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Secession movements are on the rise. From Catalonia to Kurdistan, the concept of a nation state is being challenged by regions and nations which are fed up with centralised rule and want a greater degree of control. This has raised questions of what defines a country and whether it is time to rethink how some regions — city regions in particular — are governed.
Janan Ganesh looks at city self-rule in his column today, arguing we need a healthier relationship between metropolitan areas and provinces. Conservatives are rapidly become the voices of the left-behind rural areas (see Britain, America and France) while liberals naturally seem to speak out on behalf of the more affluent cities. Unless this divide is mended, it will become increasingly difficult for a country comprising of both to exist.
Secession can have a negative impact (as the New York Times lays out here). Devolution and regional autonomy is often touted as a better solution. In the UK, for example, “metro mayors” were created to pass down decision-making and spending powers to the major cities outside London — such as Manchester, Cambridge and Bristol — but they have yet to prove their worth. In Spain, the Catalan government will possibly receive an offer of fresh devolved powers in an effort to head off the separatist tide while keeping Spain intact.
But there is a point at which autonomy clashes with the integrity of the state. There is such a thing as too much devolution, where areas have competing agendas and national unity is fractured. Too little and the populous will find themselves increasingly aggrieved. As Janan argues, there is a risk that the richer regions tire of propping up the poorer parts of their countries (what price an independent Republic of London?). If that becomes the new norm, the nation state really is in trouble.
Further reading: Secessionism’s Dangerous Return
Challenging the west: Gideon Rachman looks at the increasing confidence of Beijing, especially at the Communist party’s latest congress and its desire to repudiate western liberalism. As the west grapples with Brexit, Donald Trump and secessionism, the march of China is rapidly picking up pace.
Making Michigan Great Again: Patti Waldmeir examines reshoring in her column and why one ladder company decided to bring production back home from China. The marketing message of all-American ladders from a heartland town captures the battle to bring jobs back to Donald Trump’s America.
Amazon adventures: Richard Florida argues in an opinion piece that there are downsides for cities bidding for Amazon’s second headquarters. Although the online retailer will have already identified the most likely candidates, the competition is fierce and the tax breaks are being pushed ever higher. Richard says the company’s reputation could be improved by rejecting handouts and cultivating a name for civic duty.
Best of the rest
Driverless Cars Made Me Nervous. Then I Tried One.- David Leonhardt in the New York Times
5 reasons why no deal could mean no Brexit — Tom McTague in Politico
The Power of the Presidential Tweet — Scott Adams in the Wall Street Journal
Time to crack down on Russia Today and its destabilising propaganda — Oliver Kamm in CapX
A Turf War Is Tearing Apart the Intel Community’s Watchdog Office — Jenna McLaughlin in Foreign Policy
What you’ve been saying
Sensational headlines need to be supported by the facts— letter from David Boies:
‘Despite the direct attack on lawyers, the FT buries the first response to paragraph 19 (on page 10). The facts that Messrs Maerov and Ben Ammar had been criticised for their toleration of Mr Weinstein’s conduct (and hence had an incentive to try to blame others), and that their current excuse is a recent concoction, is never mentioned. If the FT is going to publish charges like these, it should at least report the motivation of the FT’s sources, and that the charges are new and inconsistent with prior statements.”
Comment from Archimedes on Germany’s financial squeeze offers Brexit hope:
“The thing is that once you take financial services out of the trade agreement then it isn’t really worth having for the UK. Pretty much every other industry will do just fine under WTO. Regulatory equivalence is already there and tariffs are pretty much a non-issue. Even if Brexit were reversed banks would still move operations to the continent to balance their risks, to build up infrastructure there, and also to signal their displeasure with the UK. In every possible outcome, banks are going to move so it’s questionable just how much the UK should bend over backwards to facilitate the interests of a single industry that ultimately has declining contributions to the exchequer, important as it is to the UK.”
Nigerians touched less and less by their government— letter from Jim Sanders:
“At the grassroots, Nigerians are touched less and less by their government. Increasing levels of material want, especially among those at risk of starvation, may be more unifying than borders and so-called identity politics. What does “Nigeria” mean to those who are sick, hungry, and forgotten? Whether a civil war of sorts has been smouldering in different parts of the country for years is debatable, but Nigeria’s union is troubled and this has happened without external extremists’ involvement.”
France balks at reforms that will standardise banking rules A one-size-fits-all approach to regulation will affect Europe more than the US
Janan Ganesh: Europe could see more Catalonias The raw materials of separatist feeling are there in city-regions across the EU
Richard Florida: The downside of the race to be Amazon’s second home Even citizens of the winning city will feel aggrieved at giving away big tax incentives
Patti Waldmeir: Reshoring makes Michigan great again, one rung at a time Selling all-American ladders from an apple-pie-and-opioids town in the Rust Belt
Instant Insight: A smart cabinet reshuffle would make Ruth Davidson Tory chairman The Conservatives’ Scottish leader is the best candidate to reinvigorate the party, writes Sebastian Payne
Gideon Rachman: An assertive China challenges the west Beijing is gaining confidence that it can mix political control with growth and innovation
Free Lunch: US companies’ foreign profits are not ‘trapped offshore’ Economic error encourages reform that makes tax policy worse
FT View: Business must help fix the failures of capitalism Collective hand-wringing must be accompanied by concrete action
FT View: Japanese polls portend constitutional change Evolving regional threats justify amendments to the pacifist clause
The Big Read
The Big Read: Harvey Weinstein: how lawyers kept a lid on sexual harassment claims Zelda Perkins says she was harassed by the powerful Hollywood producer while his assistant. Now she wants to expose the legal process that kept her claims a secret for 19 years