Monday, December 23, 2013

Geopolitics/Economy: Viva La Independence

(Drivebycuriosity) - 2014 could change the map of Europe. In September Scotland, a traditional part of the United Kingdom (UK), will have a referendum about becoming an independent nation (theguardian). In November Catalonia, today a region of Spain, will follow and also vote about getting independent ( According to the New York Times there are several countries - including Belgium - which could break apart which would lead to new countries (geocurrents).

I think these secessions (if they become reality) are a good idea. The Scots could be better off if they go their own ways, Catalonia and other regions too.

Secessions aren`t a new idea. In the 1990th many regions used the breakdown of the defunct Soviet Union to gain freedom and to become independent states: The Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) plus Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and more. At least some of the them have flourishing economies now. Other parts of the former Soviet empire also broke apart: Yugoslavia  (now the separate states Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia & Slovenia) and Czechoslovakia (now separate Czech Republic & Slovakia).

History also shows that even very small countries can prosper after becoming independent. Singapore, which gained 1965 independence from Malaysia, is one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in Asia. The citizens of the tiny state gained more income & wealth since the secession than people in Malaysia, thanks to the intense trade relationships with the rest of the world. And Switzerland has been proving for many centuries that little countries can do well. The Swiss are wealthier than the citizens of their neighbors Germany France and Italy.

This is no coincidence. Small countries (and independent regions) are less complicated than huge states. They are easier to govern and to manage and therefore are less bureaucratic. The government of a small country is closer to their citizen and can respond better to local needs. Economists have often described the benefits of decentralization.  Wikipedia writes that decentralization "increases efficiency - and effectiveness - due to reduction of congestion in communications, quicker reaction to unanticipated problems, improved ability to deliver of services, improved information about local conditions, and more support from beneficiaries of programs" (wikipedia).

The Italian Renaissance happened as Italy was just a cluster of independent city states like Milan, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Genoa, Ferrara, Mantua, Verona and Venice. The competition between these places created an creative environment that inspired advances in arts, science and business (wikipedia). The independent Greek cities (Athen, Byzantium, Sparta, Troy and more) developed democracy. The huge Roman Empire instead, which spread from Northern Africa to Southern England, broke down under its own weight.

I believe that small countries (and separate regions) have just one disadvantage: They are military weak and could be easily overrun by enemies. But the existence of Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and other tiny countries shows that this risk is very low. It is not likely that Scotland will be attacked by its neighbors  UK or Norway.

Viva la independence.

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