Welcome to Objectivism Online Forum

Welcome to Objectivism Online, a forum for discussing the philosophy of Ayn Rand. For full access, register via Facebook or email.

Adrian Roberts

British European Union referendum

Rate this topic

29 posts in this topic

What do Objectivists on this forum think about the EU Referendum? Should the UK leave or remain in the European Union?

 

I am especially interested to hear what other British forum members think, but Americans or members of any other nationality are welcome to give their perspective;

 

Undoubtedly, the European Union is bureaucratic, controlling; clearly a statist organisation. But it was intended to be an organisation to break down national boundaries and allow freedom of trade and business. It was intended to facilitate Capitalism; contrary to the some of it’s opponents it is not a Socialist organisation – social democrat maybe, reflecting the governments of many of the component states.  And of course it became bloated and bureaucratic: that is human nature; show me an organisation that hasn’t.

 

The above suggests that I am making excuses for it; admittedly I am leaning towards voting to stay in, if only as a “least worst” option. But I have not yet totally made up my mind. Are the “Leave” camp any less statist? During the 1975 referendum, I was too young to vote, but I remember thinking that those who wanted to leave the EEC (as it was called then) were the extremists on both sides: Tony Benn on the Left; Enoch Powell on the Right. It is the same today. Generally the extreme Left want to leave. Admittedly Jeremy Corbyn has said he is in favour of  staying in (for Americans: he is the leader of the Labour Party; makes Bernie Sanders look like Milton Friedman). This may be more about the unity of his party than his personal convictions. But the likes of George Galloway (makes Lenin look like Milton Friedman) are certainly in favour of leaving: the Left certainly don’t see the EU as a socialist organisation.

 

The Right Wing elements of the Leave campaign certainly present themselves as individualists, who seek freedom from being controlled by unelected bureaucrats. But their policies would involve a considerable degree of Trade Protectionism and therefore state interference in British Industry. And many would seek to restrict individual freedom in areas of abortion and sexuality. Nigel Farage is presented as the acceptable face of the United Kingdom Independence Party, and he is probably relatively Libertarian and secular. But in his party and the others of the Right, there are a lot of people who would like to control people’s sexuality, and discriminate against ethnic minorities and women, which can only be done by state interference. There is also an undercurrent of religious motivation among the extreme right; some are evangelical Christians who believe that the EU is the “beast” of the book of Revelation.

 

I am not going to be voting for reasons of nationalism or patriotism. These sentiments have no place in Objectivism. Certainly “my country right or wrong” is not justifiable using Reason. If the honest application of Reason leads us to see that our country or lifestyle is preferable to other countries, that would be a different matter. In fact the values of Britain and the USA probably are superior to most others in terms of individual liberty and affluent lifestyles – but that can he said about most of the EU countries. The question of Immigration plays a large part in the EU debate, often as a cover for racism. But Objectively, it should be purely a practical issue about how many more people can be allowed into the country and how we can control the flow.

 

So, the choice should be made purely on the basis of which option is best for the economy of the nation and therefore best for me, and on whether leaving or staying gives us more or less control over immigration. And frankly it is very difficult to decide on the answers to these when experts give totally opposing predictions. I fear that a huge decision for the nation will be decided purely by the prejudices or at best the gut feelings of the voters, rather than on reasoned analysis.

 

Has the reasoned analysis of anyone here led them to a specific conclusion?

softwareNerd likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Adrian Roberts,

Regarding the UK vs EU, I've learned more about the subject from your post than I have from casually listening to BBC broadcasts (which I normally hear everyday). This Objectivist can only offer an opinion based on limited facts and understanding of your problems, especially the sensitive subject of minorities. Overall, anything that improves economic outcomes is best. But trade agreements usually come with controversy, even violent protests from wage-earners effected by job-loss. 

I found your explanation of the political divisions within the various parties interesting. As you know, we are having an uprising of nativist sentiment here in the US. So, I understand emotional reactions are unavoidable. But most of the immigrant labor in the US are assimilating within reasonable terms for absorbing our Latino newcomers. How would you assess the immigrants and their chances of Anglo-assimilation? In other words, are they learning the language and customs, or segregating into ghettos, or both?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The EU is more than just a free trade zone. Its other (probably more ambitious and important) purpose is to promote equality in the face of the law (in the same way the US Constitution does)  for all its citizens.

It's THAT PART that British nationalists are opposed to. They would like to keep the free trade agreements, but get rid of the other part. British nationalists, like all nationalists, would like to have two standards: one for Britons, another for non-Britons. The EU does not allow that. The EU mandates equality. Britain, or any other government within the EU, cannot deny access to jobs and public services to any EU citizens. It must treat all EU citizens the same way it treats British citizens.

Of course, that equality clause is crucial, for any political entity that is meant to be free. Without it, Europe would look more like the districts in Hunger Games than a free political entity.

4 hours ago, Adrian Roberts said:

 and on whether leaving or staying gives us more or less control over immigration.

If you want control over EU citizens movements to and from Britain, and their access to the job market and public services (in other words, if you wish the British government to discriminate against EU citizens who aren't British), then your only choice is to leave the EU. The EU allows you NO CONTROL over that. NONE. The EU mandates that all its citizens must be treated equally by all government entities. This is very similar to the equality clause in the US Constitution. The only differences are that these protections tend to be implemented gradually for new member countries, and there are some small concessions that allow welfare benefits to be withheld from so-called "welfare tourists". But that's about it. Beyond that, Britain has no more control over let's say a French citizen who wishes to move to London than the government of California has over a Texan who wishes to move to LA. That is how the EU works. That is not negotiable...and Britain agreed to it, same as all the other members. 

However, if that's not your issue (you're fine with EU citizens having equal rights), then immigration really isn't an issue at all in this. Britain has full control over whether or not it accepts non-EU immigrants. The EU doesn't force member states to accept non-EU immigrants. There are some voices on the left saying that it should (have a common immigration policy, like the US does), but, as of now, that is a non-issue.

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is certainly true that most of the Leave faction want to have their cake and eat it. It is often said that if we vote to leave, the negotiations are likely to be protracted and messy, and leave us in limbo for a long time, probably years, which won't be great for the economy, especially investment and therefore employment. Even if ultimately we can do better out of the EU, the effects of the change will be very long-lasting.

In terms of immigration: I don't think too many people have a problem with French or Polish people coming over here to work, especially as an equal number of Brits work in other EU countries. There is concern about what happens if Turkey joins the EU, but other EU countries have the same reservations. The main concern at present is the refugees from the middle east and North Africa, and the possibility of terrorists using the refugee routes as cover. I wonder whether, if we were not in the EU, the French would simply allow all theirs to come over here, and we would be faced with huge refugee camps similar to the one in Calais. So, to what extent do we sacrifice our own needs for others?

Most of our immigrants are nothing to do with the EU; they come from the Commonwealth Nations, in particular Nigeria, India and Pakistan. In that sense, we are the victim of our own success in creating a comparatively pleasant society. There are some localities in the big cities dominated by various immigrant communities, and no doubt there are some jihadist mullahs in some of the mosques, and some people especially the older women who have never learned to speak English. But the majority have assimilated very well. Sometimes their young people in the poorer areas form into criminal gangs, but so do some disaffected white youths. Of course immigration has to be controlled, but the country would grind to a halt without it's ethnic minorities. The National Health Service is largely staffed by Nigerians and Zimbabweans (at least in London - and I'm not exaggerating; in my NHS team I am the only white male). If we go out for a meal we will almost always go to an Indian curry house; the plumbers and electricians are mostly Polish; Starbucks and Pizza Express are mainly run by Czechs; and the prostitutes are mainly Hungarian (I'm told!)

Repairman likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pat Condell : "The Moment of Truth"

A good plea in general, with only a few weaker points.

As usual, every claim P. Condell makes is backed up by a link below the video.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, certainly the Leave people such as Condell are more passionate than the Stay campaigners. The question is, where does Reason take us?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right reasons can certainly provide a quality fuel stoking the fires of passion.

The document on EU citizens' rights and freedoms raises questions such as:

  • What is the difference between human rights and individual rights?
  • The charter incorporates fundamental social and economic rights, such as the rights of workers to collective bargaining, to take strike action . . . contrasted with an individual business owners' right to their property and enterprises?
  • Title IV of the Charter, which contains economic and social rights, — again, are all individual rights upheld, or does the individual get sacrificed to the group under an ever—expanding expediency of the moment?
  • Traders have the right to consider the entire European Union as a potential market and therefore to purchase in any of the Member States and sell anywhere in the Union without any import duties or quantitative restrictions. — Is this a prohibition on the EU to regulate commerce, or a usurpation on behalf of the EU to set the terms in the future?
  • The citizens have the right to purchase goods - such as cars, electric and electronic appliances or clothes - in any one country of the Union at the conditions prevailing in that country and to take them to their country of origin without paying customs duties or any tax supplements. — Is this just a reiteration of the previous point with the same implication?

I ran across another similar statement regarding what amounts to universal health care in the EU.

Reason, at one point in the course of human history, led to the recognition of individual rights as the governing principle. Europe did not follow America's pursuit of that ideal then.

While a British exit may not put Britain on the path of moving toward such an ideal now, it would clearly withdraw their sanction.

 

When the Southern States wanted to succeed from the Union preceding the War Between the State, the argument that the Individual Rights of the slaves underscored the Moral Right of the Northern States to engage in battle and overrode the notion that it was just economic considerations that brought it about, or a more benign reasoning of voluntary association.

If the Brits choose to exit the EU, can it be done so peaceably at this point? How will the remaining smoldering embers of the EU fair in such an aftermath?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, AlexL said:

Pat Condell : "The Moment of Truth"

A good plea in general, with only a few weaker points.

As usual, every claim P. Condell makes is backed up by a link below the video.

Yes, that's the big battle cry of the nationalists: do we want political power in the hands of a European "dictatorship", or do we want political power in the hands of a democratically elected "British government".

But that's not very factual, now is it? Fact is, the European government is just as much democratically elected, and in no way less representative, than the British government. It's not true that one is a dictatorship, and the other a free government. Brussels is just as much elected (including by Britons) as London is (and there's also no discernible difference between how much either supports freedom, they both have a mixed ideology).

The only difference is, one government represents a single nation (actually, not even that, it represents a few nations, but the dominant nation, which calls the shots, and sometimes uses military power to enforce those calls, is England), while the European government represents a lot of nations. And British nationalists don't like that, because they, IRRATIONALLY, believe in the superiority of their own nation.

That's all this is. The whole "we just want a representative government" battle cry is a deceptive sham. This is not like the American Revolution. American colonists didn't get a vote, in the 18th century. The American colonies revolted because they WEREN'T REPRESENTED in the British government.

Meanwhile, the British nationalists are trying (and failing, they are nowhere near winning this referendum) to revolt because non-British Europeans have the same rights they have, in the European political system. That's unconscionable to them. The British are supposed to be superior to the dirty Eastern Europeans. How can everyone get to have the same say?

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

If the Brits choose to exit the EU, can it be done so peaceably at this point? How will the remaining smoldering embers of the EU fair in such an aftermath?

Yes (in fact there's no way it would be done in any other way but peaceably...who would use military force over Britain exiting the EU? Britain is a nuclear superpower.), and:

just fine. The EU isn't dependent on Britain in any significant way. There would be some temporary negative economic effect to both sides (mostly to Britain, but some to the EU as well), but, eventually, a new free trade agreement would likely be negotiated between continental Europe and Britain.

If anything, the biggest impact would involve Britain and the rest of the world. The western world as a whole (especially the US, if Hillary Clinton wins the elections...which she will), would not be very pleased about the British government obstructing globalization by leaving the EU. So, Mrs. Clinton (who is married to one of the principle architects of globalization, Bill Clinton) will no doubt seek to punish a British exit from the EU by making the terms of a British-US trade agreement as harsh as possible. Britain will definitely not get the same deal they currently enjoy, as an EU member. It would be a one sided negotiation (because the US is the biggest economy in the world, and Britain is a fraction of that), against a spiteful negotiating partner in the Clinton administration. (and, while this is irrelevant because he won't win, Donald Trump, judging by his past remarks on free trade, wouldn't be all that much more amicable).

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

I ran across another similar statement regarding what amounts to universal health care in the EU.

...  ...

While a British exit may not put Britain on the path of moving toward such an ideal now, it would clearly withdraw their sanction.

Since Britain has universal health care (the "NHS"). So, they're in agreement with the EU on that score at least, whether they're in or out. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Nicky said:

Fact is, the European government is just as much democratically elected, and in no way less representative, than the British government...

 

Pat Condell speaks about "unelected" EU government ("The European Union was design from the outset to take care of the problem [the need for democratic consent] by removing the people from the governing process entirely", min. 1:26

Now… P. Condell is a noted British commentator and should know at least some basic facts about the functioning of the EU. If he says the EU government is unelected, then he is lying, that is deliberately speaking falsehoods – presumably because he, as a nationalist, has an agenda.

Therefore we have to check ourselves the facts about the European government to see if Condell is wrong (or lying) on this. According to Wikipedia article "European Union legislative procedure":

- "The Commission operates as a cabinet government." "Most legislation needs to be proposed by the European Commission (EC) and approved by the Council of the European Union in order to become law".

- "The European Commission has a virtual monopoly on the introduction of legislation into the legislative process, a power which gives the Commission considerable influence as an agenda setter for the EU as a whole". The European Commission has one representative from each of the 28 member state and these "are bound by their oath of office to represent the general interest of the EU as a whole rather than their home state".

- These 28 Commissioners are not elected; neither is elected the EC administrative body of about 23,000 "civil servants."

Unelected is also the Council of the European Union. Only the European Parliament is elected, but "it does not formally possess legislative initiative, as most national parliaments of European Union member states do".  Neither does it determine the composition of the executive government – member states do, as described above.

Therefore, P. Condell is perfectly right: the EU government (that is the European Commission) monopolizes in practice all the legislative and executive powers, while being unelected.

So… maybe Condell says what he says not because he is a nationalist but because it is true.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, AlexL said:

 

Pat Condell speaks about "unelected" EU government ("The European Union was design from the outset to take care of the problem [the need for democratic consent] by removing the people from the governing process entirely", min. 1:26

 

Now… P. Condell is a noted British commentator and should know at least some basic facts about the functioning of the EU. If he says the EU government is unelected

 

I'm gonna stop you right there, because you just moved the goalposts. He didn't just make a technical point about whether some EU officials are elected directly or not. He is calling the EU a dictatorship, in contrast to Britain (which he's calling a democracy).

If your standard for a dictatorship is that a political entity doesn't just have directly elected officials, but also some who are appointed by elected officials, then every political entity on the planet is a dictatorship. They all have both elected officials and appointed officials. No political entity elects everyone in the government directly. Still doesn't make the EU any more of a dictatorship than Britain. If anything, Britain, which has a monarch and a large royal family (which, unlike the EU bureaucrats, who are appointed by elected officials, REALLY DOESN'T represent the people) siphoning away public resources, and often engaging in public policy, is more of a dictatorship than the EU.

Quote

- These 28 Commissioners are not elected;

No, they're not elected, but they are appointed by people who ARE elected: member countries. Every member country in the EU has elected leadership. None of them are dictatorships. So how exactly does a process where elected officials send representatives of their choosing to a central commission amount to a dictatorship?

More importantly, how does that prove the original claim, that the EU is a dictatorship and Britain is different? Is everyone who is in a position of power in Britain elected?

Quote

neither is elected the EC administrative body of about 23,000 "civil servants."

Right. Again: the original argument wasn't that "some people in the EU are not elected directly". The original argument was that the EU is a dictatorship, while Britain is different.

So, why state that EU civil servants are not elected? How does that prove your point that the EU is different from Britain? Are British civil servants elected?

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, AlexL said:

Unelected is also the Council of the European Union.

Oh I just spotted this one. Yeah, this one is a gem:

Do you know who sits on that council? National ministers. I repeat: national ministers. One from each member state. (which one depends on the topic being discussed...but it's always national ministers, always one from each country).

So the argument you're making is that countries like BRITAIN having unelected people as members of their cabinets makes the EU less democratic than BRITAIN?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's remember that I was challenging your claim:

On 6/1/2016 at 6:34 AM, Nicky said:

Fact is, the European government is just as much democratically elected, and in no way less representative, than the British government.

Fact is, the European government is just as much democratically elected, and in no way less representative, than the British government...

I don't know enough about the British government, so let's drop the comparison and judge the EU governance on its own merits. In essence, you claim that in the EU the power is exercised by elected organisms. Power means primarily legislative power and executive power. Almost everywhere, the executive power (cabinet, President) is not directly elected, except maybe the President. In EU the situation is similar, so let's forget about the cabinet and concentrate on the legislative – arguably the most important power.

The only elected organ in the EU is the EU Parliament; it is directly elected. But it does not have legislative powers – unlike any other parliaments I know about.

(We are not discussing the value (or non-value) for an organism of being elected; we are trying to establish the facts relevant to the claim of yours that I've challenged.)

The legislative power is – for all practical purposes - in the hands of the European Commission (EC). (Curiously, it detains also the executive powers!… no separation here…). Let's see now to what extent is this European Commission, the locus of legislative power,  elected.

It is not directly elected by the people, unlike everywhere. The 28 future members of the EC are recommended by the member states. By whom exactly? There seems to be no unified rule for all member states. Possibly some are recommended by the respective Parliaments, or governments, or presidents. In any case, they are not recommended by organisms specialized – elected or not - in European affairs, but by organisms named or elected for internal affairs. Moreover, those candidates, once confirmed, do not represent the interests of the member states, but of the EU (they swear an oath in this sense). This means: no national constituency to which they are responsible.

Further, the recommended commissioners follow a procedure similar to the confirmations of a government by the Parliament, where the entire cabinet, not every member, is confirmed or rejected. This is perfectly OK in their quality of members in a government, but not at all as legislators.

A very strange construct… I can see, in part, the logic of it – all member states should participate on equal terms. But:

- it has a parliament with practically no legislative powers,

-the executive being the legislative at the same time (!!)

-and, if one can say that it it elected, then indirectly, with who knows now many levels of indirection

Which means that the main component of the EU governance – the legislative – is, unlike what is the case in a normal country, far from being really elected in the usual sense.

But I find the EU, as it evolved from the 1950s, a wrong construct for a different reason. It started as a kind of a free trade zone, but it was then perverted by post modern fashions like level playing field, thus eliminating real competition by detailed regulations in production, finance, social legislation, wages, and so on. And regarding the countries outside the EU, it is very protectionist.

If one is a socialist, the real EU as it is now is a good thing, an efficient tool for statism. If one is an adept of freedom, or a nationalist, one is against.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, AlexL said:

Let's remember that I was challenging your claim:

 

Fact is, the European government is just as much democratically elected, and in no way less representative, than the British government...

 

I don't know enough about the British government, so let's drop the comparison and judge the EU governance on its own merits.

No, let's instead stay on topic. The thread is about the merits of Britain leaving the EU. And the subject of our conversation is the video you posted, claiming that the EU is a dictatorship, and Britain is better. Defend that video, or admit that it's indefensible. Don't change the subject.

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, AlexL said:

The legislative power is – for all practical purposes - in the hands of the European Commission (EC).

That's not true. The EC is an executive body, not a legislative one. The fact that they can initiate legislation doesn't change that: most European governments (including Britain) operate the same way: legislation usually originates with the cabinet, not in Parliament.

And this system is not THAT different from the US one. Sure, in the US, in theory, it's elected officials who are writing the laws. But that's only in theory. In practice, it's their staff doing all the work. So, really, the option is, who would you rather have writing laws: anonymous, unelected and unappointed congressional staffers, or appointed, high ranking cabinet members/EC members.

I don't see how the latter is any less democratic or pro-freedom than the former. In fact it's clearly the superior option: the appointed ministers/commissioners tend to be leaders in their fields, and they're in the public spotlight, their actions are carefully scrutinized. Congressional staffers work in the bowels of the DC establishment, freely coordinating with interest groups and lobbyists, accountable to pretty much no one.

 

5 hours ago, AlexL said:

If one is a socialist, the real EU as it is now is a good thing, an efficient tool for statism. If one is an adept of freedom, or a nationalist, one is against.

As I mentioned above, the EU protects personal freedom by limiting the power of nation states to restrict travel and market access, or in any way discriminate against EU citizens. It also protects social freedoms, and provides justice when nation states might not (the EU justice system acts as a last resort when local courts are corrupt or politically driven...at the behest of nationalists, for instance). In other words, it protects freedom by thwarting nationalists. Without the EU, hundreds of millions of people would no longer enjoy access to all European markets, and equality in the fact of local governments and courts, by right. Instead, they would be at the whim of national governments. For SOME, things might stay the same: national governments might still graciously ALLOW them access to their markets, and entry into their territories. But it would no longer be a constitutionally guaranteed right.

You, on the other hand, have offered no arguments to back up your position. You haven't listed a single way in which the EU is inferior to national governments, in terms of promoting freedom.

The EU DOES NOT promote socialism. It also doesn't prevent it (the EU is socialist to whatever extent Europeans wish it to be), but it DOES prevent nationalism. And, if one is an advocate of freedom, one is for that. If one is a nationalist, then, and only then, is one against that.

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will be voting to leave the EU. 

I haven't time to write my full analysis. A list of my reasons are:

1. Pressures on infrastructure & services (incl. police, NHS) from EU migration

2.Pressures on the housing sector from EU migration - in London you now have to earn £80k to afford an average home.

3. Failed economics - look at high taxation, high unemployment, excessive regulatory regimes, Greece et al. The credit crunch revealed inherent weaknesses in the ability of nations in the Euro to stabilise their economies.

4. Floods of new legislation, regulatory orders, including one to force the closure of coal power stations, which according to some analyst (e.g. Professor Tovey) is leading the UK towards power shortages from 2020 onwards, increasing energy prices & dependence.

5. Threats of taxation on British banking - veiled as universal but falling heavier on the UK

6. A massive share of EU contributions is spent on subsidising farming

7. A massive share of EU contributions goes on bureacracy and excessive MEP pay and expenses.

8. Powerful positions taken up by people who are unelected & unaccountable

9. EU finances unaudited

10. Desires to create an EU superstate, also military force is not all about peace in Europe

11. In the UK access to the justice system has got much worse over time

12. The UK is a net contributor to the EU, leaving would mean we would be better able to reduce the deficit and fund essential services, improving the lives of our citizens

13. The UK through leaving would still be able to trade with the EU and any short term impacts would more than be compensated for longer term. Some think the EU would act to penalise the UKs trade with it - I don't think that would be consistent with capitalist ideals but it would be with collectivism.

14. The US (vested interests) makes a big fuss of us being its main access point of influence in the EU and if we leave this might have an impact on our "special relationship" with the US. The US would have to respect a decision to leave and again threatening punishment for not cooperating politically is not consistent with capitalist principles of voluntary mutual consent.

15. Substandard policymaking. E.g. human rights, fisheries, environment, energy...

16. The list goes on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jon's list of reasons for Leaving is more thoughtful than many.

I am noticing that if you ask British people which way they will vote, the answer is either: "Definitely Leave, we will definitely be freer and better-off", or "I'm not really sure but I guess probably Remain I suppose".

People, including me, are trying to balance the arguments for not trusting the EU as in Jon's list, with the risk that if we leave it will cause financial and legislative chaos, with the hope of an eventual improvement not being a foregone conclusion. In many ways, the stated benefits of Leaving appeal to my ideals of individualism and self-determination; the same reasons that Objectivism appeals. But what happens if we Leave the EU and then get a Corbyn government? We will have even less freedom and more state control and probably less affluence due to his socialist policies, without the restraint and safety-net that the EU could provide.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. About the exact subject of the conversation we are having, you and me.

As I was the one who started this conversation, namely by challenging a specific claim of yours, it follows that the subject of this conversation is that claim ("the European government is just as much democratically elected, and in no way less representative, than the British government.")

2. Concerning my claim that the legislative power is in the hands of the European Commission: you are correct, my claim it is not quite exact. In fact, only the legislative initiative is in the hands of the Commission, the legislation is then sent for approval to the Council of the European Union and finally to the Parliament.

What is peculiar here is the fact that the Parliament has no authority to propose legislation, unlike any other parliament. Also special is the following fact: a normal Government (and President) is quite directly accountable to the country's citizens through the periodic elections (every 5 ears or so), sometimes even between elections (non-confidence vote and such).

In contrast, the EU Government, that is the Commission, is not similarly accountable to the citizens, is not renewed or reconfirmed periodically. Also, as I already mentioned, they are elected in a very indirect mode. As a consequence, while they detain an extraordinarily big power over about half a billion people, they, the 28 Commission members plus the Commission President, are practically unknown to the general public, unlike the President and the local government members.

3. You wrote:

19 hours ago, Nicky said:

in the US, in theory, it's elected officials who are writing the laws. But that's only in theory. In practice, it's their staff doing all the work... Who would you rather have writing laws: anonymous, unelected and unappointed congressional staffers, or appointed, high ranking cabinet members/EC members.

You probably misspoke here! :huh: Do you mean that in the US legislation is proposed by the Congressmen staffers (who thus have the legislative initiative!) and then sent to the Congress for approval?? No, the Congressmen are assisted by their staff in writing the laws, exactly in the same way the EC members are assisted by their staff. Using your logic, I could say that it is the EC member's staff that "is doing all the work"!

4. As I mentioned in my previous post, all this is much less important than the philosophy the European Union is implementing nowadays, in fact since about 1985-90.

It is getting late here and I will continue along these lines - the current philosophy of EU - in a follow-up comment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/3/2016 at 6:51 AM, Nicky said:

[...]

4. As I mentioned in my previous post, all this is much less important than the philosophy the European Union is implementing nowadays, in fact since about 1985-90.

First of all I have to state the standard against which I judge the current ideology of the European Union, the British EU Referendum and all this.

EU started in the 1950s simply as purely commercial agreement for a free trade zone. In the commercial realm, my standard is the following:

any citizen of a country should have the freedom to trade with any citizen of any other country, without any government-imposed restrictions

I consider this a natural right of any citizen from any country. Government should not have the right to restrict the economic activity of its citizens (both buying and selling), neither inside the country, nor outside it. The European reality in the 1950s is the existence of all kinds of trade barriers. Any such restriction is an abuse and, therefore, any weakening or suppression is welcomed. In my view, even unilateral suppression of trade barriers is an excellent thing, but bilateral or multilateral agreements between countries are even better. In my view, no agreements should be necessary, because the freedom of trade should be treated as a natural right, not as a favor granted only if there is reciprocity.

I do not know how free was the trade in the European free trade zone in the 50s to 80s. In any case, the trade with the countries outside the European zone was subject to all kind of restrictions; the (false) idea was that if there is no reciprocity, this is bad for Europe's economy.

Starting with the 70s-80s, the welfare state (an element of socialism!) was gradually introduced. Then, the next "great" idea was that of the level-paying field: if some country has an advantage, like less social expenses, lower wages or better climate for agricultural products, this means an unfair competition from other countries. Solution: drive the prices in "unfairly" advantaged countries up. Methods: impose product quality standardization, equal or at least comparable social standards (salaries, working conditions, firing restrictions), and so on. 

When EU admitted new members, all these restrictions were imposed on the new members as conditions for their admission in "the club", including those of a socialist and equalitarian nature. If some members were financially incapable of matching the welfare standards of the richer countries, transfer payments were collected from the richer ones.

Thus, the simple free trade zone became an exclusive club, where the more affluent members had to pay membership fees to be transferred as solidarity contributions to the others… All these payments became levers used for economic bullying, whenever EU found it useful to impose further conditions on the beneficiaries, like adopting fashionable legislation, such as positive discrimination and politically correct speech codes.

Before returning to Brexit, I would briefly discuss the case of Switzerland, which is not member of the EU. Contrary to the wish of the Government and Parliament, in several referendums Switzerland refused to adhere to the European Union. As EU refused to conclude simple free trade agreements and insisted in imposing a "level playing field", Switzerland had to negotiate and accept complex so-called Bilateral Agreements, which included accepting EU product standards, taxation standards, environmental norms, access to private bank accounts, taking over of some EU legislation and so on. The two Bilaterals were approved by referendum, but not very enthusiastically: by 55% and 65%.

Switzerland could probably have negotiated better terms, but the majority of the Government and Parliament were not interested, because the political parties were mostly for adherence to EU. Moreover, the weight of the Swiss economy is relatively modest and the pressure on EU on the part of their businesses was less then impressive…

I guess UK is, as mindset, similar to Switzerland: more independent, productive, self-reliant. It has, therefore, a better chance outside the EU. Of course, EU will not simply let UK citizens and businesses trade with the EU citizens and businesses unless UK concludes free trade agreements, probably with the each individual EU country, which will be an opportunity for EU to impose additional and unrelated conditions. Moreover, the UK economy is much bigger than the one of Switzerland, so that the pressure on the EU Commission and Parliament on the part of EU businesses will be greater. But by leaving the EU, UK will not be compelled to automatically adopt all the social "innovations" of the EU on its road to soft socialism. Therefore, its future will depend more of itself and thus it can have a better chance.

This is why I am for Brexit.

The above also implies that your claim that one can be for brexit only if one is a nationalist, is false.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, AlexL said:

any citizen of a country should have the freedom to trade with any citizen of any other country, without any government-imposed restrictions

 

 

 

I consider this a natural right of any citizen from any country.

I don't know how familiar you are with Objectivism, but Ayn Rand did not advocate for this concept you're using, of a "natural right". Instead, she advocated for a rationally derived, INTEGRATED system of individual rights.

Here's why the difference is important: in Ayn Rand's system, you have a certain set of rights, but you also have one important (negative) obligation: to abstain from violating other people's rights.

In other words, NO, as long as you insist on violating some of my rights, you DO NOT HAVE some "natural" right that you found laying in a field somewhere, to freely trade with any citizen of any other country. You can agree to respect my rights, ALL OF THEM, or you can be treated as hostile to the extent that you do not. Those are the options.

I grant you the right to freely trade with everyone in my country, you don't grant me the right to freely travel and seek employment in your country (a form of trade, by the way...an inconvenient form, the elimination of which is the main motivating force behind the Brexit campaign): sorry, that's not gonna work.

5 hours ago, AlexL said:

I guess UK is, as mindset, similar to Switzerland: more independent, productive, self-reliant. It has, therefore, a better chance outside the EU.

Britain and Switzerland are indeed similar in many ways. But they are different in one key way: in Switzerland, government spending amounts to 33.5% of GDP, in Britain 45%.

Other than that, both have relatively flexible labor markets, relatively free financial markets, and stable currencies. However, in each of these categories, Switzerland is doing slightly better (according to the Heritage Economic Freedom Index, for instance). Coupled with the huge disparity in government spending, this is causing Switzerland to perform better economically.

I fail to see how British nationalists winning this referendum, and getting Polish construction workers off the island, is going to help make Britain more like Switzerland. The EU isn't making the British government spend 45% of GDP each year, have a high minimum wage and labor regulations that limit productivity, have inflationary fiscal policies, or to interfere with energy production (examples include the recent ban on fracking, the de facto ban on nuclear energy, not to mention the massive subsidies to wind farms and other inefficient energy production). Britain is doing all that on its own. That's what's making it different from Switzerland, not the Polish day laborers "takin' 'er jebs".

Again: I've been naming quite a few ways in which freedom would deteriorate if the nationalists won this referendum, you haven't named any in which it would improve. None. Just some fantasy about how it would magically make the UK more similar to Switzerland.

Quote

Starting with the 70s-80s, the welfare state (an element of socialism!) was gradually introduced.

The suggestion that ANYONE EXCEPT FOR THE BRITISH PEOPLE is responsible for the introduction of the welfare state in Britain is absurd beyond belief. You might as well be blaming Martians. They have about as much to do with it as Brussels.

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/4/2016 at 3:27 AM, AlexL said:

 Also special is the following fact: a normal Government (and President) is quite directly accountable to the country's citizens through the periodic elections (every 5 ears or so), sometimes even between elections (non-confidence vote and such).

 

In contrast...

 

There's no contrast. NONE WHATSOEVER. The head of the EC is appointed by the Parliament, JUST LIKE the British PM, and the other 27 commissioners are appointed by the elected governments of each member state.

And, just like the executives of member states, it is subject to both periodic elections and no confidence votes. Each administration has a 5 year term, they are confirmed by the European Parliament when they take office, and, at any time during those five years, a no confidence vote dissolves the commission and new elections take place.

EXACTLY THE SAME procedures you will see in a typical European nation state. Far more democratic than the US system, by the way...not that that's a good thing...this whole line of argument you're engaged in assumes that "more democratic = more free", which is not true. But, while your argument is irrelevant to the merits of a British exit, it's also false: it's not true that the EU system is less democratic than the British system. That's another lie the nationalists are selling...along with the vilification of Eastern Europeans, the promise that a Brexit won't hurt the British economy, etc., etc.

On 6/4/2016 at 3:27 AM, AlexL said:

Also, as I already mentioned, they are elected in a very indirect mode.

 

As a consequence, while they detain an extraordinarily big power over about half a billion people, they, the 28 Commission members plus the Commission President, are practically unknown to the general public, unlike the President and the local government members.

You keep repeating this, and I keep correcting it: the British Cabinet is NOT DIRECTLY ELECTED. No western executive is. It's ridiculous to suggest they should be. Parliaments are directly elected, the head of the executive is elected by Parliament, the rest of the executive is appointed. Same thing everywhere, including in Brussels.

So that's definitely not the reason why the British public isn't familiar with how the EU works. For the real reason, I suggest looking inward. Specifically, at the campaign of misinformation the British press has been engaged in, about the EU, for the past several years. I bet that has a little more to do with the British public's state of ignorance than the EC members getting appointed rather than elected.

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nicky, I won't reply to your entire response above to Alex. I haven't time. However I don't think you are applying the concept of rights correctly.

To say I have a right to freely trade with others does not by implication mean I'm violating any one else's rights. By definition, free trade means trade by mutual voluntary consent. So I think your criticism here fails. Wouldn't it be worse if someone argued they didn't have a right to free trade? Surely if that was the case they must seek someone's permission before they can try to trade with someone and that's not at all consistent with Objectivism.

Anyway I thought Alex made a sound point above. Just one error - the Welfare State in the UK started to emerge in the 50s following the Beveridge report. It certainly didn't take off in the Thatcher era (80s) - in fact you could argue it was quite heavily curtailed compared to other periods whilst she was in power.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Jon Southall said:

Anyway I thought Alex made a sound point above. Just one error - the Welfare State in the UK started to emerge in the 50s following the Beveridge report. 

I meant the Welfare State flowing towards the member states from the European Union. The member states had already various degrees of WS. It is in the 80s that the EU itself started pushing towards a unified WS philosophy – level playing field, you know :-)

Jon Southall likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In general, I have difficulties understanding your commen…

You wrote:

On 6/6/2016 at 7:27 AM, Nicky said:

as long as you insist on violating some of my rights, you DO NOT HAVE some "natural" right… to freely trade with any citizen of any other country.

I don't know what you mean here; what rights of yours was I insisting in violating??


I wrote:
Quote

 

any citizen of a country should have the freedom to trade with any citizen of any other country, without any government-imposed restrictions…

A Government should not have the right to restrict the economic activity of its citizens (both buying and selling), neither inside the country, nor outside it…. [E]ven unilateral suppression of trade barriers is an excellent thing

Let me clarify this. 

Take a citizen C1 of a country K1. As a citizen of the country K1, the government of that county should not prevent him of trading with whomever he wants, e.g. with a citizen C2 of a country K2. Of course, the trade will take place only if C2 is not prevented by his government to participate. [Trade means any trade, including goods, employment, housing, marriage, etc., essentially any kind of voluntary interaction between adults.] Clearly, the country K1 should not have the authority to prevent its citizen C1 doing all these even if the country K2does not reciprocate.

An aside: In my view, the rights C1 should have in the foreign country K2 result from the rights K2effectively recognizes to its citizens. For example, C1 should have a right to a job in K2 if a C2 wishes and has the right to hire him. This is an aside only.

Further, I am not sure if you argue against brexit also because you believe UK citizens will be worse off economically

You also failed to acknowledge, or comment, on my observation that my being rather favorable to brexit (or to Switzerland staying outside the EU) is not based on nationalism. I insisted on this because of your – unproved and unprovable! - claim that one can be for brexit only if one is a nationalist.

Quote

I've been naming quite a few ways in which freedom would deteriorate if the nationalists won this referendum, you haven't named any in which it would improve.

If you refer here to the freedom of immigration, than the fact is that the welfare-statism (so to speak) destroys not only the fabric of the individual right of its own citizens in their relationships among one another, but also in their relationships with foreigners. If there were no redistributive system in UK, it should depend only on a UK citizen's willingness to hire anyone from abroad, with no one having a say in this interaction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.