21 December 2014

The Surrealist 
Political History of Europe

Video 3' - CLICK on the map
As published in the daily El Pais:
Descend, efficient Europe

"Intervene. O descend as a dove or
a furious papa or a mild engineer, but descend."
W. H. Auden, Spain (1937)

In order to understand the current political instability and uncertainty in several European countries, we should realize that after six or seven years of economic crisis the European Union is stronger and more efficient than ever. The Union has more member-states and more candidates than before; the euro has not only not broken down, against many odds, but has expanded to new countries; the Commission now controls the states’ fiscal policy and takes the initiative to lead investments on infrastructure for growth; the banking union moves forward and the European Central Bank is more active than expected just a couple of years ago; even the common foreign policy is taking steps forward.
       Many reactions against "a closer union", as put by the founding Treaty of Rome, are of traditionalist type, in defense of state powers that have already ceased working. Many citizens of the oldest and most successful large national states, that is, Great Britain and France, seem to retain the pride and memory of historic achievements and support parties that yearn the past, respectively the UK Independence Party and the National Front. At the same time, the southern periphery risks being left behind the increasing continental integration, so in Italy, Greece and Spain many disappointed people resort to protest-parties that blame the euro, the troika and globalization, as Cinque Stelle, Syriza and Podemos. At the same time, in some territories emerge the illusion of separation from large states that have lost power in order to start a new journey, as in Scotland and Catalonia. What all these disparate movements have in common is that they would like to restore state and nation, economic and political sovereignty. Fortunately, thanks to modern means of communication and transport, as well as the European institutions, sovereignties have ceased to exist.
       The great nineteenth century English constitutionalist, Walter Bagehot, analyzed comparable processes during the building of the American Union, namely the United States of America. The states are no longer sovereign –he noted—but they attract the loyalty of the people and are "prerequisites" to run the whole system. They are, as the current European states, "dignified parts" that people still voluntarily obey because they retain "historical and theatrical" elements in their political ceremonies, including parties and elections for recruitment of personnel. But the "efficient" parts, which, in fact, work and rule, are in the nascent Union, which he recognized as "new and unattractive" yet. This also happens in today's Europe, where state democracies support the selection of rulers for the Union, but it’s the latter that makes many relevant decisions and that governs, in part, indirectly through state and local governments. Indeed, as also noted Bagehot, the Union concedes certain subordinate powers to the states, while it takes some ceremonial, dignifying elements for itself, but only as a supplement to the main design. (…)
       Emerging from the crisis requires adopting the efficient model of the European Union also at state level. First of all, state rulers and representatives should share and participate in public policies developed in Brussels and Frankfurt. Second, partisan confrontation should be replaced with super-majority coalition governments, following the example of the Union itself, as well as of Germany and other countries in the heart of the continent, in order to make European consensus policies implemented at state level. This has been the way in Greece, where conservatives and socialists govern together and seek the reinstatement of the country to the European economic dynamics, as well as in Italy, where, after two years of governments of competent and independent experts, the center-left and the center-right also govern together and regain electoral support. Rather than states dignified with traditional rites, the solution is the European model of consensus and efficiency. Although perhaps it is, as the American Union at the time was, still "new and unattractive", the European Union works and rules.

See longer version in Spanish, in El Pais: CLICK


11 December 2014

The Year 2014

in a 3 minute video
United States gridlock, German Europe, Dual Ukraine, Spain's shipwreck, Bolivarian revolution...

CLICK

Happier New Year!


COMMENTS

Rein Taagepera said...
Fabulous!
Rein
University of California, Irvine

Jack Santucci said...
I enjoyed your 2014 video. Quite wry.
Georgetown

Blanca Heredia said...
Está buenísimo...felicidades!
Cide, Mexico city

Jorge Dezcallar said...
Muy bueno tu video! Me he reído con él, que buena falta nos hace.
Jorge
Ambassador of Spain, Majorca

Angel Gil-Ordonez said...
Increíble!
BRILLIANT!!
♪♪ I want to be in AMERICAAAA...♪♪
Angel
Washington

