Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ambivalence about Brexit

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.


Shadow Flutter said...

This is for Brits to decide. I wish them well.

I know this doesn't sound very modern or progressive, but I'm ambivalent about unity movements. They do have benefits, but they tend to dismiss the importance of nationality, history, and culture, as well as a people's desire to maintain political (and monetary) independence -- all powerful separatist forces pushing against the tide. The EU is not a political entity, so they say, but it looks to me like Germany has de facto political power (control?) within the union because of its economic prowess.

Breaking up larger states into smaller nation-states seems to have done the Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins, East Timorese, and Slavs some good, reducing the carnage caused by ethnic and religious wars whose origins lie deeply embedded in the history of those nations. So we have western Europe pushing unity, in part, in reaction to their regional conflicts, while we have Eastern Europe (as well as other regions around the world) pushing for separation in reaction to their regional conflicts.

Sometimes I think the West is trying to push an idea whose time has not yet come. I wonder how many Greeks think they have political autonomy? And I wonder how many think of themselves as indentured servants?

G. Verloren said...

I have to wonder to what extent the EU has been infiltrated by organized crime. You don't hear much about the Mafia or the Vory these days, but they still exist and are still quite active - they've just gotten smarter about how they go about their business.

How many EU politicos might there be on the take, or might even be full members of these criminal organizations? How can you tell the difference between an ordinary politician and a criminal one? Today it's easier, safer, and more profitable to rig the game in your favor politically than it ever could be to employ classic gangster tactics like open violence and intimidation - the underworld collectively realized it just made more sense to collaboratea and work within the establishment itself than to fight amongst each other and draw attention to themselves in the process.