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The Death of a Nation

Belgium is in danger of falling apart. For more than six months, the country has been unable to form a government that is able to unite the French-speaking Walloons (32%) and Dutch-speaking Flemish (58%). The Belgian monarch, Albert II, is desperately trying to stop his subjects from breaking up the state.

Apart from the King (who might be out of a job), who cares? First of all, the Walloons do. Although the French-speaking Belgians started the European Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, they are now living in a deprived rustbelt in need of federal subsidies, a substantial amount of which comes from taxes paid by the more prosperous, high-tech Flemish. A handful of right-wing Dutch dreamers care, too, for they have visions of uniting Belgian Flanders with the Dutch motherland.

Alas for them, however, the Flemish have no such desire. Belgium, after all, became an independent state in 1830, precisely in order to liberate the Catholic Flemish, as well as the Walloons, from being second-class subjects in a Protestant Dutch monarchy.

But perhaps we should all care at least a little, for what is happening in Belgium is unusual, but not at all unique. The Czechs and Slovaks already parted ways, as did the different nations of Yugoslavia. Many Basques would like to break away from Spain, as would many Catalans. Corsicans would love to be rid of France, and many Scots of Britain.