07 September 2007

The Economist v. Belgium

The Economist is a well known weekly collection of editorials masquerading as "news" articles. But a new piece suggesting that Belgium's time has come may take the cake.

Quoth The Economist:

When it was created in 1831, it served more than one purpose. It relieved its people of various discriminatory practices imposed on them by their Dutch rulers. And it suited Britain and France to have a new, neutral state rather than a source of instability that might, so soon after the Napoleonic wars, set off more turbulence in Europe.

[...] No doubt more good things can come out of the swathe of territory once occupied by a tribe known to the Romans as the Belgae. For that, though, they do not need Belgium: they can emerge just as readily from two or three new mini-states, or perhaps from an enlarged France and Netherlands.
Citing the bitter animosities between Flemings and Walloons, The Economist declares that "in short, Belgium has served its purpose" and proposes a "praline divorce," consoling patriotic Belgians (who must be in short supply, according to the article's logic) that "countries come and go."

In fact, countries don't simply come and go. They live far longer than any "purpose" would appear to dictate (a curious notion if there ever was one, since many would argue that a state's most basic purpose is survival) . That state death occurs rather infrequently has long been noted.

Indeed, The Economist is on to something, but it's a point that is wholly left out of that article. If states are going to fade away peacefully anywhere, it's likely to be in Belgium's neighborhood. How typical for the still-quite-Eurosceptic (dare I insert the pejorative "Anglo-Saxon"?) publication to ignore the most salient factor outmoding a unified Belgian state: Europe.

NATO has long placed Belgium's external security in the hands of the North Atlantic security community; in the past two decades the EU has seen the unprecedented pooling of its members' "exclusive" authority to govern. But on that score, if shared sovereignty and collective security mean that it's time to say goodbye to Belgium, why not the United Kingdom as well? That state has seen its share of devolution, it's entrenched in NATO, and it's enmeshed in Europe - whether Britons like it or not.


On a completely different note, I fell upon an intriguing discovery on Amazon, from Routledge, publisher of the 2006 volume containing "Social Theory as Cartesian Science."


Luke said...

What Bagehot (either he of antiquity or the modern columnist of the same name) would say to the dissolution of the United Kingdom in the face of interregional crabbiness and supranational bureaucracy, I shudder to think.

Actually, I don't have to think, on this score anyway - economist.com does it for me. But I digress....

The real question is this: what is propelling European nations (and to a much lesser extent their South American and African compatriots) towards union when a country like Canada seems to be propelling itself away from it? Surely Quebeckers and Albertans have more in common culturally than do Swedes and Maltese, or even Ghanaians and Tanzanians?

checker said...

The stronger and more dominant the EU becomes, the larger the possibility of dissolution of its member nation states grows.

Already we see Spain and the UK granting new powers to their regions. Countries like Italy also have regional separatist blocs.

I would not be surprised if, in 50 years, much of Europe consists of semiautonomous provinces that use Federal European powers to marginalize their fading national governments.