bbtmn

The Sum of the Parts

Friday 20th November 2009

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently, and was going to write some of it as a comment on Andy’s most recent post, but thought I may as well expand on it here.

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As most of you probably know, I live in Wales at the moment. The Welsh are fairly patriotic and proud of where they come from, so being English I naturally come in for a certain amount of stick, and it kind of makes you think about the whole nationalism thing.

Wales is currently in the process of devolution; moving power over Wales away from Westminster and to the Senedd, a really rather snazzy building in Cardiff Bay. I’m very uneasy about the idea of devolution. I suppose a cynic would suggest that I’m bound to be, because I’m and Englishman and devolution removes power from England, but I don’t think that’s why. I think it’s just such a backward step; instead of drawing dividing lines around the country, we should be coming together as one and moving forward. If there’s a Welsh government, a Scottish government, an English government and a Cornish government (yeah, Cornwall wants devolution too. Crazy, isn’t it?), then each individual country is going to be less well off in pretty much any respect than if we all stayed as Britain.

Even the word, “devolution”, hints at this. It’s the opposite of evolution; a regression from a devloped state towards a more primitive one. I can’t think of a single reason why anyone would support it, other than pure nationalism. But that’s a rubbish reason. If we remained as Britain, with one government, then how does that get in the way of patriotism? A Welsh person can still be proud to be Welsh, in the same way that a Geordie is proud to be from Newcastle. You don’t need to be an independant nation for that to happen.

So applying the same logic to Europe, surely we’re better off a part of it? In fact, I’d go one step further and suggest evolution; a United States of Europe. Why is that a bad idea? Each country should still be able to govern “internal” affairs, in much the same way as American states do, but it makes sense for one central government (made up of representatives from around Europe) to do everything else. If that happened, a united Europe would wield more power in international politics than it does currently, because at the moment the power is diffused between a number of countries.

Like with devolution, the only argument against this that I can think of is nationalism, but again that’s a really awful reason. Using America as an example again, most Americans seem to be proud of their state and of their country; the fact that the state is one of 50 neednt undermine that patriotism.

Posted at 3:21 pm | Posted In: Politics Tagged:

8 Comments:

Callan

Saturday 21st November 2009, 11:33 am

Yes.

Jenny

Saturday 21st November 2009, 7:14 pm

I agree – the only reason that I disagree is that (and this is something I don’t fully understand and for which I have no examples to hand) surely there are times when what’s best for one country (or state, I guess) is in fact detrimental as far as another country is concerned. You can’t apply policies across great swathes of lands and peoples and cultures and across a whole range of different levels of economic development in a sort of one-size-fits-all frenzy. So in theory, yes, ‘evolution’ would be great, but I think we need to maintain a certain level of independence from one region to another. Furthermore I gather that one of hte reasons for Wales devolving is that they want more control over, say, their education system and how they run their schools, because frankly the national curriculum and GCSEs and so on are shit. Which is totally fair enough, and if only we would do the same, but I guess if the Welsh parliament disagrees with us in England on a number of issues and by themselves they don’t have the political weight to change anything across Britain, if they jump ship they can do things their way and hope that’s better? I’m not saying that’s necessarily the *right* way to do things – in an ideal world, yes, perhaps a United States of Eurasia plan would be a good’un, but we don’t live in an ideal world. But I do believe that Europe should probably have a bit more political power within nations, and as a result, internationally.

And you’re right – none of this could or should have any effect on the culture, of one’s pride in one’s country and traditions and Welshness, folklore, sports teams, music, etc.

I’m wittering. Going to climb back under the blankets with more chocolate now. Au revoir…!

Andy

Saturday 21st November 2009, 9:50 pm

A United States of Europe (which clearly wouldn’t be the name, you’d get confusion any time somebody said “United States” or “the States”) would be the country with the largest GDP in the world, and would, inexplicably, hold two permanent seats on the UN security council. I guess they’d have to fix that, maybe reduce the size of the council, or install Japan as 5th?

Anyways, it’d be the biggest, baddest political entity on the planet, and we could thoroughly tell the Americans where to shove it with their world leadership / police crap. It’d be awesome!

