Friday, August 29, 2014

Externalities of a referendum

I fully agree with this piece by The Economist. It says that the outcome of the Scottish referendum will be the same no matter who wins, but that the negative effects on the stability of Europe and Brittain (and of Brittain in Europe) of a yes vote will be enormous. A secession referendum was irresponsible. Instead, a referendum on an agreed proposal for a shared institutional architecture would have avoided all these negative externalities. I would add that a yes victory will increase the appetite for similar referenda by national minorities but eliminate it for central governments: no one will be as reckless as Mr. Cameron. This is what The Economist says:
"The three main unionist parties—Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives—have each published proposals for further devolution. The Tory report, published in June, was the most striking: a party that has long stood for political centralisation offered Edinburgh full control of income tax. And the nationalist government has alighted on similar ground from the opposite side. Last November it published a 670-page manifesto insisting that an independent Scotland could share the pound, stay in the EU and remain closely integrated with the rest of Britain. Over the next few weeks campaigners from both camps will assure voters that their particular brand of semi-detachedness holds the solution to their day-to-day gripes.
This is remarkable, and lamentable. A victory for the nationalists would send tremors far beyond Scotland. It would trigger calls for David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister, to resign. It would change the arithmetic, and quite possibly the outcome, of next year’s general election. It would embolden separatists in Spain, Belgium and elsewhere. The difference between the campaigns’ pitches to voters may be relatively modest, but that between a “yes” and a “no” is vast."

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