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Noah Smith

Growing a Nation Won't Always Grow Its Economy

The U.K. is on the verge of an experiment that will tell us more.
Can this union be saved?

Can this union be saved?

Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

On June 23, the U.K. will vote on whether to withdraw from the European Union. This is a momentous decision, with far-reaching economic and political consequences that are now being hotly debated. If Britons vote to exit, it could lead to a breakup of the EU, and set back the global move toward greater political integration.

This raises an intriguing question: What’s the optimal size for economic performance? Are we better off with many little competing city-states, a bunch of midsized nations or just a few big super-countries overseeing hundreds of millions of people each? If bigger is better, what about a global government?