A Referendum and the Nation State

I went to a nearby city to see an old teacher today and picked up this mail from Henry. It’s the day of the Scottish referendum.

“The Scottish people are voting. Little did the British government know when they let this happen that it could change a country for ever.

Once a nation like the UK loses a leading role, the pride and influence that comes with it, — something the US still has and which inspires its people to act collectively —  the risks of disintegration get serious.

A disintegrating nation state will need to think more carefully about the dangers of diminishing pride and reputation. The UK has been deeply damaged by foreign policy failures and the banking collapse. The danger of such failures is not just losing the war or losing a government but losing people.

All old nation states face such challenges. Without that collective pride, the different tribes of a state will slip away into nativism and localism.

This country is evolving from a nation state into a market state. It is a dangerous moment for a country.

The market state must hold and attract talent. It needs a good economy to attract the best people. It needs a highly educated and well-equipped workforce. It needs a good infrastructure. It needs institutions that claim admiration like Britain’s two greatest universities.

Its leaders need to keep telling its citizens that an old country must compete with younger ones. Our great institutions and industries like the City of London’s financial industry are hugely important assets.

Its tax rates must be competitive. It must encourage investors and entrepreneurs.

Many things stand in the way. In England, the middle classes in the shires — mostly over fifty and retired or semi-retired— oppose the infrastructure building we need.

They still live in another era.

Welfarism and dependence are deep-rooted too. In the schemes of Edinburgh and Glasgow they will be voting SNP because they have been promised an end to the hated “bedroom tax”.

Equality is a dangerous standard. It must be driven by increased education levels, mobility, and successful companies. It must be an output of good management, not an imposition.

All that, no one has been willing to say.

In fact, noone has even said what the United Kingdom is for nowadays.

I support the idea of a referendum but I do not welcome its outcome.

I predict a narrow win for the Yes campaign.”

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