The European Union is Pathetic

So here we are. Prime Minister Cameron got his ‘special deal’ from the rest of the EU leaders. It is pathetic, from both sides. I like the Brits, and admire their great tradition in political thought. Because of their constant doubts about the EU, they are (potentially) the most informed about it, if the enormous flow of publications pro and con is a sign, which have seen the light since the eighties. Therefore, one questions the sincerity of Cameron, who has repeatedly said he will campaign against Brexit. His pathetic result seems a sure vote winner for the No side though. I find it hard to belief that anyone can be seriously convinced to stay in, if his four main results should do the trick.

These four are: a minor semantic thingy (Britain is exempt from striving to a closer union); a complicated procedure for a majority of national parliaments to reject or change intended European regulation (a comparable procedure has been a failure); the possibility to decrease the amount of children allowance for children who do not live in Britain to the purchase power parity level of the country concerned (especially aimed at Eastern Europeans); and finally an emergency break on social security benefits. Great results to build a campaign on…

These results are mostly symbolic, and while symbols are important in politics, it still amounts to little. So the other European leaders were not willing to change much in the way the EU is now run and its enormous amount of laws, rules and legislation. This is by far the saddest of it all. The leaders  let the moment pass to really change the EU, to not only address the British fear and frustration, but also those of the people of many other member states.

This is especially relevant for The Netherlands. On April 6 there is national referendum on the association treaty with Ukraine. The No-camp is leading the polls. If rejected (and the government acts accordingly, which it is not obliged legally), the whole treaty has to be discarded by the EU. We have been in this situation before. In 2005 the French and Dutch populations rejected the EU constitution by large margins. Only to have force fed on their throats a marginally different constitutional treaty a year later. So strange support for the EU had been decreasing for years.

The EU cannot make a fist in foreign politics, not in defense and security affairs, not in the current refugee crisis. It fails to ensure free competition in services, it still wastes billion of euros in subsidies on agriculture, regional support, industrial policies, et cetera. In short: it is a mess, the EU fosters the development of turning itself into an open air museum: admired for its culture, laughed at for its dismal politics and economics. Thanks a lot for the leadership, European Council.

What is the distance between Damascus and Budapest?

According to, it’s 2,123 km (or 1,319 miles).

The distance between Damascus and Abu Dhabi? 2,021 km (or 1,256 miles).

If I had to flee a war zone on foot to a wealthy cosmopolitan city I’d rather go through Turkey and Romania than Iraq and Saudi Arabia, too. The West is on the precipice of a damnable moral failure (link, in case you’ve been living under a rock). In the name of fairness, though, a regional perspective ought to be adhered to.

I have a slight digression. Can anybody here imagine what the plight of the war refugees would be like going through post-socialist states like Romania and Bulgaria if they had not been a part of the EU? Let me put this into context a bit more. In order to join the EU, post-socialist states in Eastern Europe had to reform their political and legal systems in a manner that was satisfactory to the traditional Western states of the confederation. A major aspect of these reforms was making sure that governments have a harder time assaulting individual rights. This clause, or whatever you want to call it, for joining voluntarily the EU was less about a cultural chauvinism on the part of the core EU states and more about tempering the overt racist and nationalistic undertones of the post-socialist societies in Eastern Europe. Context matters, especially when there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on.

Here is a map I’ve edited for you:

map west eurasia 2015


The three big red dots represent the cities of Budapest in Hungary, Damascus in Syria, and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Visual perspectives are great. I already added my two cents about what needs to be done, in fact I did so around this time last year.

Towards a Confederation in the Holy Land

The proposal for a “two state” solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has failed. The Israelis reject it because they want to keep their investment in West-Bank settlements, and they fear that a completely independent Palestinian state would become a launching pad for an attack against Israel. But many Palestinians reject anything less than the full evacuation of the Israeli settlements, as happened in Gaza, and full sovereignty for a Palestinian state that includes all of East Jerusalem.

A “one state” solution is rejected by most Israelis, as the greater population of non-Jewish Arabs would wreck the Jewish self-determination that is the purpose of the State of Israel. The ideal would be a “no state” solution of peaceful voluntary governance, but that is not realistic.

