As Britain prepares to vote on whether to leave the European Union, I find myself ambivalent to the point of indifference. On the one hand I despise nationalism and I agree that exit would probably hurt the British economy badly. I admire the call for Europeans to set aside the differences that have led to so many wars and work together for the common good.
On the other hand the EU is a rotten institution, run by political and business elites with little input from ordinary voters. I find the way the EU has stomped on the ordinary people of Greece and Span despicable – oh, well, too bad about the 25 percent unemployment, but you know there are rules about these things, and we can't have a few rowdy southerners upsetting our carefully loaded apple carts. Bosh.
I hope that over time the EU will evolve into something more democratic and equitable, but so far I see little sign that is happening. On the contrary nationalist reactions in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and other places have made it clear how little common feeling there is among "Europeans," and without common feeling democracy cannot work. Germans are happy to share a common currency with Greeks so long as Greeks don't ask them for help when things go bad, and that is an unworkable situation. Since the will is not there to create a United States of Europe, I think Europeans should reverse gears, restrain their ambitions, and move the EU back toward a looser affiliation of sovereign states.
That, however, is not up for vote in Britain; the only options are in or out. And I honestly don't know which way is best for the British. If they leave they lose all ability to nudge the EU in the looser direction most Britons seem to favor, and they may badly wound their financial sector and other businesses. Having kept their own currency, they have retained more real independence than other EU members. But perhaps leaving is really the democratic option, preserving a democratic government in Britain and serving notice that the EU cannot endure as an out-of-touch oligarchy.