A mathematical model determines which nations are more stable and which are more likely to break up

Nov 17, 2011
According to the model, when countries were paired together, those that would be more inclined to unite would be Austria and Switzerland, Denmark and Norway and France with Great Britain. Credit: Niklas Morberg

Thanks to a new model created by an international research group, it is now possible to predict which European countries are more likely to become united or which are more likely to break up. It does so by not only considering demographic and economic criteria but, most ingeniously of all, culture and genetics.

Ignacio Ortuño Ortín, researcher at the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) and co-author of the study that was published in the Journal of Economic Growth states that "our method quantitatively analyses the stability and disintegration of European nations. It also estimates the implicit benefits of a larger European Union or, in other words, what would happen if the EU were one country. Furthermore, we give empirical support for the use of genetics as an indicator of cultural heterogeneity amongst nations."

It has always been common knowledge that the more nations that join together in unity, the greater the profits. This is because the market gets bigger and costs are shared. On the other hand, when many regions or countries are brought together there is a difference in populations, both economically and culturally. This, in turn, implies a high cost. There was a need for methodology that quantitatively analyses these two aspects using specific cases.

A group of researchers from the UC3M, the Toulouse School of Economics (France), the Southern Methodist University (Dallas, USA) and the New Moscow School of Economics (Russia) have worked on this.

The that they put forward includes factors such as a country's wealth alongside size and cultural differences in terms of population genetics. According to the expert, the most difficult aspect to quantify when making predictions is the 'measurement' of countries from a cultural point of view. Ortuño guarantees that this is the most original part of the study. We take population genetics data and then use it to support the fact that such distance between regions can be used as a good tool when approaching cultural distance.

According to the scientists, this does not suggest that genetics explains culture but that there is a correlation between the two. This means that populations that have mixed more display greater cultural similarity. "We are not saying that genes explain the way a person thinks," clarifies Ortuño.

In order to put consistency of their model to the test, a real-life case was chosen: the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The authors of the study found that the economic differences between its republics determined the order of disintegration - a fact that coincided with their model. Likewise, cultural differences, although small, played a key role in triggering instability.

Predictions for other countries

The model's first theoretical predictions were made by pairing two countries based on the hypothetical situation of Europe being a single country and on the regions that are more prone to separate from their current nation.

If the European Union were to become stronger and had a common fiscal as well as monetary policy (both of which together would turn it into a single country), in the long run, Greece and Portugal would benefit the most. In terms of percentages, Portugal would benefit from an increase in wealth of 13%, Greece would see an increase of 11.9% and Ireland with 8.9% and Finland with 8% would follow. Spain would see a growth of 4.1% whereas those countries that would benefit least would be Germany, followed by Italy and then France.

The researchers have also predicted what regions have more incentives to separate from the nations to which they belong. "We are not suggesting that it would be beneficial for these regions to separate but it is true that, in relative terms, the Basque Country and Scotland have more incentives," they claim.

According to the model, those that are more inclined to pair up would be Austria and Switzerland, Denmark and Norway and France with Great Britain. Spain would be more interested in uniting with France but "this does not necessarily mean that France would be interested in uniting with Spain," says Ortuño. He adds that "we avoid taking the strategic decisions of countries into account. This means that our model predicts how much a country would benefit if a union were to occur."

The team is currently working on a new project with collaborators in Moscow who are applying the same method to understand the stability of regions in Russia.

Explore further: Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

More information: Klaus Desmet, Michel Le Breton, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín, Shlomo Weber. "The stability and breakup of nations: a quantitative analysis", Jourmal of Economic Growth 16:183, 2011. DOI 10.1007/s10887-011-9068-z

Provided by FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

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Squirrel
2 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2011
Stupid and dangerous. Greece and Portugal would benefit the most simply because in a fiscal union, they would receive massive transfer payments from Germany. Interesting, no mention about whether Eire/ Northern Island would be better off as one country rather than two--or for that matter Dublin to get to bed again with London. Somethings are not about economics--and it is irresponsible even to talk in such one dimensional terms.
Callippo
5 / 5 (5) Nov 17, 2011
France with Great Britain
Apparently some parameters are still missing in this extraordinary mathematical model..
Jeddy_Mctedder
2 / 5 (4) Nov 17, 2011
morons. this is what jonathan swift satirized in gullivers travells.
scientists that are complete utter buffoons, if they arent actually paid off by interest groups to legitimze propoganda with 'science' which isnt anything byt bullshit.
that_guy
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2011
I think the model is too heavily based on factors in yugoslavia, and has not been tested against other similar situations, such as the soviet union to truly see if the results pan out anywhere else other than yugoslavia.

