Monday, June 21, 2010

Rejection and Secession

One theme we can expect to see dominate world affairs in the coming decades is that of secession and revolution. This is fairly standard stuff called for by the socionomic model and there was a two-part study in The Socionomist on this very topic in the January and February 2010 issues.

It seems a rather pat formula - tensions, anger, xenophobia, polarization all increase as mood enters a negative phase. This can and will break down political and social entites built in times of harmony, goodwill and positive mood. It can be relatively civilized (see the breakup of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia) or it can tortuous (witness the disintegration of Yugoslavia and, a century and half ago the attempted move towards independence by the Southern portions of these currently United States).

However, it wasn't until I ran across this article in the Sunday Times that another model presented itself - large political entities making the conscious decision to cut loose smaller components once the "carrying costs" of holding them in union become too high.

Jeremy Clarkson: Surgery to solve the deficit – cut off Scotland
As we know, the country is in a terrible mess, and as a result, the head of every government department has been told to go away and implement cuts.

This all sounds very sensible but because I’m a television presenter, I know it won’t work...

...You are no longer performing liposuction on fat. You’re cutting away at bone and muscle. Important stuff. You are bringing it in on budget but the finished product won’t stand up. Think of it, if you like, as a hospital with no electricity. It’s still a hospital but it’s not much use if the iron lungs don’t work...

...Obviously, I would suggest the Department of Energy and Climate Change because it’s silly, when times are tight, to have a whole ministry attempting to manage something over which humankind has no control. It’d be like having a Department of Jupiter.

But the climate change department is relatively small, and cutting that when you are a trillion in debt would be like trying to solve a £50,000 overdraft by not having your hair cut any more. No, Cameron and the shoeshine boy need to lose something big and I believe I have the answer: Scotland.

Let us examine the benefits of this. In the last election the Scottish National party, which wants independence from England, took nearly 20% of the vote in Scotland. Add this lot to the non-voters who also want to go their own way and you realise there is significant support north of the border for Hadrian’s Wall to be rebuilt...

Now, I do think Mr. Clarkson is being a bit tongue in cheek in his efforts to illustrate just how massive some of the cuts are going to be in the United Kingdom in the coming months and years, but his "modest proposal" did spark some intriguing thoughts.

This would be like the U.S. cutting loose Florida because oil spill cleanup costs become too vast and the drain on Medicare and Social Security becomes too great. Unthinkable? It certainly would be to most - during phases of net positive social mood like the one we in the U.S. have been in since Appomattox.

What if the economic situation got so bad in a variety of countries that a central government used an existing, even if marginal, "independence party movement" as an excuse to boot out a member province/state in an effort to save the core provinces/states the expense and drain on the economy? What if, instead of fighting tooth and nail to keep an empire together, these governments decided to conduct "spin-offs" and toss portions out into the geopolitical marketplace? There would be many security and economic factors that would inform such a calculus, but the net answers might favor dissolution in some cases.

Imagine a U.S. that enters a severely "isolationist" period after an economic collapse. Would it be unthinkable to cut loose Hawai'i if a few bombs got set off by an independence-minded group? Yes, unthinkable today, but who knows what the future will bring? And if I am the leader of an independence group, wouldn't I want to play up the benefits to turning my particular state/province loose? I'd play up the welfare and defense costs, downplay the benefits and add it to the mix of negative mood and economic collapse. Who knows what sort of beast might emerge from that stew?

Just a thought as you scan the headlines in the coming years...

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