Hi everyone, in anticipation of the referendum tomorrow, I've been involed in an intellectual grapple with a keen "Leave" supporter. I find that this illustrates the diverging points of views on either side of the aisle, and so I thought I'd share.This is a bit experimental, so I hope you find it interesting.
Given the fact that it is a correspondance between us I will simple refer to "Him" and "Me" before each response.
Him: The EU is not Europe.
Europe is not the EU.
I know it's tricky - & I dare say that's the whole idea - but just because it's got the word "Europe" in it's name doesn't make it European.
The un-elected CEOs of Corporate EU are trying to trick the masses & the sovereign states of Europe into becoming voluntary hostages of their corporate agenda. And their agenda is not in Europe's best interest - as was seen in Greece & Portugal a few months ago.
The EU is a private corporation.
By calling it the "European Union" they hope to fool people into thinking it is organically & intrinsically European.
It is not.
The EU operates as a private corporation similar to how the Federal Reserve of the USA operates as a privately owned bank that only answers to itself & it's shareholders.
By voting "leave" we are not turning our backs on Europe or the Europeans.
We are saying "no" to the dizzyingly autocratic, dangerously unwieldy, politically bureaucratic & often fiscally wasteful & reckless corporate entity known as the EU.
Me: Well that's not entirely true, given that since Lisbon the parliament and the council of ministers act as a counter weight to the Commission, who's president is nominated by the the council (heads of state of all member states) and then has to be confirmed by parliament. He then chooses the members of the commission (much like any government).
Furthermore the parliament is elected by universal suffrage on a much more proportionnal level then most western democracies. The only reason it is so bureaucratic and at times inefficient is because member states refuse to accept the natural order of things and allow for our fragmented, internationally meaningless states to evolve to a more relevent and inevitable federal system.
In regards to it being unfair or acting outside the interests of certain states, that may very well may be the case, but let us assume the EU is a state for an instant, can't it just be assumed de facto that not all interests of all parties involved will be taken into account, given that it would be impossible. Take the UK for example doesn't the government take decisions that are at times not in the interests of certain stratas of the population?!
The EU is the future whether we like it or not, the question is only if we want to crawl or run...I've always been rather impatient so I choose to run.
Him: I suppose we could debate what constitutes an elected official but in my opinion, the crux of the matter is how the EU has (deliberately?) grown into just such a labrynthine entity that you have to be an academic to (somewhat) get your head around how it actually works, not to mention how to work within it or get anything out of it.
By it's very nature, it's what we call a bureaucracy. The EU doesn't suffer from too much bureaucracy, it IS a bureaucracy through & through - & an autocratic one at that. Therein lies the problem. There may be a convoluted way of explaining how some EU representatives & officials are technically elected by the people, through some removed process (though there still remains the even more complicated question of how much power, if any, these "elected" officials really have in order to do anything or change anything).
But the real question is why do we have to have it at all? If a government is needed, why can't we just use the ones we already have? The ones we voted for in our own countries? Why do we need to have a ghost "government of governments" just for the sake of it?
It's an added expense for something that is completely surplus to requirements. So much ado about nothing. Then there's the issue of the sheer size & area that this ghost government presumes to hegemonize. Throughout history, mammoth governments of such a scale have never been a good idea in the long run. The only examples we have today that are somewhat close to a "United States of Europe" (which, lets face it, is what we're headed for if we continue as we have been) are China (a Communist commonwealth with a deplorable record of inequality & human rights abuse, only held together because of an absolute socialist dictatorship), Russia (doesn't compare because the population is significantly less than that of Europe & the cultural differences are not as many or as diverse) or USA (It's debatable whether they're a good example to follow, not least because the biggest portion of their budget & what seems to hold them together more than anything is the sheer size of their military industrial complex & the money they spend on it - God forbid we should adopt that as our model for Europe).
The original idea of the EEC, which Britain (& many European countries) originally signed up to in '73, was a relatively simple affair: A few representatives from each country getting together to agree on terms of trade & trying out various forms of free passage for its citizens & businesses within a trading block. What it's grown into however is something monstrously out of proportion to it's original tenants, where the EU now supersedes the elected governments, courts & judiciaries of its member states & massively imposes mandatory terms over everyone's trade & business both within & without their own borders & off their own shores (our fishing industry - among many others - has been completely decimated by the EU's interference).
The argument shouldn't be that we have to put up with a certain amount of unfair central government policies because we're such a massive & diverse territory, the argument is why are we trying to centralize a government for such an impossibly massive & diverse territory in the first place?