Therefore the logical resolution to the conflict is a “three state” solution: Palestine, Israel, and a confederate government. Palestine would become a member of the United Nations and other international organizations, and Palestine could join the Arab League. But foreign countries would be asked to maintain embassies to the Confederation.

The idea of a confederation has been proposed multiple times, and there is an organization promoting it: IPC, the “Israeli Palestinian Confederation,” which has written a Constitution of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation. Yet this idea has not penetrated the official negotiations, and has had relatively little discussion in the media.

The IPC has created a governance structure, but has deliberately left out policy contents such as the public finances and the division of the land. It is now time to create a peace plan with justice, which would then be offered to the parties as a contract to accept or reject.

The pre-1967 boundaries of Israel have achieved international recognition, and pragmatically should be accepted as the national boundaries of Israel and Palestine. But the forcible removal of people because of their ethnicity or religion has to stop. The just solution is leaseholds. The Israeli settlements would become leaseholds of the Palestinian state. The governments of the Israeli communities would pay the market land rent of their leased land. The rent would be collected by the Confederate government and passed on to the government of Palestine. Thus Israelis would be able to live in the ancient lands of Judea and Samaria, but at a price. Probably some of the settlers would move to Israel, as they would no longer be subsidized.

To avoid continuing conflict, Israel and Palestine would agree to bury past grievances, not to forget them, but to not let them dominate and ruin future relationships.

One problem with a two-state solution is that it would again divide Jerusalem. The Confederation proposal would let East Jerusalem be the capital of Palestine, but would copy the confederate concept to the city as well. There would be an Israeli administration of West Jerusalem, a Palestinian administration of East Jerusalem, and a confederate government for all Jerusalem. The administrations of West and East Jerusalem would not necessarily be along the 1967 boundary, but could incorporate current residency and also put the Old City under the Confederate government.

To assure security for the Israelis, the Palestinian government would not have a military. It has no need for armed forces, as no Arab state will attack it. The Confederation would have a police force, and over time, as trust is developed, some of the military capacity of Israel would be transferred to the Confederate government, whose troops would be volunteers.

The two parts of Palestine would be West Palestine (Gaza) and East Palestine (the West Bank). The Confederation would solve the problem of connecting West and East Palestine. With peace, the checkpoints would be eliminated, and the routes from West to East Palestine would be managed by the Confederate government.

If the Palestinians seek economic growth, they would be wise to eliminate the economically punitive taxes they now have, and implement a prosperity tax shift. Palestine would replace the value-added tax and import duties with a tax on land value. The Israeli settlers would already be paying rent to Palestine, and the payment of ground rent would be extended to all the lands of Palestine. The Palestinians would no longer be dependent on Israel for government revenues.

The Palestinian refugees and residents would have a limited ability to move to Israel, but the returnees would have Palestinian citizenship. The other refugees would be granted compensation, and the Arab countries in which they reside would grant them citizenship in those countries.

The Golan Heights would remain under Israeli jurisdiction, as any negotiations with Syria would have to await the end of the wars and the establishment of democracy in Syria.

The United States should propose the Confederate solution. If it is rejected by the government of Israel, the USA should stop its governmental aid to Israel and promote Palestinian membership in the UN. If the Palestinian authority rejects the Confederation, the US would require new elections in both Gaza and the West Bank, and acceptance of confederation, to continue US aid. The US and Europe would put financial pressure for the acceptance of the just solution.

What needs to be done now is to break through the two-state slogan, to create global publicity for a confederation. The IPC has been attempting it, but the confederate idea will have more substance and more acceptance when it includes a solution to the land question.

What is a nation?

This is a reply to Brandon’s latest post. I offer similar thoughts to the below post in my post about ethnicity.

I agree with Brandon that in discussing things we should not limit ourselves to thinking in terms of states. We must consider, as Brandon puts it, both supra and sub states. We must also recall that states are much more fluid than we usually consider them.

When discussing international relations I attempt to get my conversation partners to agree that:

(1) National borders are not stable and,

(2) National identity is more fiction than reality.

The first is easily confirmed by looking at historical maps. Here is a map of the Levant/Greater Middle East in 14th century BC, in 830 BC, in 634 AD, in 1135 AD, and in 1900 AD.

