Friday, September 19, 2014

Independence Day, Scottish Style

So Scotland officially has said no to independence. It's not really a surprise, given the polling, but it's still a little fascinating how the process worked out.

Back when I had the time and resources for such a luxury, I used to subscribe to The Economist, a well-regarded current affairs publication that is based out of the UK. (It's also painfully expensive, even for print media.) It's nice to get a refreshing perspective from professionals who aren't based within the US, and yet aren't so globally blind as to become its unwavering critic. Anyway, while it offered plenty of US news, by default it focused a lot into European and especially UK/Commonwealth news, and the battle for Scottish Independence has been going on for a while.

Personally, I don't have any skin in the game, so the vote result itself didn't matter too much to be. From a broad historical perspective, I generally think regions should stick together. There's power in being part of a larger coalition, and a confederation (much like the Unites States and the European Union, or, more abstractly and inaccurately, the Commonwealth Nations in general) seems to be the best of both worlds. The big-picture stuff, like defense and treaties and broad economic policies, are handled on the federal level, while the details, such as tax policies, local issues, government structures and the like are handled closer to the ground. Obviously it's not as clear-cut as that (the North Sea Oil issue for the Scots is a testament to that) and there's a lot of stuff that gets warped in the process, but it seems as if the mood of the world is slowly swinigng this way.

Of course, who knows how that will change? The advent of technology and direct democracy becomes closer to reality. The case against direct voting on issues has been the logistical nightmare it posed, and that particular burden is effectively gone. You could literally wake up each day and vote on a few issues before your coffee. That may not necessarily be the best idea, for a variety of reasons, but the big objection of feasibility is closer to being eliminated. This may spark a philosophical discussion about the nature of democracy, but will probably boil down to petty arguments over broadband access.

That said--outside of the theoretical ramblings of anarcho-capitalists--it's still not very feasible if the world slowly breaks down into a series of microstates. Even today, there's probably a few dozen, even a hundred, different regions who wouldn't mind exploring a breakaway. While some may make sense, even more would find themselves doomed to mediocrity (and--to be a realist--a tempting target for conquerors) and the lure of self-governance may not be as strong as, say, the gains from collective defense.

Still, the fact that we've progressed to the point where breakaway nations are handling this through voting and not through violence is certainly a good sign, and the fact that a lot of the major questions (namely, Quebec and Scotland) have ended in defeat without much by way of repercussions is promising. Still, the poli sci major in me wants to play around with the world like a multicolor chess game. Perhaps that's a bit imperialistic for me, but I am alarmingly OK with that.

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