I were English, I'd have a real problem with English governors tripping all over themselves to give my money away to keep Scots from leaving.

I find it ironic that any Libertarians would complain about Scottish independence. Increased Scottish national feeling is a natural outgrowth of decades of immigration combined with a conscious Government policy to replace traditional British identity (rooted in tradition, ethnicity and protestant Christianity) with a more "modern" identity (inclusive, innovative, tolerant, "cool") that has made the idea of being "British" seem fairly shallow, and made one's Scottish, English, Yorkshire, Muslim, Greek, Polish or whatever roots seem far more important to people seeking a group to belong to. In a world where the only thing nations like "Great Britain" have to offer their citizens are potentially slightly superior economic arrangements for the economic elite, it is going to be hard to keep artificial nation states together. Being pro-immigration while simultaneously being anti-Scottish independence is either being incredibly naive or incredibly obtuse.

They are Open Borders libertarians, as opposed to No Borders libertarians, because in the case of the latter, people get to draw their own.

"Regardless of the result, ALLOWING this referendum to go forward likely will go down as one of the greatest unforced errors in recent times."

Seriously? Seriously??? All at once the great libertarian thirst of freedom for the peoples of this planet does not apply to the right of the Scots to express themselves on self-determination???

Well ok, but under this theory shouldn't the English peasantry get a vote as well? They're affected by this too; don't they get a say in defining the borders of their own country?

What?? What are you gonna say next, that a wife wanting to separate should not be allowed to do so because "doesn't the husband get a say in defining what his own family should look like"? Come one. The English living in Scotland get to vote, and that's what matters.

You think the husband doesn't get a say? Curious.

I support Scottish independence. It'll male it easier for UKIP to win and, if the Scots ever wake up from their liberal slumber it will be easier for them to challenge the hostile elite in a much smaller country.

I lived in Slovakia when it split from the Czech Republic. Amusing to see how closely the argument follows what was said then: poor country subsidized by an economic powerhouse wants to split off. Disaster will result! Falling incomes as subsidies from Prague are cut off, trade will plunge, new currency could be unstable.

The reality was things went pretty smoothly - the money had a new mark placed on it, the soccer team was separate, and now there was a pretense of a border (mostly ignored). And Slovakia has outgrown Czech in the years since.

I don't think I ever saw any of the pundits predicting disaster ever admit they were wrong.

I agree with Ray Lopez above. I believe it would be a mistake to diminish the United Kingdom: both Scotland and England would lose power and gravitas. On the other hand, I must admit Westminster has not always been very responsive to the interests of the Scots. Maybe English pridefulness makes its own undoing. But I can't help but be disappointed at the thought of the seat of the former British Empire breaking apart, and the Union Jack being shredded.

Tyler should support Scottish independence, the political centre of the remaining UK would shift to the right and, despite what is promised by campaigners, so in all likelihood would Scotland as a small country trying to generate inward investment in a similar manner to Ireland. In particular, a strengthened Tory party in the UK could very well attempt a radical attack on the welfare state (except pensions).

Can we kick Puerto Rico out?

I do not think the citizenship of those native to Puerto Rico can be revoked absent a constitutional amendment.

The departure of the Philippines from the U.S. provides a pretty helpful precedent for Puerto Rican independence. Basically, there was some transitional rules for people who were U.S. nationals at the time of independence, but people born post-independence had one or the other nationality according to clear rules.

Puerto Rico is a good example of how offer a referendum buys peace. In periods where that option has been forbidden there have been assassinations and the beginning of insurgencies. Where referendums have been offered (even flawed ones), there has been peace, despite the fact that secession didn't happen.

Filipinos were never granted U.S. citizenship.

They were U.S. nationals, which was a distinction without a difference at the time. The process used could still be used today.

Tory opposition to Scotland leaving means just like their GOP counterparts they are the stoopid party. UK - Scotland = more conservative (and Conservative) country.

It would be like the GOP trying to block CA from leaving.

Strange as it may seem, politicians may have views that do not emanate from short term or medium term electoral advantage.

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As other commentators have remarked Cameron really had no choice on the referendum, and he probably played his cards as well as he could. A month or so ago it looked like the No's were going to walk it, which would have made him look pretty good in making a potential long term problem disappear for a generation. I am still not convinced that the narrowing of the result is really real - I see that the betting markets still have a fairly large percent chance of a No vote.

As to why the Yes are prevailing - Scottish nationalism is romantic and celebrated, whereas British nationalism and English nationalism is reviled in the media. The roots of this are complex, and perhaps go all the way back to the civil war.

The UK has downplayed English nationalism since the 18th century in order to keep peace with the Welsh, Scots, Cornish, etc. British nationalism was created to take its place, and create a unifying identity for all the inhabitants of the island. Since the 1960s immigration has radically transformed what it means to be British, and we now see the results.

Allowing a referendum is not an error, forced or otherwise.

England has learned, time and time again, that offering self-determination referendums buy it peace, while failing to do so in the face of well organized requests to do so, buy it insurgencies and/or civil wars. The benefit of avoiding insurgencies and wars has nothing to do with the outcome of the vote. People don't take up arms against countries who offer them the opportunity to leave by majority vote. Countries that eventually secede on good terms democratically usually become allies. Many of England's former colonies (e,g, Canada, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia) remain allies of the UK. Saying no to independence votes brought turmoil in America, India, and Ireland.

Civil wars and/or insurgencies in Ukraine, Nigeria, and Iraq that are pending today arise from failing to follow that advice. Countries that voluntarily split, like Czechoslovakia and Ethiopia (which ejected Eritrea) buy peace.

Lots of very good comments, along with the usual smattering of attacks on our genial host.

Offhand, I can't think of a blogger that provokes comments with such a curious mix of intelligence and dickishness.

The EconLog dweebs delete all the well-earned japes directed at them, so there is pent up irritation which boils over here.

Bryan Caplan in particular is thin-skinned when questioned on his open borders obsession.

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