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Regarding the recent Scotland vote… I didn’t have a dog in that fight obviously, and know little about the specific grievances Edinburgh had with London beyond the usual parochial ones (as well as a general urge of wanting to Stick It To The Man, an urge that I fully approve of). But it seems to me that seceding is usually the worst way to go if you feel the national capital is ignoring your interests, as seceding only makes BOTH parties worse off, your state or province, and your (former) nation.

As an American, this is something I DO have some knowledge of. The Southern states would have been hurt far more than the Union if their rebellion had been successful, as the new CSA would have had a far inferior GDP than the industrial North and would be cut off from the federal dollars from Washington. And this economic reality is not a relic of the 19th century, either.

Click through to the above link. The states that get the MOST funding from Washington per dollar they pay in through federal taxes:

  1. Mississippi and New Mexico
  2. Alabama
  3. Louisiana
  4. Maine and Montana
  5. Tennessee
  6. West Virginia and South Dakota
  7. Arizona
  8. Kentucky
  9. South Carolina

Now the correlation isn’t completely perfect, but it’s pretty clear that of the states that existed in 1861, only two on this list were not members of the CSA: Kentucky, a slave state which tried to play neutral until the Confederates invaded it, and the odd exception of Maine.

And on the other end? The states that pay far more into the till than they get back? Of the top 10, every last one was either a Union state, a Union-supporting free territory (Kansas) or else not even a territory yet.

Now I’m not comparing Scotland to the Confederacy, obviously. And Scotland closely hews to the national baseline in terms of per capita GDP once you factor out North Sea oil revenue, unlike the American South. But something tells me they too would be economically devastated, cut off from lucrative national contracts including military, and having to create a brand new currency out of thin air which, I remind the reader, is one thing that helped do the CSA in. (Adopting the Euro was not a near-term solution for Scotland for various reasons.)

Ultimately, it was economic realities that did in the “yes” movement. It’s all fair and good to want to stick it to the Man, but not if in doing so you turn your country into the economic post-apocalyptic wasteland known as “Spain,” as Paul Krugman illustrated here. It’s the reality that keeps other breakaway states such as Quebec in line, more so than any sort of national spirit, and one that overrules provincial pride — cold, boring economic self-interest. It’s a lesson that latter-day secessionists of the extreme American Right should keep in mind, next time they start dreaming again of an independent Mississippi and Alabama.

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