28 November 2014

How Global Institutions Rule the World
Josep M. Colomer

"In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Josep Colomer demonstrates that effective institutions of global governance exist. A single world government is neither possible nor desirable. But it is also unnecessary. Instead, a number of effective institutions already carry out essential functions of world governance. Moreover, in spite of worries about "democratic deficits", those institutions are able to meet the essential requirements of an effective democracy: representation, competence, consensus, and accountability."                                                                         Martin Wolf, Chief Economist, Financial Times
“What is democracy if national governments must bow to specialized global agencies? Colomer superbly demonstrates that we already face faceless dispersed regulation that is even stranger than a unified 'world government' would be. And he offers intriguing insights into what this means for the world's democratic institutions.”                                                                                             Rein Taagepera, research professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, and recipient of the Johan Skytte Prize.


Preface
Does world government actually exist? 
Are the current global institutions efficient in making decisions? 
Can they be compatible with basic democratic principles?

1.
Introduction: World Government Is Here
The world is governed by global institutions dealing with security, finance, development, trade, communications, environment, crimes against humanity; institutional design is crucial for efficient and democratic global government.


Part i: Who Rules

2.
Network Goods Are Served by Simple Bureaus
Great powers, neutral countries, and small gatherings of scientists and technicians efficiently provide global standards for time, measures, and communication networks.

3.
Unanimity Rule Failed to Make the World More Secure
The League of Nations, by making decisions by unanimity, was a big failure, and the United States could not have done anything about it.

4.
A Great-Powers’ Directorate Has Averted the Third World War
The United Nations, by giving veto power to five great powers, has been able, in spite of many failures, to prevent a new major global conflict and to foster multilateral cooperation.

5.
Weights and Coalitions for Finance and Development
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, by using complex institutional formulas such as weighted votes and qualified majorities, have been able to create policy consensus and adapt to periods of both depression and growth.

6.
Equal Vote Does Not Favor Global Trade
The World Trade Organization, which intends to make decisions on equal vote for every country, has been paralyzed for decades and has not been able to promote any new world trade agreement.

7.
The World’s Self-Appointed Steering Committee
The Group of Eight has established a new world’s directorate that deals with boundless agendas and implements its decisions through states, regional unions, and international organizations.


Part II: How They Rule

8.
Domestic Politics Does not Make Policy
State-based political systems and partisan governments are losing capability to make policy decisions; in many countries, broad multiparty coalitions or nonpartisan, technical experts implement the directives of international organizations.

9.
Global Representation Requires Rotation of Countries
The principle of equal vote for every country is both undemocratic and ineffective, while rotation of countries can induce broad international cooperation.

10.
Effective Decisions Are Made by Means of Weighted Votes
The allocation of weighted votes to different countries 
and the formation of multi-country coalitions
can facilitate decision-making in global councils and boards.

11.
Expert Rulers Replace Politicians and Diplomats
International and global organizations rely on independent bodies of nonelected experts to make decisions on major issues; many officials are recruited with criteria of political independence, technical expertise, and honest behavior.

12.
Policy Consensus Is Built with More Ideas Than Votes
Global institutions make policy by consensual knowledge, by nonobjection compromises, and by ascertaining the sense of the meeting, rather than by voting.

13.
Nonelectoral Accountability Is Based on Performance and Values
Heads, high officers, and staff of global institutions are made accountable through transparent information, evaluation of performance, ethic standards, and sanctions.


Conclusion

14. 
Can Global Democracy Exist?
Democracy is a form of government based on social consent; 
it can be operationalized with different institutional formulas, 
including the people’s assembly in small cities, party elections in states, and accountable institutions at the global level.


READ Chapter 1:  CLICK

BUY the book:  CLICK

13 November 2014

Homage to Looks and Brains:
Hedy Lamarr
(1914-2000)
Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr, whose centennial is celebrated these days, was claimed to be “the most beautiful woman in the world”. She starred in more than thirty movies, but she turned down some, including Casablanca and Gaslight, basically because she didn’t read scripts as she was busy with her engineering inventions. The most outstanding one was the frequency-hopped spread spectrum, initially conceived to prevent American torpedoes from being intercepted by the Germans during the Second World War. Her basic idea of randomly changing radio frequencies supports nowadays all wireless communications, including remote controls, global positions systems (gps), cell phones and many other crucial devices. In her natal Austria, as well as in Germany and Switzerland, the birthday on Hedy Lamarr, November 9, is celebrated as the Inventor’s Day.