Using your example about the differentiation between various parts of the UK, yes, sometimes a government makes decisions that can't possibly favour everyone equally. That's something we have to deal with & work out. But that's for our country to work out, between ourselves. And you're right, if that's already a big enough problem to sort out on a national scale, how is it a good argument for making it an even bigger problem by trying to sort it out on a continental scale? I dare say, if anything, perhaps we should be looking to DE-volve & DE-centralize even more, delegating even *more* power to local authorities - not less.
We can start by letting individual, sovereign states take back their national independence & once again make decisions on their own about their own countries, their own economies, their own currencies & their own borders. We can (& will) still work together because it's 2016 & we know we must in order to survive & thrive in trade & commerce & recreation. But we don't need an oligarchical corporatocracy (which is what the EU) telling us how to do it & we don't need to be shackled to an expensive corporate club in order to work together. If you've read Ayn Rand, it will make a lot more sense. Books like Atlas Shrugged or Anthem have become cornerstone commentaries of the dangers of collectivism & so-called benevolent socialism & big government meddling in people's lives & affairs.
Me: You make some very interesting points, and I will try to respond to each in kind.
However, in regards to how much power these elected bodies have in influencing the executive branch of communitary government (Commission), their powers are very real and rather broad. E.g The EU parliament has the right of censure (much like any parliamentary body) and can force the commission to resign.
Furthermore they vote on litterally ever act of the commission in conjunction with the Council, and also have total control of the EU budget which in my opinion grants them immense power, as the saying goes the one with purse pulls the strings.
As to the matter of the EU being a bureaucracy, well that can be said of any specialised branch of government. The EU is granted a certain number of powers, by consent of its member states, and is competent to create legislation in these domains (basically which were created by treaties). It namely deals with matters of commerce and competitiveness between member states.
Given the technical domain in which it operates its only natural that it becomes a bit bureaucratic, because it is a specialised domain, meaning that only certain individuals have the capacity to comprehend and utilise it efficiently. To add to this if it were not the EU it would be another bureaucratic international jurisdiction or arbitrary court which would, in turn, undermine the principles of national sovreignty.
I'm obliged to add, that the only reason that the EU is bureaucratic is because its member states wish to retain their national sovreignty, which is why they've torpedoed every attempt at rendering the EU more "democratic" (EU president, elected by direct vote). A more representative body , would give it more legitimacy, entailing a greater reason to confer it powers, and this is something that the member states have not allowed.
As for the ghost government, it's essentially as opaque as our executive branch of government, so I fail to see a problem here, information is free and very accessible to the public, just the public doesn't feel like being informed because its easier blaming our governments misguided policies on a further away "bad guy".
Furthermore the EU is not comparable to other "Super States" because of our unique historical background. Most european states played a major role in forming the world as it today, so the fact that we can bring such baggage of history and past grievances into one organisation of unity and cooperation is to me something rather beautiful. Europe shares a common culture and common values between its states, entailing that I fail to understand why we continue to try to undercut eachother (commercially by way of taxes, take the Solar Panel industry in germany for example) in the benefit of other "Super States", eg China.
It is primordial to remember that EU legislation supercedes national legislation in certain cases due to the fact that the state which sees it imposed on them consented to it being imposed on them in the first place. Furthermore, the EEC, was brought into being after WWII in the optic of ensuring that WWIII would never happen (and to not be eaten up by the USSR and liberate itself economically from US hegemony). There is no better way of avoiding conflict then by rendering it unprofitable in regards of the interest of the parties involved. What better way to do this than by intertwining economies?
As to the question of unfair decision making or "too big government", I'm familiar with Ayn Rand and her books but in my opinion the problems in the country greatly depend on external factors; trade balance, competitiveness and the relationship and bearing within the international community.
These factors will define whether or not a state will see growth or recession. This inevitably has an impact on the internal decision making of a state in the sense that it will allow its government to adopt legislation favorable to a more inclusive society. Entailing that greater power, means more growth, perhaps more equal society (in theory), because a state will have more power to influence these external factors. A federated EU would give us that power, and so I am in favor of granting it more powers. I hope I answered most of your points.
Him: Something struck me while reading your reply: The real gap between the two sides of this debate is that we're coming from two very different starting points.
