Much was written in recent weeks and months about Scotland’s separationist movement. Most fortunately, the outcome of last week’s referendum on the subject is that Scotland will remain part of the UK, not becoming an independent nation.
In no way do I intend to be disrespectful to the large minority of Scots that voted for independence. Not at all. My position in this type of issue is based on what works better for the majority in the long run. I am a profoundly political person, in the Aristotelian way: looking for the common good. I am not a partisan person. I have never belonged to any particular affiliation and I try to be, as much as I can, a pragmatist.
Thus, at the end of the day, what really matters is the result of a well done cost/analysis of a possible separation. Indeed, it is hard (if possible at all) to run across any solid, comprehensive case where the benefit of separation of any region within a country far outweighs the associated costs. A notable exception to this would be any instance where civil rights are not fully respected, as was the case of the former USSR satellite countries that as soon as they had a chance when the USSR imploded, they didn’t hesitate to go towards the independence route. That certainly is not the case of Scotland, Catalonia, and many more jurisdictions that are part of a democratic developed nation.
The September 18th referendum on the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent nation must be seen as a wake-up call for the world at large about the risks inherent in separationist movements in different parts of the world, particularly in developed nations.
From my perspective, the major reason against any separationist movement is that the traditional nationality concept is increasingly becoming an anachronism, given its many limitations and inconveniences. As I explain in chapter 5 (Globalization’s Reach and Implications) of my book GLOBALIZATION:
“In many ways the traditional citizenship concept is outdated and obsolete due to the instantaneousness of modern communications and the globalization of the products and services markets. It is no longer functional, and therefore a new approach is needed.
Naturally, all the essential elements related to citizenship are basically immutable. Culture is the most essential element of citizenship, with multiple subdivisions and ramifications, like local art. Specific items essential to the nature of citizenship are language, history, geography, customs, cuisine, music, literature, proverbs, and so on. These concepts are so deeply rooted in the collective psyche that no human power can disrupt them. The cultural and artistic aspects of a nation’s collective are so strong that they cannot be manipulated or modified immediately. However, they are modified—to a degree—in an evolutionary manner, naturally and slowly. Additionally, cultural boundaries do not allow much room for more than gradual marginal changes.
Citizenship’s formal elements are those that basically no longer make sense: borders and currencies…
With the current needs and opportunities the world presents us, it has become consistently clear that our individual and collective mindsets must change into that of a global citizen. This means incorporating our own culture and upbringing into a broader mind frame, that of the global citizen.”
Most regrettably, mankind’s history has been characterized by a myriad of grievances, wars, deaths, misery, territorial annexation by military force, and so on. Theres is no exception to this. However, if constructive and practical thinking is utilized, the cost/benefit of trying to turn the clock backwards in history, trying to restate a past situation, is overwhelmingly tilted towards the cost side. The benefits to be reaped by any possibility of independence are washed away by the multiple costs associated with it, particularly when the independence movement is related to a region with a rather small population —with insufficient economies of scale. That is the case of Scotland and Catalonia, among many others.
In addition to the previous point, from the moral and spiritual perspective, past grievances and offenses must be forgiven. Otherwise, the seeds for perpetual conflict are in place everywhere in the world (i.e., the Arab/Israeli conflict, which has been going on for over two millennials).
However imperfect the current democratic system is (and boy, it truly is!), there does not seem to be a better way to settle differences than through negotiation, and free vote, just as it happened in Scotland. Undoubtedly, the perfect balance won’t be ever achieved, among other things because it is a moving target.
Plenty of mirages and delusions behind most separationist movements surface once a careful analysis is made. The economy, the world, and even psychology do behave in a certain given way. Experience and history unequivocally show it. Hence, a personal perspective, if is not rooted in reality is doomed to failure. The different separationist movements in different parts of the world are not rooted in a clear understanding of how society and the economy work. Not coincidentally most separationist movements have a profound resemblance to the relatively recent vote in Switzerland whereby severe restrictions to the inflow and long-stay residence of foreigners is going to be limited (see related Post, Does Protectionism Protect?).
Throughout history, Scotland has produced very bright people. Among them, Adam Smith, deservedly known as the father of economics. The big irony being that in the land where the father of economics was born, lived, and died (224 years ago), a significant part of the population does not have a clue about the great findings their brilliant countryman made over two centuries ago. If they did, they would be addressing their cultural and identity efforts in a more constructive direction and manner.
Most certainly society requires a profound structural change. However, the great virtuous change inevitably requires as a prerequisite the preservation and fortifying of the many strengths the current system has, and a very well-calibrated effort to revamp and remove only the major weaknesses. The old adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” must be carefully observed at all times.
The most harmonious way to progress is through teamwork, with collective efforts towards the common good. Unity is a must.
Mankind has struggled a lot to get where it is today, far from the cavemen we used to be thousands of years ago. We all should strive for unity not for divisionism.
Granted, the world is far from perfect. However, it is rather naive to expect a sort of magical solution to most (if not all) challenges by dividing already established nations. That is a misguided effort and objective. Most of the time, separationism is an on-balance value destructive proposition.
Unity within and among nations is a major strength. The myriad of imperfections within the system must be overcome, within the system, not severely impairing or destroying it.
Mankind’s collective knowledge on globalization, integration, and free markets —among other subjects— is a work in progress, and thus with plenty of catching up to do. Nonetheless, when dealing with the integration Vs separation of nations it is already unequivocally clear what works, what doesn’t work, and why. Hence, it is truly sorrowful to still see some separationist movements trying to materialize naive and impractical dreams and aspirations with the wrong approach.