What’s a country?

We’re planning to attend the people’s climate march in Auckland tomorrow despite having lots of other things to do like an open home to prepare for. I told the kids about it this afternoon and Daniel’s response was: “How long will it take? Will I still get some Minecraft mods tomorrow?” 🙂

The recent Scottish referendum got me thinking a bit about what defines a country. Is Scotland really a country? Perhaps not. It can’t issue its own passports or levy taxes, there’s no prime minister, and it has no control over immigration. My analogy of New Zealand being governed by Canberra is probably not a very good one. A better analogy is that of an Australian state. States in Australia have quite a bit of control over things like education and health, but on other matters, like immigration and defence, they defer to the federal government. Unlike Scotland though, Australian states *can* levy taxes.

I tried looking up the definition of a country and even this is a bit contentious. There’s not even an easy answer to how many countries there are in the world. If you sign up for a Gmail account there’s a selection of 256 countries from which to choose. Sign up for Hotmail though and there are only 251. Included by Gmail but not Hotmail are Ascension Island, Canary Island, Caribbean Netherlands, Clipperton Island, Diego Garcia, Kosovo, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Tristan da Cunha, Western Sahara. Included by Hotmail but not Gmail are Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Virgin Islands U.S.

There’s a federal election in New Zealand today. I would happily disclose who I voted for except that the polls haven’t closed yet and I think this is frowned upon. I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you all. That’s right, all three of you 🙂