Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is There a Contradiction Between Euroscepticism and Unionism?

Is there something contradictory about being in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but being against Scotland leaving the UK? Eurosceptics cite that they don't want to be ruled from Brussels, but likewise the SNP does not want to be ruled from London. Are unionist eurosceptics not being hypocritical in denying to the Scots what they want for themselves?

Not at all. Firstly Scotland is going to have a referendum on independence. The first thing that eurosceptics want is a referendum on the EU membership. If we lose we will accept the result just as we will accept the result of the referendum on independence.

Why are eurosceptics against the EU? Personally I'm against the EU not because I'm against unions in general. The United States, for instance, strikes me as an ideal multi state union. Why does it work? Because there is a common identity, a common language and there are common political parties which stand in every state. Each state has a lot of devolved power and each state devolves that power still further so that a great number of decisions are taken by politicians who are close to the people who elect them and who can easily be voted out if they go against the wishes of the electorate. Overseeing all of this is a strong national government, with responsibility over matters, which affect the country as a whole. Of course there are faults with American democracy, but on the whole it is an enviable model.

If the European Union were like that, there might be a case for being a member. But the EU can never be a free, democratic multi state country like the United States, because it lacks the conditions for being a successful nation, a common identity and a common language. It is for this reason primarily that the Eurozone is failing as an optimum currency union. Whereas someone from New York can easily seek work in California, someone from Greece cannot easily seek work in Germany. Whereas richer parts of the United States are happy to transfer money to poorer parts, richer parts of the EU resent the idea of subsidising people who they consider to be foreigners.

Britain already is an optimum currency union, because we have the conditions for being an optimum nation. We have a common language, culture and identity. We do not see people from other parts of the UK as foreigners. We have in Britain what the United States has, a fully democratic country, we have what the EU lacks and can never have.

It is for this reason that I am opposed to breaking up the union of the UK, while being in favour of breaking up the EU. There is no contradiction here.

Scottish independence makes no more sense than Texan independence. Of course each of these formerly independent States could function successfully on their own, but they each benefit from being in a political fiscal and currency union with other people who speak the same language as them, have similar values and cultures and just as a Texan benefits from not being a foreigner in Washington, so a Scot benefits from not being a foreigner in London.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Alex Salmond Wants Independence in the UK

I've been trying to make sense of the ever changing models of independence put forward by the SNP and have come to the conclusion that what they want amounts to "Independence in the UK". Of course they're not using that slogan, but it pretty much equates to the vision they are putting forward of an independent Scotland.

The SNP want to maintain a currency union with the rest of the UK post independence. They want the Bank of England to act as Scotland's central bank and lender of last resort. They want to maintain many of the UK national institutions, such as the DVLA, and they want to maintain a "Social union" of the countries, which make up the UK. Most important of all they want to maintain the monarchy, the union of the crowns, which has existed since 1603. Logically this would mean they would maintain the Union Flag introduced by James VI.

I've been trying to come up with an example of an analogous relationship between countries. The closest I can get is the relationship between Denmark and the Faeroe Islands, but that does not work as the Faeroe Islands are autonomous, but are not independent.

Perhaps a model might be the relationship that Puerto Rico has to the United States. It too has autonomy, as an unincorporated part of the United States, but likewise it is not independent.

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that what Alex Salmond is offering the Scottish people is not independence at all, but rather autonomy within the UK.

The condition for being in a currency union with the rest of the UK would certainly be that the rest of the UK's chancellor would have a say and in the end a veto over the Scottish budget. Scotland would raise all of its own taxes, would receive a greater share of oil revenues, but would lose the money from the Barnett formula. It would be regulated both by London and by Brussels, assuming Scotland would remain an EU member, not least because London and Brussels are going to exact a price for cooperating so fully with Mr Salmond's dream.

For the life of me I can't see the advantage. At the moment we in Scotland have representation both in Edinburgh and in London. Being "Independent in the UK" means we would only have representation in Edinburgh, but would still be regulated on financial matters by London.

Moreover we know that currency unions have a tendency to bring their members into an ever closer fiscal and political union. Scotland would still have elastic bands tying it to London, but would no longer have the parliamentary representation to have its say there.

