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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Sep 12, 2014

Scotland, Sovereignty and Corporations

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/scotland-sovereignty-corporations/

Since 1945 the number of nations has soared from about 60 to more than 180.  The first wave of new sovereign states came with the decolonization movement of the 1960s and 1970s; the second in the early 1990s with the break-up of the Soviet Union.  If Scotland votes for independence it may ignite a third wave.  Dozens of would-be nations are waiting in the wings:  Wales, Catalonia, Flanders, Breton, the list is long.

In 1957 in his classic book The Breakdown of Nations economist and political scientist Leopold Kohr persuasively and rigorously argued that small nations are the natural order having been throughout history the engines for enlightenment, innovation, mutual aid and the arts.  The large nation state, he argued is not a reflection of improved efficiency but of superior force.

It is the great powers which lack the real basis of existence and are without autochthonous, self-sustaining sources of strength. It is they that are the artificial structures, holding together a medley of more or less unwilling little tribes. There is no Great British’ nation in Great Britain. What we find are the English, Scots, Irish, Cornish, Welsh, and the islanders of Man. In Italy, we find the Lombards, Tyroleans, Venetians, Sicilians, or Romans. In Germany we find Bavarians, Saxons, Hessians, Rhinelanders, or Brandenburgers. And in France, we find Normans, Catalans, Alsatians, Basques, or Burgundians. These little nations came into existence by themselves, while the great powers had to be created by force and a series of bloodily unifying wars. Not a single component part joined them voluntarily. They all had to be forced into them, and could be retained by them only by means of their division into counties, Gaue, or departments. . . .”

With a population of 5.2 million, a sovereign Scotland would rank just below the median size of the world’s nations.  It could rest assured that nations of its size can thrive.  Think Finland, Costa Rica, Ireland, Norway.  Small nations are easier to administer, more nimble in policy and their governments are more accountable to and reflective of their communities. Indeed, it is the divergence between the values of the Scottish culture and those of the Conservative government in Whitehall that has been a major impetus for independence.   That divergence is reflected in the fact that today only one Tory holds a seat from Scotland in the British Parliament.

Prime Minister Cameron’s Conservatives advocate welfare cuts, austerity and privatization.  They enthusiastically embrace what the Scots would call the mean values of the Conservatives heroine Maggie Thatcher who summed up her thinking with the famous phrase,  “There is no such thing as society.”

The Scots most definitely believe there is a thing called society. The Scottish National Party, which controls the Scottish government and supports independence, wants to get rid of nuclear weapons, raise the minimum wage in line with inflation and begin a sweeping extension of child care. It is also more favorable toward immigration and the European Union than the British government.

“There is more of a communitarian viewpoint in Scotland that sees the value of coming together to provide public services, to acknowledge the strength of community in Scotland,” Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister told the New York Times.

But if Scotland does become sovereign it will quickly discover that that sovereignty has been severely restricted by new global rules promoted by increasingly dominant global corporations.   Nations may be getting smaller, but corporations are getting larger. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, more than half are global corporations. The Top 200 corporations’ combined sales represent over one quarter of the world’s GDP. Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Sep 10, 2014

Debating the Role of Government in Somerset Kentucky

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/debating-role-government-republican-somerset-kentucky/

When two politicians debate the role of government, it is almost always Democrat vs. Republican.  Which is why it was so refreshing and instructive to read of the debate taking place among Republicans in a small city in southeastern Kentucky. On July 19, after years of complaints about local gasoline prices being higher than those… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Sep 2, 2014

David Brancaccio Lets Us Down

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/david-brancaccio-lets/

David Brancaccio is a solid reporter.  Perhaps the cognitive dissonance of talking about public ownership on a program called Marketplace caused him to go astray.  Nevertheless a few days ago he did his listeners a disservice when he commented on the city of Somerset, Kentucky’s new venture: Selling gasoline directly to city residents. Somerset’s entrepreneurialism… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Sep 2, 2014

This November We Can Regain Local Authority Over the Internet

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/states-rights-local-democracy-future-broadband/

In July the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stirred up a hornets’ nest by announcing it might overturn state prohibitions on municipally owned broadband networks. Republicans protested that Washington should keep its grubby hands off state authority. Giant cable and phone companies contended that local governments are incapable of managing telecommunications networks and the resulting failure… Continue reading

Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Jul 25, 2014

Republicans Again Violate Their Own Principles

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/republicans-violate-principles/

By the time you read this, Congressional Republicans will have overwhelmingly voted to violate one of their most cherished guiding principles: A service should be paid for by those who use the service. If we don’t fully pay for services, Republicans usually insist, markets can’t work effectively.  We undervalue and overuse services, resulting in wasteful… Continue reading