I haven’t got much involved in discussion about the Scottish independence referendum. My opinion doesn’t fit, as usual, with either “side” in this battle to see which group of elite farm overseers get to control the human livestock that is Scotland’s huddled masses. Instinctively I want to side with those who want to secede from their government. Any government.

Scotland's referendum on independence could have far reaching ramifications. Image courtesy of ByronV2 at Flickr.
Scotland’s referendum on independence could have far reaching ramifications. Image courtesy of ByronV2 at Flickr.

On the one hand, I’m with Ludwig von Mises when he writes, in Liberalism, that…

“The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.”

But I’m also with him when he says a few pages later that…

“The situation of having to belong to a state to which one does not wish to belong is no less onerous if it is the result of an election than if one must endure it as the consequence of a military conquest.”

If the result on Thursday is close, then whichever way the result goes, nearly half of Scotland will be living in a state they neither chose nor want. There’s lots of talk about “healing” divisions afterwards going on now, but, short of emigration (if they’re not in favour of iScot), what are those on the losing side to do about it (especially if they are pro-iScot). Grin and bear it? In a polity they don’t agree with? That is the result of “democracy” folks – like it or lump it.

But what also gets me is that this is not some Misesian reach for real independence and freedom. It is a tussle between two groups of people who have made it their lives’ business to interfere with other peoples’ lives over who gets to do the most interfering. One clue is in who is doing the work behind the scenes. I laid my eyes on a document purporting to be a “draft constitution” for an independent Scotland. It begins by saying that sovereignty in Scotland rests with the people, then continues, apparently without “the people” being so much as involved, to write up how they think a new Scotland should be governed.

And, as Albert Jay Nock said of the protestant Reformation and the British Civil Wars, what appears to be on offer is as close to the existing arrangements as possible under a different territorial banner. At best a rearranging of institutions, but still, whatever the draft constitution says of popular sovereignty, still a Westphalian style nation state maintaining the barbaric fiction that the territorial monopoly of violence is necessary for social co-operation. All they are doing is seeking to transfer that monopoly of force from one elite group to another. The mere fact that they want to be within the same structures of supra-national power, such as the EU, will ensure that of course.

We are told, apparently, that so many details will be worked out after the referendum. It seems unclear just what Scots are voting for – more of the same with different figureheads, or some genuine revolutionary change in the nature of state and citizen. Let’s put it this way, if there are politicians in charge, it’ll most likely be the former. Such vulgar nationalism is no way to found a unified community, if that’s what they mean to achieve.

The BBC helpfully a few weeks ago showed a documentary series about the Stewart dynasty – presumably timed as a history lesson in how the United Kingdom came about. One thing struck me particularly, however: I’ve always said that Scotland should have its say because its people didn’t have a say 300 odd years ago when we “merged”. Apparently that’s not strictly true. Through the Covenanters after the civil wars, apparently ninety per cent of Scots did have a say and signed the covenant, which called more firmly for a restoration of the joint Scottish-English monarchy under Charles II than any English movement other than the elite royalist cabal.

That, of course, is no reason why one can’t change one’s mind after a few hundred years. But I see no inspirational revolutionary tracts, as in the American colonies in the 18th century or even the work of the 17th century Covenanters, discussing the basis on which governments should be formed, or dissolved, or seceded from. There seems little, to me, on which to base a new Scotland, and I for one couldn’t vote for such uncertainty, even if I want, desperately, to see smaller states, self-determination and liberty for as many as possible.

If there were a solid set of proposals for some pretty fundamental issues, like governance and economic/monetary arrangements, and they genuinely did place the sovereignty of the people first in a bottom up structure, that would be a different issue. But for now, for all I want to see the break up of large states, they have not made their case, as far as I am concerned. Which is okay really – since even though I’m an ethnic Scot living in another part of the same country that they want to cut in two I don’t have a say.

Scottish Secession and Liberalism
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