« In defence of the triple lock | Main | In defence of Labour's fiscal rule »

August 02, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Stuart

My Brexit vote was entirely for freedom from an unelected EU cabal. I think that you'll find many of us that admire Dan Hannan think similarly.

Dipper

"the vote for Brexit show[s] strong support for authoritarianism"

sigh. The vote for Brexit was for many people a vote against the authoritarianism of the EU. The vote to make UK parliament sovereign once again is a means of safeguarding our freedoms which the EU was slowly but surely destroying.

"older voters fearing the cultural change that immigration brings". And what if that cultural change is a restriction on individual freedom?

"they trust it to control borders justly and to administer a complex welfare system". No. another reason for voting to leave the EU. The absolute certainty that the EU would enact legislation with decent humanitarian principles and be totally unwilling and incapable of stopping wholesale and massive gaming and violation of those principles to the detriment of the mass of the population.

I feel that the argument presented here is work in progress. I look forward to this being refined in future posts, possibly starting with defining what freedom means for different groups of people in our modern world,

Anarcho

As if the UK government was not undermining our freedoms -- not least with its anti-trade union laws. Thatcherism increased state centralisation and authoritarianism massively -- "free market, strong state".

As for "Freedom now, it seems, has no clients: the last thing crony capitalists want is a truly free market." Capitalists have never wanted freedom -- they have always run to the state to secure their wealth and power.

As Kropotkin put it in 1890:

'Here, in England, there are many amongst the exploiting classes ― who see dimly the danger ahead, and the capitalist press (and more especially that portion which circulates exclusively amongst the capitalist class, such as the trade journals) contains many articles just now urging the most drastic measures against their slaves who dare to rebel against their will and feebly ask for a higher wage or a shorter working week. The interference of the State is loudly demanded to put down these troublesome strikes and labour unions. The strong arm of the law is to be invoked not for but against the worker. “We have too much liberty,” one trade journal of the highest class shrieks in terrified tones; and indeed we shall not be surprised if the workers speedily have to guard against attempts upon such feeble rights of combination and free action as they possess.' ('Use of the Strike', "Direct Struggle Against Capital")

Nothing has changed... and not to mention all the support for capital (like defence of capitalist property rights -- and authority over the workforce).

The notion that capitalism is about freedom has always been optimistic...

chris

@ Stuart, Dipper - I can see that Brexit can increase democracy. But how exactly will it increase freedom? What liberties will we have outside the EU that we don't have now? As far as I can see, Brexit might well lead to a loss of freedom for employers, insofar as they'll be less free to hire whom they want. Where's the offsetting gain of freedom?

Blissex

«freedom from an unelected EU cabal.»
«The vote to make UK parliament sovereign once again is a means of safeguarding our freedoms which the EU was slowly but surely destroying.»

We can disagree on many things, but it is hard to disagree on the relevant fact:

* The elected UK government has always had a right of veto against any non-trivial EU decision. Absolutely no non-trivial EU decision has been passed without the vote of the UK government, which has voted against only 7% of the times even on small issues.

How can people be so delusional to fantasize that the UK veto does not exist?

Those that are against EU membership should do it for reason that are not just mere fantasies.

Dipper

Chris - I think you need to define Freedom. And to distinguish between theoretical but unattainable freedoms and freedom to do something that is actually a viable option.

Blissex. So if the UK government has a right of veto against any-non trivial decision then they could simply have abolished freedom of movement between the UK and the rest of the EU and chosen to have restricted EU immigration? Cameron's negotiations were completely unnecessary because he could just have vetoed anything he didn't like?

Seems like I'm not the only deluded person when it comes to national rights in the EU.

gastro george

@Dipper. Of course the UK has a right of veto about EU immigration. But that means that we have to leave the EU.

The point being that you can't make decisions in isolation, and expect everybody to go along with whatever you want. It's called negotiation.

BCFG

Back in the day you couldn't get through the day without someone saying 'It's a free country'.

I rarely hear that nowadays.

This could be for 4 reasons (or maybe others),

1) No one believes that shit anymore

2) The collapse of the Soviet Union meant the need for that sort of propaganda diminshed. In other words people just tend to parrot what the media say.

3) The rise of the internet along with the states desire to spy on everyone and control everything for 'security' purposes means speaking of freedom is slightly embarrassing.

4) The war on terror, so beloved by the Liz Kendall supporting left, has created a world where authoritarianism 'protects' us from the 'evil doers'.

Dipper

@gastro george. Yes. Exactly. Fully understood and agreed. But Blissex seemed to be saying we had freedom of choice on such matters in the EU.

chris

@ Dipper - lots of books have been written defining freedom, one or two of them worth reading.
I suspect my point is robust to several conceptions of freedom. There certainly seems little demand for more negative liberty, in Berlin's terms. And I'm not even sure that there's much extra demand for substantive real freedom - eg a basic income is only just entering the Overton window.