Alternatively if Scotland strove to maintain real independence in this currency union with the rest of the UK, the likelihood is that eventually the tensions would be so great that Scotland would be forced out, leading to a messy exist and devaluation on the lines that looks likely for Greece.

Salmond's is offering a vision of independence, which is as close as is possible to remaining in the union so that he can gain as much support as possible from those Scots who otherwise would be scared of independence. But it is not clear that this model of independence is something he is really able to offer. The reason is that the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK post independence, would not be a matter solely for Mr Salmond, but would also be a matter for whoever at that time led the rest of the UK. What would they gain from having a semi-detached autonomous/independent Scotland? We know the difficulties in the Eurozone of having independent countries who are in a monetary, but not a fiscal, nor a political union. Why would the rest of the UK put itself in the position of Germany in relation to Scotland's Greece? What if the rest of the UK reacts to Scotland's independence by saying goodbye, but don't expect any cooperation from us. The trouble with "Social Unions" is that they require that both sides want to cooperate. I doubt there would be much goodwill towards Scotland if there really were a divorce.

Independence within the UK is the latest attempt by the SNP to kid the Scottish public that independence would only amount to nice things, like a UN seat and some extra flag waving, but we really need to hear from the leaders of the rest of the UK before we can be sure what a post independent Scotland, in a currency union with the rest of the UK, would be like, for the nature of such a relationship would not solely be up to Mr Salmond no matter how much he likes to dictate.

In the meantime might not supporters of independence reflect on what they are being offered? Does it not seem just a bit faint hearted? Even tiny Latvia and Lithuania set up their own currencies post independence. Can Scotland really not manage its own currency, set up its own central bank? Is the desire for independence so shallow, so lacking in courage that we can't even emulate far away countries of which we know nothing. It all seems slightly humiliating when you put it like that.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Electoral College Isn't The Problem

You don't hear many people defending the Electoral College these days. But is it the undemocratic relic that its critics claim, or is it a constitutional bastion of federalism, a place where states can still flex their muscle over the most powerful office in Washington, D.C.?

It turns out that where you stand on the Electoral College depends largely upon where you sit.

If you reside in an urban, coastal, densely populated state that is "deep blue," our modern vernacular for solidly Democrat, chances are good that you don't like the current system very much. For one thing, you are apt to be a Democrat yourself, and that means you are probably more inclined to support a bigger role for central government relative to the states on such matters as health care, education and public transportation. For another thing, you probably don't care for the fact that both political parties more or less take your vote for granted in presidential elections. Unless you travel to other parts of the country or happen to live near the border of a swing state like Virginia or Ohio, you saw only a tiny fraction of the political ads that were broadcast in the recent campaign.

You probably want the large number of people who live near you and vote like you to have a commensurate impact in presidential balloting. The New York Times echoed these views in a recent editorial that declared, "The Electoral College remains a deeply defective political mechanism no matter whom it benefits, and it needs to be abolished." (1)

The chief complaint about the Electoral College is that it makes it possible for a candidate to become president without winning the largest share of the popular vote. This has happened three times in our history, in 1876, 1888 and 2000. Some commentators thought it might happen again in 2012. It's likely another president will win the White House without winning the popular vote one day, even if it is not anything like a frequent occurrence.

The Times editorial adds the red herring that the Electoral College was "born in appeasement to slave states." (1) This is true, but the relevant provision isn't so much that Electoral College was created to protect slavery as that it was created to protect agrarian, less populous states. Less populous states and slaveholding states were one and the same until after the American frontier crossed the Appalachians.

In my view, the Electoral College is not inherently undemocratic. Rather, it is a democratic way of instituting federalism. Though today's liberals often overlook the fact (except when discussing subjects like gay marriage), states matter.

The Constitution is indisputably biased to overweight the interests of small states relative to their populations, not only via the Electoral College, but also in the existence and the role of the U.S. Senate. This lopsidedness often leads to distorted policy making, which is why we have overly generous farm subsidies and foolish ethanol mandates. But it also safeguards against a situation in which the country's priorities are entirely skewed toward population centers at the expense of a vast, sparsely populated interior.

