A central bank for Scotland?
By Alberto Mingardi
2014 will probably be the year when Scotland and Catalonia vote for their independence. The Catalonian referendum is strongly opposed by the Spanish government, and a date hasn’t been set yet. In this old op-ed for the New York Times, Catalonia President Artur Mas elegantly explains the reasons that motivate the Catalonian wish to secede. I think he hit the right nerve, when he asks simply “the freedom to vote”, as “In Europe conflicts are resolved democratically, and that is all we ask”.
We are sometimes vote-intoxicated: we live in countries that consider voting the legitimate means for collective decision making for everything but the extent and the boundaries of the very political community that is supposed to make decisions by voting. The bureaucratic apparatus is happy to have people decide democratically on other peoples’ money and lives, but not to the ultimate question of the survival of a nation state in its current geographical form. Too often secessionist movements are kicked out of the “respectable” public debate by quasi-religious appeal to the apparently immortal value of “national unity”. Mr Mas cleverly takes advantage of the political symbols of democracy, against the political symbols of national unity.
In his article, however, it is also clear that Catalonia would like to secede from Spain–but to stay within the EU and the Eurozone.
The other day Martin Wolf wrote instead on Scotland and the British central bank. The Scottish referendum is set for September 2014. Wolf fears that the UK and Scotland may end up being two nations under one same central bank, making for a “Pound-zone” that mimics the Eurozone on a smaller scale, and thus maintains that
The rest of the UK must, however, insist that the central bank stays entirely accountable to its own parliament and government, not to some complex and almost certainly unworkable binational contrivance. An institution accountable to two masters is simply unaccountable.
Wolf writes that “UK has surely not escaped the horrors of the eurozone only to create similar horrors for itself at home”. He seems to associate the horrors of the eurozone crisis to the fact the ECB does not obey a single political master, and thus its piecemeal interventions in the crisis management process needed to pass by a slower and longer process than the one typical of a central bank that operates following (in a more or less open way) a government’s desiderata.
Without necessarily agreeing on the point, what would happen of an independent Scotland, from this perspective, is indeed a fascinating question. If ever Scotland goes its way, libertarians may try to appeal to the Scots’ pride, reminding them of an interesting and successful experience of a few decades ago (see this classic work by Larry White).