Small Countries Are Better: They’re Often Safer and Richer Than Big Countries
In the wake of the Brexit vote, Scottish nationalists have renewed their calls for a new referendum on Scottish independence. But many remain unconvinced, and many claim Scotland is “too small” to be an independent country. Others claim that Scotland is too poor, since Scotland’s GDP per capita is only 90 percent that of England.
But by no measure is Scotland a “poor” country. It may be poorer than England, but Scotland’s GDP per capita puts it about halfway down the rankings of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. That means it’s similar to France and Japan by this measure.
If Scotland is relatively less well off than many other rich Western nations, there is no reason to assume that this is due to its size. With 5.4 million people, Scotland is about the same size as New Zealand and Finland, and only slightly smaller than Denmark. None of these countries are “barely scraping by.”
Yet this hasn’t stopped critics from claiming that even the United Kingdom is itself small. Scottish pundit George Galloway, for instance, denounced the idea of Scottish independence because it would “break up this small country.” He meant the United Kingdom. The UK, however, is larger than all but twenty countries. If Scotland seceded, the Rump UK would still be the most populous in Europe except for Germany, France, and (of course) Russia.
Calling the UK a “small country” is a bit of a stretch.
Nor would Scottish secession present any existential danger for the Rump UK geopolitically. The UK state would still have access to the country’s huge GDP. (Russia has a GDP only 60 percent as large as the UK’s.) And the UK would remain the perennial strategic ally of the United States.
Bigger Is Not Better
So why this obsession over bigness? There is no evidence that bigger countries are wealthier, happier, or more orderly than small countries.
After all, many of Europe’s wealthiest countries have fewer than 10 million people. Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland are among the wealthiest places on earth. All are only a fraction of the size of England.
If anything, experience suggests that bigness is an impediment to health and wealth.
For instance, in his new book on American secession, F. H. Buckley notes that many small countries such as Finland rank near the top in the World Happiness Report. The measure is largely based on metrics like life expectancy, lack of poverty, and public safety. But the reason it ranks so highly isn’t a mystery. Buckely writes:
[Finland is] one of the richest and least corrupt countries in the world. It also has the kind of social cohesion and unity that only small countries can have….If the country were twenty times bigger, it would be more diverse and less unified. Its leaders would be more remote from the people, and their policies more tainted by interest group corruption.
Americans, of course, don’t think this way. Living in a huge and diverse country ruled by a distant political elite in a city thousands of miles away might seem normal to many Americans. But it’s not normal for most of the world’s most well-off populations.
Nevertheless, Buckley writes in the New York Post:
[The United States is] overly big, one of the biggest countries in the world. Smaller countries are happier and less corrupt. They’re less inclined to throw their weight around militarily, and they’re freer. If there are advantages to bigness, the costs exceed the benefits. Bigness is badness.
Buckley employs the usual statistical comparisons popular among social scientists today, and he concludes that bigness is not necessarily an obstacle to relative safety, prosperity, and social cohesion. But it doesn’t help. And there are steps that can be taken to lessen the effects of largeness. Decentralization helps
Article from Mises Wire