Tuesday, September 16, 2014

gasbaggery a little bit closer to the bullseye...,


NYTimes |  The economic risks are so glaring that even Paul Krugman and I agree it’s a terrible idea. What currency will Scotland use? The pound? The euro? No one knows. What share of North Sea oil revenues will go to Edinburgh? What about Scotland’s share of Britain’s enormous national debt?

Is this going to be one of those divorces in which one partner claims all the assets and offers the other partner only the liabilities? Whatever the S.N.P. may say, a yes vote on Thursday would have grave economic consequences, and not just for Scotland. Investment has already stalled. Big companies based in Scotland, notably the pensions giant Standard Life, have warned of relocating to England. Jobs would definitely be lost. The recent steep decline in the pound shows that the financial world hates the whole idea.
Yet the economic arguments against independence seem not to be working — and may even be backfiring. I think I know why. Telling a Scot, “You can’t do this — if you do, terrible things will happen to you,” has been a losing negotiating strategy since time immemorial. If you went into a Glasgow pub tonight and said to the average Glaswegian, “If you down that beer, you’ll get your head kicked in,” he would react by draining his glass to the dregs and telling the barman, “Same again.”

So what kind of appeal can be made to stop the Anglo-Scottish divorce? The answer may be an appeal to Scotland’s long history of cosmopolitanism.

The great Scottish philosopher David Hume was contemptuous of what he called the “vulgar motive of national antipathy.” “I am a Citizen of the World,” he wrote in 1764. Hume’s account of the consequences of union with England could scarcely have been more positive: “Public liberty, with internal peace and order, has flourished almost without interruption.” His only complaint was the tendency of the English to treat “with Hatred our just Pretensions to surpass and to govern them.” (At the time, the English had not quite got used to Scottish prime ministers, of which there have been 11, by my count.)

Petty nationalism is just un-Scottish. And today’s Scots should remember the apposite warning of their countryman the economist Adam Smith about politicians who promise “some plausible plan of reformation” in order “to new-model the constitution,” mainly for “their own aggrandizement.” All over Continental Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, nationalism was what ambitious hacks espoused to advance themselves. Scotland was the exception. May it stay that way.