Egypt and Persia are the only two entities that are present in some form or another throughout this time span, and even then their respective borders have fluctuated with only a few core regions being stable. I have yet to find someone who disagrees with the first point.

The second point is harder to get people to concede. We often think of ourselves as a given national identity and find it difficult to imagine that our nation did not exist since the beginning, or at least as far back as imaginable. Most nations have a foundation epic that makes little sense when seriously scrutinized.

Take for example American national identity. Three hundred million plus souls imagine themselves as ‘American’, but what exactly does that mean?

American identity cannot be equated with a specific phenotype; i.e. Americans are not all blue eyed blond people of English descent. In colonial days blacks outnumbered whites in several regions. Today whites in the Mid-Atlantic states are bronze skinned due to the dominance of Mediterranean descent there. The southwest is filled with “Hispanics” who overwhelming self-identify as white but are not considered really white, hence the curious demographic term “non-Hispanic white.” Even in the cradle of the American revolution, Massachusetts, the largest ancestry group is the Irish not English. The only state that is predominantly of English descent is Utah.

Among whites there is constant tension over who was really white and who is a “white negro.” Germans, who are today the largest ancestry group in the US, were the first ‘white’ subgroup to have to fight to prove that they were really white. The Irish, Italians, and others of European descent all had to fight for inclusion into the ‘white’ group. Today Hispanics and Asians are both vying for inclusion.

The revolutionary war serves as the US’ de facto national epic and the leaders of the rebellion are treated (and on occasion sculpted) as demi-gods. Yet the popular image of the revolution is more fiction than reality. Americans paid very little in tax relative to residents of the British isles. George Washington was a horrible military strategist. The founding fathers were not fighting to ensure liberty for the common man – they were fighting to shift control of government from elites in London to elites in Philadelphia. To be sure there were a few true revolutionaries, such as Thomas Paine, who were involved in the hope of genuinely reforming government. For every Paine, though, there were a dozen Hamiltons who wanted to preserve the British Empire, just without the British.

‘American’, in so far as it is an ethnic label, is non-stationary and continually evolving. I would not be amazed if the American label went extinct and was replaced with other labels in the future. Perhaps the Pacific Northwest will become inhabited by Cascadians in the future?

None of this is unique to the American moniker. It is easy to pick on the United States since it is a young nation, but most nations are just as fluid and nonsensical.

What does it mean to be British? Turkish? Austrian? Spanish?

Were the inhabitants of the British isles prior to the Norman invasion British?

The Byzantine Empire was only recently destroyed and many of its inhabitants inter married with Turkic migrants. The Ottomans gave themselves the title of Roman Emperor, “Kayser-i Rum.” A friend of mine jokingly calls Turks “Anatolian Greeks.”

‘Austrian’ as a national identity is arguably younger than the American moniker. Prior to the disestablishment of the Hapsburg Empire in WW1 there was no independent Austrian geopolitical entity. Austria was a constituent member of the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburg crown lands, the Austrian Empire, and Austria-Hungary before finally becoming simply Austria following WW1. Austrians are as culturally distinct from other Germans as Bavarians or Swabians are. Why then are Austrians a national group, but the latter two aren’t?

The Iberian peninsula has been under Muslim control (700s~1600s) longer than it has been under a united Spain. Spaniards continue to have significant traces of Arab/Berber genetic material. Despite the actions of Franco, Spanish (or “Castilian”) is not the sole language used in the country. Several million in the country’s northeast wish to cease being Spanish altogether in order to form an independent Catalan.

What is a nation? I argue that it is a group label that is invented and sustained in so far as it serves to further the goals of elites. Within an individual’s lifetime they appear unchanging, but from a historical perspective they are fluid and are frequently created, killed, or reborn as needed. When conversing about geopolitics we cannot ignore national identity, but we must keep in mind that in the long run nationality can be, and is, molded to suit political goals.

How to Achieve Peace in Gaza

Israel’s bombing of Gaza has not stopped its rocket attacks, so it is counterproductive. Instead, Israel should help the people of Gaza establish a communitarian democracy.

The government of Israel would announce on radio, television, web sites, and leaflets, that it will be sending in troops, not to fight against the people of Gaza, but to empower their communities.

The Israeli government would also apologize for its misguided policies of the past, and for the suffering and humiliation it caused for the Gaza Palestinians. Of course the Israelis have suffered also, but if one demands a counter apology, one is not really repenting and regretting.

The Israeli administration would designate neighborhood boundaries for communities of about 1000 residents and also enterprise owners. Residents would volunteer to serve on the community council. The Israeli troops would defend the community from any extremist opponents of the new democracy. The communities would set up their own protective elements, and the Israeli troops would withdraw.

Israel should have democratized Gaza in 1967 rather then let the area fester. Then in 2005, Israel removed its settlements without negotiating with the Palestinian rulers. Now Israel should do what occupiers world-wide have failed to do, lay down an infrastructure of democracy.

The community councils of Gaza would elect representatives to regional associations, and the regions would elect representatives to a Gaza parliament. The Palestinians of the West Bank should also elect their own parliament. Then the two parliaments would elect a Palestinian federation of two provinces, Gaza and the West Bank (perhaps renamed East Palestine). It would be best to leave local matters to the two provinces.

Israel should then stop imposing tax policy on the Palestinians and let them set up their own public finances. But advisers should encourage the Palestinian councils to collect the land rent and use that for public revenue rather than tax their wages and goods.

Unfortunately the Palestinian governors have focused their resources on fighting Israel rather than economic development. But after the communities in Gaza have become empowered, Gaza will no longer be occupied territory. Israel would remove the barriers around Gaza gradually, since there will still be extremists who seek destruction. But Israel should facilitate the greatest possible mobility for the Palestinians under the constraint of protection, rather than treat the Palestinians with the arrogance that has been practiced in the past. “No more humiliation” should be the stated slogan.

A similar policy should be pursued in the West Bank. The Palestinian authority chiefs will resist transferring power to the people and their local councils, but a democratic Gaza (or West Palestine) will cause the East Palestinians to demand genuine democracy. A bottom-up governance in the West Bank would then result in a federation of West and East Palestine that would then negotiate a lasting peace with Israel.

There have been some peace gatherings among Israelis and Palestinians to humanize their relations and to see that individuals are people much like themselves. But such personal interactions are no substitute for confronting the essential issue of who shall own the land.

The solution that is both just and politically feasible is to recognize the pre-1967 boundaries and then convert the Israeli settlements as leaseholds that pay rent to the Palestinian government.

Ideally all landowners in Israel and Palestine should pay the market rent of their land possessions. Land rent would serve as the best public revenue for a Confederation of Israel and Palestine. Palestine would be a state within the Confederation and would itself also be a federation of West and East Palestine.

The other contentious issue has been the return of displaced Palestinians to their pre-1948 lands. A peace treaty should allow a limited return of Palestinians to Israel, with some compensation for lands that have become homes for others. So long as justice is sought, the maximalists will usually be in the minority.

If justice is not established, time will be an enemy of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, as extremists and nuclear perils are on the rise. The choice is either justice now or destruction later.
Note: this article is also at

The European Union Needs More States, Not More Territory

The recent uproar over the upcoming vote on the potential secession of Scotland from Great Britain illustrates well the European Union’s foreign policy weaknesses. The EU’s potential to increase the number of states within its borders without having to expand its geographic space is an overlooked avenue to reaching a bolder, more sophisticated foreign policy.

Regional aspirations for more political autonomy have been voiced since the time of the creation of Germany and Italy in the late 19th century, but wars, nationalism, economic concerns, and fear of wars (along with the presence of the American military, of course) have largely kept these aspirations on the fringe of domestic political debates in Europe.

Steven Erlanger’s 2012 piece in the New York Times explains well why this is changing and what is currently happening in the European Union:

The great paradox of the European Union, which is built on the concept of shared sovereignty, is that it lowers the stakes for regions to push for independence.

Erlanger also goes on to quote a scholar at the European Council on Foreign Relations:

‘The whole development of European integration has lowered the stakes for separation, because the entities that emerge know they don’t have to be fully autonomous and free-standing,’ said Mark Leonard, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. ‘They know they’ll have access to a market of 500 million people and some of the protections of the E.U.’

