To Secede or Not to Secede

September 18th, 2014

Today millions of voters across Scotland are deciding whether or not to gain independence from Great Britain. In the end, what’s left of the once powerful kingdom that ruled over much of the world will either remain “united” or be forever broken.

While the media is full of jokes and commentary about haggis, Scotch, and kilts, this is actually a very serious matter.

When the USSR broke apart on December 26, 1991, much of the world was shocked but also quite thrilled. For me, growing up during the Cold War, it was almost too much to imagine.  My generation only knew the USSR as a superpower and a threat to the United States and the rest of the free world. Suddenly, it was effectively gone.

During those exciting post-Soviet dissolution days, few people noted that while in some instances there can be tremendous upside to such a break up, in other circumstances just the opposite might true.

In Scotland’s case, there appear to be lots of emotional reasons for Scots to vote “yes,” but that’s about it.  There aren’t many other good reasons to separate.  Economically and politically, it’s likely an independent Scotland would find itself in dire straits. For instance, what currency would Scotland use?  Would it be granted admission into the European Union or NATO? Would it be able to support an extensive welfare state, which most Scots favor, completely from the income generated by North Sea oil?

And what about the impact on the region and the rest of the world?

How would such a move affect the economies of Great Britain, Europe, and the United States?  More importantly, would such a move begin a domino effect in other countries?

Spain is particularly concerned since Catalonia has long sought its freedom.  Parts of the French Mediterranean and Quebec also harbor separatist movements.

The United States isn’t totally immune to the independence bug.  Drive around Texas and you’ll see a few “Secede” bumper stickers on the back of pick-up trucks.  In California, there is currently a movement, not to secede entirely, but instead to basically secede internally.  Citizens of the Silicon Valley are currently floating a proposal to divide the state into six different states thus inoculating the wealthiest part of the Golden State from the poorest.

All this begs a rather disturbing question.

Could the United States ever go the way of the USSR and separate into its more naturally unified parts?  In theory, this question was decided the only time our nation was ever split in two, but separatist movements generally don’t follow cleanly constructed rules so even that’s not entirely out of the question.

We should know that results of Scotland’s vote soon.

Weighing everything, if I had a vote as some of my ancestors would if alive today, I would vote “no.”