Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Scottish Independence

Source: Twitter

Living in Scotland, the upcoming independence referendum is obviously of interest to me. Not just because being here on a UK work visa the outcome could have direct implications for me, but also because I'm actually entitled to vote if I want.

I've chosen not to vote though, since having only lived here for a couple of months, I don't think it's really appropriate for me to be directly affecting the outcome of an issue that has been brewing for a long time. Maybe if I really strongly felt that one of the options was truly terrible I would change that stance, but I can see both Yes and No votes being reasonable here, and so I leave it up to the Scottish to decide for themselves (I'm sure they're all extremely thankful that they have my permission!).

Having said that, I do think the best choice is for Scotland to not become independent, and so I thought I would write a few words on why I hold this opinion.

Political Choice

I worry about the UK become more conservative, in the same way that I worry about this in Australia and the US. On the whole, I want to live in a society that takes care of the basic needs of everyone, whether we might think that they deserve it or not, partly because people can fall into misfortune through no fault of their own, and partly because I'm happy to pay some tax dollars to have the peace of mind that those around me are enjoying some basic level of existence, and not being fucked over so that I can be comfortable.

Now, some people, particularly conservatives, will argue that this is best left to charity and donations rather than the government, to which I would reply that people are generally terrible at knowing where money is most needed, and how best to get that money to where it will provide the best bang for buck. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a perfect example of this. The ALS Association experienced a huge increase in donations due to it. This is probably a worthwhile charity that puts its donations to good use, but how many people do you think actually researched to find out? People just jumped on a bandwagon because of funny shit on the internet. How many other charities lost money because people donated to the ALS Association rather than where they might have otherwise been donating money? The point is that people often donate money for dumb reasons and to whatever charity attracts their attention (usually by the charities having to spend lots of money; free virals campaigns are not the norm), while in theory, a government can take a pool of money and allocate it where it's actually needed and can do the most good.

So, long diversion aside, I think countries should tend towards a more socialist left than a conservative right. And this is where Scotland comes in, because it's one of the main areas in the UK with a lot of left wing support, pushing against the increasingly right wing majority. If they leave the UK, I'm sure they will be fine, but what about the rest of the UK?

When I look at the current conservative government in Australia, I shudder to think what would happen if half of Australia's left leaning voters were to leave and form their own country. Or imagine the consequences to not just the US but the entire world if half of the US democrats left and formed their own country, leaving a majority who tend towards wanting to start wars, fucking over the poor, ignoring climate change, and refusing to believe in evolution?

Australia turning to shit would not have much effect on the world outside of Australia, while the US turning to shit could have huge global implications (we saw from the global financial crisis just how much stupid laws and lack of regulation enforcement can affect the whole world). I see the UK as being somewhat in between. They probably wouldn't go around drone striking everyone who lacks oil and/or a nuclear arsenal, but the world would probably not be the better for it.

So I see Scotland as an important part of keeping the political balance in the UK in check, and leaving would probably make the UK a worse place. Of course, this shouldn't necessarily be Scotland's problem, but it would be nice if they could see the power that they have and fight to make the UK better rather than just looking out for themselves.

Increasing Globalisation

Looking at the bigger picture, the world is becoming more interconnected. Countries are ever more reliant on each other to survive and thrive. Most individuals now communicated daily with people all over the world thanks to the internet and social media. We have global threats like climate change that require everyone to take part in solving. Diseases can spread globally more easily than ever before. And technologies like nuclear power can make one country's screw up affect everyone.

We need to look ahead to a world with less local and national focus, and more global focus. We're heading in that direction whether we like it or not. And so, like it or not, we need to keep heading in the direction of unification rather than separation.

Think about a simple thing like purchasing a product online from another country. Chances are you do it via a credit card. Imagine if every country had it's own credit card system so you couldn't do this. Imagine if you had to arrange international bank transfers or something similar to do this. Instead you can use your Visa or Mastercard with everything behind the scenes virtually transparent to you, knowing that you have legal protection if something goes wrong. And notice how much better this makes things, how many new options it opens up. How much more efficient it is.

It's hard to imagine this extrapolated to everything, but it should help give a glimpse as to how unification of laws and governing bodies in the long term could be a great thing. People joke about the ineffectiveness of, say, the UN, but we should be trying to fix it to make it more effective, not walking away from it. It's like when people are unhappy with their medical system so they turn to alternative medicine as though it's a viable alternative, rather than trying to fix the problems.

We need to look towards fixing systems, not walking away from them. And Scotland has the choice to look outward and fix things, or look inwards and only care about itself.

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