The European Union has essentially taken the place of the nation-state as the chief entity in charge of standardizing trading policies in Europe. This political setup is a great opportunity for regions that have been absorbed into larger nation-states to assert more fiscal and political independence because of these regions’ new interdependence with a larger part of the European economy. The confederation has provided an opportunity for smaller states to emerge while at the same time providing these small state polities with a range of options and allies that are often missing from small states’ repertoires. The best of both worlds has a chance to flower: local governance and total participation in world trade.

This is better understood with a quick historical sketch of 19th and 20th century Europe in mind.

In the last decades of the 19th century the large nation-states of central Europe – Germany and Italy – had just been formed after centuries of being composed of hundreds of small polities. These small polities were parochial, and many of these polities’ elite factions had erected protectionist barriers around their small territories. These newly established nation-states were flanked on their eastern borders by cosmopolitan-but-despotic empires operating from Vienna, Moscow and Istanbul, and to the south were small Muslim polities haphazardly connected to the Ottoman Empire and economically dependent on Mediterranean piracy and Saharan trade routes. To the north and west: oceans and the seafaring, imperial regimes of Great Britain, the Netherlands, and France.

A map of Europe in 1800 AD. Look at how many polities are in what is now Germany and Italy. Thanks goes to

The formation of these larger nation-states were undertaken, generally speaking, in order to unify territories considered to be connected under various broad cultural domains into a cohesive political units and mercantile trading blocs.

After Germany and Italy achieved political unification, programs geared towards creating economic spheres of influence within the territory of the new nation-states began to be implemented. The creation of nation-states in central Europe had the contradictory result of opening up free trade zones within the territories of nation-states while simultaneously erecting new trading barriers that targeted individuals and factions not connected with the new nation-states. Free trade won in the domestic arena of these new states, but it also lost out internationally.

The political unification of these nation-states did not go down well with a myriad of factions. The reasons for resistance were varied, but suffice it to say that there was an intense backlash against the centralization of power and the nationalization of everyday life in the new nation-states of central Europe.

To counter regional resistance, proponents of political centralization argued that political union halted the wars that had wracked Europe for centuries (the economic benefits of freer trade were touted as well, but this argument did not have the same clout as it does today). However, this intellectual argument was framed in nationalistic terms, so when it trickled down into the public sphere of European life what emerged was a solid case against regional fracture that involved one part peace and one part national chauvinism.

The end result of this was the destruction of Europe through two large-scale, horrific wars.

The European Union has succeeded where the nation-states of Germany and Italy failed: by creating a massive free trade zone that eliminates protectionism (as the German and Italian nation-states did), and the necessity of cultural chauvinism (“nationalism”)  to maintain legitimacy (which the German and Italian nation-states could not do), the European Union has provided Europe with an incredible opportunity to build a lasting peace.

Adopting a requirement for member states  to incorporate a constitutional option that allows for referendums on secession would be a bold move that would not only bring a higher level of sophistication to EU foreign policy, but also fluster Moscow without edging closer to its borders (think about the example this would set in Russia’s own self-styled federation).

Creative Destruction in the Levant

Creative destruction ain’t just a place for the marketplace, baby! The National Interest has an article out by Mark Donig on “The Twilight of Sykes-Picot.” It’s a great piece that basically acknowledges the end of an era (European imperialism and cartographic arrogance), and what this will mean for the United States.

Sykes-Picot is an agreement between France and Great Britain that divided the Ottoman Empire up between the two after World War I (the article goes into a bit more detail if you’re interested). Russia was also a part of the negotiations for carving up Europe’s sick man, but after the Bolsheviks seized power all imperial pretenses associated with the West were abandoned in Moscow. European cartographers abandoned the Ottoman approach (learned over centuries of trial and error) to governing territories in the Levant and instead carved up the region as they saw fit. The end result was, of course, a number of states that could only be held together by a strong man. Today, these post-colonial states are collapsing and in their place are a greater number of pseudo-states.

In many of these pseudo-states, Islamists run the show. Donig, an international law student, is worried that if states like Syria and Iraq collapse, the chemical and biological weapons stockpiled in secret locations will fall into the wrong hands. Donig’s suggestion is that the US pay very close attention to what is happening in the Levant, but I think he is much too pessimistic.

