Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2007 / 11 Shevat, 5767

Independence isn't always beautiful

By Niall Ferguson


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I find myself confronted with a "trilemma" — a three-horned dilemma. If, as seems likely, Scottish voters choose to mark the tercentenary of the Act of Union by voting the Scottish National Party into power in Edinburgh, I would be a significant step closer to having to choose between British and Scottish citizenship. If, however, my application for permanent residency in the United States is successful, I would be a significant step closer toward American citizenship.


This is more than merely a personal identity crisis. All over the world, people are facing similar choices. Millions are strongly attracted to the idea of having their "own" little country. But other millions are just as attracted to the idea of emigrating to someone else's big country. Can they all be right?


Let us begin in Scotland. Three hundred years ago, the land of my birth gave up its own Parliament — hence its legislative sovereignty — under the terms of the Act of Union with England. According to the Scottish Nationalists, the time has come to tear that law up and to follow the examples of Australia, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro, New Zealand and Norway — places where, in the words of the SNP website, "independence has worked."


Granted, it is not wholly implausible to imagine an independent Scotland as Finland West or New Zealand North. But there are plenty of countries with populations of around 5 million that have made rather less of a success of independence. Sierra Leone springs to mind. As do Eritrea and Turkmenistan. Small isn't always beautiful. The question therefore arises: When does it make sense for a people to go it alone?


The last century has seen a remarkable global experiment in what used to be called "self-determination," so we have plenty of evidence to go on. Back in 1913, about 82% of the world's population lived in 14 empires. Nation-states were the exception, not the rule. But two world wars, a depression and a spate of revolutions shattered the old imperial order, ushering in an era of almost incessant political fragmentation. In 1946, there were 74 sovereign states in the world. By 1995, there were 192.


Today, Scotland is far from the only place bidding to follow East Timor and Montenegro, the newest members of the United Nations. The majority of the population of the Serbian province of Kosovo, which is less than half the size of Scotland, is eager to secede from Belgrade. If civil war leads to partition in Iraq, that country's 26 million people may have to choose between Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite statelets.


From a strictly economic point of view, the size of a country does not seem to matter much. Statistically, there's no relationship worth talking about between total population and per-capita income. So the arguments against independence come down to two interrelated things: power and culture. Though the small and smart can beat the big and blundering on occasion, in general there are economies of scale when it comes to warfare.


There are also economies of scale when it comes to communication. Most of humanity's greatest achievements, from Ming China to 20th century America, have come where large numbers of people have been able to exchange ideas in a common language.


If the Scots all spoke Gaelic, the argument for independence would be more compelling. The reality is that they mostly watch English TV and read English newspapers. If the British Isles were menaced by a foreign invader, the argument for independence would collapse. There's safety in numbers.


This sheds light on the peculiar character of our age. Thanks to air transportation and electronic communications, the spread of language has become disconnected from the realm of politics. English now serves as a global lingua franca without needing the old agencies of conquest and colonization. At the same time, the decline of expansionist empires has reduced the hazards of being a small country.


Might that change in the future? There are 21 countries with populations greater than 60 million. Of the remaining 171 countries, only 16 have more than 30 million people and only 22 more than 15 million. The rest are states that would struggle to survive in a world where war was more commonplace and communication more expensive.


Imagine, then, a dangerous world, in which most of the world's population chose, or were compelled, to inhabit empires. China's, India's and Russia's already exist. Would a new Persian empire arise in the Middle East? Or a restored Sunni caliphate? Would the dream of Simon Bolivar belatedly be realized in Latin America? Would the Scots and the English become citizens of a United States of Europe? Or, as Winston Churchill insisted, would we stick in time of crisis to the tested union of the English-speaking peoples?


For now, my "trilemma" will endure: Do I stick with the dear old Disunited Kingdom, go west to the Big Country that is the U.S. or head home to the People's Republic of Caledonia?


History is telling me that size isn't everything. But it's not nothing either.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


BUY THE BOOKS

Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).

Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).

Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University. He is the author of "Empire" (Basic Books, 2003) and "Colossus" (Penguin, 2004). Comment by clicking here.


01/09/07: The new world order looks terribly familiar
12/16/06: The new world order looks terribly familiar
12/13/06: Baker-Hamilton's fine print: Stay in Iraq
12/05/06: The surrealism of Iraq
11/29/06: Some civil wars never end
11/20/06: Will GOP get last laugh?
10/25/06: America's brittle empire
10/17/06: Failing to stop North Korea from going nuclear may have been the last straw for the onetime guardian of world order
10/03/06: Why Churchill opposed torture
09/27/06: Insanity on a Global Scale
09/19/06: The GOP will hang on
09/13/06: Long Live Royal Bloodlines!
09/05/06: Red-state Republicans and blue-faced liberals are starting to agree: Green is the way
08/29/06: What if the London Bombers Succeeded?
08/15/06: Testing the Limits of the U.N.: Who seriously expects Kofi Annan to stop Al Qaeda terror attacks?
08/08/06: The coming tsunami of trash
07/18/06: Forget the '60s and ‘Make Love, Not War.’ Today's world is facing a Summer of Rage
07/11/06: When will China pull the plug on North Korea?
06/20/06: Hedge funds vs. central bankers: Will inflation, deflation or recession win in the coming months?
06/13/06: Britain's economy is just like America's — minus the entrepreneurs and growth
06/06/06: The X-Men have taken over Washington
05/30/06: Quit protesting, profs!
05/23/06: World markets' wild ride: Economic volatility is back with a vengeance
05/16/06: The Cold Wars are coming
05/09/06: Many commentators are missing dangerous political shift
05/02/06: Put some sugar in your tank
04/25/06: Hu and the dog that didn't bark
04/18/06: Should Americans be less optimistic?
04/11/06: Globalization's second death?
04/04/06: So many ‘special’ friends
03/28/06: Let's get it right about what has gone wrong
03/21/06: Congress is trying to give the world a globotomy
03/14/06: Lame ducks can still bite back
03/07/06: A 19th Century critique of a 21st Century president
02/28/06: The crash of civilizations
02/21/06: Not the president, but close
02/14/06: Want historic trouble? Look south
02/07/06: Greenspan advising Britain? It's housing bubbles, deficits and potential meltdowns all over again
01/31/06: Missing the Cold War
01/24/06: It's a sick, Thick World
01/17/06: Tomorrow's world war today
01/03/06: Scotland, it's over, but keep the accents
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
11/22/05: Ghost of Napoleon haunts Tony Blair
11/22/05: Can it happen in Britain too?
11/15/05: Red plus blue equals purple
11/10/05: The fires of disintegration
11/01/05: Triumph of an über-wonk

© 2006, Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles