Europe: The Age of the Small State

A quote from Gideon Rachman in The Financial Times, 3 December 2007

Europe seems intent on slicing itself up into ever smaller pieces. […] People tend to treat countries that split up a bit like married couples. It is a sad event. And it is true that a unilateral declaration of Kosovan independence could cause a new crisis in the Balkans. But if the formation of new countries can be achieved peacefully, it is usually a cause for celebration. This is the age of the small state.

Look at almost any league table of national welfare and small countries dominate. […] Since the traditional disadvantages of being a tiddly country are disappearing, you are just left with the advantages. […] Declaring independence is also a splendid marketing gimmick. Who gave much thought to the Baltic states when they were part of the Soviet Union? But now a country like Estonia has a distinct international identity – which is very useful in attracting tourists and investment.

Given all this, it is hardly surprising that the number of new nations is proliferating. In 1945, the United Nations had just 45 members. By 1968, after decolonisation, it had 126 members. Now the number of nations represented at the UN is 192. Drink a toast to the age of the small country when it breaks 200.

Small states Big states

"Declaring independence is also a splendid marketing gimmick."

But no one declares independence as a marketing gimmick !
The important thing is to exist for yourself.

"Since the traditional disadvantages of being a tiddly country are disappearing, ..."

What were those disadvantages?

- Military insecurity? If Brittany had been an independent country, I cannot imagine that we would have declared war to Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914. But France did, and the Bretons and Corsicans were sent to the front lines.

- A smaller trade zone? Until the French invasion, Brittany sent thousands of trade ships to the Netherlands and to Portugal. After the French annexation, our economy just died off, due to French centralism.

See here: Centralisation Leads to Poverty

Brussels Journal: This is the situation we had in mediaeval Europe when the Low Countries or the Netherlands, of which Flanders was a part, were a confederalist cluster of semi-independent provinces.

Hans Hermann Hoppe: Indeed, and this explains why mediaeval Flanders was so prosperous. Contrary to the political orthodoxy of the contemporary Eurocrats, precisely the fact that Europe posessed a highly decentralised power structure of countless independent political units explains the origin of capitalism – the expansion of market participation and of economic growth – in the Western world. It is not by accident that freedom and prosperity first flourished under conditions of extreme political decentralisation: in the northern Italian city states, in southern Germany, and in the secessionist Low Countries.