Will there be more countries?

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.


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