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Member of The European Union (gowers.wordpress.com)
329 points by matthewrudy on June 20, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 198 comments



By this logic, wouldn't the most logical thing be for the EU members to all petition to join the United States of America as states (USAE - United States of America and Europe)?

After all, would this group not have much more influence than even the EU? In addition, there is a strong tradition of subsidiarity in the United States (see states rights).

I think most Europeans would be horrified of joining the United States. Why? Because there is not enough shared identity.

The United States works because the shared American identity is very strong. Even if I live in Iowa, my identity is more strongly American than Iowan. This American identity was forged through centuries of migration and assimilation (i.e. the Westward expansion where people would leave their state to go out West but would still be American) and in fighting and dying together alongside fellow Americans in the various wars over the years.

While the elite of Europe may have a stronger European identity than that of their country of citizenship, what you are seeing with the recent polls and movements in Europe is that for many of the common people, their national identity is stronger than their European identity. This is to be expected as for many of these countries, the national identity was forged over hundreds of years, while the modern European identity is only a few decades old.

Thus, for many people, they see the European identity as seeking to assert primacy over their national identity and they are wanting out.


> the national identity was forged over hundreds of years

While that is true for some European countries, for a very substantial part of Europe the "national identity" was invented out of nothing during the romantic nationalism period [1] inspired by Rousseau and Hegel, starting in the late 1700's, but which came to its head in Europe in the late 1800's, coinciding with the creation of several of the modern European nations.

For many others, their modern day European nations are much younger than even that.

You are probably right that most Europeans identify mostly with their nation, but for large parts of Europe that identity was invented by an intellectual and economical elite in the same way that the idea of a united Europe is being woven together strand by strand now. Whether not it succeeds will remain to be seen, but the very existence of most modern European states is the evidence of how this same state-building exercise has worked in Europe once before.


Correct. However, the context for this decision was in regards to Brexit. British and more specifically English identity is probably the strongest national identity in Europe ( French and Swiss identity would be the only other ones that are similar in strength). These ones I mentioned are also some of the oldest identities in Europe

British since 1600s James I, English Since at least the Tudors in the 1500s, French Since the Hundred Years' War in the 1400s, Swiss also since the 1300-1400s

These counties have around 500+ years of shares identity.


British identity is extremely weak - even in England, there's been a decades long decline in the number of people who consider themselves British first and foremost. As it stands, a tiny minority in the UK - England included see themselves as only British, and I believe a minority now see British as the most important part of their identity.

The only thing "saving" the British identity, is the weakness of the English national identity.

That English is one of the oldest established national identities in Europe, I'll buy, but in the last twenty years there's been a lot of agonising in England over how weak the English identity is in many respects.

E.g. England does not have an official national anthem (God Save the Queen is the anthem of the UK), or really any day where people celebrate being English. The flag is amongst many English people seen as a bit of an embarrassment hijacked by far right groups and football fans. Unlike the other home nations, England does not have a parliament of its own, and so on.

A lot of the rest is tied to a UK identity that has steadily faded after the collapse of the British Empire.

In a way the English national identity is in crisis because England let itself become the UK in a way that Scotland and Wales did not, and as a result both identities have been watered down.

It's clear that there is still some sort of a cultural identity in England, and wider in the UK, but it is an identity that in most respect appears to be in decline.

In a sense I would be more inclined to buy that this perception of the decline is feeding into the fear of the EU in some groups. Few people in most other European nations would be likely to fear the disappearance of their national identity, but the UK has seen the slow slide towards the disintegration of the country itself, and have to face a shared identity that has been steadily weakening for decades, all the while at least in England there is little to take its place.


> This American identity was forged through centuries of migration and assimilation

I think it was forged during the civil war, when "States Rights" essentially ceased to be meaningful. Quite literally, the civil war was started because Lincoln declared he was not going to allow states to leave. Post civil war, after the horrible destruction of the south (in part by Sherman[1]); there was then a ~15 years following the civil war where the U.S. "reconstructed" (or reeducation) of the south[2].

The point being, it was really the centralization of power that removed people from feeling any/minimal association with their state.

> While the elite of Europe may have a stronger European identity than that of their country of citizenship, what you are seeing with the recent polls and movements in Europe is that for many of the common people, their national identity is stronger than their European identity.

My argument here is that, of course they feel stronger with their current country; their country has not been centralized. I would also argue, that overall the centralization of the U.S. has helped very little and infact has harmed more than provided good. That being said, it might be better than the EU collapse IMO.

[1] http://atlantaforward.blog.ajc.com/2014/06/13/was-sherman-a-...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstruction_Era


It's funny you should take this particular tack, because this is a place where the United States has already been. We weren't able to resolve the question of which allegiance meant more, by any means short of a rather nasty half-decade-long war that maybe you've heard of. (It's also funny that you should mistake the primacy of modern American national identity as having some other cause but that, but the error is more or less ubiquitous these days, I'm afraid.)

And that's what it took to enforce a federal union upon just a handful of states with strictly limited experience - a couple of centuries, tops - of regarding themselves as essentially sovereign but allied polities. In light of that, I've always found it faintly amazing that anyone imagines the EU will endure without resort to similarly drastic measures. (Also that it even came into existence, given how badly things went last time Germany was involved in trying to unify Europe. And people say Americans have little regard for history...)


Yes, I am always surprised how parochial most of Europe still is. Just came back from vacation in Italy - even in Milan, very few people speak English. Mostly regional wine and food, hard to find Sicilian wine in northern Italy (outside of major cities/big supermarkets). The same applies to France.

With the exception of London, Amsterdam, etc. most people in Europe like their local customs, feasts, food.

And you know what? I hope they never change - I'd hate for them to become like the US with Starbucks on every corner.


> I am always surprised how parochial most of Europe still is.

Do the same standards apply to English-speaking nations like US, UK and Australia?

Because if they do, these countries are the most parochial of them all.

By the way, you could turn Europe a little less parochial by learning Italian. It's a rather easy language to learn.


So if I travel to Italy, France and then Germany, I have to learn three different languages, just so that I can find my way around? What if I want to see all the 40+ countries in Europe?

In many northern European countries (and now even in Central/Eastern Europe), most people speaking at least basic English is the norm, not the exception.

For the record, I am US-based, but I speak 4 European languages (some better than others), and I always try to use them where applicable.


The EU has a ton of regulation on foods to protect that. Regional products generally have to made in a specific way in that specific region. Through the EU such products are better protected than any single country could on its own.

Pooling these interests within the EU also means enforcing these things through free trade agreements on a larger scale still, so that nobody in Canada (CETA) or the US (TTIP) can produce Champagne for example.


I was talking about people in a local town not being interested in consuming, not producing items from other regions/countries.


> While the elite of Europe may have a stronger European

> identity than that of their country of citizenship,

> what you are seeing with the recent polls and movements

> in Europe is that for many of the common people, their

> national identity is stronger than their European identity.

Hmm...not sure that it's an elite vs people thing. I think it's more an old vs young (relatively speaking) thing. For example, I was sitting with my parents and a former colleague of my dad's in Cologne a couple of years ago, and in conversation I mentioned that it only had very minimal practical impact on my life whether the border to France was where it was or across the Rhine, making where we were sitting French. To me, it seemed obvious to the point of being banal.

The others were shocked and horrified. And these were not uneducated people, and overall very pro Europe, although from what I read (poll demographics) that also appears to be a factor. Older, less-educated and (sigh) male: pro brexit. Younger, well-educated, female: pro remain.

> I think most Europeans would be horrified of joining the United States.

Yes. But not because of "shared identity" (or lack thereof). How about: almost complete lack of social democracy as we know it. Medical bankruptcy (though hopefully getting less). 4x the homicide rate, 10-100x the gun homicide rate, a permanent underclass, a plutocracy and a political system that's openly owned by said plutocracy, infrastructure that's laughable, permanent wars (largely fought by said underclass), almost complete abandonment of the rule of law, ...

And I lived in the US for a total of 8 years, and there's also a lot to like, and the people are mostly lovely. But I certainly wouldn't want my daughter to grow up there.


Maybe the USA should join the EU. There already are federated states in the EU (Germany), so it wouldn't be too different. :P


Why should the only country in the world that has freedom of speech give that up to join a club of countries lead by unaccountable bureaucrats that no one has voted into power.

That's exactly what the EU is.

I suppose this will be downvoted, but please take the time and explain where I am factually wrong. Because I can give you many examples why there is no freedom of speech in the EU and why particularly the EU commission is unaccountable.


Well, I'll take the 'unaccountable bureaucrats'.

Any proposal by these bureaucrats has to be approved by (a) the directly-elected European Parliament and (b) the national governments, who are legitimized via their national rules (some are directly elected, some by their parliaments).

