Build or burn?

Scottish independence

Turn away now if you don’t like seeing a man inflict harm on his reputation.  I think a future integrated Europe, a United States of Europe in some form, is not only unstoppable, it is the only way for its citizens to avoid declining prosperity.  It’s countries like the United States, China, and others with continent-sized populations that will win.  The economics of scale make it inevitable.  This view is such an outlier that its almost pointless to express it, but here goes.

My opinion crystallised on a path-finding tour of major centres of science and research in the United States.  We talked with world-renowned organisations such as MIT, Salk, Scripps, Genentech, as well as organisations in their wider ‘eco systems': professional services firms such as property agents and consultants; hospitals; start-ups and investors.  This was a few years after 9/11 when bioterrorism became a major concern for the federal government.  The amount of money flowing into research and development in these centres had an extra zero attached when compared to the sums flowing into equivalent organisations in the UK, and sometimes an extra two zeros.  It was overwhelming.

Not long afterwards I found myself in Scotland working in the Roslin Institute.  Even in a small country like Scotland there were multiple research organisations with overlapping responsibilities competing with each other for the same pots of money.  One organisation I recall had precisely the same mission statement as another organisation in England. 

I realised that if we’re as fragmented as that within regions in the UK, how much more fragmented are we across the whole of Europe?  Europe’s economy can afford similar financial commitments as the US, but the cash is distributed so thinly that we can’t possibly compete.

It’s around this point, that people who share this analysis go on to express how well Europeans compete in spite of this handicap.  If that’s right, it can’t last forever.  It is the Europeans, not the US, that will suffer a relative decline in prosperity.  It will no doubt take decades before it becomes impossible to ignore,and will drive us all, kicking and screaming, to an inevitable conclusion.

A United States of Europe seems ridiculous to people in the UK.  Having worked with many European nationalities over the years, it’s always struck me how we, in the UK, always underestimate the strength of European commitment to the vision of ‘ever closer union’.

As I write, Scotland is considering independence.  I’ll vote against.  It’s a lovely idea, and I’ll accept the will of my countrymen if that’s what the majority want.  I just think its going on the wrong direction.

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