Over at Let a Thousand Nations Bloom, Patri Friedman [Milton’s grandson and Seasteader] and friends are holding their second-annual “secession week” in an attempt to re-brand the US independence as an act of secession.
Here is their pro-secessionist theory in a nutshell. More states gives people more choice – greater option for exit – and this greater competition leads to better government.
How does this apply to Africa? Claudia Williamson makes the case to “Let fake states fail: Anarchy as a viable solution to artificial states”. I’m not entirely convinced on Somalia being a great poster child for anarchy. But letting fake states fail?
The international community needs to recognize a simple, albeit brutal fact: The Democratic Republic of the Congo does not exist.
The UN seal of approval to statehood is so arbitrary! Would somebody please recognise Somaliland?! They have bi-o-met-ric pass-ports – and have just conducted what seems to be a reasonable election in which the opposition stand a chance of winning.
Gaddafi made some waves a few months ago by calling for Nigeria to be carved up. So are more states the answer? Loomnie was skeptical for Nigeria.
Paul Collier is skeptical more generally. In his Political Economy of Secession he takes a predictable “small romantic rebel groups are not so romantic” refrain.
There are of course problems with his statistical analysis (and some new more sophisticated GIS analysis is refuting his findings), but he is still essential reading.
if our analysis is broadly correct, secessionist movements should not in general be seen as cries for social justice. Those few secessionist movements that are able to scale-up to being organizations with a serious political or military capability are likely to occur in rich regions and contain an element of a ‘resource grab’. They may also reflect the fantasies of diasporas settled in rich countries and a poorly educated population. Secessionist organizations are usually built on the foundations of romantic localism, and this will continue to shape their discourse. However, such localism is found almost everywhere. That viable secessionist organizations are rare indicates that romantic localism, and its associated discourse of grievance, is not by itself decisive. Romantic localism is not necessarily dishonest or irrelevant, but it offers a misleading explanation for what makes a secessionist organization strong.
If the cocktail of natural resource wealth, diasporas, and illiteracy succeeds in dismembering large, multi-cultural developing and transition societies, the world is unlikely to become a safer place. The secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia, heroic as it was, has not resulted in peace. It transformed a civil war into an international war, with a huge escalation in human and economic costs. It also has created a nation of 50 million people without direct access to the sea.
Nor are the small new societies that are created by secession necessarily internally cohesive. In Eritrea, the President recently arrested around half of the members of his cabinet. East Timor has sixteen different political parties, one for every 50,000 people. It would surely be disturbing if, at the same time as developed countries were integrating as never before, developing countries were disintegrating into tiny but disputatious ethnic theme parks.
And as for Southern Sudan next January? Well firstly as Douglas Johnson said at the University of Juba last week, an independent Southern Sudan would not become a land-locked country, because that is what it always has been.
Secondly, I’m with Salva Kiir. Let the people vote for what they want.