The bureaucrats themselves are appointed by their national governments, in much the same way that national ministers are usually appointed by that nation's head of government (i. e. the British Prime Minister). They also have to go through confirmation & hearings in the EU Parliament – something that goes beyond the standard in most EU states.

The last European elections also saw the rise of the 'Spitzenkadidat' system, meaning voters had a very direct idea of who they're supporting as President of the Commission.

Note that the head of government is directly elected in only a handful of European nations, namely France among the larger ones. Judging by your name, you're German, where the head of state is also elected indirectly by Parliament and government ministers are appointed. Exactly as it is in the EU. Same, by the way, for Britain.

So – examples?


> The last European elections also saw the rise of the 'Spitzenkadidat' system, meaning voters had a very direct idea of who they're supporting as President of the Commission.

Yeah, they had an idea, but there wasn't anything mandatory about that meaning that there's no binding law that makes sure that the vote is relevant for who is appointed to this position.

I doubt that a controversial politician like Trump would be appointed voluntarily to this position if his party would have won. (they would have said something along the lines of he's a Nazi or he's like Hitler. End of discussion) In the end Junker was appointed because Merkel and Hollande said so, they usually get their way.

> So – examples?

1) Commission members are not appointed but instead nominated in consultation with the Commission President. If the President doesn't like the candidate he is free to give him a weak portfolio. Aside from that this process has too many layers that obfuscate who and how ends up in a certain position. For me this isn't democratic.

2) Recently the Eurogroup simply excluded the Greek finance minister in a meeting to prevent him from voting against their decision during the ongoing Greek financial crisis. Very democratic and accountable. If they don't like how some countries representative might vote they just exclude him.

3) Or how about the Treaty of Lisbon which was rejected by both the French and the Dutch. These governments decided to reinstate the treaty without letting their population vote on it again after some minor changes. Then 2008 the Irish voted against it and the EU simply decided to let them vote again until they had the result they wanted.

Edit: As I can't reply in a comment I'll do it here, sorry (apparently Hacker News admins limit my ability to post because they don't like my opinion):

> Neither the Dutch nor the French electorate ever voted on the Treaty of Lisbon.

This constitution that was voted down by the French and the Dutch was the precursor to the Treaty of Lisbon. They simply renamed the thing and placed most of the provisions from the original constitution into the Treaty. Yes, there was no vote on it for the French/Dutch after the whole renaming.

That's why I criticise all these layers of obfuscation that they have created. Simply saying that the French/Dutch should do something about it if they don't like what was shoved down their throats isn't productive. In the end it creates resentment towards the EU as many people understand that the EU institutions will just do whatever they like.

> Nor is there for the head of state and head of government position in most European countries. To the other points:

Well then don't explain to us how we can democratically elect the President of the Commission as we simply can't. It's only by the good will of some very powerful politicians that Juncker was appointed. This might change the next time if they don't like the result.

> As far as I know no official vote was conducted during the meeting in which Varoufakis was excluded nor was this an official meeting as described in the treaties.

They excluded him from all future meetings. When asked about the basis of this decision he got this official statement:

"The Eurogroup is an informal group. Thus it is not bound by Treaties or written regulations. While unanimity is conventionally adhered to, the Eurogroup President is not bound to explicit rules."

http://www.businessinsider.com/yanis-varoufakis-eurogroup-st...

Do you understand what this means? There's an informal group that decides on important matters which isn't bound by any treaties or written regulations. So when unanimity is "conventionally adhered to" (lawyer speak for: just if we like to), they can just as well exclude someone that has a different opinion for no reason whatsoever. This is completely ridiculous.

> The commission's president needs to agree to each and every filled position. That's how it works in basically every government, by the way. The whole commission needs to be voted in by the European parliament. The MEPs have refused to approve commissions with undesirable members in the past. On the other hand, as a German I have no direct say in my own country's ministers. They can be appointed without asking the parliament at all.

Well, to solve this issue the EU could introduce 3 new layers of obfuscation to make sure that definitely no one understands anymore how someone is appointed into a position. Let's also make it informal so no one is bound by any treaties or written law, but the best thing would be that they don't tell anyone.


> but there wasn't anything mandatory about that meaning that there's no binding law that makes sure that the vote is relevant for who is appointed to this position

Nor is there for the head of state and head of government position in most European countries. To the other points:

1) The commission's president needs to agree to each and every filled position. That's how it works in basically every government, by the way. The whole commission needs to be voted in by the European parliament. The MEPs have refused to approve commissions with undesirable members in the past. On the other hand, as a German I have no direct say in my own country's ministers. They can be appointed without asking the parliament at all.

2) As far as I know no official vote was conducted during the meeting in which Varoufakis was excluded nor was this an official meeting as described in the treaties. If you know differently please tell me. This is similar how many government negotiations in other democratic systems work. But I'm not saying everything went fine here, far from it.

3) Neither the Dutch nor the French electorate ever voted on the Treaty of Lisbon. The voted on the proposed European constitution which is not the same. The whole symbolic meaning is different just as a start. For the Irish, they voted only one second time and significant concessions were made. The EU can't prescribe how member states decide whether to accept a treaty. The French, Dutch, Irish, and all others should blame their own government and their own constitutional system if they think they didn't have enough say in it.

There are certainly a lot of opportunities to make the whole thing better. But the current situation is not worse than the democratic systems in the member states.


EU is probably more democratic than the USA.


The EU is dominated by Germany and France. They decided to impose on the people of small Cyprus a haircut when it was in financial trouble, but when France is in financial troubles they simply change the rules.

Or Germany got a free pass on the Maastricht treaties provision for GDP debt in the past, but other smaller countries were punished.


The qualified majority mechanism actually means that the power of the large countries are less than their population numbers imply. Both France and Germany have also capped their numbers of MEPs so that smaller countries have a larger share. That's actually, in contrast to most of the other stuff you posted, undemocratic, but to the benefit of the smaller countries.

PS: just to mention a few, as you seem to be German: is the Bundeskanzler directly elected? Is that undemocratic? Are the ministers elected? Is it undemocratic that Bavaria has more influence than Bremen via the Bundesrat? Is it undemocratic that Bremen has many more votes per population in the Bundesrat than Bayern? Is it undemocratic that both California and Alabama have the same number of senators?


Great, so there are some concession being made by Germany/France. But how is it relevant if they still are the only ones that can ignore laws and treaties while other smaller countries can't?

Seems to me it doesn't even matter what is written in treaties.

Merkel just says into a camera that everyone is welcome and then millions from the Middle East and Africa start to migrate into the EU. No questions asked, she can decide this for all of us without even consulting her own population, let alone the people of other EU members.

And when countries like Hungary and Poland refuse to take them in based on the fact that the EU ignores its own laws to protect the borders and prevent illegal immigration what does the EU do? It discusses creating new ways to punish these countries for the inhumane act of wanting to uphold what is written in the EU treaties regarding border control. The EU laws are apparently quite flexible as long as you are Merkel or Hollande.

Oh and of course the prime ministers of Hungary and Poland are now both like Hitler. Seems like everyone is like Hitler these days. Orban, Kaczynski, Trump, Putin - all of them are Hitler clones. That's a great way to prevent having any discussions about issues.

> PS: just to mention a few, as you seem to be German

No, I'm Austrian. But all of these examples seem undemocratic to me. I want more freedom and more democracy and there's a lot we can do to improve our own governments. Maybe we can take some cues from the US/Switzerland in this regard even though both are far from perfect. Let's start with freedom of speech which doesn't even exist here.


But small countries tolerate this because in return they get access to Germany and France's large markets.


Why even have any treaties then when negative aspects never apply to the larger countries? Don't you see how this is inherently undemocratic if only the weak have to follow laws?

That's just as if you decided to implement a new law whereby citizens with more than 1 million Euro on their bank accounts are above all law while the poor will be punished if they do the same thing.


And money. Don't forget all that EU structural funds.


The US doesn't have true freedom of speech. I can give you many examples of things that you aren't allowed to say in the US.


> I think most Europeans would be horrified of joining the United States. Why? Because there is not enough shared identity.

Also there are many different laws. From US Freespeech uber alles which allows hate speech, to guns, to very low protection of privacy/data protection, to employment rights.


> Thus, for many people, they see the European identity as seeking to assert primacy over their national identity and they are wanting out.

What makes the discourse around this so contentious is the that it is easy to conflate this desire to preserve identity with the horrors of racism and nationalism in 20th century Europe.


It was discussed by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/wilson-wanted-uk-to-be-us-...


Actually , the far right movements in the continent are loudest against immigration from outside europe.

Oddly , anti-immigration is a thing that seems to unite europeans at this time.


I'm an right wing conservative Austrian who is very sceptical about the EU and I'd like our country to leave the EU.

But I'd vote for joining the US if I could because I'd like to have the freedoms you have. EU countries generally have no concept of freedom of speech (or generally freedom) like you have in the US.

