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.
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  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.
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.
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.
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); there was then a ~15 years following the civil war where the U.S. "reconstructed" (or reeducation) of the south.
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.
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...)
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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?
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."
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.
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.
Or Germany got a free pass on the Maastricht treaties provision for GDP debt in the past, but other smaller countries were punished.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oddly , anti-immigration is a thing that seems to unite europeans at this time.
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.
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.
"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."
That sounds like more of a hardcore libertarian position, which doesn't really fit neatly into the left-right dichotomy in my opinion.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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" . 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."
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.
> 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.
DRY applies to more than code.
What evidence do you have that merchants will standardize on incompatible sets of standards? Compatible standards benefit them.
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:
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The cucumber regulation has nothing to do with the Euro – it (was) in effect in Denmark anyway.
- It wasn't arcane.
- That regulation is no longer in effect
- How was anyone negatively impacted by that regulation? It was actually demanded by the merchants.
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.
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.
Germany has the biggest population and the most wealth.
The smallest countries seem to do well, too.
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...
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a exception, not the rule.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You're supposing that both sides have the same bargain power
It's when it starts going further(which the eu has) is when it becomes a problem.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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."
Both could be horrible dictators.
Hahahah, I'm sure companies like Sports Direct would love to hear that
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Combine that with a higher overall demand.
Overall it is productivity that drives wages.
I have serious doubts about that.
how does it work?
I would like to live in a world where that is true
There is nothing keeping them from colluding to keep wages down then. Apart from the government, that is...
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.
Assuming economic rationality then arguing that people ignore incentives is incoherent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
I appreciate it's sensitive and in reality it's a compromise.
The Welsh & Scots have have both devolved too though.
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.
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).
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...), ...
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?
(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.
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.
> 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.
 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.
The Euro sign has one more dash €. Maybe the author intentionally left some ambiguity in the title.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11939095 and marked it off-topic.
I'm well read around economics. Most of solutions involve government intervention, which involves blind faith in the state as well as the market.
1) Ignorance and no desire to learn;
2) Ignorance and desire to learn;
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.
I think this means you have ran out of arguments.
We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11938702 and marked it off-topic.
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.