Who Would Join What?

Bryan Caplan, Tim Kane, and I disagreed at lunch today on these three questions:   If an election were held tomorrow, in what nations would a majority vote to have their nation join these unions:

  1. The United States (as a state)
  2. The European Union (as a nation)
  3. A Worldwide Democracy (as individuals)

Bryan thought China and India would join #3; I thought that unlikely.  Bryan thought few would join #1; I agree most would not, but think many would.  What do you think?

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  • Robert Koslover

    I agree with you on both questions.

  • Robert Koslover
  • I think the rates voting to join the USA as a state would be above 60% for both China and India, but fewer than 10% would want to join the EU as a country. As for the third option, that’s a little much of a stretch in terms of hypotheticals – they work best when you only tweak one variable.

  • Vladimir M.

    Unlike #1 and #2, #3 sounds like a very vague and underspecified concept. Are you sure your disagreement on #3 was due to different perceptions of popular opinion in India and China, rather than because you might be imagining very different concrete arrangements at the mention of “worldwide democracy”?

  • KrisC

    I suggest that if the majority of individuals in a region wish to emigrate to another country, the destination country should be given control of the region losing population. Clearly the country of origin is failing its people. The transfer of territory would begin to offset the cost of the incoming population. The rights of the immigrants would be dictated by the receiving nation and international convention.

    As an example, if a majority of Mexican citizens from a given state wished to move to the US, then the state losing population would be ceded to the United States.

    I do think that all these scenarios there would be resistance to universal membership. Those evaluating themselves to be high status would like to keep themselves separate from low status groups and so would abstain. The order of membership would be very important to these competitive types.

  • Jared

    What did Tim think?

    It seems that the US has territories that can vote to join the union, but one hasn’t done so in quite a while. Is that because things are much better there than in comparable political jurisdictions that are not US territories? Or do even US territories not wish to become states?

    Or are the only territories we have those that wouldn’t want to become states, and if the US annexed some other countries, they’d vote for statehood tomorrow morning? I doubt this; which nations do you think would vote to join?

    I think that 3 is probably correct, if the choices are (i) what exists now in both places, or (ii) a worldwide democracy *that includes the EU and US*. Otherwise, I think I agree with you.

    • kevin

      Guam, Puerto Rico, etc. like their current status because they don’t pay Federal income tax. If they become states they would have to pay. So they get federal defense, welfare, but no taxes (at the federal level). That makes a strong argument for the status quo over statehood or independence.

  • No one would join the EU.
    India would join the US; China wouldn’t.
    If states were unfederated, not one would adopt the constitution as written (of course minus anything referring to slaves)

  • Maxim

    A voter in China gains very little from supporting becoming part of the US, as the odds that their one vote will make the difference are infinitesimal. But they gain a lot by opposing it… by supporting China’s sovereignty, they signal loyalty to their country, friends, values, etc. So I’m inclined to agree with Bryan on #1. (By the way, the structure of the US Senate would prevent China from completely taking over policy if they did join.)

    I suspect that #3 would be different because countries like China would dominate the world government. Chinese citizens then may actually see joining the world government as advancing national Chinese interests and values… potentially the signaling effect could even be reversed.

    Seems like more open immigration (or Paul Romer’s “charter cities”) would have solve the incentive problem in #1. When people vote with their feet, their vote actually matters.

  • Considering that there has already been many elections held in countries on whether to join the EU or not, and most of these has ended up with “Yes”, the general negativity here against joining the EU is quite funny.

    China probably wouldn’t, I agree. But large parts of Eastern Europe want to join. I’d say you’d get a Yes-vote in most of ex-Yugoslavia, except Serbia, who to a large part are fiercely and stupidly nationalist, and probably would vote for EU joining them.

    Ukraine would join, probably Moldova too and Turkey is already a candidate. Iceland would definitely join, Norway not. Likely, but not certainly is Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. And wouldn’t hold it impossible that Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia would vote yes either.

    I’m pretty sure even Chinese sees the absurdity of China joining the US as a state. That would be more a case of the US joining China. However, many central american and maybe even some south american countries would definitely join, as would many sub-Saharan countries.

  • (I don’t understand how joining a democracy as individuals would work. Individually, we are all democracies.)

  • botogol

    Would you be allowed to vote to leave the US / EU ?

  • Mario

    I think many countries would see enormous advantages in joining the EU when it comes to opening up trade possibilities, and the free movement would benefit any potential migrants who value the social safety net above economic opportunity. I think the US would dominate for those who would rather have economic opportunity as migrants, as well as those who desire direct infrastructure investment.

    Worldwide democracy looks like a losing proposition for everyone; the only countries that have a high enough population to benefit would be India and China, and I think they are both well aware that the benefits derived from being members of the political elite, however lucrative, are transient.

  • #1 would be an absurd scenario with China or India. In the Senate, they would only have 2 seats out of 102 despite having ~80% of the population of the new US. On the other hand, with the winner-take-all Electoral College, they would have 100% of the voting power for President. Even if this were done with sensible sized states (e.g. admitting every Chinese province individually), there’s no way the current US population would vote to being “drowned out” by a much larger “foreign” population. If it were just a single Chinese province or Indian state being admitted, that would be much more viable.