Also Socialism/the Left is strong in the EU (try telling someone that you like Capitalism, you'll be ostracised for it) and I really fear that we might end up here in either a great economic depression or a civil war if it goes on like this.


>Many people think that a country is better off if its workers are decently paid, do not work excessively long hours, and work in a safe environment. (If you are sufficiently right wing, then you may disagree, but that just means that you will need other examples to illustrate the abstract principle.)

Would it be possible to resist stabs at the "other side" of politics, if you are trying to explain something? People in the other side will be distracted by this, and think less of the author, or (like me) think it's a misguided or untrue example.


I don't think this is misguided at all. I've heard right-wing people say work hours should be an employee-employer agreement that shouldn't concern the government. The author argues, quite civically in my opinion, that one can disagree with this particular example but that shouldn't interfere with the main point.


It's misguided because it's an uncharitable strawman of the right-wing position. It implies that people on the right think that workers should "work excessively long hours." But people on the right would instead say that workers should be free to work more or fewer hours depending on their personal situation.


So only poor people should work excessively long ours, then.


Hey look, another strawman!


As this is in fact a consequence of the proposition if you also consider market pressure and power imbalance between employee and employer, I don't think it's a strawman. But of course there can be other, more positive consequences too.


Why High Earners Work Longer Hours

"Between 1979 and 2002, the frequency of long work hours increased by 14.4 percentage points among the top quintile of wage earners, but fell by 6.7 percentage points in the lowest quintile."

http://www.nber.org/digest/jul06/w11895.html


I think what OP is getting at is that you can drop the "if you are [side of the political spectrum]-leaning, then..." clause and lose nothing substantive from the argument. It's there exclusively to poke at the opposition while adding nothing of value.


It also doesn't help that he sets the tone of the article by patting himself on the back about how modern and sophisticated he is, with a bilingual family of academics that are citizens of the world.


It's only back-patting if you take it that way. Is he supposed to deny his own personal circumstances, or the notion that they'll have an effect on his outlook? Of course things like that shape the way you're likely to view the world, and surely it's best to be upfront about it. To my ears, it didn't come across as boastful at all.


> I've heard right-wing people say work hours should be an employee-employer agreement that shouldn't concern the government.

That sounds like more of a hardcore libertarian position, which doesn't really fit neatly into the left-right dichotomy in my opinion.


It's certainly possible, but it requires sufficient empathy and intellectual openness to study and understand the arguments of the "other side", which seems lacking on all sides of late.


I think he was actually picking things it's hard for anyone to disagree with, but if you do disagree with them you probably aren't on the "left".

I think a right wing argument would not be against these things, but that while these three things are good, government regulation, welfare, and other typical left-wing policies are not the best way to achieve them.


How is it a "stab" to say that different examples might be needed?


I don't think the quote from the article is such a fair representation of what is probably meant by "right wing" (a quite ill-defined term, in my opinion) here:

I do not think it is part of any "right wing" ideology that workers should not be decently paid, should not work excessively long hours or should work in an unsafe environment, which is what the author is implying.

Instead, the "right wing" idea is that by mandating those things through government intervention, you will not achieve your goal of actually securing them. Securing a decent work environment and pay requires a wealthy economy, which can be harmed by (wrong, excessive, etc.) government intervention. So, in the long term, you are actually more likely to end up with decently paid and successful workers if you keep out and let the "invisible hand" do its work.

I think this argument has a lot of truth in it but also agree with the author that if taken to its extreme (which "sufficiently right wing" would imply, I guess) there is not much evidence of it actually working (as is true for most theories, by the way). I think that this is what the author meant, but the way he wrote it does sound like a "stab".


"I do not think it is part of any "right wing" ideology that workers should not be decently paid, should not work excessively long hours or should work in an unsafe environment, which is what the author is implying."

Furthermore, I'd point out that if this is your model of the "opposition", for any given value of "opposition" (right wing, left wing, the people in your office who disagree about what coffee we should have, whatever), that they just hate people and want to hurt them, you are being played. People who tell you those things about the opposition are at the very least wrong and at worst, lying. You should consider looking into why.

Or, put another way, the belief that the other side (again, regardless of who it is) is full of bad people with actively bad motives who just want to hurt and destroy and are being uniquely selfish, that is proof positive you are in a bad filter bubble.


> Instead, the "right wing" idea is that by mandating those things through government intervention, you will not achieve your goal of actually securing them.

That is more an American definition of right wing as far as I know.

Traditional European right wing (sufficiently right wing) is usually very interventionist, the economical policies generally goes from an interventionist left, to an economically liberal center, to an interventionist right, with both far left and far right advocating nationalisation of (some) private companies.


While true in a tautological sense, it's snark.


I didn't read it that way, but fair enough - could have been written better.


Not sure what "stab" you are referring to here? Seems like a fair remark to me.


Which did you think it was (misguided or untrue) and why?


Gower's thesis ignores the rent-seeking, grabbing hand of government. Yes, many government policies are defensible, if not desirable, when framed for the common good, common ideals, common values, etc.

But we know that many policies only advance the interests of those in government, their friends and those who hold power of politicians. The grabbing hand of government engages in rent-seeking at the local level, federal level, and the common body level; and at each step the citizen in Leeds or London is further removed from the policy-maker.

Against all the arguments to remain in the Euro-zone, there is this argument... Its not enough for capital, people and ideas to be free to travel physical borders. There must be sufficient sovereign diversity that they can travel to countries where there is less institutional resistance to a status quo that keeps them from flourishing.

Even better if they do not have to travel anywhere to flourish because the people chose to exit a restrictive, occasionally repressive federation.


Can you please give examples of these reprehensible policies?


I'm not in the EU, rather in the US. But I think I know what rrggrr is talking about.

We've got all these things the government does. Each one, taken by itself, sounds like a good thing. But when you step back and look at the whole size of the government, it's insane how big it is. (We'd be more aware of this if we actually had to pay for all of it, instead of running a deficit.)

I'd expect those in the EU to feel this even more, because there the governments are even larger in terms of percentage of GNP.


See any recent article about Venezuela.


When did they join the EU?


What did the OP say that was genuinely specific to the EU?


What you 're suggesting is essentially that britain leaves the EU to join the US ?


It wouldn't be the first time that's been proposed.


The UK would probably see that the other way around: let the US join the Commonwealth.


It feels a little like there should be a simple, rational argument from politics and economics for retaining the EU as a single unit.

"The world markets are dominated by a few forces. One is a country with the bulk of the world's population; its population is about sixteen times the population of the most populous European country. Another is a single country with territory approximately fifteen times the square mileage of the largest single European nation. Unifying the voices of all people in Europe under one political entity doesn't zero out the playing field, but it may very well decrease the absurd order-of-magnitude scales of difference between political entities as these two juggernauts stomp inexorably towards their desired world order while the individual nations of Europe debate their own individual selfish interests."

But people aren't often rational about national ties.


It's not so simple. Take the U.S. for example. If the Northeast were its own country, it'd have universal health care, abortion rights would be secure, etc. So how do people in New York feel about being lumped into the same polity with people from Florida, and having to make the compromises they have to make to do that? You don't have to follow American politics all that closely to know they're not always happy about it.

Throughout history, there has been a strong tendency for groups with shared values and culture wanting to form their own sovereign countries. It's intellectually lazy to hand-wave this away as mere irrationality. In reality, when aggregating people into larger groups works best (in fact, works at all) if those people share the same values. Otherwise, instead of "unifying the voices of all people" you end up in a situation where peoples' voices are canceled out by conflicting values. That makes people feel powerless, it destroys faith in public institutions, and it aggregates power in bureaucrats because the voices of people are too diluted to keep them in check.


> Unifying the voices of all people in Europe under one political entity doesn't zero out the playing field, but it may very well decrease the absurd order-of-magnitude scales of difference between political entities as these two juggernauts stomp inexorably towards their desired world order while the individual nations of Europe debate their own individual selfish interests.

The fallacy is with "unifying the voices". EU definitely doesn't feel that way. E.g. in the handling of the Greek crisis, it's mainly the German voice that's heard, and the voice of IMF (not even part of the EU!) echoes softly in the background. Sure, you might argue that Germany is so much bigger/more prosperous/more powerful/better than Greece, for the EU to stick together, it must be beneficial to every single nation within it.

It's easy to champion "solidarity" when it's mainly their solidarity for you, but not the other way around.


This has a lot to do with it.

The EU has mismanaged the Greek "Crisis" by not actually having a true crisis but rather having a crisis every six months.

In a world where threats are coming from Russia, Syria, etc. it would be in in the interest of Europe to have Greece be stable and they really should have made everybody feel some pain, write off part of the debt, and take the punch bowl away.


The biggest threats to the EU are not external, but internal.

In a nutshell:

- not enough buy-in of the population

- too much corruption

- too many languages

- too many EU politicians getting 'money for nothing' (further reducing buy-in)

- too many countries that slip their own protectionist measures in under the radar and get away with it

- no unified tax system

- way too many horses pulling in different directions at once

And we don't have a slavery problem to get rid of so there most likely will not be a unification by force happening any time soon.


Don't forget double standards, or at least the perception thereof, particularly in the application of the Stability Pact.


+ massive bureaucracy

How anyone can write a 4 page essay on the EU without mentioning the absurd bureaucracy and regulatory hell it has introduced to small businesses is beyond me.

People outside of Europe may not be aware of how bad it really is, so just let me point you to the perhaps most prominent example, the "Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 of 15 June 1988 laying down quality standards for cucumber" [1]. Let me pull some money quotes from the text:

- "Slightly crooked cucumbers may have a maximum height of the arc of 20 mm per 10 cm of length of the cucumber."

- "Cucumbers grown in the open must weigh 180 g or more. Cucumbers grown under protection must weigh 250 g or more. Moreover, 'Extra' Class and Class I cucumbers grown under protection weighing: 500 g or more must be not less than 30 cm long, between 250 and 500 g must be not less than 25 cm long."

[1] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELE...


The point of not including this is that every time it is mentioned people cherry-pick sentences from that regulation without context just as you do. What we see here is a regulation of cucumber labels not cucumbers itself. Your quotes are minimum standards for certain classes of cucumbers. It's still fine to sell other cucumbers but you just can't sell them as e.g. "Class 1".

The regulation was abolished in 2009 because it was mentioned in every debate the public had about the EU. Guess what happened then? Almost every contract of cucumber merchants now contains a verbatim copy of that regulation.

Merchants love that kind of standardization (and if not, they were free to ignore it by not using the defined labels). It makes it easier to transport produce and allow for better planning. If there is no central definition of quality classes everybody is creating their (likely slightly incompatible) ones. That's not less bureaucratic, it's more bureaucratic. Now every small business has to deal with dozens of different company-made regulations.

Because we are on HN think of it as an RFC standard with the addition of being legally bound to it as soon as you declare conformity.


> Guess what happened then? Almost every contract of cucumber merchants now contains a verbatim copy of that regulation.

> Merchants love that kind of standardization.

Indeed; so much so that (as you've demonstrated) they can establish it themselves without needing government help to do so.


Because if it is decided that (example off the top of my head) "cucumbers grown in the pesticide Toxiciomosis cannot be sold as 'Class 1' cucumbers", there is just one place which needs updating, rather than K contracts.

DRY applies to more than code.


Please read the rest of the paragraph.


I did. Your post provided a specific example where merchants have standardized on a compatible standard despite the regulation no longer existing.

What evidence do you have that merchants will standardize on incompatible sets of standards? Compatible standards benefit them.


Of course they are standardizing on that. It's what they have been using for 20 years.

Naturally compatible standards benefit them as a whole. But that does not mean someone is actually going to develop them. In fact, trade groups specifically asked the EU to create that cucumber standard.

It's also important note that such standards don't fall from heaven. They are the result of long consultations (often taking up to a decade) with all stakeholders. It's also not an EU-exclusive thing. I would be very surprised if there were no similar standards in the US.

A one-minute search has led me to this US government standard from which I can cherry-pick similar sentences:

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Cucumber_...

> The maximum diameter of each cucumber shall be not more than 2-3/8 inches and the length of each cucumber shall be not less than 6 inches

> "Injury caused by scars" means scars which aggregate more than the area of a circle three-eighths inch in diameter on a cucumber 6 inches in length, or correspondingly greater areas of scars on larger cucumbers.

Implementation of that is (as far as I understand) voluntary but if you label your cucumbers "U.S. Fancy." you have to adhere to those standards. That's exactly the same as with the quoted EU regulation.

There is a reason why countries around the world develop such standards and it's not their love of bureaucracy.


A deep, significant secret of modern society as we know it, all around us:

Modern technological society is not a product of technology alone. We've had relatively intricate mechanical devices dating back to the Roman Coliseum, and before. Suits of armor had hasps, fasteners, catches, and wingnuts.

Modern society is a product of technology crossed with cheap flow of information crossed with interoperability standards. The suits of armor had wingnuts, but the wingnuts had individual faces carved onto them, because not even the left and right shoulder wingnuts were swappable. Common standards have built the shipping, transportation, telecommunications, and computing infrastructures that heavily define modern society today.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6481969.stm discusses this and some other urban legends of British-EU compliance.

Notably, the fruit and vegetable size/shape standards declare three categories for each item, and a producer can then advertise them as such and a seller can rely on the product being as advertised. "Extra" class conforms completely, "Class 1" mostly conforms, and "Class 2" is much looser.


Pretty much every western country has similar standards for economically important agricultural produce. They just specify what you're buying if you buy Class 1 Cucumbers. If your cucumber is too curvy, you can't sell it as class 1, you have to sell it as class 3 or unclassified. That's all.


"that's All".. Because Europeans are too stupid to classify cucumbers on their own.


I have heard an explanation for these vegetable regulations is that all the member countries had their own rules anyway, so having a single EU rule was better than what there was previously, and the EU wasn't getting involved in vegetables where previously government wasn't.

I have also heard that these standards only apply if you want to describe your vegetables as meeting the standard. If you don't then I have heard that they don't apply.

I don't know if either of those are true or not, or if it's a meaningful excuse for anyone, though. You could argue the EU should have got involved and got everyone to agree to abolish the regulations, or you could think that a common way of describing vegetable standards is good.


An analogy from the United States: after the September 11th attacks, one of the side-effects was standardization of the emergency responder radio codes at a national level. Previously, each jurisdiction had its own radio short-number codes; they worked in the jurisdiction just fine, and were incompatible cross-jurisdictions. This was generally a non-issue, until the friction from NYC first responders and Jersey first responders needing to inter-operate under a shared command structure revealed what a problem it was.

There's a perhaps surprising number of things that are not done in a standardized way. Firefighting in general is still done in a very local fashion vis. best practices, equipment, etc... With the exception of the radio codes and the national / international standards for labeling shipping containers (necessary because if a firefighting team rolls up on an overturned tractor trailer engulfed in flames, they need to be able to tell quickly whether the trailer contained the sort of thing that pouring on water will douse or the sort of thing that pouring on water will cause spatter or (much worse), violent combustion / polymerization reactions.


This is a real flip-flop problem.

One day is it clearly obvious that you should let people self-organise and let good ideas float up without regulation.

The next day it is clearly obvious that everyone should standardise.


I have this vague recollection that one of the reasons Denmark never joined the EMU and kept the kroner as their currency, had something to do with arcane regulations regarding cucumbers.


Possibly, and it's a perfect example how the right-wing exploits the stupidity of people.

- The cucumber regulation has nothing to do with the Euro – it (was) in effect in Denmark anyway.

- It wasn't arcane.


Well may they can write 4-page essays because:

- That regulation is no longer in effect

- How was anyone negatively impacted by that regulation? It was actually demanded by the merchants.


The UK doesn't feel that way either. The country is largely run by, and for, a small sliver of our society and does little to help vast swathes of it.


Of course you have bickering, because you have different interests, just as with any group where number of members > 1.

So if it doesn't feel that way, yes, because (a) you're looking at it from the inside and (b) we're not particularly integrated, yet.


But the main question comes from (b) - will we ever be integrated? Ignoring Britain and the rest of non-Euro countries, Germany and their unwillingness to even consider a fiscal union seems to be the main stumbling block. Can you imagine the US government introducing capital controls only in Alabama?!


Huh? I am fairly certain that fiscal union was always the plan, not achievable politically, so left for later introduction when it became obviously necessary.

Anyway, I don't buy that it's Germany that's blocking. Of course, fiscal union means giving up a good chunk of sovereignty, which is where many of the member states balk. Fiscal union is OK if it means we get money, not so OK if we are no longer allowed to spend any way we want.


The question is, what is good for the others?

Germany has the biggest population and the most wealth.

The smallest countries seem to do well, too.


My answer: all or nothing, not something in-between like now.

Either disintegrate the currency union, possibly Schengen as well, and let each country govern itself as it sees fit (seemed to work quite well 20 or so years ago) - simply by the virtue of common European heritage and values (at least compared to the rest of the world - China, US, Muslim countries), we'll end up collaborating quite well.

Or establish a United States of Europe, where the federal government takes care of the budget (no more "Greece defaulting" and "Cypriot capital controlls"), military (no more "UK intervention in Syria") and probably a few other things. Of course, to implement this, we need to agree on a common set of values from the beginning, which IMO we should model on Germany/Switzerland/Denmark (i.e. direct democracy, strong military but non-interventionism abroad, publicly-funded schools and healthcare but allow private services as well, strong consumer and environmental protections, flexible employment but with a strong social net). Personally, I'd add freedom of speech and the right to self-determination (secession) as well, but most of Europe seems quite opposed to that...


