Separatist agitations in Spain have prompted some observers to reconsider the concept of secession as a viable option in politics again. The BBC has a very good report here, and the Economist has an even better one here.
When I was taking an Honors course on Western civilization and we got to the European Union, a thought immediately came to my head and I shared it with the class: does the European Union mean the demise of the big nation-states of Europe?
My hope is that it will, but my Professor and my Left-leaning classmates either thought ‘no’ or had not thought about this question at all. One sexy girl did think it was possible, though I think she was just humoring me so that I would ask her out on a date (yes, I did, but she couldn’t get into UCLA, though, so she ended up at Berkeley!).
I thought about the confederation of states in Europe that the EuroZone has created, and remembered that many regions within the nation-states of Europe have harbored separatist sentiments since being absorbed into the nation-states of Europe (sometimes hundreds of years ago, sometimes decades ago), as well as the peaceful split-up of Czechoslovakia into two states within the EuroZone.
The purpose of the nation-states was to streamline trade between regions by standardizing trading policy and eliminating parochial tariffs that regions within the nation-states had erected over the course of centuries. So, in what is now Germany, for example, there were hundreds of small states that each had their own economic policies, and most of these states had erected protectionist tariffs, even on neighboring states. The German state standardized trading policy in what is now Germany so that a tariff-free zone of trade eventually emerged within Germany. The federal set-up of the United States accomplished the same thing.
Now, though, the European Union has essentially taken the place of the nation-state as the chief entity in charge of standardizing trading policies in Europe. My line of thought leads me to conclude that this political setup is a great opportunity for regions that have been absorbed into larger nation-states to assert more fiscal (local taxes) and political (local elections) independence because of these region’s new interdependence with a larger part of the European economy thanks to the elimination of tariffs between the larger nation-states currently in place. In short, the confederation has provided the opportunity for smaller states to emerge while at the same time eliminating the parochial and self-defeating aspects (trade policy) of small state polities that often accompanies “smallness.” The best of both worlds has the chance to flower: local governance and total participation in world trade.
I realize that the EuroZone shot itself in the foot with the creation of a central bank and the attempts to delegate to itself ever more political power, but with these two blemishes notwithstanding the European Union is a good thing for both peace and prosperity.
The question of secession in political science has recently emerged as a good one for many scholars, but unfortunately their focus has tilted heavily towards Europe and Canada (Quebec and Nunavut). If we apply this concept to other regions of the globe – especially China, Africa, the Middle East and India – then the notions of violence and despotism that Westerners largely harbor towards these regions disappears.
I hope this makes sense. If it doesn’t you know where the ‘comments’ section is!