More right-bran left-brain rather than right or wrong. "Remain" approaches the issue as someone defending or explaining a foregone conclusion. "This is how it works & these are the rules. Are you in or out?". Whereas "Leave" steps outside of the presupposition & says "Well, fine, that's one game & those are one set of rules. But we're not convinced it's the only game in town. We've had a good time but we've been restless & dissatisfied for a while & now we want to do something about it & give something else a go." There are arguments & then there are arguments. I think we all agree that no future or outcome is perfect. There's no guaranteed safety net on either side of the debate. But we're British.
We have a long history of going out on a limb & trying something different, even if it seems contrary to what we've been told is the safe bet or the status quo. We changed our religion a few times, we left European Catholicism, we challenged & resisted continental forces that threatened to crush & cower us with military & monetary might that was seemingly greater than our own but from all these events we pushed the boundaries & contributed something unique & special to the story of human struggle & development.
Every nation has their story & their contribution to the whole. Some contributions seem larger or showier than others. Britain's just happens to be a well-known catalogue of contradictions that buck the tide & then tend to speak volumes to many on the virtues of independence & free thought, freedom for self-governance, freedom to make mistakes & experiment & explore & determine ones own future. I think this is something not well understood by the fear-mongers of the "Remain" campaign. Particularly in how this relates to the modern age.
Like any family, every member is different. There's the logical & practical sibling, there's the one who's good with his hands, there's the entrepreneur, the mathematician, the artist, the explorer, the politician, the high achiever, the seemingly low achiever or the black sheep, there's the one who has a very warm & accepting nature & is the friend & listening ear for everyone else. Similarly England, as a member of the European family, has a long history of going against the grain & doing the unexpected but in turn has championed many progressive positions. It's in our blood & one of the things that makes us who we are. The world is changing very fast. Mostly for the better. But one way that may be to our eventual regret is that we're becoming more & more bland. We're becoming more & more like everyone else. It's great to be united, getting along better & not fighting & warring with each other. But does the cost have to be a flat-lining of our identity in order to fit in with everyone?
Obviously, this is touching on the metaphorical & philosophical. One doesn't rock the boat just for the sake of rocking the boat. Brexit isn't just something one does for the hell of it. But one must remember that sometimes a good boat rocking is just what is needed & every now & than the forces or nature & the universe conspire to shake things up for us. Is this how it will happen this time? Who knows? But that's why "facts" that are based on fears don't always explain a particular outcome or logic.
Me: Except that in this case, both games have already been played.
The UK at a point in time was not part of the EU, it worked while they had a colonial empire but after WWII that was simply no longer the case.
It comes down to whether or not you want to keep Britain relevant throughout the international community, so that you don't see some one else's will truly imposed on you, given that no one longer cares what the UK's interests are. You may say that the EU already imposes this on the UK, however as I've pointed out above this is not the case, as countries only see legislation that they have agreed to imposed on them. Furthermore, in regards to going off on a limb, well I'd say that this probably constitutes about three limbs and a half.
The sheer number of treaties on goods and production is staggering. It would put british industry and services on a back petal for the next ten years, just when u guys are turning everything around, which would be a shame to say the least.
Furthermore, a referendum would not change anything for the UK in regards to it's fiscal, economic, judicial or political freedom, so a yes vote would essentially just be the british people giving into UKIP's absurd policies. if england were to leave, it would not have "supreme" control of its immigration policy (as UKIP so disengenuously implies), in the principle of you "scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours". A hard line by the Brits on any issue will force the EU to adopt a hard line towards them etc, essentially meaning that any changes that the UK would wish to take thanks to this referendum would come to nothing, because the UK will slowly but surely head back to the exact same status quo prior to the election.
Plus judicially speaking, this would be an extremely severe blow to the UK's judicial security and would cost billions in the amount of cases that will have to be overturned and retried, being that they were won on the basis of the invocation of EU norms. Thanks to the UK's "opt out rule" you pick what norms are applied to you in an even broader way than most of the other member states.
You are also ,more or less, fiscally and economically independant and retain much of the control of your border, which is not the case with other member states. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you have the best of two worlds, so why change it?!
In my opinion when making a decision that will not just impact one generation but the generations to come (especially mine) sentiments need to put aside and the reason of the rational man must prevail. Or at the very least a pro's and cons list,this too, would give a resounding victory in favor of the UK remaining in the EU. When somehting touches millions of lives, pragmatism and not emotion should govern policy. I know the chances of my plea being heard are slim, but I beg for you not to give into the pandering and bigotry of UKIP and Nigel Farage (The UK's Donald Trump) and vote to maintain the UK in the EU.