> It feels a little like there should be a simple, rational argument from politics and economics for retaining the EU as a single unit

According to Ronald Coase, people begin to organise their production in firms when the transaction cost of coordinating production through the market exchange, given imperfect information, is greater than within the firm [1].

One could extend this concept to subsidiarisation. People should elevate decisions to a higher level of government only when transacting/negotiating with other effected parties at the same level of subsidiarisation becomes costlier (e.g. the New York Area's MTA and Port Authority in comparison with the Bay Area's lack thereof).

Note that a conclusion around "always coalesce" or "always devolve" doesn't appear across all parameters. If Britain's and her trading partners' institutions were more efficient than the EU's, it would be rational to leave.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_the_firm


Europe cannot compete with Russia and China. And the NHS will be dismantled thanks to TTIP whether the UK leaves the EU or not.

Brexit is therefore a choice between political elites. A remote, unseen, neoliberal, corrupt political elite or a closer, familiar, neoliberal, corrupt political elite.

Presenting this as a choice of economic self-interest is irrational.


Russia is on verge of bankruptcy. Average Greek has much better life that average Russian.

China have even bigger structural problems: corruption, aging population, empty cities, lack of own technology, weak retirement system, bad education etc.

This choice about Brexit will impact mostly economic situation. If UK vote for Brexit people will start losing jobs.


small, isolated, selfish interests have long been the drivers of global progress.


Poor Switzerland. It's small, has relatively low population, and not in a union with any other country. Moreover, everyone has guns. And yet, it's one of the most (if not the most) prosperous countries in Europe.


> not in a union with any other country

They contribute EU funds, they are in the Schengen borderless zone, they implement EU directives and regulations (without being able to veto them like members can), and they are part of the European free trade zone.

Sure, de jure they are not in the union. De facto that is just a nice fiction to satisfy the ultranationalists from the Swiss People's Party.


I feel like your comment is misleading. People who are military trained have guns - but no ammunition. Ammunition is harder to come by. People are psychologically evaluated before they join the military.

And the union thing - Switzerland is part of the economic area, officially, and observes a lot of treaties/agreements in exchange for the benefits they get. This is a point of contention in Swiss politics as some feel like Switzerland gets pushed around a lot.


Switzerland takes _great_ advantage of the other countries. People living near the border go to other countries to buy their stuff (france, germany, italy). Switzerland also has economy incentives for companies which work if small countries implement-it, but not all.

Switzerland is a exception, not the rule.


Switzerland is my example of the best case scenario for the UK if they leave.

A haven for corporations/money, a good government that cares about the people, still open borders, still free trade with the EU, no say in anything they do.

But that's if the UK manages it well - I don't see that happening, corps will just jump over to Ireland, NHS is under heavy pressure, tariffs are still high (not because of the EU, but in spite, just look at food prices), wages rather low...

It will do alright, but not better I think...


Open borders is why the Brexit people want to leave in the first place.

They're not going to want to leave just to do a EFTA/EEA type deal. Which means opening borders to the EU, adopting EU regulation, paying the EU and having no say within the EU all to get access to the single market.


I agree they'll be bitterly disappointed if they end up with an EEA type deal, but despite that they keep using Norway a an example of how you can manage well outside the EU. Ignoring that Norway is almost as integrated as the UK is - in some ways more (part of Schengen).

In the case of Brexit, I predict a rush from the pro-EU contingent in parliament to get an EEA style deal in place before the next elections.


The pro-EU contingent would certainly push for that but then the UK would be basically in the same situation they're in now. It's one thing not to have a voice within the EU in your imagination, it's a different thing really not to have one.

I think that what's really going to happen is that this will goes the same way all these independence movements go, they'll vote to remain in the end. It's one thing to imagine yourself as independent and I can see how it might be appealing but taking a step over the edge into the realm of uncertainty is not a comfortable or very human thing to do.


> The pro-EU contingent would certainly push for that but then the UK would be basically in the same situation they're in now.

And that's exactly why it is likely to push for it. And given that there's a solid pro-EU majority in parliament, it's likely that getting a deal as comprehensive as possible with the EU will be high priority, similar to how it was for Norway after the no vote in the referendum, where the EEA was used as a "consolation price" by the pro-EU parties.

They will argue that they have a strong mandate to do so, given that the Leave campaign have kept bringing up Norway as an example of how the UK can do fine outside the EU...

I do hope the UK votes to remain - I'm Norwegian, living in the UK. Though it won't affect me personally that much, as I qualify for leave to remain under at least three different categories. I agree with you that a good chunk of voters will end up voting remain even if they may be thinking of leaving now. The question is just if it will be enough.


There are so many more reasons to leave the EU than this one.


Switzerland has one the best quality of life indices. Just becoming as good as Switzerland would be a massive accomplishment.


There is more to quality of life than just number indices.

I have not spent enough time in Switzerland to form an opinion, but many people find Switzerland boring and overly strict/regulated - for example, if you take your trash to the dumpster after 8pm, you will be reported to the police by your neighbors.


Switzerland is part of the EFTA and has access to the EU's single market. They might not be part of the EU but to say that they're "not in a union with any other country" is just wrong and not even remotely close to the truth.


Switzerland is a very interesting country, but it only exists by virtue of the mountains surrounding it and historically, if those mountains had not been there Switzerland as we know it today would not exist.

What works in Switzerland my not necessarily work elsewhere.

On another note, the Swiss neutrality has caused them to end up on the wrong side of history in more than one occasion.


No that I know much of Swiss history, but according to that argument, Poland would be by now a footnote in European history, and thy seem to manage...


> Poland would be by now a footnote in European history, and thy seem to manage...

As much as I love Poland I would not consider them a candidate for the 'most prosperous' country in Europe, and I think that you'd agree with me given your choice of words.


Banking. From nazi art & gold looted from europe, to the modern place to store your ill gotten money, it's amazing how rich you can get when you look the other way and help the crooks.


In fact the Swiss just cancelled their application to join the EU...


It's part of the EU (yeah that surprised me too). Also, the guns are tied to military service ('well-regulated militia')


No it isn't, it's part of EFTA. It sits on the very edge of the EU but it's definitely outside; several hundred years of neutrality is hard to give up.


Switzerland is not part of the EU.


I thought this was going to be about set theory.


> Similarly, a little while ago I heard a fisherman talking about how his livelihood suffered as a result of EU fishing quotas, and how he hoped that Britain would leave the EU and let him fish more. He didn’t put it quite that crudely, but that was basically what he was saying. And yet without quotas, the fishing stock would rapidly decline and that very same fisherman’s livelihood would vanish completely.

The problem wouldn't just be the fishing stock disappearing. The UK fisherman could start a pricing war with EU fishermen, and that would be followed by an import tariffs war, which would for sure expand to other sectors. The end result? Not good for the EU, but even worse for the UK.


So you want the EU to intentionally cripple the UK's competitiveness in order to work towards your own moral values which maybe right or wrong? Though in these particular cases my values are aligned with yours. However there are many cases where peoples values differ. You are using the supremacy EU laws to force your values on to them.

If these values are truly universal there is nothing stopping you getting some form of treaty between all these countries anyway outside of the eu. Leaving other things more open.

It's a very simple individuals/small groups vs large groups issue. There are two ways to resolve it. Allow each individual to make their own decision about it, or take a side and force your values on to everyone.

Companies treat workers well because they have to compete to get them. Not because the government forces their hand. There's always a way around government regulation, so it's not really effective. There's always loop hole. So why do companies offer workers good conditions? Because they are forced to by competition. You solve the issues of companies treating workers badly by developing a surging economy not by laws.

These 3rd world countries with sweatshops have actually gotten better standards then what came before. As spare capacity decreases companies are forced to offer better conditions. You can see this now, where in china companies are going elsewhere because workers demanding a lot more.

Tax argument only works if you think government is more efficient with money in the first place.


> Companies treat workers well because they have to compete to get them.

Do they, though ? Companies treat some workers that are scarce well. For most, however, companies treat them as well as the law forces them to.


How good companies treat employees without regulation doesn't have to be imagined, it can be seen quite well in the USA. Even just a short look shows that companies treat employees like shit, if not forced by the government not to.


Setting aside whether "the EU intentionally cripples the UK's competitiveness", what would you expect the author (or anyone) to work toward if not their moral values?


My values are to allow people to follow their own moral values independently of each other. Push the decisions as far down as possible. Not to use a higher authority to force them to comply with my values.


That's a fine principle for moral choices that only concern individuals but for society-level choices, of which there are many to be made, it's impossible by definition.