Among her best comedies:
·   H.M. Pulham, Esq. (by King Vidor)
·   Come Live with Me (with James Stewart)
·   Dishonored Lady (probably her best).

And with political intrigue:
·   Algiers (an inspiration for Casablanca, with Charles Boyer)
·   The Conspirators (a replica of Casablanca, with supporting actor Paul Heinreid as main star)
·   Comrade X (about spies in the Soviet Union, with Clark Gable).

Watch 4' video about her life voyage: 
CLICK:

COMMENTS

Bernard Grofman said...
Josep, Thanks for the Hedy Lamarr tribute. She certainly deserves it, and I will see if I can find one of her classics to watch online. 
Hope all is well with you. 
Bernie
University of California, Irvine

Salvador Giner said...
Please send Miss Hedy Lamarr to me as a PhD candidate. Most welcome. 
For more info, watch Blazing Saddles, the immortal movie.
SG
Barcelona

06 November 2014

Memories of Berlin, 
Before and After the Wall
On the 25th anniversary of the fall
1985
The metro from West Berlin crosses without stopping several underground stations in the eastern part, all bricked up and each with an East German soldier stationed in utter solitude and gloom, who is supposed to prevent against possible attempts of boarding the train by fugitives. At the border control, still underground and between large bars, the guard examining my Spanish passport gives me a tirade about the heroes of the International Brigades in the Civil War, which I guess I'm supposed to admire. When I surface to the spacious Friedrichstrasse, I suddenly feel to have travelled a century back. A vast silence, very few people walking down the streets, almost no vehicles, no advertising on the facades. Only a few slogans hang from ledges of large buildings with wishes of long life to communism, marxism-leninism and the GDR (German Democratic Republic). There is a forbidden to step area on the outskirts of the Brandenburg Gate. At Alexanderplatz, in front the huge iron and glass building of the Palace of the Republic, I hear three men speaking Spanish and I dare to ask them how I could ascend to the communications tower; two of them turn out to be Cubans, as I suppose it was logical to imagine, but they immediately step back and let the other, blond and taller, who is clearly their supervisor and guide, to inquire me about my intentions. A few streets away from the large blocks of flats on Stalin Allee, which pretend to be standards of the socialist modernization of the sixties, emerge the typical dirt, poverty and dilapidated houses that seem substantial to the countries of real socialism. Further away still, all the world records of air pollution are beat due to chemical plants and the use of the worst kind of lignite one could find in Europe, with which a planned but still savage industrialization has been boosted. At the monument to the victims of fascism and militarism, soldiers stand guard by alternating rigid immobility with ceremonial Prussian goose steps. While waiting for the tramway at the suburbs, I talk to a group of young people whose faces of despair far exceed those of the punks and subsidized artists of the western Kreuzberg who boast of "no future"; these don’t even have drug evasion available and they don’t even reach to turn their sarcasm into humor. I cross back the wall on foot through the Checkpoint Charlie, where guards located above the watchtowers urge me with gestures and shouting to hurry up. At the first corner in the western part is the museum of the wall, which continues adding brutal images of eastern fugitives via tunneling, by jumping from windows to a canvas, flying in inflatable balloons, navigating by homemade submarines, or by racing in rudimentarily armored cars.

