The International Herald Tribune reports on the growing hostility between the French and Dutch regions of Belgium, which has manifested itself in a three‐month failure to form a government. But why is this bad news? First, the absence of a government means that politicians are not concocting silly new ideas to waste money and over‐regulate the economy (which is also why gridlock is a good thing in America). But more importantly, why not let the country divorce? Or, at the very least, engage in radical decentralization so that the two regions (or three, if Brussels becomes a capital city akin to D.C.) have complete fiscal autonomy?
[M]ore than three months after a general election, Belgium has failed to create a government, producing a crisis so profound that it has led to a flood of warnings, predictions, even promises that the country is about to disappear. …Officials from the former government — including former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who is ethnically Flemish — report for work and collect salaries. The former government is allowed to pay bills, implement previously‐decided polices and make urgent decisions on peace and security.
…[T]here is deep resentment in Flanders that its much‐healthier economy must subsidize the Francophone south, where unemployment is double that of the north. …Belgium has suffered through previous political crises and threats of partition. But a number of political analysts say that this one is different.
The article also has an amusing passage on a TV program that tricked many viewers into thinking the nation was in the process of splitting up.
RTBF, a Francophone public television channel, broadcast a hoax on the break‐up of Belgium. The two‐hour live television report showed images of cheering, flag‐waving Flemish nationalists and crowds of French‐speaking Walloons preparing to leave, while also reporting that the king had fled the country. Panicked viewers called the station, and the prime minister’s office condemned the program as irresponsible and tasteless. But for the first time, in the public imagination, the possibility of a breakup seemed real.