Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

The Nation State Strikes Back

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Thursday evening, June 23. I was watching the Brexit results on the BBC just before midnight when they announced that the Leave vote had gone mathematically over the top.

Apparently all the major parties favored Remain. There were discussions with representative of various viewpoints as to what had happened. Explanations ranged from anti-immigration sentiment in England to, “what the voters are really trying to say is [insert pet political program here].”

Meanwhile, the Leave partisans were saying that they would now have to reflect upon what the next steps were. Hadn’t they ought to have figured that out before now?

I am relieved to report that America does not have a monopoly on aimless politics and insipid public discourse.

Also worth noting: no reporting district in Scotland favored Leave. The closest result was in Moray, where Remain carried by a couple hundred votes. Many Scots would rather remain in the EU and leave Britain; we may soon find out just how many. The previous independence referendum was in 2014, when the proposal was defeated 55-.3% to 44.7%. Now that staying in Britain means leaving the EU, will the Scots reconsider?

Nicola Sturgeon, who is First Minister of Scotland and an advocate of separation, has many reasons to call for a second referendum. However, Sturgeon became first minister after her predecessor, Alex Salmond, resigned in the wake of the failure of the 2014 referendum. Failure again would hold similar risks for her.

And success would be no easy ride, either. What would the currency of Scotland be? They would certainly have to leave the pound and join the Eurozone — right in the teeth of various recurring crises from the Mediterranean countries. Would the Eurozone even accept Scotland with its £15 billion annual deficit?

Which brings us to the euro in general. There was great celebration when it was launched. Now, like many other expansive notions before it, the risks that were swept under the carpet have been laid bare. As long as member nations are still sovereign, putting them all on one currency is like having twelve college graduates sign up for a joint credit card account. Sure, the big vacation was fun, but now Ryan and Amber are not paying their share of the bills. What are you going to do about it?

Commentators have fallen all over themselves to blame the result on ignorance generally and xenophobia specifically. There is even a petition to hold a second referendum, although the back story behind it is cloudy.

The elites from most major parties, from the Tories to the Greens, mostly backed Remain. London was strongly Remain. How likely is it that we will find out what was really going on in the minds of the majority of English and Welsh voters that rejected it?

I don’t doubt that anti-immigration sentiment played a role. However, even that exists within a larger framework of national sovereignty. The writing is on the wall: either you will have tighter political union to go with economic union or you will have to opt out of both.

Political elites always think they can buy off the people with material comfort. Sometimes it works. In late nineteenth century Germany, Bismarck bought off the workers with state-run sickness, accident and old age insurance in exchange for allowing the Prussian nobility to keep a disproportionate influence in politics.

However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Certainly the Americans of 1770 enjoyed wealth and protection behind the shield of Great Britain, particularly the Royal Navy. The rational thing to do would have been to work out some sort of deal that allowed Parliament to appear to be the unopposable force in the kingdom while quietly blunting the most offensive edges of ministerial policies. Not necessarily honorable, but certainly more rational than opposing the richest nation and greatest military power on earth.

The scare tactics of the Remain campaign promised economic disaster — the financial center of London might even decamp for Paris! Now the nation has called their bluff.

Even when — not if — there are economic consequences for the Leave vote, the people chose them over political consequences that would have necessarily followed a decision to Remain.

 

 

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Written by srojak

July 5, 2016 at 11:32 am

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