Let's go straight to the extremes of that position and see how far back we come: you're fine with people considering murder to be their moral right, you wouldn't want to push an ethical system that tries to prevent people murdering one-another?


Specifically my moral values are anything is allowed, as long as it doesn't hurt or infringe on other peoples rights.


The devil is in the details. If my neighbor works sixty hours a week measly for food and shelter, is he or is he not infringing on my right for fair pay for my own work?


His not infringing on anybody if its mutely agreed contract.

The solution for his issue is to find a way further up the value chain.

Almost any government intervention which attempts to help him will have a hidden side effect.


> His not infringing on anybody if its mutely agreed contract.

You're supposing that both sides have the same bargain power


And you'd like to enforce that moral position on others through law?

;0)>


Yes, because this can be logically reasoned as a basic right.

It's when it starts going further(which the eu has) is when it becomes a problem.


Where do these rights come from?


I'm not against government in total. Government should enforce basic rights for individuals. Beyond that it becomes dubious.


Who decides which rights are basic and which are not? Is healthcare a basic right? Clean potable water? Safe work environment? Education?


There's tons of philosophy on what is a basic right and what is not. They can convey the ideas better than I can.


> My values are to allow people to follow their own moral values independently of each other.

Does that apply to the neo-Nazis we have in parliament? Nazism has a fundamental difference with Communism: Communism (and neo-liberalism) used violence in order to achieve specific goals, for Nazism violence is an end in itself.


Subsidiarity. He addressed it.


He didn't really address it. He's comment straight after is enlightening.

"When I hear politicians on the Leave side talk about sovereignty, I am again suspicious. What I hear is, “I want unfettered power.” But unfettered power for the Boris Johnsons of this world is not in my best interests or the best interests of the UK, which is why I shall vote for the fetters."

Which means I don't agree with boris Johnson(Despite people voting for him) so I want my values forced on the people who voted for him by a higher power. Ignoring the fact the higher power maybe even worse. You have no idea who could be control of the EU in 20 years time. Your just moving trust from one set of people, to another set of people. Your problem is still there.


The likelihood of one country voting for a populist demagogue[1] (especially via a FPTP system) is smaller than the likelihood of all European states opting for one; quality and inclination of leadership tends to revert to the mean as electorates become more diverse and coalition bargaining more essential. Especially if the organization is a supranational organization purposefully structured to dilute powers rather than centralise them.

As a general rule, extra appeal courts and more bureaucratic checks and balances are more likely to be a buffer against tyranny than a source of it, especially since the possibility of future withdrawal via referendum if the public start to fear what the EU is doing in future still exists.

[1]I don't believe Johnson remotely fits that bracket, and I think the UK's chances of electing an actual demagogue are relatively slim, but the general point still stands.


Another way of putting this would be: Where does the subsidiarity max out? I mean, the minimum is just, you are free to decide yourself. Above that, your local council, above that maybe a city mayor, above that parliament - basically the PM and the cabinet, the other MPs rarely rebel. This is the Boris Johnson as post Brexit PM level. If we Brexit, the buck stops here, this is the maximum. If we don't, there's the EU over that (which presumably has internal regional subsidiarity too, but I'm not good enough at civics to know how).

So it's reasonable to distinguish "I don't like Boris" from "Boris ought not to be where the subsidiarity maxes out, some decisions are better taken over his head."


All these means is that your moving your ultimate trust from one set of people to a different set of people further up the chain.

Both could be horrible dictators.


> Companies treat workers well because they have to compete to get them. Not because the government forces their hand.

Hahahah, I'm sure companies like Sports Direct would love to hear that


Yes. UK has well developed employment law compared to a lot of countries that's still heavily on the side of the employee in most cases. And yet there's still issues.

There's always a way to fuck with you, no matter the laws. The solution is make the economy competitive for labour, by encouraging growth and skills. They will treat you well then, regardless the laws.

If you can leave freely and companies are dependent on your skills they won't screw you around.

The problem is that laws that proclaim to be on side of the employees makes the labour market less competitive for employees. Look at france, they have have absurdly strong labour laws and their employment rate is awful because of this.


So which country in the world right now - or at any point in history - actually provides a system where any employee in the country can quit their job because they feel treated vaguely unfairly and expect to fall back on some sort of safety net, whether that's another job, education, or the dole? And then - how much does that cost the country?

Frankly, some large amount of people get into terrible situations, and sometimes they do that no matter what help you give them. Therefore, unless somebody actively provides help to people when they're being fucked over by their workplace, you're always going to have a number of workers who simply don't have a choice - work for any number of companies that treat their employees badly, or starve.

There's some countries which'll provide free higher education for some number of years, but AFAIK none will make sure your family don't starve while you're at it, and if you've already been through that and are still in a bad position... well, sucks to be you.

We could eventually just say "if your employer is screwing you over, it's your fault", but that's not a wonderfully moral position to take IMHO, and can be used to justify all sorts of horrible things.


Quite a few European countries have or have had no-fault safety nets. Even in the UK it used to be possible to just go on the dole and stay there, to the extent that it was step 1 of the KLF's "how to write a number 1" (music hit) guide. That has changed in past decades but it used to be a critical part of the UK's working class music culture.


Germany does exactly that.


This sentence:

  > The problem is that laws that proclaim to be on side of the employees 
  > makes the labour market less competitive for employees.
And, this sentence:

  > Look at france, they have have absurdly strong labour
  > laws and their employment rate is awful because of this.
Are not necessarily connected.

It's possible to be an employee in France with very good protection, but that other people won't have jobs. That may or may not be good for total employment, it is not prima facie bad for individual employees.

You probably consider high employment rates to be more important than individual rights, other people may balance those two elements differently.


Nearly every country that has strong employment laws has higher levels of unemployment.

You can argue all day about the possibilities.

But empirically this is nearly always the case. I'm a pragmatist so I always what go for what is proven to work.


I understand your perspective, I probably even personally agree with you. But again, you're weighing the value of 'increased employment' over 'individual rights'.

I currently live in France, and there are protests in the streets as many people here don't want their employment rights reduced. They value their individual rights, over the idea of there being more people employed. Consequently, it is not a universal rule that the benefit of 'increased employment' is worth the reduction in 'workers rights'.

In these areas, it's often worth getting outside our own bubbles and exploring the fact that there are rational alternative approaches. Politics is messy.


"The solution is make the economy competitive for labour, by encouraging growth and skills. They will treat you well then, regardless the laws."

That doesn't agree with basic economics.

At the end of the day, we are talking about a market. What determine how you are treated is supply and demand.

If there is scarcity of skilled labour, skilled labour will be treated and paid well and unskilled labour bad.

If there is general scarcity of labour, skilled and not skilled, that will be the moment to open the borders and leave immigrants come or start "structural reforms" that allow to get more job from the current workforce.

If, due to politic reasons, that it's not possible, with an expensive workforce, necessarily, profit will go down. If profit goes down, investment will go down. If investment goes down, unemployment goes up and balance is restored with a recession or even a depression.


You forget there is a division of labour. There is no lump of skilled labour. You can have tons of skilled labour, yet still have shortages in lots of different areas.

Combine that with a higher overall demand.

Overall it is productivity that drives wages.


"Overall it is productivity that drives wages."

I have serious doubts about that.

how does it work?


> The solution is make the economy competitive for labour, by encouraging growth and skills. They will treat you well then, regardless the laws.

I would like to live in a world where that is true



In Spain there has not been rigid labor laws for years


> Companies treat workers well because they have to compete to get them. Not because the government forces their hand.

There is nothing keeping them from colluding to keep wages down then. Apart from the government, that is...


Not only keeping wages down, but imposing long work hours and poor work conditions: unsafe, unhealthful. Not to mention employing children who ought to be in school. It's legislation which prevents such abuses.


>Companies treat workers well because they have to compete to get them. Not because the government forces their hand. There's always away around government regulation, so it's not really effective. There's always loop hole. So why do companies offer workers good conditions? Because they are forced to by competition.

interesting point, removing free movement of labour definitely decreases the competitiveness of companies to incentivise their roles, otherwise people have a significantly larger pool of possible companies to work for.


> Companies treat workers well because they have to compete to get them. Not because the government forces their hand.

Assuming economic rationality then arguing that people ignore incentives is incoherent.


The problem with supra-nations is that, as bigger monopolies on government, they are much harder to vote against with your feet. You know, in case they become captured by special interests and impose burdensome taxes, oppressive laws, and smothering regulations.


If we had algorithmic laws that would adapt to situation at any given time, then having a non-profit organization managing them could be beneficial. But when the bureaucracy in Brussels is strikingly similar to the one in Moscow during its "glory" days, I am not so sure we really need that. What we have now is that all politicians the member states wanted to get rid of due to their incompetence and other vices, end up in Brussels. You can gauge the quality of representatives from this.