1989
There is a real boulder industry around the Berlin Wall. Groups of Germans and Turks, transformed into woodpeckers with escarpment and hammer, are draining the mason resources of the western facade. For four or five marks any tourist can buy a bag with a dozen pieces of painted concrete and an authenticity "zertifikat". The processing of the souvenirs begins inside the western wall, until recently inaccessible because it faced an extensive no man's land between two parallel strips of stone. These stonecutters have proceeded to a careful distribution of the wall into numbered plots and industrious groups of workers have divided tasks: some daub with aerosolized buntings, mimicking the colors of the anti communist, hopeless or love graffiti that decorated the western side of the wall, others chop this newly colored stones, others pack boulders, and others ultimately bring the bags to the distribution stalls. Not only is the wall that it’s sold at bargain prices in the western part of Berlin. Uniforms and hats of policemen and East German and Soviet soldiers, medals and military decorations of their commanders, brochures with speeches by communist bigwigs, manuals of marxism-leninism, copies of an official portrait of Soviet boss Brezhnev and East German Honecker heavily kissing each other on the mouth under their hats, flags with the coat with the workers’ hammer and the technological compass that replaces the Russian peasants’ sickle, that is, all objects that monopolized the image of the eastern part of Germany are being sold today in the streets like bargains in the process of extinction.
To the left and the right of the wall on closing-down sale, the picture is asymmetrical. On the one side, immigration of workers. On the other side, foreign capital investment.
It only takes to peek at Ku Damm –until now the stunning shopping center of the western part-- to observe the massive presence of fugitives and visitors from the East. Poorly dressed and in re-concentrated expression of amazement before the luxurious and provocative windows full of jewelry, clothing and food, they walk with their carry bags or boxes and hold radios and video recorders that some will resale in the eastern part. The vast majority of young easterners seem to have thought that, as it read a banner at the demonstrations a few weeks ago, "Life is too short to spend it in the GDR." The Poles, whose border is only thirty miles from Berlin, are also particularly active in the trade. At Bernburgerstrasse, Turks and counterculture young people hold a daily outdoor market were the Polish try to sell trinkets, virgins of Czestochova and old furniture, in addition to contraband tobacco and alcohol, in order to collect federal marks and take with them oranges, coffee and electrical appliances, which are scarce in the eastern lands. Thousands of people cross every day the Oder Neisse border and twice the controls in East Berlin to pursue this task.
The other way around, the western private sector is tiring down barriers in the Eastern part. There is a new atmosphere of hustle and nonchalance in the streets. Plenty of American and European tourists stroll all over; groups of businessmen from the West, all with their wallet in hand and a distinctive aspect of well-fed people, run the streets quickly; along with the usual motion of modest Trabant cars of East residents, one can now easily go across a swanky Mercedes convertible with the radio full blast; groups of unemployed youth offer illegal currency exchange under the indifferent gaze of the police; children try to stretch the boot buckle of the occasional soldier and to touch his gun. Dozens of commercial signage and illuminated advertising of companies from West Germany sparkle, while many shops have been opened on the ground floor. Siemens and Bosch live in walking distance to the Deutsche Bank, Hoechst and Volkswagen as visible expressions of the takeover bid of East Germany by western companies. Some commercial advertising campaigns also convey a political message. The Struyvesant cigarettes use a slogan in English, "Come Together", which appeared on the banners of festive assailants of the wall a few weeks ago. Another brand has flooded the city with billboards and vans with a simple and strong message, also in the international language: "Test the West". Unified Berlin is going to become, again, the core of Germany, and a unified Germany may find itself at the core of Europe rather soon.

29 October 2014

Who was the median voter 
in Brazil?
The answer is: the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, PMDB). Many people may not have heard much of this party recently because the party didn’t run a presidential candidate on its own. But, as always, it’s the median voter's and the median seat party and the king-maker (that is, the president-maker). The opposite of the parliamentary kings, the PMDB doesn’t reign but it rules.

The crucial role of the PMDB is very clear in the parliamentary election, which is held by proportional representation. The PMDB obtained only 11 % of votes (66 seats), but, on its left, the direct supporters of the incumbent president Dilma Rousseff plus the far left received 47% of votes (238 seats), while the center and right parties received in total 42% of votes (209 seats), thus leaving, as usual, the PMDB in the pivotal position capable of making a majority on any of the two sides.

The PMDB is the continuator of the official opposition during the last years of the military dictatorship in the 1970s. In the first open presidential election in 1985, which was held by means of an electoral college, the PMDB candidate, Tancredo Neves, was chosen president, and at his early death was replaced by his running mate Jose Sarney from the same party. However, the PMDB has not run presidential candidates on its own in most direct presidential elections since the 1990s. As typical of some anti-dictatorial parties, the PMDB is a catch-all party, which groups together a large range of politicians, coordinates diverse regional groups, and obtains the support of not very ideological voters. Today it is the Brazilian party with the largest number of affiliates.  It has elected higher numbers of governors, senators and deputies at state level than any of the other major parties in the last election. The PMDB has participated in most presidential cabinets with presidents of different parties. The current leader of the PMDB, Michel Temer, was a long-term chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and has most recently been vice-president of the republic with president Rousseff, with whom he ran for reelection a few days ago.