The US should embrace political disintegration in Levant wholeheartedly. Doing so would mean recognizing sovereignty of nasty-looking regimes. Yet is would also end the power struggles for the “center” in Sykes-Picot states, which would in turn end the reign of strong men in the region for good (for a concise explanation on why strong men emerge in post-colonial states, see “Imperialism: The Illogical Nature of Humanitarian Wars“).

Were the US to embrace decentralization in the Levant, it would be wise for Washington to play an active role implementing trade agreements both between the new states  as well as with Washington. The separatist movements in Scotland and Catalonia illustrate my garbled point well. Scots and Catalonians don’t want independence without membership into the international trading confederation known as the EU, and membership in an international confederation requires relinquishing some sovereignty (Daniel Larison inadvertently makes this point here; people on both the Left and Right who point to evils of EU rarely acknowledge that many states and regions would love to be a part of this confederation, warts and all, and that they stake their very separatist claims on such a membership).

Trade agreements would play an integral role in making or breaking these new states within their newly decentralized region (see Becker or yours truly on the importance of trade in politically fragmented regions). Once recognizing sovereignty of new states, the US would gain some much-needed trust from the peoples of these new states, and then Washington could use that influence to push for more economic integration (between the new states and with the new states) while at the same time recognizing the reality of political fragmentation in the region.

At any rate, full-on American diplomacy in this area is a must, especially given the TNI report’s account of possible chemical weapons stockpiles. This is something the US could work with Russia on, thus building a measure of trust which could, in turn, be used to work with Moscow elsewhere (especially in Europe). It still surprises me that dovish policymakers in Washington and Moscow have not yet used their respective government’s mutual enemy (Islamism) to build much-needed bridges between the two countries.

Cyprus, the EU and Competing Currencies

There have been many critiques over the European Union from many different quarters over the decades since its inception. With the seizure of cash from customers of banks in Cyprus, the worst threat imaginable has now come to pass for Euroskeptics. Economist Frederic Sautet explains how the heist has so far gone down:

Some depositors at Cyprus’ largest bank may lose a lot of money (e.g. see article in FT). Those with deposits above €100,000 could lose 37.5 percent in tax (cash converted into bank shares), and on top of that another 22.5 percent to replenish the bank’s reserves (a “special fund”). Basically “big depositors” are “asked” to pay for (at least part of) Cyprus’ bailout (the rest will be paid by other taxpayers in the EU).

I cannot think of a faster way to completely destroy a banking system than to expropriate its depositors. This is the kind of policies one would expect from a banana republic, not from a political system that rests on the rule of law. But this is the point: the EU does not respect the principles upon which a free society is based.

An economist over at ThinkMarkets also has a good piece on the Cyprus heist. The EU has taken an incredibly good arrangement – free trade throughout Europe – and turned it into an attempt to unify Europe into a single behemoth of a state. And all under the auspices of “federalism.” This is a bad development for a number of reasons. Continue reading

Separatism (Secession) in Spain, and the Rest of the World

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!

States and Secession: Lamenting the Failure of the Euro Zone

The Guardian has a so-so map on secessionist movements in Africa that’s worth checking out. I say it’s only so-so because it doesn’t really cover all the secessionist movements in the region, just the violent ones or the ones favored by Western diplomats.

I’m interested in secessionist movements because of the effects that they have on nationalism, one of the most dangerous ideologies to haunt mankind since the industrial revolution. Nationalism is probably worse than racism, or at least on par with it, when it comes to ideas gone horribly wrong.

That’s why I support free trade between states, and the deeper the better. The true tragedy of the EuroZone crisis is not the inevitable and predictable collapse of the euro but the fact that anti-liberal policies like the central bank and more political integration between states (and away from the people) are being misconstrued as liberal, in the classical sense.

The smaller the states the better, and the freer the trade the better. Mexicans should be able to travel and live in the US and Canada the same way that Nevadans are able to travel and live in California. The EuroZone could have been beautiful, but the pressure for a central bank and more control from a center, in Brussels, has probably ended it. It’s a good primer on how beautiful ideas often don’t pan out the way people would like them to.

Here’s how to fix the EuroZone crisis:

  1. Eliminate the monopoly of the central bank on creating money and credit.
  2. Open up the EuroZone market to more goods from the rest of the world (especially agricultural products from developing states).

