Yesterday it was strength in numbers. Today it’s efficiency alone. It seems Montenegro may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Readers will surely have read by now that Catalonia has opted for yet more autonomy within Spain.
Catalans, Spaniards and Europeans all have reason to be proud of Sunday’s democratic decision to expand the powers of self-government available to the citizens of Catalonia. The Catalans wanted it. The Spanish parliament mandated it as constitutionally lawful. And the European Union provides a framework – part architecture, part shock-absorbers – that should make such exercises perfectly ordinary.
Indeed, as the Financial Times note, the key here is the European Union, a framework within which such moves aren’t as potentially violent as they otherwise would be. In most other regions, this would be one or two steps short of war. In the past, regions with (often) shared linguistic, cultural and historical ties banded together to become states, to better throw their weight around. Of course, others were unified by force like Germany but as politics and government evolved, the world moved towards central governments. Today, with the breakup of empires, decolonization, the spread of technology and globalization, centralization has peaked and we’re headed towards more devolution or a reconfiguring of states, as Daniel Nexon at the Duck puts it.
However, despite his reservations, this is indeed more than just a reconfiguration because it’s occuring for many of the same reasons as neo-medievalism and global guerillas. In the case of Catalonia, the supply side of government so to say, has changed. Today, smaller regions are increasingly able to provide all the necessary services and functions of a state. Does Atlanta need Washington or does Istanbul need Ankara? The answer today is more often than not, no, or not much longer. With an airport and a few roads and phone lines, regions are increasingly directly connected to the rest of the world. On top of that, within Europe, with a supranational economic and security structure and national governments which are continuing to cede sovereignty to the EU, national goverments are becoming unnecessary middle men. And middle men get cut:
In Europe’s case, pressure is being exerted on the central government from both above and below.
This can be seen as the beginning of a correction in the market of government services. The demand is simply following the supply elsewhere. As Lexinton Green of Chicago Boyz noted in my post on the coming micro-states:
I would think the EU government would like to see all the existing European states disintegrate into regional units, or smaller. Then there would be nothing left to challenge it. Less cynically, it makes sense to be a breakaway state in Europe, under EU supervision. No one is going to come in and massacre you, probably.
Call it what you will, but the trend is real. However, don’t take this to be all doom and gloom. In fact, this will indeed be positive as long as it happens within some overarching economic and security framework. In fact, even fellow empire enthusiast Niall Ferguson has changed his tune on union between Scotland and England.
“I now find myself feeling that independence would be preferable to this halfway house we have at the moment. Ireland and some of the east European countries like Estonia are showing that small countries which embrace economic liberalism can thrive.”Â?
John Robb chimes in as well:
A recurring theme of global guerrillas is that smaller organizations are often better suited for success (more agile, responsive, and cohesive) within the fluid/chaotic environment spawned by globalization’s new rule set — as with all ubiquitous platforms, this new global rule set is minimalist (that’s all we can agree on). The same is true for economic “white” competition at the nation-state level.
However, as this process plays out peacefully in the Core and most likely to the Core’s overall benefit, the same process is occuring in the Gap under the opposite conditions. Instead of moving towards smaller more efficient units under a larger economic and security umbrella, the trend is moving forward in regions which have just lost one. Russia’s near-abroad is the most obvious example. An Abkhazia or Nagorno-Karbagh in Spain wouldn’t make people think twice. But in the chaotic Gap, it’s a recipe for violence.
As for the rest of Europe, this tidbit from Italy piqued my interest:
Success in the Catalonian referendum for independence signals the direction for the whole of Europe, claimed the President of the Lombardy Region, Roberto Formigoni, commenting on the Catalans’ vote in support of the referendum, whilst at the Assolombarda meeting “Not everything in the referendum is good – Formigoni observed – matters have been put together that have nothing to do with independence, and if I’d had to vote I’d certainly have had problems. Even with a policy that I don’t agree with, it’s pretty clear that the direction of Europe has been flagged up, and it is that of recognising that the regions have more power to make decisions. It’s exactly the road that Italy has taken up and I hope that on Sunday this will be confirmed. Our referendum is better formulated that the one in Catalonia, because it talks about real devolution”.
Anyone know more?