The crucial role of the PMDB in the recent presidential election may have been disguised. By looking at the three major candidates, Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) on the left, Marina Silva of the Socialist Party (PSB) on the center-left, and Aécio Neves of the Social Democracy Party (PSDB) on the center-right, it may seem that Silva was the median voter's candidate at the first round. Actually some PMDB voters may have voted for Silva, and even a few for Neves (especially in the state of Rio Grande do Sul), at the first round. The vacillations of PMDB voters may be a major explanation for the survey polls that during a few weeks predicted that Silva would pass to the second round. If this had happened, most likely Marina Silva would have been elected president of Brazil. But Neves’ stronger campaign placed him on second place. At the second round, as Silva had been eliminated, most PMDB voters chose Rousseff and their party’s vice-presidential candidate and made them the winners.


As usual, president Rousseff will need the support of a multiparty majority in Congress and, as usual too, the PMDB will be pivotal for attaining such a goal.

23 October 2014

The Catalan Divorce

As published in the Financial Times (Oct. 23) CLICK

Emotional partner’s plea to remember good times

Sir, Antonio Muñoz Molina tries to persuade Catalans not to choose independence from Spain by emphasising how much they have in common with each other (“Catalans have as much in common with the Spanish as with each other”, October 16). It sounds to me like an emotional reaction from a partner when the other asks for divorce: remembering how happy he thinks they were some time ago and what good times they had spent together over the years of marriage. I don’t think any Catalan would be persuaded nowadays by this type of argument.
The only possible salvation may come by negotiating a new arrangement, something like, say, “We will keep living in the same house, but I will have more free time for myself, we will share expenses in a fairer way” and so on. This might work in the current case because Catalonia doesn’t even know where she would spend the first night after the divorce – not even under the bridge of the European Union.

Josep M Colomer
Professor, Georgetown University,
Washington, DC, US


COMMENTS

Juan Díez Medrano said…
Buen comentario! Absurdas las llamadas al sentimentalismo. Pensar que pueden funcionar es estúpido.
Juan
Chair Council for European Studies
Professor Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Rosemarie Nagel said…
Why does nobody really bring up more federalistic thoughts.. How can one be for independence when there are other possibilities...
Yes, stay in the same house… and divide the kitchen (culture), the bath (local networks), etc...
Rosemarie
Professor Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Gustau Alegret said…
Agree... tot i que això del pont té gràcia, si pensem que continuar dormint al mateix llit amb l'espòs pot ser pitjor.
Abraçada,
Gustau
Washington

Antoni Bosch said…
The main reason why it is so difficult to get to talk to the Spanish citizens opposed to Catalonia’s independence is because of their misrepresentation of what is happening. Antonio Muñoz Molina, a sophisticated critic, has preferred to combine misrepresentations with truths.  That “Catalans have much in common with the Spanish” there is no doubt. So what?  That Catalans “are dreaming up future borders with Spain”, it depends. Certainly not borders different from the ones that exist now between Spain and France. In fact, the only threats of erecting borders come from those in Spain opposed to Catalan independence (they insist they will kick Catalonia out of the EU). That “there is a lot to be gained by keeping national passions to a minimum”,  I could not agree more. But I disagree when, by implication, this wise comment is directed only to Catalan nationalists. Perhaps, using Muñoz words, the long-lasting ties are going to be “severed” and Catalans are going to “break” free. But, using now my own words, ties could be “dissolved” and Catalans could “detach” freely.  It all depends on whether the divorce is contested or collaborative. Antonio Muñoz Molina would be most helpful by writing in the Madrid press in favour of a collaborative divorce.
Antoni Bosch-Domenech
Professor Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Matt Qvortrup said
Dear Josep
Most interesting indeed.
So is the referendum going ahead? What is the latest?
Apropos your blog you may find my article interesting.
Best wishes
Matt
“While some scholars dispute it, secessions and the creation of new states, can be likened to political divorce settlements. And like the breaking up of families, secessions can be amicable and constructive or they can be bitter, drawn-out and acrimonious. Some countries, like families, fight lengthy battles. Others simply move on and let bygones be bygones...” READ
Also: Author of Referendums and Ethnic Conflict CLICK

