Bolivar with a Burr

I suppose it was more relevant before Thursday, but this piece on the question of Scottish independence finds an analogue for Alex Salmond: Hugo Chavez.

In Mr. Salmond’s imagination, at least as imparted to his electorate, the oil in the North Sea plays the role of the fairy godmother who brings what everyone wishes, namely life at a higher material standard of living than that which is justified by his own efforts and economic activity. It is as if Mr. Salmond would make himself the Hugo Chavez of the North Sea. The Venezuelan, recall, managed the remarkable feat of producing fuel shortages while sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world. Lost in the debate, too, is that countries that rely entirely on oil revenue to sustain themselves (except where they are so vast in relation to the population that everyone can live as a millionaire rentier) are generally destined for a special kind of economic and social woe.

Yet Scotezuela is Mr. Salmond’s dream. And like the late Bolivarist revolutionary, he has his supporters. If the voting gives him 50 per cent plus one, he will try to eternalize his power, with a fair chance of bringing all the levers of state power under his control. But even if he falls short, his policies will continue, for Labor’s social attitudes and policies are all but indistinguishable from his. Scotland, then, will not be a one-party state but a one-policy state. No real change of direction will take place absent economic catastrophe and possibly violence.

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