A strong federal system is one of the things that distinguish us from, for example, Argentina, where the government financially oppresses its agricultural sector to subsidize urban interests for the political benefit of its leaders. It's not a coincidence that resource-rich Argentina has been sliding in global development rankings for the past 100 years.

The Constitution gives states the power to decide how their electoral vote is determined. If states choose to band together in an interstate compact like the national popular vote legislation, which the Times endorsed, that's their prerogative. It would be akin to having a national Powerball lottery for the presidency. Right now, however, the proposal is not close to gaining enough support to go into effect.

It should come as no surprise that the only states that have signed are deep blue and mostly coastal. (Illinois, one of the endorsers, is far from salt water, but Chicago's economy more closely resembles that of the coastal cities than it does the rest of the Midwest.)

The states that want to augment their power in presidential elections also include those that have among the most indebted governments - the ones that feel most put upon by the disproportionate representation of rural states, and the ones most likely to want to federalize their unsustainable obligations sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Good luck, though, getting the big swing states like Florida, Ohio, and now Virginia and North Carolina, to sign on to this proposal. Why should they? Competitive electoral battlegrounds currently enjoy outsized influence. And what, exactly, will backers of a proposal like the national popular vote tell the minority groups whose expanding role was vividly apparent earlier this month? "We have come up with a way of making sure that the white 72 percent of the electorate will keep their influence a while longer. Let us know when you get to 50 percent plus one!"

It's even less likely that states like Colorado, Nevada and Iowa would endorse such a proposal, since they currently have even more disproportionate influence in presidential campaigns. The idea will be an outright non-starter in rural places like Montana, whose three electoral votes would essentially count for nothing if their influence relied solely on the size of the state's small population. Montana counts for 0.6 percent of the Electoral College and could theoretically serve as the deciding vote in a very tight election. It accounts for only 0.3 percent of the national population and would be all but ignored in a nationwide popular ballot.

The problem with the current system is that each party has, in effect, gerrymandered itself into a secure area - southern and rural places for Republicans, urban and northern ones for Democrats - leaving the balance of power in the hands of a few small groups in border zones.

Luckily, this problem is self-correcting. As the Republican zone continues to shrink and thus lose the ability to secure the White House, the party has a built-in incentive to broaden its appeal. That's exactly what the Democrats did in the 1980s and early '90s, when their labor-oriented message stopped working and Bill Clinton subsequently repositioned himself and his party closer to the political center. Republicans, finding their social and immigration stances hurting them too much with female and Hispanic voters, are currently under pressure to reconsider their approach.

Our existing system balances the regions and pushes parties to the center, where we want them. Abandoning the Electoral College would create more space for the extremes, including extreme pressure for big government spending, which continues to put the financial future of places like California, Illinois and New York at risk. It's precisely because we have a federal system that we don't have to federalize those states' problems. The system is not broken. There is no need to go hunting for something to fix.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Very Best Political System

A Look at the Failure of the Two Party Political System: Why I Want a Woman President in 2020

Super powers such as the United States have for a long time invested a lot of faith in the two-party system. It is yet to be demonstrated in any of these countries however that this party system is indeed the best. Leaders are still exhibiting serious loopholes in their leadership skills, multi-party system or not. They simply lack apt leadership skills. Political analysts often put down third world countries and place clear demarcations that suggest better leadership skills in developed countries as opposed to their counterparts. Such theories are however losing credibility very fast, it turns out that even developed countries are lacking in impressive goal driven leadership. So what really is the evidence of this unfortunate lack of leadership acumen? Well, factors such as providing efficient healthcare, listening to the voice of reason from the majority, providing equal opportunities for all parties and stakeholders to be heard and addressing major social agendas are taking a backseat in most countries the world over. The irony of all this is that it is these factors that truly bring about change.