Guillem Lopez Casasnovas said…
Bravo!   Em sona!! 
Records
Professor of Economics, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Ivan Bofarull said...
Actually, one of the most celebrated Financial Times reporters, Gideon Rachman, summarized the Spanish government strategy with the Catalan issue, citing another metaphor that has to do with marriage:
“No marriage can survive simply by declaring divorce illegal”
(Financial Times, Oct 15, 2012)
Ivan
Esade, Barcelona

18 October 2014

Academic Writing Stinks










Although it is already broadly read, I think this piece by Steven Pinker should be chowed, swallowed and digested by every scholar.

"Together with wearing earth tones, driving Priuses, and having a foreign policy, the most conspicuous trait of the American professoriate may be the prose style called academese. An editorial cartoon by Tom Toles shows a bearded academic at his desk offering the following explanation of why SAT verbal scores are at an all-time low: “Incomplete implementation of strategized programmatics designated to maximize acquisition of awareness and utilization of communications skills pursuant to standardized review and assessment of languaginal development.” In a similar vein, Bill Watterson has the 6-year-old Calvin titling his homework assignment “The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes,” and exclaiming to Hobbes, his tiger companion, “Academia, here I come!” No honest professor can deny that there’s something to the stereotype." Steven Pinker: READ

My five cents:
How a successful novelist in Spain who tried to approach academic literature understood the game:

"At one time I believed that 'understanding' meant quite more than what happened to me, although I was actually understanding like the others. As that was not enough for me to satisfy what I thought 'understanding' would be, I believed that I had not understood and that those who said they understood had seen a much clearer light, and some figures much sharper than me. Over the years I began to suspect that when others say they really understand they are actually seeing that vague glow, these contours of smoke, those blurred shadows that I never would have dared designate as 'understanding'."

Original in Spanish:
“En otro tiempo yo creía que ‘entender’ quería decir bastante más de lo que a mí me pasaba cuando en verdad estaba entendiendo igual que los demás, y como eso no me bastaba para satisfacer lo que yo pensaba que sería ‘entender’, creía que yo no había entendido y que los que decían que habían entendido habían visto una luz mucho más clara y unas figuras mucho más nítidas que yo. Al cabo de los años empecé a sospechar que cuando los demás dicen que entienden en realidad están viendo ese vago resplandor, esos contornos de humo, esas difuminadas sombras que yo nunca habría osado antaño designar como ‘entender’.”
Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio
Vendrán más años malos y nos harán más ciegos (1992).

COMMENTS

Rein Taagepera said...

1) I had to cut the 6-line first sentence by Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio
into smaller pieces, be fore I could make sense of it.

2) I find Perspectives on Politics very hard read. 
Yet its goal seemed to be  making pol sci findings accessible to a wider audience, including practicing politicians.
"I would argue that in this endeavor this journal falls appreciably short of it presumable goal-setting."
[English translation: "Fat chance."]