Jenny’s concerns are valid, but that’s why you have a strictly federal system. The individual state legislatures (Parliament, Bundestag, etc.) would remain, legislating for their respective territories, which prevents having problems with one-size-fits-all legislation except where such legislation is appropriate.

A properly federal system would also have some pretty ace advantages over the current system, in that at the moment decisions are made by whoever is appointed by the governments of member states, not people directly elected by the people, which isn’t the most transparent process.

Jenny

Tuesday 24th November 2009, 12:42 am

I completely agree with you in principle, Andy (although I’m having visions of a comic-book dystopia which is silly). If we did have a strictly federal system then yes, I can see it working, depending on to what degree each individual federal state still had power over itself (and I mean the *right* degree, obviously, and I don’t know where on the line that might fall). What Dickie and Callan seem to advocate would be to have a USE where each individual state had almost no power whatsoever – which *would* be silly.

Dickie

Tuesday 24th November 2009, 1:35 am

“…a USE where each individual state had almost no power whatsoever…”
Oh, no, that’s not what I meant at all! I’m in agreement with Andy. I thought I was quite clear:
“Each country should still be able to govern “internal” affairs, in much the same way as American states do, but it makes sense for one central government (made up of representatives from around Europe) to do everything else”
What I’m advocating is a federal system, pretty much. You’re quite right, “one-size-fits-all” legislation would be a bad idea for some things, for fairly obvious reasons.

For the record, I didn’t mean to imply that “United States of Europe” would be the name, just intended to draw the obvious parallel.

Andy, you and I seem to agree much more on this sorta stuff these days. Its kinda scary. We should start a new party and revolutionise politics with common sense and logic :-p (we couldn’t do a worse job than any of the idiots currently in Westminster – on either side of the aisle)

Jenny

Tuesday 24th November 2009, 10:21 am

yes, sorry, I should probably read before I comment – I only read Andy’s comment and assumed I’d remembered the gist of everything you’d said before…!! Sorry!!

What other policies would you have, then?

United Countries of Europe perhaps. To appease the more silly end of hte chattering classes with the idea of still being a country, whatever good that might do…

Fiona

Tuesday 1st December 2009, 12:00 am

Um. Wut?

Devolution does not at all mean going back to something a bit more primitive, and as far as I’m aware shares no relationship with evolution in the Darwinian sense – isn’t that scare-mongering a bit?! Different regions have different local conditions – Europe is a prime example of this, can you equate the economic conditions in the UK with those in Spain? In Germany? In Poland, Greece, Slovakia? It works on a smaller level too, and that’s what Welsh devolution, such as it is (it’s actually pretty meagre and symbolic, frankly). As far as Scottish devolution is concerned, they have their own separate legal system. Different conditions come with that and the Scottish Parliament is pretty good at making the little adaptations to suit that. (It’s a historical thing. If you harmonised the legal systems it’d be like the Poll Tax all over again. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but opinion polls in the last few years have suggested it would be. It’s like it’d be political suicide for Westminster to overrule much Scots law – they can technically do it, but there’s no way in hell that they’re going to.)

As far as Europe’s concerned… a federal system would be very interesting indeed. You might say we’re part of the way there already… but there are too many big players in Europe, that realistically one united government without national interests or prejudices isn’t going to happen. It’s a bit screwed up at the moment – probably the 27 states in a system designed for six – but hey! Lisbon! How exciting!

Dickie

Tuesday 1st December 2009, 2:26 am

I’m fairly sure that the word “devolution” does mean a change from a developed form to a more primitive one, and as far as I’m concerned it holds true for devolution of power in Wales (and indeed Scotland and Cornwall and wherever else you wish to apply it), so no I don’t think it’s “scare-mongering”.

No you can’t equate the economic conditions in different countries, but I’m not sure you’d need to. European economies especially are pretty delicately interconnected because of the high level of trade between states, so the way it would be managed in a federal system is surely just an extension of that? Again I’ll use the USA as an example, with control of the economy and governmental spending effectively done at state and national level.

And yeah, realistically it’s not going to happen any time soon, cos people aren’t going to vote for it (and for the record, I think it’s amazingly awful that there wasn’t a vote in more countries about the Lisbon treaty, but that’s a slightly different issue). Doesn’t stop it being an idea worth talking about.

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