Thursday, 11 September 2014

Exemplary Western Civilisation

Modelling Democracy

There is an intriguing parallel to be drawn between the secession of the Southern states from the Union of the United States in 1861 and what is now taking place in Scotland.  It appears as though, if the voting intentions are being counted correctly, Scotland will secede from the United Kingdom.  This will be accomplished peacefully, by the will of the people.

Since Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom for three centuries, unwinding the two will be quite a task.  But, it is achievable.  Will Scotland be doing the "right thing"?  Yes.  If the majority want it, then they are welcome to it.  (One caveat might be that a simple majority of fifty percent for such a huge change is a bit light.  Amongst the time-honoured principles of sound governance is the need to have constitutional changes achieve a larger majority support than a mere fifty percent because they are changes of such a profound import.)

The Scots have been a redoubtable people.  Their world-wide influence has been far, far greater than their relatively small population.
  Scots have spread throughout the world and have had an enormously disproportionate influence on the development of the West.  They have been a smart, canny people: industrious, hard working, educated, entrepreneurial, and tough.  Well, they used to be.  Not so much now.  Moreover, their history is replete with bloody oppression, corruption (particularly amongst the feudal lords), and horrific scandals--such as clearing the Highlands of the crofters.  But it turned out that Scotland's loss was a gain to the rest of the world because huge benefits of the Scottish diaspora to the recipient countries.

But in our estimation, the Scots in recent times have become seduced by socialism.  Their fundamental mode of existence in modern times has been to demand more and more taxpayers' money to support the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed and believe themselves entitled.  But the demands and appetite for other people's money outstripped the ability or desire of Westminster to pay.  As with all socialistic enterprises, eventually it has run out of other people's money.  Consequently, the desire to "go it alone" has gradually risen over the last forty years as a "cure-all" to Scotland's many woes.  A strong rationale appears to be the belief that more money can be obtained from other countries--which will eventually end in calamity.

We have always suspected that the promoters of Scottish independence have seen the European Union as the sugar daddy to fund their fiscal deficits and insatiable appetite for consuming other people's money.  It worked in Ireland (for a while).  But, now, the last thing the EU wants is another member state with a huge fiscal deficit, putting its hand out for more Deutschmarks.  EU spokesmen have already gone on record pointing out that Scotland will have to get to the back of the queue.  There will be no open-armed welcome to one more indigent needy state.  The European Union has enough economic troubles on its own account.  One more begging bowl will hardly be attractive.

The Scots, let it be said, dispute this notion.  Many believe that the tax royalties to be extracted from North Sea oil and whisky will more than fill the treasuries.  We believe that this will end up in one more disaster--tax and spend never works in the long run, for the appetite for more spending always outstrips the state's ability to tax. As the wag once put it: to the socialist, if it moves, tax it; if it keeps moving, regulate it; if it stops moving, subsidise it.  

The point is that the dissolution (if the vote passes) will likely witness a long, lingering buyers' remorse.   But it would have been a peaceful act, determined by the Scottish people.  That is an exemplary action.  Whether it will prove to be to the long term benefit of the Scottish people is not so obvious, and in many ways neither here nor there.  It would be their bed; they would have to lie in it. 

Contrast the secession of the Southern States from the Union of the United States in 1861: the pain of the Civil War lingers in the United States to this day.  We are presented here with an interesting thought experiment: would the United States even to this day tolerate or permit any state or collection of states to secede by right of suffrage?  Texas, for example.  It is difficult to conceive of such respect for democratic rights and the will of the people in that country.  The United States is more minatory, more bloodthirsty, less committed to rights of the people when it comes to its own union than the United Kingdom has proven to be.  Yet the UK's example will prove to be the more noble, the more principled, and by far the better course over the long run we believe.

Will the Scottish secession work?  We do not know.  But one thing we are sure of--whether it works or not will lie in the hearts, minds, hands and feet of the Scottish people.  They will have the ball in hand; they will have to make play with it.  And that trumps well over half a million killed in a civil war.

Maybe the biggest long term benefit of a Scottish secession would be a positive example of how democratic societies are supposed to function.

Postscript: we note that the Queen has refused to take sides in the issue.  She has stated that the decision lies in the hands of the Scottish people, not the will or wishes of the Queen of the United Kingdom.  She has rebuked those who have tried to claim the monarchy as wanting the vote to secede to fail.  Now that is classy. 

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