Rein 

28 September 2014

Can England Be a Federation?
After the referendum in Scotland and the awareness that the territorial distribution of power across the United Kingdom is not well settled, proposals have emerged to create an English parliament. However, England encompasses about 85% of the population of the UK, which would make a federal-type arrangement too asymmetrical and highly unlikely to be accepted by the Scots and survive. The problem looks similar to the one with Ireland in the past, which, after Irish independence, left the legacy of a long conflict and the current special status for Northern Ireland.
    Many two-unit federations have failed as a consequence of the large group’s dominance and the small group’s choice of secession. Cases in modern times include the following: In America, after the early independence of four Vice-royalties from the Spanish empire: Argentina with the separation of Paraguay and Uruguay; Colombia with the separation of Ecuador, Venezuela, and later Panama; Peru with the split with Bolivia; Mexico with the separation of Guatemala and, immediately afterward, the rest of Central America in dispersion. In Asia and Africa, after independence from the British empire: India with separation by Pakistan; Pakistan with secession of territorially separated Bangladesh later on; South Africa with secession by Namibia; Rhodesia (which became today’s Zimbabwe) with secession by Zambia and Malawi; Ethiopia with secession by Eritrea; Sudan with secession of South Sudan. During the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russian empire collapsed by self-determination of numerous previously dominated units. The successor of the latter, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was initially a federation of only four remaining territories: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia; after territorial expansion, it was organized into fifteen republics and numerous autonomies, regions, and areas, as well as officially recognized nationalities and ethnic groups, but Russia always contained more than 51 percent of total population and two thirds of the territory, which eventually led to its split into fifteen countries. In Eastern Europe, Czecho-Slovakia ended with secession of the latter; and the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia split into seven republics.
     In contrast to the frailty of two-unit, polarized federations, successful experiences usually encompass high numbers of units. With territorial pluralism, none of the units can reasonably feed its ambitions of becoming the single dominant one, thus leaving the small communities to develop their own ways within the union. The best examples of how a very large territory can be structured in a federal-like manner are the United States, with 50 units, and the European Union, with 28 states (and about 100 regional governments) so far. The challenge for the large United Kingdom is to adopt a sufficiently pluralistic structure, certainly preventing any unit from including more than 50% of total population.

COMMENTS

Hector Schamis said...
But the Latinamerican cases of failed two unit federations, wasn't the problem that they were NOT such, precisely? That is, that there wasn't enough devolution, as the Scots would put it, from the center, thus, leaving them with no other option to secession? I mean, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, there was no federation there, that's my point, be them many units or just two.
My two cents. Thanks for sending along.
h
Washington, DC


14 September 2014

Why a so dis-United Kingdom 
This week there will be a referendum in Scotland about independence from the United Kingdom. Survey polls predict a tight, uncertain result. One can wonder how the United Kingdom has become so increasingly disunited.
In short: Too simple institutions and too much concentration of power have lead to polarization between the British central government and the Scottish government.

This was predicted quite a while ago.
From my book Political Institutions: Democracy and Social Choice (Oxford 2001):
“In the mid 18th century, the political regime of England was considered to be the best example of 'one nation in the world that has for the direct end of its constitution political liberty' founded on the principle of separation of powers (Montesquieu, 1748). In contrast, by the mid 20th century, political students widely agreed that the United Kingdom was 'both the original and the best-known example' of the model of democracy based on concentration of powers (see, for example, Lijphart 1984).” 
How this evolution from wide institutional pluralism to high concentration of power took place?
“For some time after the union with Scotland in 1707, the central government in London respected Scottish autonomy, especially in matters of religion, private law, and the judiciary system. Britain was also highly decentralized in favor of local governments at least until the early 19th century.
“However, with the steady expansion of voting rights during the 19th and 20th centuries, the popularly elected House of Commons came to prevail over the nonelected King and House of Lords. But the Commons were elected by means of a highly restrictive electoral system based on plurality rule, typically producing a two-party system and single-party Cabinets. Thus, democratization implied increasing concentration of powers in the hands of a single-winning actor, the party in Cabinet, and, more precisely, the Premier. The regime was dubbed an 'elective dictatorship', in contrast with the previous model of limited government. Unification in national government caused increasing centralization. Whereas some traditional Scottish institutions were curbed, Ireland seceded before it could be dominated, in 1920. Later, violent conflict in Northern Ireland led to the suppression of the local Assembly by the central government in 1969. Local governments were weakened by the central government through the 1980s, including the abolition of the Greater London Council.
“Major institutional reforms in favor of reestablishing pluralism were only initiated at the initiative of those excluded from power during a long period without governmental alternation. When the Labourites went back in government, they promoted the corresponding institutional reforms… Regional Assemblies and governments were created in Scotland and Wales (the latter with no legislative or taxation powers) since 1999 …
“However, a few remarks are relevant.
“First, the absence of provisions for the establishment of regional governments across England might induce either unified government (if the national government party obtains a majority in the regions) or bipolarization between the central and the Scotland governments, rather than inter-regional cooperation.
“Second, although the House of Lords was deprived of most of its hereditary members, it was not replaced with a corresponding upper chamber of territorial representation, which also reduces the opportunities for multilateral exchanges.
“In short, the fate of the new vertical division of powers in the United Kingdom may depend on the further extension of decentralization to other regional units and the development of institutions of multiregional cooperation.”
ADD 2014: As nothing of this has happened, then, as predicted, polarization between the central government in London and the Scottish government has increased, up to the present point.