Minority and Majority Conflict of Interest

A recent survey of political affiliations in the United States revealed rather interestingly that only ten percent of the population represented the extremists (republicans and democrats) each in equal percentage. The remaining ninety percent represented the moderates and the independents yet it is still the minority class that says what goes. It would benefit the country and the world at large if such a minority ruling class actually made decisions that effectively handled crucial humanitarian, financial and political issues. It is indeed high time the world got a taste of what real change and real leadership is like.

One may wonder why the independents are continually fed ineffective ideologies and reform agendas that work against them yet they keep accepting the same. Well the truth is that the resources needed to turn such ideologies around such as money and power lie solely in the destructive hands of the leadership regime. The ongoing campaigns for the presidential elections already have dangerous signals that point towards nothing but more propaganda. A look at many countries will indicate that such political parties have been in the game for years and they constantly win because they have the money and the following they need. The question of multi or single party state therefore does not arise. Poor leadership is rife in both situations. Democracy as was once demonstrated by countries such as the United States was once a beacon of hope for developing and undeveloped countries but its advent brought with it little if any change at all.

Realizing True Change: What Needs to Be Done

In conclusion it is clear that countries need a total overhaul in leadership if the real change is to be experienced. Furthermore, dangerous biases to sections of a population and useless political manifestos should be done away with completely. Real change can only be experienced by finally giving the womenfolk a chance at top positions in government. The time for women to keep a low, unassuming profile is over. Awareness campaigns should be carried out to show women that they just might be what the world has been waiting for.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How Republicans Are Misunderstanding Latinos

For quite a long time now, Republicans have tried to find ways to bring in more Latino voters into its base, but with limited success. Republican leaders stress that Latinos fit in perfectly with the base of the party for multiple reasons, however 67% of Latinos are registered Democrat. Let us look at Republican claims as to why Latinos are a perfect fit for the party and ways that they are misunderstood.

Many people assess the Latino population in the United States as a socially conservative group with deep, predominantly Catholic, values. The GOP for decades have tried to use this to their advantage due to the fact that the Republican base has similar core values. From afar it does seem like a perfect fit, but Latinos are not as socially conservative as Republicans give them credit for. In order to explain this claim I will break down the different demographics within the United States Latino community.

Breaking down the U.S. Latino community into generations (first generation Latino- American, second generation Latino-American, etc... ) is, at least I find, the best way to explain the political matches and mismatches between Latinos and Republicans. Let us start with first generation Latinos in the United States and their political profile.

Out of all the Latino generations, first generation and foreign-born Latinos tend to be the most conservative. According to the Pew Research Center, 35% of foreign-born Latinos consider themselves conservative in their political beliefs as opposed to 28% of Latinos born in the United States, which is likely because of the greater influence that religion has in Latin American countries. They also tend to have a more conservative stance than other generations on issues such as abortion and the acceptance of homosexuality.

Second and third generation Latino-Americans tend to be more liberal on many issues as opposed to earlier generations. Later generation Latinos are slightly more accepting of homosexuals and are much more in favor of legal abortion rights for women. They are also more likely to describe themselves as liberals. One may argue that the reason for the increase in liberal ideology among younger generations of Latino-Americans is their exposure to a more secular society in the United States, as opposed to their parents or grandparents who were grew up in a less secular, Latin American nation.

From the information above, one would think that first generation Latino-Americans would be a perfect match for Republicans, right? They have many of the same core beliefs when it comes to abortion, the importance of religion, and many other issues, but still the GOP sees Latinos vote consistently Democrat. One major reason for this mismatch between the GOP and first generation Latino-Americans is the harsh, seemingly anti-immigrant, language that modern Republicans use. For this particular demographic, immigration is at the top of their list because they went through the immigration process and know the difficulties and struggles they went through to become citizens of the United States. They may still have family or friends living in their native Latin American country that are going through the immigration process, and it is through first-hand exposure to this process that makes it one of their top issues.

They key to appealing to the first generation would primarily be to propose and promote a passable, yet realistic, immigration reform bill. Doing this is key to bringing in new first generation voters, and along with that will come second and third generation Latino-Americans. With the consistent growth of the Latino population in the United States, it is essential that the GOP capitalize on this demographic, exploit the similarities, and bury the differences.