Thursday, July 17, 2014
Andorra or Denmark? Secessionists free-riding on the idea of Europe
Secessionists in Catalonia and Scotland pay lip service to the European ideal: they want, so they claim, to be "independent" member-states in Europe. They want to be "like Denmark", small countries with a very high standard of living and high quality institutions. However, it is hard to see how they can build these institutions, which in the case of Denmark have their origins in an era where financial and trading transactions across borders were much lower than today. It is hard to see how they will build better institutions than those that they enjoy today, when they are in fact capturing their democratic institutions to promote the project of a part of their societies, instead of spending their time using the important bunch of the state they already control to improve the quality of life of all their citizens. It is hard to see how an independent Scotland will have better democratic institutions than British institutions. That is why even those in favour of the yes vote in the September referendum want to retain some key UK institutions, such as the Monarchy, the currency or the public television. By seceding from countries that have gone to great lengths to decentralize in the last decades, and that are integrated in the European Union and in a global economy, they run the risk of actually leaving the EU and becoming like Andorra (a small fiscal haven) rather than like Denmark. Europe is in the process of advancing towards a closer Union and creating new borders is clearly a step backwards in this process. Better institutions are build by efficiently using the current instruments of democratic government. Secessionists in Quebec also claimed for a long time (before the majority stopped listening) that Canada was a failed country. If Canada, one of the most civilized, democratic and decentralized countries in the world, is a failed country, what are all the others? In fact, when they are hard pressed, secessionists have no interest in the idea of a Union that leaves nation-states behind, and they reveal that their preferred option to solve Rodrik's trilemma is either to abandon democracy de facto (by retaining globalization and the nation-state) or to abandon globalization (they must know how).