LINK to the book Political Institutions CLICK


COMMENTS

Rein Taagepera said...
Cameron saying in Edinburgh that he would be "heartbroken" if Scotland left may have sealed the issue.
He vividly reminded me of a Moscow colleague who around 1990 told me that the Russians loved the Estonians so dearly they did not want the Estonia to leave.
I responded that escaping such love was a prime reason for escaping the union. Imposed love is rape.                         
The Scots may well feel the same way.  
Rein
FYI my "The Second Crimean War: When Decaying Empires Strike Back" 
CLICK  

Ivan Bofarull said...
There is abundant business literature (Michael Porter) that explains what a “stuck-in-the-middle” company is like: unable to define a clear strategic position (neither differentiation nor cost). Some have applied this theory to globalization: companies or brands too small to be a global player, too big to be a local player. Countries may not escape from this dilemma. Some nation-states seem too small to tackle global challenges, but too big to deal efficiently with local issues. Being “big” means having to deal with costs of complexity, for instance, cultural diversity within your borders. Being “small” means having to deal with gaining access to greater networks and alliances in order to influence the global agenda or doing business globally. In an increasingly networked economy, complexity management is more demanding (for instance, globalization reasserts local identities), while access to global networks is easier. From the business rationale, it would make sense for the UK or Spain to split and form a network of smaller states, including Scotland and Catalonia, as long as these remain united –networked- in a larger entity, namely a reinforced United States of Europe, able to become a top-notch player at the same level as the US or China.
Ivan Bofarull
ESADE Business School, Barcelona

Salvador Giner said...
JM, sense canviar de sobirà (reina), ni moneda (encara imprimeixen les seves), ni església oficial (ña Kirk de sempre), ni bandera (Creu St Andreu), ni dret privat (sempre vigent i legítim), ni algunes de les millors Universitats, etc. etc. En saben.
[Without changing the sovereign (Queen) or money (they still print its own) or official church (the Kirk always) or flag (St Andrew's Cross) or private law (always valid and legitimate), or some of the best Universities, etc. etc. They know.]

04 September 2014

Europe speaks German
After the European Parliament elections in May, the Union has completed the renewal of its top officers. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, is German; the maternal language of the new president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, is German-based Luxemburgeois and, as many of his compatriots, he tends to speak out in German; and the only foreign language in which the new president of the European Council, the Polish Donald Tusk, is fluent is German. I guess German is going to be the most common daily language at the top of the European Union. Even the Italian Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, tried once to speak in German to the European Parliament. They will also have Ms Angela Merkel at hand. Remember that she can also speak in German with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, as he learned the language when he was a KGB agent in the last years of East Germany. Just in case new signals were needed of the current leadership of Germany in building the Union.
* * *
See my new website: CLICK

12 July 2014

In the summer,
the clock of the South is reversed

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Two weeks ago, at the beginning of the winter, the clock on the facade of the Congress of Bolivia in La Paz has been reversed. Its hands turn left and the numbers have been inverted to go from one to 12 anti-clockwise. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, doubtless addressing the rest of the world, dubbed it the “clock of the south”. He said the change has also been made to get Bolivians to treasure their heritage and show them that they could question established norms and think creatively: “when it’s summer in the North it’s not summer here –he specified--, and the time, like the weather, must also be the other way around.” 

Of course, coordination in the measurement of time is a universal public good from which everybody can take benefit. The Bolivian “creative thinking” reminds me an insightful observation by Jon Elster about changing coordination norms:
A minimal definition of a well-ordered society is that its drivers stop when they see a red light… In Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards found it unacceptable that red should mean ‘stop’. They wanted the system of traffic lights changed to make red signify ‘go’. Chou En-lai was allegedly willing to go along with the proposal, until his driver told him that red lights were easier to notice in the dark and in bad weather.”
(Jon Elster, “When Communism Dissolves”, LRB, 1990)


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