Monday, November 02, 2015

A Bill of Divorcement

There are a number of ways to divorce oneself from an unwanted spouse.

The Muslim way is for a man to say three times to the wife, “I divorce thee.” Or words to that effect.

The Jewish way is for the man to write it out. According to the Torah, divorce is accomplished simply by writing a bill of divorce, handing it to the wife, and sending her away.

There were three films of the same title, A Bill of Divorcement, in 1922, in 1932, and 1940, dealing with the problems of a woman whose husband was declared incurably insane and institutionalized. She obtains a divorce from him, with the understanding that she will never see him again and is free to remarry. In all three films it doesn’t work out well for all the concerned parties.

Britain is about to embark on a bill of divorcement of sorts from the European Union, in which a referendum on EU membership will be held. The EU lately has embarked on a political and economic course that is utterly insane, if not suicidal, especially in regards to the massive immigrant invasion of the Continent. The referendum couldn’t have been better timed. Even though Britain is not a part of the Shengen borderless system on the Continent system, many Britons could not have but noticed the continued efforts of especially Muslims trying to enter Britain for its benefits. Presumably they’re better than Germany’s, but I wouldn’t know. They try to enter Britain by truck-and-train-hopping and rushing en masse into the Chunnel and have set up a tent-and-shack slum in Calais near the entrance to the tunnel to Dover. It’s probably less sanitary than the Normans’ camp before they invaded Britain in 1066.

I’ve always wondered why Britain, in wanting to be in the EU, at the same time has remained conspicuously aloof from the system. Perhaps it was a fear of losing its sovereignty. The history of Britain’s leave-stay referendums is long and bizarre in terms of British politics, so I won't venture to encapsulate it here. But I am sure that Britain has lost much of its sovereignty to the EU; Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are the latest culprits in that respect.

spiked, an extremely readable, reliable, well-written, and pro-freedom British online magazine, on October 26th ran an interesting piece by Phil Mullan on the upcoming referendum, scheduled to be held in 2017 (“if not sooner”). Of itself, spiked says:

It’s the publication that puts the case for human endeavour, intellectual risk-taking, exploration, excellence in learning and art, and freedom of speech with no ifs and buts, against the myriad miserabilists who would seek to wrap humans in red tape, dampen down our daring, restrain our thoughts, and police our speech.

spiked is a fan of reason, liberty, progress, economic growth, choice, conviction and thought experiments about the future, and not so big on eco-miserabilism, identikit politicians, nostalgia, dumbing down and determinism.

Mullan’s article, “The real reason we should fight for a Brexit,” delves into the economic fallacies, false and real expectations, forecasts, and hindsights behind EU membership and non-membership. Whether to leave or remain in the EU has become a subject of heated debate. EU-leavers stress that Britain would probably have been better off never joining, and would be better off by leaving now, while EU-stay-at-homes tally up the benefits of membership, which Mullan notes, for both sides of the argument, may look scintillating but have the flashy glitter and substance of a rotating disco ball.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend much time on the financial aspect of the debate. For a start, there are much bigger issues at stake than whether an exit would make us a little bit better or worse off. On top of that, most of the calculations from both sides are inherently flawed and meaningless.

Historic estimates of how much Britain has gained or lost economically and financially from EU membership cannot be definitive because we don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t joined in the first place. The so-called counterfactual is unknowable. For instance, it may seem reasonable to assert that British trade with EU countries would have been less if the UK had remained outside the EU and its single market

In short, back-pedal-financial forecasting is as legitimate and reliable a method of predicting events as fashioning computer models of tomorrow’s, next year’s, next century’s climate. You can't know what might have happened, because saying that a nation would have been better or worse off economically discounts the element of volition and a passel of other unknowable and unpredictable causes and influences that enter into individual decision-making.

Potentialities are not actualities, especially when discussing economics.

Moreover, we don’t know how Britain’s trading relations would otherwise have evolved had it not joined. Maybe even more lucrative trade relationships would have built up either with other advanced economies, such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, or with emerging markets, such as India and China — all of which could have been damaged by protectionist EU policy. It is worth noting that, today, British trade is in deficit with the other EU countries, while it is in surplus with the US. So there is also no determinate relationship between a net trade position — positive or negative — and membership of a trade area….

 Similarly indeterminate are the gross and, even more so, the net estimates for the future financial and economic effects of leaving or staying. The true costs and benefits arising from alternative referendum outcomes are unquantifiable today, because they are contingent on what happens after the result. The economics of either situation — being in or out — is not static or pre-determined; it depends, in particular, on the policies the British government pursues now and after the EU referendum.

