A referendum about sovereignty, like a hanging, concentrates the mind. The world comprises a few very large nations together with their respective satellites and many independent countries. There are three great blocks in the world – the USA, China and the European Union. Each block has federal characteristics and satellites. In the case of the European Union one of the constituent states is the United Kingdom itself made up of England Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland there will be a referendum to decide whether Scotland should be independent. In Europe there are signs of increasing resistance to the concept of a united federal Europe. When the former Yugoslavia had the choice it broke up into many small nations and although there was fighting over the break up the fighting mainly concerned the delineation of boundaries rather than the concept of a unified nation of Yugoslavia.
The Soviet Union exists no more, and in its place are many nations enjoying their independent sovereignty.
A few years earlier Czechoslovakia held a referendum and decided to split into two spate nations – the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They share an almost common language but have chosen different paths, peacefully and I hope successfully. There are many Slovaks and people of Slovakian descent living in the Czech Republic and many Czechs and people of Czech descent living in Slovakia. There is a similar distribution of Scots in England and English in Scotland.
Notwithstanding the tendency, as democracy kicks in, of the world dividing itself into more and more nations, the world is at the same time becoming one homogenous quasi- nation.
The United States have agreed an extradition treaty with the United Kingdom which has been in force for some years under which UK citizens may be extradited to face trial in American courts even though they have never set foot in America and even though the crimes of which they are accused are not crimes under the law of the United Kingdom.
In the field of taxation although we have not yet reached the stage where one nation will enforce the tax laws of another, tax treaties have been written to require disclosure of affairs from former tax havens and what was once an impenetrable veil of secrecy is rapidly becoming an open book for tax gatherers everywhere. This may be a good thing where those gathering taxes are following rules and procedures which are fair and apply to everyone, or may be a bad thing where those gathering taxes are not following rules and fair procedures but simply confiscating assets to enrich a dictator’s war chest.
There are many rules that a nation cannot contemplate creating; in the United Kingdom we cannot raise import tariffs or tax aviation fuel or do a host of other things however desirable they may be having committed not to do them by treaty with the European Union and by treaty with the rest of the world. We are also prevented from doing undesirable things, such as abusing human rights, and this has led to a distortion of the meaning of human rights when recently a convicted murder was allowed to remain in the United Kingdom rather than be deported to Honduras because it was held that deportation would infringe his right to family life.
The European Union recently was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, having kept the peace within the Union since it was formed. It was an odd choice, because I doubt in the fact of union prevents war, as many for the greatest and most vicious wars in the world’s history have been civil wars.
It seems that the trend of unifying nations into a greater cohesive whole is balanced by an equal and opposite trend of dividing nations into smaller nations. Which is more desirable is not straightforward. Likely we are faced with a choice that tries to establish the lesser of two evils.
I think that people do have an inalienable right to self-determination. If the Scots wish to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, then that is fine by me. Only time will tell whether a nation is better off as a small state or as part of a bigger state and none of us are infused with sufficient wisdom to know whether the decision will prove beneficial for Scotland in the long term.
Most of us want no more than to live in peace and prosperity. Whether that wish is more likely to be fulfilled by small nations rather than large nations is impossible to know but generally I believe that small nations are more likely to be peace loving than large nations, but they are also likely to be tyrannised by large nations, especially of the small nation has resources that are desirable. Perhaps in a generation from now there will be a hundred new nations, each striving to go their own way and create their own peace and prosperity. Perhaps those small nations will be dominated by blocks in ways which makes their independence simply irrelevant.
Filed under: climate change | Tagged: constituent states, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, extradition, independence, nation states, politics, slovakia, sovereignty, tax havens, taxes, treaty, Yugoslavia |