I also think it’d be a good idea to keep Brussels as limited as it is. Doing so will not only allow more room for local policies to be experimented with and tested against other policies, but it will continue to erode the nation-state as well. What we were seeing prior to the crisis in the EuroZone is more calls for autonomy from state capitals throughout the EuroZone,  and a powerlessness on the part of states to do anything about it.

So instead of France and Spain, two states, the world may have seen up to five or six states in their stead, all interacting with each other economically while retaining nominal political independence from each other.

What a shame.

Somaliland in the News

Reports the BBC:

Leaders from Somalia and Somaliland have held their first formal discussions on the future of the self-proclaimed Somaliland republic.

It broke away in 1991 and wants to be a separate country – but it has not been internationally recognised.

Mogadishu wants the northern territory to be part of a single Somali state.

Since declaring independence, Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace in contrast to the rest of Somalia, which has been plagued by conflict […]

It was the first time in 21 years that there had been formal, direct contact between the authorities in Mogadishu, and the Somaliland administration, which used to be a British colony, whereas southern Somalia was governed by Italy.

The two sides agreed the talks should continue and, in a declaration, they called on their respective presidents to meet as soon as possible – this could be as early as next week in Dubai.

They also called on the international community to help provide experts on legal, economic and security matters, which our correspondent says are all issues that will need to be addressed in clarifying the future relationship between Somalia and Somaliland.

This is great news! Continue reading

Secession, Small States, and Decentralization: A Rejoinder to Dr. Ayittey

Dr Ayittey has kindly responded to my rebuttal.

You can’t mix secession with decentralization of power; oranges and apples. Your statements that “Smaller states would be much better for Africa than the large ones in place” and “The more “Little Djiboutis” there are, the better” are ridiculous. At a time when small countries are coming together to form larger economic blocs – EU, AU, ASEAN, Mercosur, etc. – you recommend going in the other direction: The creation of more little states that are not economically viable. Would you recommend the break-up of the US into 50 little states? Check your own history.

The original US Constitution was inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy. Under that Constitution, the South elected to secede, which led to the Civil War (1861-1865). Why didn’t the US allow the South to secede? It would have led to GREATER decentralization of power.

Now, I want to let everybody know that this exchange is happening over Twitter, so be sure to take Dr. Ayittey’s response in stride and in context.

First up are his first and last statements: Continue reading

African Political Structures: A Debate

I just hooked a big fish on the end of my line when I tweeted about my support for secession of Azawad to Dr. George Ayittey, an economist at American University and one of Africa’s leading lights of classical liberalism.  I have a talent for ribbing people in just the right place at just the right time, and the following response I got from Dr. Ayittey confirms my magnificent talent (some may disagree with the label ‘talent’, but I digress).

In response to my support for Azawad, Dr. Ayittey tweeted the following: Continue reading

A State Called Libya

Over at The Week, Dr. Daniel Larison brings up the situation of a state called Libya.  One year ago the West led a bombing campaign that ousted the brutal dictator Moammar Ghaddafi.  A problem or two arose though:

The internal disorder and regional instability that the West’s assault created were foreseen by many critics. And yet, Western governments made no meaningful efforts to prepare for them. No one planned to stabilize Libya once Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, and the National Transitional Council (NTC) rejected the idea of an outside stabilization force […]

The NTC Larison speaks of is, of course, the entity that the West has blessed with steering the Libyan state’s course to democratic paradise.  Think here of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.  It gets worse too: Continue reading

Hillary Clinton on Somalia: More of the Same

Hillary Clinton has recently called for more effort on the part of the West in the War on Terror’s Horn of Africa region by issuing threats of sanctions and more military troops in the region recently (ht John Glaser).

The threats of sanction, which libertarians consider an act of war, have been issued to states who don’t cooperate with the West in their efforts to eradicate al Shabaab, an Islamic group linked to al Qaeda that controls much of the southern territory of Somalia and, until recently, sections of Mogadishu as well.

The underlying argument put forth by the West is that the Somali state itself, a creation of the West, needs to be upheld and maintained by an inclusive, democratic regime in order for stability, prosperity and an end to terrorist activities to take place in the Horn of Africa.

This is tactic is incredibly wrong, and instead of accomplishing the West’s stated aims, actually contributes to its continued failure. Continue reading