    One reason to rule out many countries is that if they had majorities for any of these ideas, one would imagine that serious advocacy movements for them would already exist. The fact that they mostly don’t either suggests (a) that the country lacks freedom of expression or (b) there would be no serious prospect of it happening even in the event of a majority vote.

    So Australians almost certainly wouldn’t vote to join the US, as despite the fact it’d likely be admitted and there is plenty of freedom of expression, there aren’t any mainstream movements advocating for it. Maybe Cubans would, but censorship and political repression doesn’t allow them to organise in favour of it. Kenya might, but no-one organises for it at present as it is highly unlikely that the US would admit such a poor state.

    For #1 and #2, I would guess there to be majority “Yes” votes in many poor countries simply because of the federal funding they would hope it would result in. As the US is richer than the EU, the EU would just be the “safety school”. Almost everywhere else would reject.

    As for #3, it’s harder to determine by the existence of movements, since it isn’t a realistic option at the present but many might support it should the opportunity arise. For the same reasons as #1 and #2, many poor countries would support this for government funding reasons. I would also predict majority “Yes” votes as being reasonably likely in a number of liberal European states where patriotism is low, probably in Scandinavia. I am not sure how endemic Swiss-style isolation is throughout Europe though (as Switzerland only joined the UN in 2002, it would almost certainly refuse to join a much more powerful international body).

  • When reading the comments about how nobody would join the EU, I can only conclude you people are Americans. Guys, the truth is, a lot of people think America sucks, and not just by law or politically.

    Many countries worldwide would join the U.S. AND the EU any time. But most of those countries will be poor or lawless countries. India or China? Don’t be absurd, they are strongly nationalistic.

    About a worldwide democracy? I’m not sure how many would be in favor of that, the U.S. sure wouldn’t be. Maybe if it was based on the right unchangeable principles. There are just too many uneducated, extreme people out there who’d likely turn such a democracy into a ridiculous botch of idiot but popular opinions.

    Anyway, wake up America:

    Oh-oo-oh, you think you’re special

    As you can guess I know a lot of people who are European (mostly German) who spent a postdoc in the USA. They generally share my impression. Let’s face it: American food either sucks or is overpriced. American highways are countrywide in a pity state. Americans seem to have no clue how to do a decent plumbing work or how to achieve a functioning canalization. They will instead always tell you there’s something specifically weird with their weather. For example, it might rain. Or the sun might shine. Windows in America either don’t open or, if you managed to open them, they won’t close. Since the windows and doors don’t really close, naturally there always has to be a heating or air conditioning running. And let’s not even start with issues like education, poverty or health insurance. I think you get the point. The only thing that’s really exceptional about Americans is how they still manage to believe they are exceptional.

    And here’s a tidbit from Peter Watts:

    A teleconference between my lawyer and a member of The Jury Project, in which they worried at length about how to take the hit our case would inevitably suffer when the Prosecutor referred to me as Dr. Watts. It took a few moments for me to realize something they assumed went without saying: US juries don’t trust the highly-educated, and are more likely to convict someone already guilty of holding an advanced degree.

    Uuhhh…U.S., no thanks.

    And now some EU bashing from Pat Condell:

  • Telnar

    I see the recent history of US territories voting to remain territories as weak evidence since the status quo is financially better for them than statehood (since they are subject to fewer US taxes and regulations while benefiting from some subsidies that states don’t get). If their focus is on financial interests rather than governance, then we also have an explanation for why they don’t choose independence.

    I would expect a high vote for 1 if the alternative were full independence without the benefits of an EU style free trade area with convenient border crossing. 2 is more interesting because I suspect that most EU voters overestimate how much their lives are impacted by EU policies other than the common market for goods and labor and dislike those policies. That could lead to a close vote against membership. 3 I see as a complete non-starter in OECD countries. I don’t know enough about the electorates elsewhere to have an opinion.

  • Telnar

    I should have mentioned that I was evaluating whether existing US states and EU countries would want to stay if presented with a viable alternative rather than whether new countries would want to join.

  • mike shupp

    My recollection — which may be flawed — is that, with the exception of Puerto Rico, there are _no_ US territories which might hope to become states. Granted there are places run by the US such as Guam, but these are trustee relationships which can be ended if the inhabitants chose independence (The Philippines, for example) or wish to return to a prior status (Okinawa, for instance).

  • GNZ

    Like XiXiDu says china joining is out of the question (and sadly implies that too many people really dont understand China) they are nationalistic, don’t believe in democracy (yes including the individuals – their system is outgrowing every comparable country afterall) and they see the US as on the way down (as does most of the world) and finally they tend to see the US as a bit ‘immoral’ for lack of a better term.

    India is more likely but still unlikely for some of the same reasons (although not the democracy one).

  • Rob
  • GNZ

    uneducated want to move to the USA… educated, not so much. That is amusing.

    • komponisto

      It doesn’t mean what you think. Those with more education are likely to be more successful in their home countries and thus have less desire to move.

  • Doug S.

    According to Wikipedia:

    A poll in 2003 among Taiwanese residents aged between 13 and 22 revealed that, when given the options of either becoming a province of China or a state within the U.S., 55% of the respondents preferred statehood while 36% chose joining with China.