As for potential Brexit, what would happen is that GB would enter TTIP earlier than other EU countries and get a deeper integration with US much earlier. So in a way it could give UK an edge (if TTIP proves in any way beneficial to UK and not only to US). The main industry is anyway financial; once TTIP is signed between EU and USA there won't be much in the way of UK either.


Obama explicitly called out that if the UK leaves the EU, that it would be at the "back of the queue" for trade deals. There's much less incentive for the US to work on a treaty with a smaller country like the UK as opposed to the entire EU.


The UK is the world's 5th largest economy, in reality it wouldn't be in either party's interests to send it to the back of the queue. Add on to that that the UK would have a much more flexible negotiating position outside the EU, as well as a powerful political mandate to quickly sort out new deals post Brexit.


It's not going to be the world's 5th largest for long. Growth is anaemic, while a long list of fast growing countries is coming up behind it.

My expectation is that the UK government after a Brexit would rush to try to get an EEA style deal in place, and end up having to give up more to get that than to remain in the UK.


The US has done many trade deals with countries smaller than the UK. It is in the process of negotiating several at the same time.


Seems to me that TTIP is more beneficial the larger the entity. And why would the UK get it faster than the EU?

Anyway, I see many corporations just moving to Ireland or mainland Europe somewhere - it seems easier than stay in an uncertain situation.

Or if the UK becomes their haven, well then pity the people...

But yeah, bureaucracy is ballooning. Not sure if just running away is the best choice though.


I'd like to see more mathematicians / scientists stick their neck out like this. Too often these people hide behind castle walls, because they have been taught to stay in their own speciality. Yes, it is quite likely that they will make a rookie mistake, but they will also learn at a fantastic rate.


One problem I have with this argument is that personal freedom isn't taken into account. Every time a decision is moved up one subsidiarity level, members at lower levels sacrifice a little bit of freedom.

For example, suppose the EU recognizes that gas-consuming vehicles contribute to climate change. From a utilitarian standpoint, it makes sense to ban all cars unless the economic advantage from driving outweighs the ecological damage from climate change. So perhaps the EU should ban all cars by default, but allow citizens to fill out a petition every time they need to drive. Except this is ridiculous, because we shouldn't need permission to drive. This is an assumed basic liberty (of course drivers should still pass a driver's test to get a license, but this only needs to be done once).

I think the utilitarian argument can still hold, but only if personal freedom is taken into account. It should be weighed like everything else, and recognized as a tradeoff. The United States allows freedom of speech, in exchange for giving people the right to post hateful comments online. The utilitarian might argue this is a bad thing, since society might be better off if hateful speech was removed from the internet. But in this case, I personally believe the benefits of freedom outweigh the drawbacks of offensive speech.

Every time a higher authority recognizes a prisoner's dilemma and enforces a rule, they are forbidding the players from playing the game themselves. Even if the societal benefits outweigh the drawbacks, there are hidden costs associated with sacrificing freedom.


The EU is protectionist, weakens democracy, removes decision making from the populace, is barely accountable, is mysterious (most citizens don't even know who their MEPs are, let alone how the EU government works) and is a paradise for lobbyists.

It pretends (at least to the anti-federalist British) to be a big family of European nations, protecting human rights and stronger together than apart. This is the fantasy we are sold by our politicians.

In reality the EU is a project to create a single European state. This is not hidden in France, Belgium or Germany, only in the UK.

Also, the EU has created circumstances very friendly to big companies. The remoteness of the lawmaking process from the people makes it easy for lobbyists to have considerable influence over it. And the free movement of labour allows the mass movement of cheap labour from poor countries to rich countries, causing problems in the source and destination problems.


I am a Dutch person and I’ve lived abroad for about half of my adult life in places like Japan and USA. I identify myself as both a Dutchman and a European. Just two weeks ago I shared a beer with an unknown Frenchman while watching the Eurocup in an Irish Pub while rooting for his country (Netherlands did not qualify). I am European and I love Europe. The things I miss most about home are my friends in Amsterdam (many of which have different nationalities) and I miss European food (the seasonal stuff you find in small villages in Southern Europe).

Even though I have these strong feelings towards Europe, I am against the EU as a super-state. I have been a “Euro Skeptic” ever since I started reading about liberty and became a libertarian. Unfortunately, being a Euro Skeptic and/or believing in smaller governments gets you cast into the “Right-wing Nutbag” camp in Europe (even by my own parents).

A lot of “Remainians” have strong personal feelings towards Europe just like me. They’ve benefited from some EU initiative at a university, or perhaps they married a fellow European person. Also, they enjoy the benefits of the Schengen treaty, being able to travel and settle freely - without spending years of legal fees and stress on immigration like me. All of these things can be accomplished by treaties and standards without a monolithic EU super nation. Trade and treaties (like Shengen) are great, and they are perfectly achievable without an EU super state).

There are countless of arguments around the democracy and economics of the EU, but at the end of the day the EU is an idealistic construct. It was created with noble intensions to create peace on a warn-torn continent - accelerated quickly after the fall of the Berlin Wall (to address a strong and unified Germany).

Yet once again, the idealism of Europe (and in my opinion the disregard for the fundamentals of liberty) is creating a new cycle of instability on the continent. Whether there’s going to be a Brexit or Bremain, a storm is coming.


I think the supranational organisations argument is a bad argument to make given that throughout the world everyone else is devolving, and splitting into smaller countries or presently trying to split off.

Off the top of my head, countries/peoples recently or actively trying to split or setting up a new regional government, several that are actually in the EU:

    Czechoslovakia
    Yugoslavia
    Catalan
    Scotland
    Wales
    N. Ireland
    The Kurds
I'm sure there are many more as I really don't keep up with African or South American politics.

So why is everywhere else in the world seemingly moving to devolution, apart from Europe which is trying to create a super-state out of very, very different peoples.

And I know that they're very different. I'm half-dutch, half-english, my Dad lives in France, I've been to Belgium, Spain, Italy and Germany. Each of these peoples have very different outlooks. And the Germans, quite alarmingly as one of the key leaders of this change, still consider themselves more German than global citizens[1] compared to other countries. And don't misinterpret this, nothing to do with Nazis, everything to do in that they're obviously not doing it out of a love for the EU.

So why the need for the super state? Look at what happened to poor old Spain and Greece being forced into what is now a very disparate economic relationship with Germany, the Germans have even effectively rescinded Greece's national economic decision making.

There don't seem to be any rational arguments coming out of either camp, and of all the arguments, the "supranational organisation" one has got to be the most ridiculous. To make it a quasi-mathematical one is even more absurd as our countries have much better labor laws than America which is bound by exactly that sort of organisation, and we had the bulk of them before the EU was involved. The Social Democracies of the EU came way before the EU even existed, before the EC, before the EEC. Before the EU we certainly didn't have zero-hour contracts, so there's clear evidence his quasi-mathematical arguments don't hold water.

And I say this all as a pro-remain. Posts like this honestly don't help because they are partisan bullshit dressed up as 'logic' with little in the way of facts.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-36139904


Very few groups in N. Ireland are trying to set up their own N. Ireland state/government. People either want in with one country or the other.


I didn't quite mean that in their case, they've devolved powers from a national level to a regional level, the opposite of what the EU is doing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland_Assembly

I appreciate it's sensitive and in reality it's a compromise.

The Welsh & Scots have have both devolved too though.

http://gov.wales/

http://www.parliament.scot/

There's even talk of devolution for the North of England.

EDIT: I think this highlights the ridiculous nature of the argument, these countries want to vote on their own future, have self-determination. They're not voting remain for the maastricht treaty's removal of national power, they're all doing exactly the opposite of that at the moment. The main reason the Welsh, Scots + Irish are voting stay is because the EU gives them a lot more money than the London-centric Westminster (and I certainly don't blame them for that!). It's incredibly inconsistent and yet totally understandable.


In the abstract, the case for supranational organizations is almost too obvious to be worth making: just as it often benefits individual people to form groups and agree to restrict their behaviour in certain ways, so it can benefit nations to join groups and agree to restrict their behaviour in certain ways.

But nations aren't anything more than collections of people. Nations, like societies and governments, cannot do anything. Rather, the people within are the ones taking action.

Supernational organizations that constrain member states without the consent of the citizens of those states are just another form of tyranny.

You don't need giant bureaucracies to have free trade or free movement of people (or prosperity, for that matter).


Personally my biggest beef with the EU seems to be the lack of optional participation.

Some rules just work better if applied to the entire EU, but it's not essential for a lot of rules. Example the vacuum cleaners: do we seriously need these things enforced from the EU?

There are of course rules that would require everyone to participate to work.

Also IMO a country should be able select which parts of the EU they wish to participate in: monetary, military, schengen zone, product safety rules (and thus easy in and export...), ...


If I would build vacuum cleaners, I would rather build one type and sell it in 28 different nations then producing 28 different models.

