Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution laments the possibility of Scottish independence from the UK.
The Union of 1707 was one of the great events of the eighteenth century for Britain, and it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution, Adam Smith, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, and much much more, including the later United States and many of the Founding Fathers. And yes some of the excesses of imperialism, exploration too. That union truly was a cornerstone of the modern world, of the sort they might put into a book subtitle in a corny way and yet it would be quite justified.
Maybe you think the partnership hasn’t been as fruitful in recent years. Still, I view it this way. For all its flaws, the UK remains one of the very best and most successful countries the world has seen, ever. And there is no significant language issue across the regions, even though I cannot myself understand half of the people in Scotland.
The link is to a pretty funny short video of Indian call center workers trying on Scottish accents to sound more trustworthy.
Nor do the Scots have a coherent or defensible answer as to which currency they will be using, or how they would avoid domination by Brussels and Berlin. If a significant segment of the British partnership wishes to leave, and for no really good practical reason, it is a sign that something is deeply wrong with contemporary politics and with our standards for loyalties.
Tyler’s nostalgia reminds me of Wordsworth’s Burkean 1802 sonnet:
ONCE did she hold the gorgeous East in fee;
And was the safeguard of the West: the worth
Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.
She was a maiden City, bright and free;
No guile seduced, no force could violate;
And, when she took unto herself a mate,
She must espouse the everlasting Sea.
And what if she had seen those glories fade,
Those titles vanish, and that strength decay;
Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid
When her long life hath reach’d its final day:
Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
Of that which once was great is pass’d away.
I’m not going to give the locals too much advice, but I’d appreciate your thoughts.
One interesting aspect is that while England – Scotland is one of the older political boundaries in the world, Scotland was a multi-ethnic country for much of that time, with English-speaking “Saxon” Lowlanders and Celtic-speaking “Gaelic “Highlanders. The Highlander invasion of England in 1745 accelerated the drive of the British government to crush Celtic culture and Anglicize the Highlands, but before then northern Scotland was quite different from the southern Scotland of Hume and Smith.
Here’s a question: if Scotland seceded now, would the Highlands eventually secede from Scotland? And if you scoff at the idea of an eventual Highlands national capital in Inverness, why?