Blissex

«if the UK government has a right of veto against any-non trivial decision»

The UK government had and still has the absolute right to veto every nontrivial EU decision, and completely block the operation of the EU if they wished. No question about that. Entirely within their independent and sovereign rights.

No non-trivial decision has been ever taken by the EU against the wishes of the democratically elected UK government.

«then they could simply have abolished freedom of movement between the UK and the rest of the EU and chosen to have restricted EU immigration?»

But reciprocal free movement was not an EU decision, on planet Earth at least.

It was a decision made and agreed and confirmed by the UK government: by her majesty's democratically elected ministers in perfect freedom of choice, decades ago.

More recently it was the UK government that insisted on the expansion of the EU and free movement to the low income eastern european states, and demanded that freedom of movement to begin immediately for the UK, while most other countries asked for a period of restrictions.

The UK would have vetoed the eastern european expansion if the UK government's demands as to the expansion of free movement were not met in full.

That's the non-delusional facts on this planet.

Another non-delusional fact is that the veto cannot be used retroactively: you cannot say today "but the previous government should have vetoed it, so we veto it now". Once the voting has happened, it is treaty law. Think twice before you sign on the dotted line.

The UK government has also democratically setup in the past years a point based system for immigration from outside the EU, and through it admitted more immigrants than from the EU. Entirely in a sovereign way.

Changing treaty law is also entirely possible, quite democratically. Go ahead, make a change proposal, and negotiate the change with the other democratically elected governments, who happen to have a veto too. Fair is fair.

The UK is not the only country in the EU with a veto, it is not "Imperial Britain", it cannot send the gunboats to Paris or Helsinki.

The only unilateral option in the EU is to get out entirely, and democratically the UK voted to get out, and to lose the right of free movement from the UK to the EU too.

As to unilateral options, D Cameron quite incredibly was trying to negotiate «to have restricted EU immigration» without restricting UK emigration to the EU, an option chosen by one-two million affluent UK citizens who for the most part are scroungers who do benefit tourism in France and Spain, where they get free health care in the expensive retirement years of their life even if they have paid no national insurance contributions to the french and spanish governments. That is not covered by the EU treaties who apply only to workers.

So the UK government was eager to negotiate extended freedom of movement rights with an additional treaty for these UK benefit tourists to save on the NHS budget.

Those affluent scroungers will probably have to pay full private price for health care in France and Spain after Brexit unless *reciprocal* freedom of movement continues.

Dipper

well thanks Blissex. so basically previous governments made a complete horlicks of our involvement with the EU. The people have quite sensibly voted to end this mess and replace it with a simpler arrangement. The UK government is sovereign; it negotiates with other governments; we get to vote on how they are doing.

As for where this leaves freedom, I'm not convinced that abolishing every rule, regulation, or restriction on the planet would result in everyone being completely free in anything other than a trivially pedantic way.

aragon

https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam-s-jaroslav-fiala/majority-of-hungarians-are-apathetic-indifferent-and-dev

"Paradoxically, what is lacking from liberal democracy today, is socialism. This is the reason why there is no countervailing force that keeps liberal democracy democratic. Today´s ruling classes are not threatened from within. Thus, they can do what even fascists wouldn’t dare to do. They are smashing real wages, pensions, welfare systems, public schools, free healthcare, cheap public transport, cheap social housing and so on. Who will stop the ruling class?"

Blissex

«so basically previous governments made a complete horlicks of our involvement with the EU.»

Perhaps in hindsight! But free movement was very popular with the affluent scroungers who were tired of the NHS queues and wanted the freedom to enjoy free fast healthcare in France and Spain without paying, and it was also very popular with property owners, shopkeepers, small business and large businesses, professional middle classes, pensioners, delighted with the freedom to pay less for service workers from low income east europe.

Free movement is also very popular with younger people who want to have the freedom to go work in Germany or France etc. if there is another recession as that of the early 90s.

But because of the veto there never was a "take back control" case. Indeed the main criticism of the EU is that it is so difficult to get anything done because all members have a right of veto, so only the most banal decisions get made.

Indeed the UK government quite transparently wanted EU expansion not so much to get more cheap immigrants, but primarily to make the veto problem worse.

Leave have won the EU referendum in part because it was based in proportional vote: the people in the North who compete with the immigrants from estern europe for jobs and housing in the south normally waste their vote in non-marginal seats under FPTP.

«The people have quite sensibly voted to end this mess and replace it with a simpler arrangement.»

That remains to be seen, I am not optimistic. The most likely outcome is EFTA membership like Norway, which is 99.99% the same as EU membership, but without the veto, quite ironically.

A Leadsom and D Davis and the other UKIP or "Britannia Unchained" style people want a complete break with just WTO rules like say with Canada or China, because they think that the UK economy is hopeless and the only option is the "Dubai" model, with London as an offshore tax haven for dirty money, and the rest of the UK into a source of cheap servants in competition with cheaper indentured "guest workers" from places like Zimbabwe or Burma. While getting rid of practical freedoms like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Health_Insurance_Card

We'll see what the law of unintended consequences brings.

HR

«Indeed the main criticism of the EU is that it is so difficult to get anything done because all members».

It's really inconceivable that the actual members of the European Union are the citizens of the European Union.

We, The Inconceivable People Of The European Union.

At least, nationalism is alive and kicking.

Two centuries victorious war on democracy in Europe and counting.

God save the queen.

Blissex

«inconceivable that the actual members of the European Union are the citizens of the European Union»

To a large extent the EU is still an inter-state association set up by treaty, not constitution. However the treaties have created a "draft" «citizens of the European Union» legal concept, which creates the four freedoms that many "draft" citizens find valuable.

From the legal concept to it becoming an everyday fact there is a gap, and here there is an all important detail or two that many people seems to miss.

While being shifty mandarins or opportunistic politicians the people who setup the EEC etc. know that "freedom of movement" is absolutely essential to it.

Because "freedom of movement" leads to intermarriage. Familiarity breeds attempt, and then children :-). And men build the future for their children and grandchildren.
The rest is mostly formalities.

Bonnemort

Stop social solidarity (with its annoying side effects of high taxation and high wages) by importing large numbers of new people with totally different cultures. The more unassimilable the culture, the less the chance of social solidarity making a comeback.

See Peter Turchin's world attitudes maps.

http://peterturchin.com/blog/2016/07/20/visualizing-values-mismatch-in-the-european-union/

When the newcomers manifest their culture in what appears to the natives to be antisocial and violent ways, blame the natives for their racism and restrict their freedom of speech and association.

When the violence becomes explicitly political, introduce draconian "anti-terror" laws and the surveillance state, which has the happy side effect of keeping tabs on uppity natives.

Then ask sadly "Whatever happened to freedom?"

BCFG

I am with Blissex here. And I think is belief that we are heading toward:

"London as an offshore tax haven for dirty money, and the rest of the UK into a source of cheap servants in competition with cheaper indentured "guest workers" from places like Zimbabwe or Burma"

is how I see it too. More of a feudal state.

Add to this the likely scrapping of EU laws to protect the environment etc and this adds up to a decision that is as far removed from sensible as it is possible to get.

What we have to understand is how can people actively vote for something that makes little sense?

One reason is something this site often raises, i.e. peoples inability to make connections. So for most people this was an either or option, they could not think of the third option, fight to reform the EU itself given the consequences of Brexit. To be fair the media never presented the arguments for this option and all nuance was put to one side in order that the theatre of Gove/Johnson v Cameron/Osborne could play out. This is where personality politics gets you!

The problem with the remain vote argument was that it was aimed at the most 'privileged' layer of the working class or Middle classes: the EU was good for workers rights when many workers in the UK have very few rights, it argued for free movement of people when most people never move to jobs outside their own nation and it argued that people living in the EU may be forced back to the UK when most people have never left the village.

I suspect the Middle classes will still have an army of cheap service workers to call upon!

This is the tragedy of this vote, it was carried by people who have seen their rights and conditions worsened but the vote to leave the EU will very likely make their plight even worse. Give it a decade and they will be doffing their caps once more!

Decades of tabloid bile and brainwashing certainly came to it's apotheosis with this vote.

And to think some claim the right do not attempt to change the electorate. For them it is a 24/7 industry!!!

Bob

"The elected UK government has always had a right of veto against any non-trivial EU decision. Absolutely no non-trivial EU decision has been passed without the vote of the UK government, which has voted against only 7% of the times even on small issues."

Correct. But elected governments since the 1980s have been neoliberal. But how do you reverse the decision? You can't.

Bob

"That remains to be seen, I am not optimistic. The most likely outcome is EFTA membership like Norway, which is 99.99% the same as EU membership, but without the veto, quite ironically."

Yes, they will make a complete hash of it. What a joke.

Blissex

«But elected governments since the 1980s have been neoliberal.»

That's how democracy works with FPTP voting: what the median rentier swing voter in the median southern english market town marginal consistency wants, they get. if they are neoliberal "Blow you! I am all right Jack" voters, too bad for everybody else. The majority wins, the minority loses.

One day perhaps people will regard the real turning point in UK politics as the first referendum D Cameron called, the one on replacing FPTP, and that he won, and resulted in him having a parliamentary majority with 28% of the votes.

«But how do you reverse the decision? You can't.»

That's indeed a bit of a problem: not only enacting EU laws requires no vetoes, but also changing them does. So it is not impossible, but quite difficult, because you have to buy off those countries that benefit from existing rules.

In real federations the rule is that the federal government can make and unmake laws based on majority voting, and no parliament can bind future parliaments.

But the EU is not like that, and changing existing decisions is a known issue, because there is little scope for majority voting, because the EU government does not have a direct popular mandate.

As a result the EU is near powerless, with less than 1% of the EU GDP for budget and most of it allocated by formula, and very limited areas of competence, mainly about product standards.

The idea, also underwritten by the german constitutional court, is that when and if member states decide to have a directly elected government, then majority voting can happen.

But that requires one-person-one-vote, and France (and the UK) does not want to give Germany that.

It is quite sad that Brexiteers have been seduced by the fantasy that the EU is a federal superstate where decisions are imposed on member states, cover many critical areas of national policy, and are made by bureaucrats instead of democratically elected politicians. Ironically that is more the description of the United Kingdom.

I could have understood Brexit "take back control" more if there had been a long history of the UK government having had to constantly veto other country proposals, or if UK proposals were constantly vetoed by all other countries, or even if the UK had been constantly outvoted on small issues where majority voting (demanded by M Thatcher) applies. But none of this has happened.

Blissex

«More of a feudal state.»
«What we have to understand is how can people actively vote for something that makes little sense?»

Another one of my usual arguments is that in anglo-american countries the affluent middle classes have been seduced with the mirage of a "plantation economy": the affluent swing-voting middle classes as ladies and lords of the mini-suburban-manor, served deferentially by the lower classes in competition with "guest workers" to work harder at lower wages and pay bigger rents to their superiors.

Those who think they are entitled to a lifestyle of ladies and lords of the mini-suburban-manor voting for «More of a feudal state» has been a habit since the early 1980s.

More feudalism and authoritarianism is *popular* with the elderly affluent middle classes who watch "Downton Abbey" and have read "Pride and prejudice" (which is in essence average women's "aspirational" hardcore porn).

Blissex

«Back in the day you couldn't get through the day without someone saying 'It's a free country'. [ ... ] a world where authoritarianism 'protects' us from the 'evil doers'.»

Quite ironically there is this amazing sensible very british movie about the dangers of authoritarianism from the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1946, saying for example that a "slanted" distribution of income is undemocratic:

https://youtu.be/ki-cbSrZB7s?t=279

and the classic book on authoritarianism:

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

My guess is that current authoritarianism is supported by the greater number of fearful elderly voters, who generally think that they only have something to lose, and are thus terrified of risk and change. I guess many people have some elderly "hang and flog everybody" old aunt or colonel blimp style uncle.

Bob

My main issue with the EU is freedom of movement and state aid rules rather than "take back control" though. In addition the ECJ can override the European Parliament. We can't have that in the UK because we have a Parliament Act and the courts can only government to account, not parliament.

take for example the Viking decision:

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

Bob

"I could have understood Brexit "take back control""

It was a meaningless slogan.

Blissex

«freedom of movement»

That appeared to be not a big issue, and a very nice freedom for UK citizens, until the UK-driven expansion to very low-income eastern european countries.

Wage competition from german, french, italian, even spanish workers did not seem a big deal, obviously.

As a UK worker for example I would not see a problem with freedom of movement with the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, all of which have comparable wage levels, and I would like that additional freedom.

But of course employers don't care about that: they care a lot about getting "guest workers" with no rights from much lower wage countries.

«and state aid rules»

More precisely those rules are against *single state* aid, that is one state subsidizing competition against other states. Similar rules apply to preferential government orders (with obvious exceptions).

Without them a single market can't work, unless state aid applies to all members; anyhow they are largely WTO rules, for the same reasons, and the UK won't be able to do state aid even outside the EU, except in areas outside WTO applicability, like farming.

As to that, since state aid rules don't apply in the same way to finance, the UK has been able to do truly massive state aid to City fraudster banks in 2008, being outside the eurozone.

As to EU-wide state aid, there have always been some schemes that provide state aid to *all* member countries, obviously the CAP.

And the current "we'll buy almost anything" ECB policy is in effect state aid to banks, on a whole-eurozone basis (even if clearly targeted at spanish, italian, french banks).

«In addition the ECJ can override the European Parliament»

That's the norm in all formal-constitution (or treaty) based countries, including the USA, where the formal-constitution exists to protect the interests of the non-governing minority.

It is thus essential in the EU to prevent a majority of countries from screwing over a minority in some sneaky way.

Consider the scottish government case: they don't have a veto and don't have recourse to the courts either.
That may yet drive them out of the UK.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad