Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scottish Independence

The Scottish independence referendum is only a couple days away, and it’s getting a lot of buzz (deservedly so) on both the mainstream and alternative media.

Now as much as I’d like it to be otherwise, I suspect there’s a slightly higher likelihood (perhaps 60%?) that Scotland will end up staying in the UK. I don’t base that so much on the polls as much as the fact that it is certain that the financial and political status quo would prefer things remain the same. An independent Scotland would force a great number of changes in the UK and Europe, and while the UK is no longer the dominant power it was many decades ago, it IS still a very important financial hub in the global economy. No one truly knows how an independent Scotland would affect the financial balance of the UK and Europe, and without there being a clear benefit to some of the financial elite I would expect them to work hard to kill this possibility.  Now does that imply that the votes of the Scottish people in the end count for a little less than the desires of political and moneyed interests?  Well while I wish the answer was no, I have no illusions about the UK being any less corrupt than the political system here in America.  While the political and financial elites in the advanced Western economies tend to stick to manipulating the masses through mass media in order to get their way, we would be fools to think that they are afraid or squeamish about cheating and fraud.  This doesn’t mean that if the referendum result is ‘NO’ that cheating or fraud must be involved…. only that the Scottish people should consider it a real possibility.  The nature of power and the people that possess it is that they typically will fight tooth and nail to keep from losing even a portion of it. 

Now one reason I don’t assign an even higher likelihood to Scotland staying in the UK is that the gains for the independence side have surged so close to the referendum date.  The political elite may have a great deal of power, but in most cases the nature of their power and their organizations doesn’t lend itself towards quick responses to unforeseen events.  They very well may have been largely complacent from earlier polls… according to this poll tracker at (as with all polls take it with a few grains of salt), the polling was at 41% yes to 48% no as recently as August 5th, and changed to 46% yes to 47% no as of September 12th. That’s a pretty fast shift in my opinion, and I can’t dismiss the possibility that it caught the UK’s political leadership with their pants down.

Now if the vote goes yes, I don’t necessarily expect it will be the earth-shattering financial shockwave that a few in the alternative media space believe it will be.  However, I DO expect it will bring the UK economy, and to a lesser extent the global economy, into a more fragile state.  One that will make the financial system more vulnerable to other shocks like, oh I don’t know… a Russian partial or complete shutoff of gas supplies to Europe?  So it’s a baby step towards systemic breakdown, but I doubt it’ll be the black swan that singlehandedly brings about a crisis similar to one we suffered in 2008-2009.  I do acknowledge however that a ‘Yes’ vote might have a certain domino-like effect with independence movements in other parts of the world, particularly the already sizable movement in the Catalan region of Spain. 

Now if it brings the global economy even a little closer to breakdown, why would I actually consider Scottish independence as a good thing?  Well, the first reason is that I generally favor any action that leads to a peaceful decentralization of existing political and financial systems.  Generally speaking, the more local and decentralized the society and economy, the more responsive it is to the needs and demands of its citizens and the less prone it is to systemic risks.  The second reason is that it’s my opinion that the global economy and financial system that currently exists is unsustainable, and the more effort made to sustain it and the longer it is propped up, the more painful the eventual transformation will be.  I would much rather the global economy and financial system experience this transformation in many smaller stages than one or two giant crises.  Smaller changes give people and societies more opportunity to adapt and intelligently plan for the future, whereas abrupt, severe changes usually result in chaos and leave most people in a world of hurt.  And lastly, I generally support the right of any group of people to determine their fate for themselves.  My impression is that the majority of the Scottish desire an independent Scotland, and it is mostly fear of the unknown that’s giving many of them pause.

So even though I don’t think Scottish independence is the higher probability, I am sincerely hoping that events this week prove me wrong.  Though the subsequent wild celebrations and their drunken aftermath may end up more than a bit..... messy.

 (Yes, he's in fact doing in that chimney what it looks like he's doing...)
More at the link here (warning, somewhat NSFW)

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