Should Scotland Become Independent?

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 7 2014 11:53 AM

Should Scotland Become Independent?

51146405-the-skyline-of-the-city-of-edinburgh-is-shown-during-the
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom (but for how long?)

Photo by Chris Furlong/Getty Images

Scotland's independence referendum later this year hasn't gotten much coverage in the United States and most of the coverage I have seen has largely reflected the international community's knee-jerk hostility to the redrawing of borders.

But I have to say that my priors go in the other direction, and I'm favorably disposed. The main reason is that it seems to me that in the European context where everyone is a stable democracy with a mixed-market economy, the small countries (Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, etc.) are generally a lot better run than the bigger ones. For one thing, smaller countries have simpler institutional arrangements since you're not trying to accommodate size by embedding complicated federalism mechanisms into the already complicated framework of the European Union. But for another thing, I think the debate over welfare state design gets more sensible when you're talking about a small jurisdiction. A place like Scotland is a sufficiently small share of the United Kingdom that it makes sense for a Scottish political activist to be more focused on "how much money does this program bring to Scotland?" than on "how good is this program at generating social benefits in a cost-effective way?" An independent Scotland—like an independent Wallonia or other possible new European mini-states—would have politics that I think would ultimately be more constructive.

Advertisement

Of course maybe not. Don't mistake this for a thorough investigation of the ins-and-outs of independence for Scotland. But if you think about the larger context of the "European Project" then I think it really does make sense to become more favorable to European independence movements in general. Creating a continent-wide zone of peace and market integration was enormously hard work. One of the major benefits of that work is to create an international landscape that's much friendlier to the interests of small nations. The kind of place where Belgium doesn't get trampled simply because it's sitting on the optimal invasion route into France. That people in Scotland and Catalonia and Flanders and elsewhere are pushing to take advantage of those gains seems very sensible to me.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Propublica
Oct. 17 2014 4:21 PM Why the Poor Pay $1,400 for Old iPads #MuckReads: A weekly roundup of investigative reporting from ProPublica.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 1:54 PM Republican Midterm Debate Strategy: Be Pro-Life, But Not Anti-Abortion
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 19 2014 7:30 AM Persistence Pays Off: The Smoking Trail of a Shooting Star
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.