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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Mar 11, 2014

Crimea, Anschluss and the Enduring Quest for Autonomy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/crimea-anschluss-enduring-quest-autonomy/

The upcoming Crimea referendum is both ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary because more than 100 times since World War II geographically concentrated ethnic or linguistic groups have voted on the question of independence.  Extraordinary because never before have a people encountered a ballot allowing them to choose only between continuing subservience within their existing nation or subservience to another nation.

The quest for autonomy is ubiquitous.  When given the choice most regions choose statehood. Since World War II the number of nations has mushroomed from 51 to 193.

Sometimes the desire for autonomy results in devolution rather than independence as nations concede authority in order to maintain territorial integrity.  That was the outcome of Quebec’s political awakening in the late 1970s.  In the wake of Franco’s death in 1975 Spain constitutionally evolved into what is now sometimes called a “State of autonomies”.  In 1998 Scotland won the right to elect its own parliament.  In 2005 South Sudan gained autonomy within Sudan.

Devolution whets but often does not quench the thirst for full independence. This fall Scotland will vote on nationhood.  The Parti Quebecois, expected to handily win provincial elections in April, likely will revive the issue of separation. After Spain rejected their recent demands for near full sovereignty the autonomous Basque Country and Catalan began to take steps toward nationhood. Indeed, Spain’s recent promise to veto Scotland’s entry into the European Union if Scots voted for independence was clearly borne of a fear for its own dissolution.

Uncoupling has sometimes occurred peacefully as happened with Norway and Sweden a century ago and the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.  More often it has involved considerable violence. The 1990s breakup of Yugoslavia into 7 nations and one autonomous province took 10 often-bloody years. In late 1975 East Timor declared independence but an invasion and occupation by Indonesia delayed actual independence until 2002. South Sudan’s independence in 2011 followed two civil wars; violence continues to wrack the new nation.

In 1991 Crimea itself voted for autonomy within the Soviet Union.  After the USSR’s breakup the continuing separatist movement from Ukraine led many observers to view Crimea as the next international flashpoint.  In 1993 the Economist warned of a ‘long-running, acrimonious, possibly bloody and conceivably nuclear, dispute over Crimea’.  The dispute was peacefully but uneasily resolved when the ‘Autonomous Republic of Crimea’ was embedded in the 1996 Ukrainian constitution and the 1998 Crimean constitution.  But Crimea’s political authority remained weak.

The overthrow of a Ukrainian government that found its strongest backing among Russian speakers coupled with its new parliament’s passage of a bill eliminating the use of Russian as an official language (later withdrawn under heavy international pressure) spurred the initial Crimean crisis.

If history were the norm, we might expect Crimeans to vote on whether they preferred more autonomy or full independence.  Tragically that choice has never been offered.  The original referendum offered by Ukraine and set for May 25 (later pulled forward to March 30) allowed Crimeans to vote only on greater autonomy.

The options offered in the March 16th referendum are even worse. Crimeans will have the opportunity to choose between subservience to Ukraine or Russia. Such a ballot appears to be unprecedented.  The closest we came to such a vote was in 1938 when the Austrian government proposed a plebiscite on the annexation of Austria by Germany.  Fearing he would lose such a vote, Hitler invaded Austria under the guise of quelling alleged violence against Germans.  Hitler not only swallowed up Austria but to this day he continues to win the language battle.  We use the term Anschluss to describe the takeover of Austria, a German word meaning unification rather than using the German word for annexation.

Ukraine and the West insist that Crimeans do not have the right to vote on independence. Russian agrees.  This tragic meeting of minds moves us toward a potentially tumultuous showdown.

 

 

 

 

 

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Feb 20, 2014

When It Comes to Public Services, Government Knows Best

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

Minneapolis will soon vote to shift nearly 180 privately owned bus shelters to public ownership following numerous complaints about the lack of maintenance and upkeep.  When it does it will join the burgeoning ranks of cities who have discovered that when it comes to public services government knows best. In the post-Ronald Reagan era Americans… Continue reading

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Featured Article, Resource filed under The Public Good | Written by Lisa Gonzalez | No Comments | Updated on Jan 30, 2014

Self-Reliance Podcast Episode 1: Local Self-Reliance in the Modern Economy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/self_reliance_podcast_episode_1/

What is the role of local self-reliance in the modern economy? As world travel, global commerce, and communications across the oceans bring us closer together, the role of localism changes. In our inaugural podcast episode, we bring together three ILSR veterans to look at the issue. Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons initiative… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Jan 30, 2014

Can Cities Tackle Inequality?

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

After Bill de Blasio was elected mayor of New York City on a promise to narrow the gap between rich and poor, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) lectured him on the facts of local government life. “The point is, you’re a mayor, buster, you’ve got to make sure the snow gets plowed. You’ve got… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Jan 21, 2014

Republican Rhetoric Changes Depending On Whether They Are Dealing With Labor Or Capital

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/republican-rhetoric-depending-dealing-labor-capital/

Are Republicans inconsistent when they sometimes support using offsets and indexing and sometimes don’t?  Not at all.  They’re actually very consistent.  When capital comes asking for gifts Republicans act like Santa Claus.  When labor is the supplicant they conduct themselves more like Scrooge. Consider the Republicans’ different approach to the estate tax, the minimum wage,… Continue reading