Sunday, November 27, 2016

The real choice of California

I have a group of very nice American students in my course on the economics of soccer in Barcelona. I try to make my course interesting not only by talking about soccer, but also using soccer as an excuse to talk about other interesting issues. In our last class we discussed the implications of Brexit and secessionist debates for the future of  sports leagues and institutions. They seemed intrigued by the debate in the United Kingdom and the debates in other parts of the world that have nationalist tensions. I suggested that to think about the implications (not very important in my view, as sports borders should not be necessarily related to administrative borders) they should just wait and see about what will happen in California if secessionist voices keep getting louder. Most of my students started to laugh, as if believing that the demands of Californian independence after the last US presidential election are nothing more than a joke. I was relieved by that, but at the same time I wished that they don't have to suffer a humiliation like the one suffered by the members of the European Parliament when they had to listen to Nigel Farage after the Brexit referendum saying "You're not laughing anymore, are you?" To prevent that from happening, they'd better stay alert and do everything they can to help Californians make the right choice. I don't mean the choice between being independent or not, which is not something they have to decide in a meaningful way in the immediate future, but the choice between even starting such a campaign or devoting their immense resources to more productive uses. Perhaps one day they will really have to choose between being an initially rich isolated node, or being part of a cooperative decentralized network (that is what rich societies should be). But now what they have to choose is whether they start descending through the slippery slope of a debate on independence that divides their society and gives the front pages to the worst characters and their low instincts. Please don't do that, we need the best from California.

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