Here I will surrender to the temptation of providing an excerpt from Sparrowhawk: Book One, Jack Frake. In this excerpt, for those who are not familiar with the series, twelve-year-old Jack Frake and his adult mentor, Redmagne (as in champagne), both members of a smuggling gang in late 1740’s England, are on a coach to London, traveling under assumed names. Redmagne is attempting to flirt with a female passenger, but Jack is lost in his own thoughts.

“Redmagne?” said Jack Frake after watching the rural scenery roll by during a long stretch of silence as the coach bumped over the rutted road.

“Yes…Jeremy?” said Redmagne with emphasis, looking up from his book.

“Do you remember when you led us in a toast to that government report? I mean, the one in which the Customs Board claimed that the Crown lost three million pounds of revenue on eight hundred thousand pounds of tea consumed by us last year?”

Redmagne frowned. It was a dangerous topic, and he had introduced himself to his fellow passengers as John Trigg. “Yes,” he answered cautiously. “I seem to remember that. Why do you ask?”

“Well, how could they know that it was eight hundred thousand pounds? I mean, if they really had the power to collect duty on all the tea, maybe it would have been less than a hundred thousand pounds, because no one could have afforded to buy more of it. And all the other things, too, like the tobacco and molasses and the rest of it. They could prove the figure for the tea they collected duty on, but that’s all. So it really isn’t lost revenue, is it? I mean, the smugglers and free-traders really aren’t robbing the Crown of anything, are they? And how did they get the eight hundred thousand pound figure?”

Redmagne sighed, then blinked in astonishment. That line of reasoning had never occurred to him before. He glanced with new interest at Jack Frake, who sat waiting for an answer. “You’re right…Jeremy. It’s a good question, and the beginning of a good answer.” He grunted in astonishment again, then met the eyes of the governess, who was smiling at his astonishment. He leaned forward and said softly, “I taught him, you know.” (pp. 175-176, Patrick Henry Press print edition)

From the mouths and minds of babes.

Mullan makes some comments that boggle my mind, but then I grasp what he is leading to: the requisite renewal of the “democratic” process, which has been lost in the labyrinth of EU hegemony.

Even for Britain, which, being outside the Eurozone, is not directly affected by the most invasive forms of Brussels intervention, the EU already influences regional funding, state aid for industry, employment rights and laws, and financial regulation, as well as policies for transport, the environment, energy, agriculture and fisheries. Not having national accountability over policymaking is a problem today because economic policy sorely needs to be changed. Economic policy has become far too concerned with propping up the status quo and getting in the way of the sort of extensive economic restructuring and renewal of productive capacities that Britain and other European countries greatly need.

Frankly, I would call that being locked into the Eurozone. It may as well prescribe, with the force of law, one’s shoe size, salt intake, and sex life.

Mullan writes:

Getting out of the EU because it denies democracy is not an argument for Britain to pull up the metaphorical drawbridge. Leaving the EU is not the same as cutting Britain off from Europe, or indeed the rest of the world. Asserting national sovereignty is about a people being able to determine their own future and not have it determined for them. This applies both to purely domestic matters, such as national employment or financial rules, and to its relations with the rest of the world. Advocating the importance of sovereignty is not counterposed to being open to the world, as some EU opponents often present it.

One thing I think even champions of free trade need to do is correct their habit of thinking in terms of policies – that is, government fostered or managed policies. Why should any government have any policy but one of laissez-faire? Of unfettered capitalism? Why should any present government have any policy other than deregulation, of decontrol, in pursuit of laissez-faire? Other than overseeing the law courts, the military for national security, and the police to “fight” domestic crime?

Mullan continues:

Being part of the EU undermines the prospects for securing the sort of economic policies that Britain, and other mature industrialised countries, so desperately need. Quite simply, for as long as we remain in the EU there will be less public accountability for our policies and less scope for changing them.

EU membership has become a barrier to such changes in policy; more importantly, it has become a means for national politicians to evade their own policy responsibilities. For example, the existence of EU state-aid rules can get in the way of revitalising the economy.

Yes, EU rules of any kind will get in the way of individuals’ choices, and also influence how British economic technocrats “manage” the country’s economy.  EU rules affect the sovereignty of the every Briton, and the thinking of the technocrats.

Mullan wraps up his piece with:

Regardless of whether the EU is the culprit or the scapegoat, British people should vote to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum. This decision would not in itself resolve all the problems of national democratic accountability. But it could be a big step towards regaining national control and accountability for the policies being pursued on our behalf, not least in the sphere of economic and industrial policymaking.

Fighting for democracy and accountability is a neverending struggle, so an EU exit won’t automatically solve everything. However, the potential benefits to leaving will provide the answer to the scaremongering ‘stay’ campaigners, with their financial prophecies of rack and ruin. Leaving the EU presents Britain with an opportunity for real democratic, economic renewal, which could strengthen engagement with Europe and the wider world.