When I want to buy a vacuum cleaner, I want a good choice between different models and good prices.

So whats wrong with the EU regulating vacuum cleaners in a common market?


The only thing wrong with is the enforcement, at which point do you value sovereignty over common market ?

(Everyone should still implement this of course.)

But having the ability to say no is still nice.

About the models, well normally most countries will apply the rule anyway, as such the vacuum cleaners you will be able to get will conform anyway.

(And the vacuum cleaners was an example.)

Bus as stated it's mainly about sovereignty versus unity. Also I am not sure if optional parts would help keep the EU together: on one side you feel less forced, and more invested. On the other side it diminishes to effectiveness of it.

And I think I mainly fear the EU becoming the the USA. I do not think many people in the EU are keen on seeing that happen.


> Example the vacuum cleaners: do we seriously need these things enforced from the EU?

If you want to sell them in the EU common market then yes, they do need to enforce standards for the sale of vacuum cleaners.

If you want to build vacuum cleaners that don't meet those standards then you can still do so within the EU and sell them in the USA, Canada, Russia... assuming they too don't have standards you need to meet.


read David Ellis for sound and clear counter-arguments

https://davidellis2.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/reflections-on-...


I agree with the ideas this post tries to perpetuate, but it’s written as if the author lives in a different reality. Post 2008, the EU has been the mother of all evil for PIIGS and non-PIIGS too.

> In the abstract, the case for supranational organizations is almost too obvious to be worth making: […]

Most Euro-sceptics, myself included, do not see the EU as a “supranational organisation” that is for my best interest. What I see is a body of non-elected puppets, taking important decisions about my life, mishandling crisis after crisis (debt crisis, Ukraine, Syria, etc.), the French sitting quietly while Germany abuses everyone.

The EU is deeply, deeply undemocratic. There are no published discussions of the Eurogroup. So basically a finance minister goes there, comes back with new laws but there’s nothing published on paper or broadcasted about who said what and why.

Every time an anti-popular law is passed, it’s because of “the EU” as if the EU was something abstract (exactly as this post describes) in which we, the people, have no say. So if we really have no say, why on earth would be support that? Because the opposite is worst? Sorry but this ain’t gonna cut it.

The EU have not solved the basic macro-economic problems that every union or federal country has like surplus recycling: You can’t have Germany with huge surplus without having Greece with a huge pile of debt! You just can’t! It’s macro 0101.

Why do you think that every time a referendum has been to called in relation to the EU (France, Netherlands, Greece and now the UK) the anti-EU choice has dominated. I mean the EU is turning unpopular even in Germany which is the country who profited most because of the single currency. That was expected because it's the biggest exporting power in Europe, so it has a surplus vis-a-vis with EVERY state that can't devalue.

There is something fundamentally broken within the EU. The Germans are clearly unfit to lead while the French are too weak to react when it matters the most and others simply don't count. The whole is going to blow up for sure.

Would you rather have 50 EUR and be able to decide what to do with 'em or 500 EUR but another country telling what to do with them?

Now Prof. Varoufakis, which I admire deeply, believes that what comes after a break-up is an even greater depression and possibly war. I don’t like this narrative, not a bit, but I don’t see how we can avoid it by staying within the EU.

The fact that we have neo-nazis in the Greek parliament, extreme right wing rising in Austria, France and Hungary is not pure chance. It’s the result of EU policies promoting unemployment, stagnation and hatred.

So until the EU starts resembling more like a union and less like a bullying squad, there’s no chance.

[1] That was the exact words Scheuble used to explain Varoufakis that Greece should continue with austerity “as is” although it was clearly visible that everything in the Greek program was wrong.


Now try to explain that to the average voter :)


I upvoted this on accident, a one letter title requires extreme clicking precision. I think HN should force a min title length.


First World Problems.


Could the title of this article be any less informative?


Given the timing (just before the EU referendum) and the audience (mostly maths enthusiasts), it's a great title.


I like the dual reference to Euro and set membership


And the E in the CE marking https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CE_marking

The Euro sign has one more dash €. Maybe the author intentionally left some ambiguity in the title.


Speaking as a math major, I didn't see any ambiguity at all.


A title you can't understand until you've read the piece is an uninformative title.


At least he explains the title in the first paragraph, but I agree that a more informative title would have been a better choice


We updated the title to be more practically clickable and less click-baity. We're open to suggestions for a better one.


∈ The European Union


> Could the title of this article be any less informative?

Apparently so.


[flagged]


That's personal and supercilious, and therefore uncivil. Please don't post comments like that here, even when someone else is wrong.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11939095 and marked it off-topic.


And I could give you plenty of books arguing the opposite. This is isn't a solved argument.

I'm well read around economics. Most of solutions involve government intervention, which involves blind faith in the state as well as the market.


A classic condescending tone you will only find on the internet.


When someone is so obviously wrong, there are only three possibilities:

1) Ignorance and no desire to learn;

2) Ignorance and desire to learn;

3) Trolling

My answer stops the discussion, avoiding 3, without leaving possibility 2 without response. If it is case 1, any answer is moot.

Sorry if I sounded too aggressive. Aggression is unintended, even if somewhat unavoidable when skirting possible trolling.


You are being so aggressive. The fact that you are assuming your answers are right, when in reality no one has certain answers. I could point out 1000 books pointing out the opposite. Are you refusing learn and to open your mind to other possibilities? Running to the government to fix things is the simplistic option which your average person runs to. I'm trying to point out that this isn't a good option in a lot of cases.

I think this means you have ran out of arguments.


[flagged]


Religious flamewar comments (and this is not the first one you've posted) are not allowed on Hacker News. Please don't do this again.

We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11938702 and marked it off-topic.


People are generally selfish and lazy. We act in immediately efficient ways even if those ways have high long-term costs—balloon payments and so forth. We do this individually and we do it when we band together in companies and nations.

At the extremes, there are two ways to deal with selfishness and laziness. You can let it go, allowing people to make their own choices and face their own consequences, hoping they'll have enough foresight to avoid ballooning dangers. In economics and government this is generally associated with "conservative" politics. Or you can control people through rule-making and enforcement, preventing them from making choices they should know will end up bad and forcing them to take the right actions. This is associated with—somewhat unexpectedly—the "liberal" approach.

It's pretty clear that either extreme is a bad choice. Pure conservatism allows the wealthy and powerful few to exploit the oppressed many, the large corporation to crush the individual, the effective short-term competitor to ignore long-term costs to self and others. Pure liberalism crushes individual choice, presumes the wise choice of those who rule, sustains complex legal and enforcement systems, and adds the profound inefficiency of government to the many expenses a society must bear.

Yet anything in between the two extremes is difficult. Ambiguity abounds. No single choice for a conservative or liberal approach—in health care, for example, or gun control, or airport security, or child rearing—is clearly correct and without serious downsides. People are difficult. Living together is hard.

If there is a clear error, therefore, it is an over-enthusiasm for one extreme or the other, an over-pessimism for the other side of the aisle.

What's more, one's own self-bias is all but impossible to see. This article begins with pretensions of objectivity that the author compares, if vaguely, to mathematics, yet the bias of the author shines through unmistakable. He searches for objective premises from which to argue, yet even the way he frames the questions, even the premises he chooses to expound all but guarantee his conclusions.

And so here we are: difficult people, trying to live together, discussing—or pretending to—how best to do so, yet choked full of our own biases and unwilling (because we are selfish and lazy) to really hear the other side. And that's too bad, because the right answer is surely a blend, a case-by-case blend, of freedom and legislation.

When you compare the laws of the EU to nations contemporary and historical, I think it's pretty clear that it skews liberal and that there is a great deal of legislation: legislation "for their own good." It's possible that the EU has good legislation, a good amount of legislation, and that it is effective in enforcing that legislation such that the member nations have done, are doing, and will do better than they would without the union. (Not just economically better but morally, ecologically, etc.—whatever values we ought to care about. Though that's not clear.) But it also reasonable to wonder whether the EU is incorrectly skewed toward too much legislation, or of the wrong kind, or with bad enforcement, so that the member nations, or perhaps a single member nation, would do "better" (by some sound standard) removing itself from these laws. It helps in making these speculations that the EU, after all, is quite new in historical terms; Britons can look back even in their own memories and know what life without the EU might look like. There's no going back really, of course, but there is some historical basis for speculation. They can also look at their own values and culture and look for broad compatibilities or incompatibilities that might bode well or ill for the ongoing relationship.

It seems to me that the choice comes down to those kinds of questions. Were Britons better off before the EU, and if so, do they have a reasonable chance of returning, post-EU, to a similar or better situation? Is the rule of the EU over the UK, considered historically, abnormally invasive, complex, or incompetent, or is it on the other hand effective in legislation and enforcement?

So I think it's a historical, not mathematical or even—quite—logical question.




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