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The Economics of Secession.

This book addresses some of the economic issues which generally surround the process of secession. The author condenses the process of secession into three phases: reevaluation, redefinition, and reequilibrium. Each of these phases is then considered with respect to the importance of relative income, level of development, trade dependency, net outflows, and the level of decentralization. The author seems to use a quasi public choice argument when analyzing the economic foundations of secession, where decreased flows to the center or the development of unrealized potential provide the economic motivation for secessionist aspirations. Unfortunately, there appears to be no consistent economic foundation for secessionism, which means that this analysis is essentially an ad hoc description of a large number of historical and current cases. This is most clearly evidenced in chapter 5 where the author distinguishes those cases which are "Primarily Economic Demands" and "Primarily Non-Economic Demands." A more broadly applicable public choice analysis would have included the particular motivations and potential gains to the leaders of the secessionist movements, including a broadly defined notion of consumption which would include most of what the author considers non economic, such as cultural or linguistic issues. In addition, the theory of clubs might be used to analyze the development, growth and appeal of secessionist movements. The economic analysis of contracts can be used to identify issues involved in the dissolution of unions.

The author is to be complimented for having struggled, with some success, with the lack of detailed data from those regions which are attempting to secede. While there is not enough data from the seceding regions for a rigorous econometric test of the issues surrounding secession, the author does provide an impressive array of case specific information in support of the primary thesis. The author also provides several tables summarizing available economic and non economic variables, which may prove useful for future research.

The author ends with a chapter which seems to contain criticism of current policy and policy prescriptions. These are flawed on several grounds. First, the prescriptions which the author advocates cannot be justified based on the analysis in the previous seven chapters. Indeed, the author seems to simply assert instead of argue. Second, the author's criticism of U.S. policy is off the mark as long as national interest is a valid reason for national policy. Only be rejecting national interest in favor of some other unspecified set of principles can the author argue that U.S. and the West's policy is hypocritical or inconsistent. Third, the argument that a "culture of tolerance" should be developed and imposed is internally inconsistent since it seems unlikely that a group which is trying to sever its relations with the center will be willing to accept the dictates from some external "super-center." In addition, as has been aptly demonstrated in the U.S. with respect to the debate on "political correctness," tolerance usually becomes a justification for the suppression of those who disagree with the advocates of tolerance. Indeed, for advocates of tolerance, there is nothing so intolerable as dissent. John P. Speir The University of Hartford
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Author:Speir, John P.
Publication:Southern Economic Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Words:516
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