Democracy has an undying mystique. The American Founders wrote thousands of words warning of its inherent dangers, foremost of which is that it is basically mob rule, or majority rule. The American Constitution was crafted to deny Congress, the Executive, and the People the power to deny anyone his rights because the majority frowned upon them for whatever reason they wished. “Democracy” is not synonymous with rationality. People do not always make the right choices. The reelection of Barack Obama, in the face of the disasters of his first term, is a salutary demonstration of that truism.

One problem with “democracy” is that a nation’s citizenry can become inured to the abuses of a statist government and the fiat, policy-driven usurpation of their natural rights, and actually vote to perpetuate their misery. French justice Estienne de La Boétie dwelt on this subject in his “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude,” published anonymously in 1576. You can read the whole English translation here. An early paragraph reads:

For the present I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. Surely a striking situation! Yet it is so common that one must grieve the more and wonder the less at the spectacle of a million men serving in wretchedness, their necks under the yoke, not constrained by a greater multitude than they, but simply, it would seem, delighted and charmed by the name of one man alone whose power they need not fear, for he is evidently the one person whose qualities they cannot admire because of his inhumanity and brutality toward them. A weakness characteristic of human kind is that we often have to obey force; we have to make concessions; we ourselves cannot always be the stronger. Therefore, when a nation is constrained by the fortune of war to serve a single clique, as happened when the city of Athens served the thirty Tyrants, one should not be amazed that the nation obeys, but simply be grieved by the situation; or rather, instead of being amazed or saddened, consider patiently the evil and look forward hopefully toward a happier future.

In the end, Boétie recommends that people simply withdraw their sanction from a tyrant or abusive government. Easier said than done. See Atlas Shrugged for details. Mullan concludes:

Regardless of whether the EU is the culprit or the scapegoat, British people should vote to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum. This decision would not in itself resolve all the problems of national democratic accountability. But it could be a big step towards regaining national control and accountability for the policies being pursued on our behalf, not least in the sphere of economic and industrial policymaking.

Fighting for democracy and accountability is a never-ending struggle, so an EU exit won’t automatically solve everything. However, the potential benefits to leaving will provide the answer to the scaremongering ‘stay’ campaigners, with their financial prophecies of rack and ruin. Leaving the EU presents Britain with an opportunity for real democratic, economic renewal, which could strengthen engagement with Europe and the wider world.

Will the British people vote to sever their ties with a humongous, arrogant, wealth-consuming bureaucracy which would, if it thought it could get away with it, regulate women’s hair styles on the Continent and in Britain and charge a fee for the power, or will the “majority,” in a democratic referendum, win by a small margin, deciding that their oppression is tolerable and not so bad, and they can't imagine not being in the EU?

One must wonder about the sanity of the latter bloc, just as one can wonder about women who “stand by their wife-beating man” and wouldn’t dream of divorcing the brutes.

One reader of Mullan’s article, David Buckingham, left a comment about the bugbear that seems to be the fallback strategy, democracy.

Great article. Lots of truths. But trust in the dogma of democracy is deeply flawed. Democracy is a sacred cow that needs to be put in its place. Hitler and various other dictators have been voted into power. Democracy on its own is not enough. It is only a mechanism for voicing opinion.

The basic foundational justification for democracy is surely respect for the individual and his opinion. A constitutional republic and rule of law is fundamental to protecting individual rights. Democracy per se can vote them away and vote any dictator into power. Worship of democracy alone can legitimise the most heinous tyranny, will or dictatorship of the majority, if there is no basic constitution protecting individual rights and rule of law.

If the EU was EFTA (European Free Trade Association) – genuine free trade, free market and government-lite – without dictatorial ambition or its corrupt bureaucracy, I'd be all for it. Especially if at the same time the British government had committed whole-heartedly to fascism instead of the present half-hearted approach. I'd be tempted to emigrate to Greece.

The problem is the EU's paranoia and political philosophy, founded on fear of war, conflict and susceptibility to fascism. The final EU solution is Total Fascism under one governing body. It is a product of the continental tradition of collectivism which produced the nightmares of the 20th century.

The UK and its Anglosphere is based on the value of the individual. Democracy is a collectivist mantra which we should not confuse with sovereignty based on the value of the individual and rule of law. The EU disdains individualism hence flagrantly represses representation. It confuses aggressive, militaristic, empire-building, Attila-like statist nationalism for simple national sovereignty. Control over one’s own national affairs is entirely different to the desire for domination over other nations.

Britain should divorce the EU with extreme prejudice and reclaim its sovereignty in full. Then it might have a brighter future.

No comments: