Lessons from Scotland referendum: We need more modest/smaller forms of government..

Though the voting supported Scotland remaining in UK, the stress over basic governance is increasing in most parts of the world. People are growing frustrated with their governments to provide even basic services.

Richard W. Rahn of Cato says we need to reorganise our states to smaller sized ones.

Yes, the world is a mess — but there is a long-run solution. The solution is a world of modest-size governmental units — like Virginia and Switzerland, with no larger entity to bail them out if they make bad decisions.

Most countries, including those with the biggest economies, are plagued with slow growth and rising, unsustainable debt burdens. The slow growth is in large part a result of excessively large government sectors — with taxes, regulations and spending far beyond the optimal. And the rise in debt increases the pressure for more taxes, which slows growth even further and thus fuels the demand for even more government spending to take care of the growing numbers of those “left behind” (because of the lack of growth). This is an economic death spiral.

For most countries, getting out of the death spiral is not going to be pretty. Some will be responsible and sharply cut spending. Others will inflate away their debt or just default. The question is “Then what?”

Citizens in many countries, including the United States, feel they have lost control of their own governments — because they have. They no longer think they are masters of their destinies. Large centralized government, by its nature, becomes uncaring at best, and brutal and oppressive at worst. The movement for secession in Scotland was a cry to regain control.

There are examples:

What would the world look like if the peoples of the world could re-establish themselves in the political units where they would feel most comfortable in terms of language, ethnicity, shared history, ideals, religion, etc.? There are many success stories that can be used as models. There are the largely homogeneous Scandinavian countries, which are prosperous, peaceful, have the rule of law and a very high protection of civil liberties. There are the super city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore, which are rich with very high degrees of economic freedom, the rule of law and most civil liberties. And there is Switzerland with its decentralized direct democracy that has allowed each of its political subunits to choose its own tax rates, size of government and language — which has worked extremely well to provide a very high level of protection for civil liberties, the rule of law and widely shared prosperity.

The world has been becoming more centralized, with rise of the superstates like the United States, the European Union and a unified China and India. Yet most basic functions of government — courts, schools, police and fire protection — are often best provided by relatively small governmental units. Smaller states would need to develop military alliances in order to adequately protect themselves, but this does not require an all-intrusive superstate. People have increasingly expressed their displeasure at their lives being controlled (unnecessarily) by a relatively few in Washington, London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi, etc. — leading to less liberty and more bureaucracy.

In the United States, the states compete with each other to attract business and jobs — which is a discipline on excessive regulation, taxation and spending at the state level. Most states have some sort of balanced-budget requirements that limit the amount of debt they can incur (with a few noticeable exceptions). If the federal government devolved many of its functions and activities, including the so-called “entitlements,” back to the states, it is unlikely that the country would have the depressed economy and runaway government debt that is now occurring.

There will always be some irresponsible countries, states and localities, but if there is no possibility of a federal or International Monetary Fund bailout, occasional occurrences of fiscal meltdowns in smaller political units (like Detroit or Greece) would both be more manageable (as are company bankruptcies), and not a threat to the global economy.

The utopian world is obviously very different from the real world where the idea is to become bigger..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: