Friday, June 24, 2016


The Brits have voted 52 - 48 to leave the European Union. For what it's worth, I understand why they voted that way. The EU has been gradually arrogating to itself more and more of the sovereignty of its member nations. It has over the years established its own currency, its own parliament, its own flag, its own anthem and its own foreign policy.

If the founders of the United States had known how little sovereignty the individual states would have by the 21st century and how much power the central government in Washington has seized for itself they never would have ratified the Constitution. Perhaps, British voters saw the same currents that have largely reduced the fifty states to the status of vassals to Washington sweeping Great Britain toward a similar fate vis a vis Brussels.

It is the unfortunate impulse of those who govern to accumulate and exercise their power, and the flow of power always goes ineluctably in one direction - from the people to the central authority. It rarely goes the other way. Indeed, those voices in the U.S. who supported "Bremain" (Britain remaining in the EU) have belonged to - in every instance with which I was familiar - a progressive liberal, that is, an enthusiast for big, centralized government.

The further away from the local community power resides, however, the less influence individual citizens have in their governance, and this lack of influence almost always is to their detriment and to the detriment of the nation.

Citizens who feel they have little control over the decisions which govern their lives tend toward lassitude and dependency, gradually becoming serfs of the state, lacking initiative and any sense that they have an investment in their communities and their future.

One proponent of "Bremain" argued that Britain should stay in the EU because the Union had kept the peace in Europe since its founding in the post WWII era, but this struck me as something of a post hoc argument. It could just as easily be asserted that Europe has been at peace (not counting the Balkans wars) because of the U.N., or Nato, or the influence of the U.S., or the fear of nuclear escalation.

Nor do I think the economic arguments for staying in the EU have been very compelling. It seems to me that the other 27 nations in the Union (excluding Germany) needed Britain more than Britain, the world's fifth largest economy, needed them. Nor is it clear why leaving should limit their trade opportunities overmuch, nor detract from the "special relationship" it has with the U.S., Mr. Obama's unseemly threats to the contrary notwithstanding.

The fear now is that other nations will follow Britain and exit the EU and that the Union will eventually collapse. If so, it'll be because Brussels left a lot of Europeans feeling powerless to influence the policies that affect their lives, and as they peer into the future they foresee that trend only getting worse.

For a much more thorough, informed, and erudite, argument for Brexit see the column composed by the editors of National Review here.