This is not propaganda, nor is it dangerous. It is just sloppy.

While their assumptions, such as 'genetic similarities from interbreeding are caused by cultural homogeny' make sense - however, when you do this in several layers, other interactions and factors become so big as to render those assumptions meaningless.

As far as comparing the EU to a Country and Germany not prospering vs. Greece prospering - There is a huge gulf between it being a union of seperate countries and a single sovereign federal government. In fact, with the current individual banking policies and Germany's export based economy, Germany benefits the MOST, as long as it doesn't have to transfer money to greece. (Current situation notwithstanding)
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 18, 2011
As far as comparing the EU to a Country and Germany not prospering vs. Greece prospering

The way I read it they aren't saying that Germany or France would be worse off if there was a European union. Just that Greece and Portugal would benefit more.

This is as it should be, because a union only works if the discrepancy between members grows less - not more. If Germany and France profited most we'd soon have a central/rich region surrounded by poorhouses, which would not be a very stable configuration in the long run.

I find it remarkable, though, that Norway would benefit so heavily. Them already being in a particularly good position.

Greece and Portugal would benefit the most simply because in a fiscal union, they would receive massive transfer payments from Germany.

This is already the reality. The rich helping the poor. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? When is someone going to scream 'communism'?
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 18, 2011
morons. this is what jonathan swift satirized in gullivers travells.
scientists that are complete utter buffoons, if they arent actually paid off by interest groups to legitimze propoganda with 'science' which isnt anything byt bullshit.


Actually, this is nothing new. Political science and economics researchers have been trying to quantify this kind of thing for decades, and many of them are advisors to presidents, kings, prime ministers, etc. Rather than look at it as "bad science", you might consider looking at it as an effort to apply scientific principles to extraordinarily complex social and economic issues. It's still really in its infancy. For my part, I think they probably have a better chance of figuring out the climate science conclusively, but at least they're making the attempt to bring order to chaos.
that_guy
not rated yet Nov 18, 2011
The way I read it they aren't saying that Germany or France would be worse off if there was a European union. Just that Greece and Portugal would benefit more.

This is as it should be, because a union only works if the discrepancy between members grows less - not more. If Germany and France profited most we'd soon have a central/rich region surrounded by poorhouses, which would not be a very stable configuration in the long run.

Since germany has one of the biggest export economies in the world, as well as a very strong economy overall, if they had their own currency, it would be highly valued against other currencies.

As part of the monetary union, Germany benefits because the euro is weaker because of fiscally weaker countries. That makes it cheaper for germany to export goods, which strengthens their economy more, benefitting them because they can sell their goods abroad.

Cont...
that_guy
not rated yet Nov 18, 2011
I don't have the space here to explain the details of how the whole scenario works, but this is actually a solid part of economics that is well supported.

It is also why china benefits by pegging the yuan to the dollar. If they didn't (They are starting to allow it to float) the Yaun would be much more expensive to the dollar - meaning that each dollar from america would pay fewer chinese workers, making chinese goods more expensive.

The Caveat for Germany and the EU, is that some countries, like greece, are so bad off, that Germany may have to spend some of that extra money to save other countries with bad fiscal policies, negating any benefit they may gain.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2011
Since germany has one of the biggest export economies in the world, as well as a very strong economy overall, if they had their own currency, it would be highly valued against other currencies.

True. We did well before the union and are doing well now (comparatively speaking we've had very little problems during the recession). Overall I'd say the Euro-zone/EU has benefitted Germany, but it's a tough call. but I certainly wouldn't want to go back to the old ways with separate currenceis and border checks and whatnot.
The EU is more than the Euro.

that Germany may have to spend some of that extra money to save other countries with bad fiscal policies, negating any benefit they may gain.

Can't pretend forever that different countries are on different planets. Letting other countries fall behind is just bad (fiscal!) policy in the long run.