Saying you are anti-EU in these post-Brexit days is almost like saying you think the black plague was a neat idea. Honestly I don’t want to be associated with Brexiters at all because my reasons for being negative to the EU has very little with their reasons for opposing EU.
Instead of spending more time on Brexit, let me iterate my fundamental objections to the EU project.
Euro, the Common Currency
When the Euro came out I thought it was a terribly neat idea. However I was primarily thinking about it as a consumer. More like a tech gadget that makes your life more convenient. Less need to change money when traveling.
However from a rational and economic point of view it is a terrible idea. It deprives the political unit that actually controls spending and taxes power over its monetary policy. It means a country has no central bank. It cannot lower or increase interest rates in accordance with the economic fortune of one’s country.
In an economic crisis where you may need to lower interest rates, print more money or totally blow your budget, you may not be able to do that, because key economic decisions our outside of your hands.
The key evidence of how bad this is, is Greece and Italy. Countries without tradition for sound finances which got access to low interest loans and took on too heavy debt. With their own currency, the risk associated with lending to Greece would have been reflected in the interest rate, and thus discouraged excessive borrowing.
When crisis hit, Greece was basically put under house arrest and ordered to follow austerity programs to get money. They lost sovereignty over their own fiscal policies. Compare with Iceland e.g. which controlled their currency and which had a booming export market thanks to their currency falling like a rock, causing them to get back on their feet much faster.
Had Greece had their own currency, a reduction of the value of their currency would have caused a huge boom to their tourist industry strengthening their economy over time.
Tragedy of the Commons
As a Norwegian it is hard to not see how badly the EU has managed its fishing resources. With a large shared fishing resources, we get a tragedy of the commons situation where resources have been depleted.
It is one of the key reasons Norway did not want to join the EU. We wanted full sovereignty over our natural resources:
It is easy to join the EU if you basically have no resources. But Norwegians in particular known their fortunes are strongly tied to access to natural resources. A lot of Norwegian policies have centered around this. E.g. the policy to subsidize a spread out population to maintain access to agricultural lands, fishing etc.
Depriving Members of Economic Sovereignty
The EU has many good programs in place in many areas, but at its core it is defined as a system for advancing free market economics.
There is not necessarily anything wrong with free market economics, but how market oriented a country should be, should be the choice of citizens through democratic elections. The EU is pushing massive privatization of the economy indirectly and directly.
We see a push to privatize:
- National railroad system.
- Publicly owned:
- swimming pools
- harbors for e.g. sailboats.
- sports halls.
- after school acitivty centers.
This is already starting to inhibit the ability for local government to create swimming pools and local sports activities for their citizens.
If a country wants a vibrant public sector offering services to their population that must be their choice. Norwegian citizens should make that decision and not bureaucrats in Brussels.
Time and again in Norway we see foreign companies being selected over Norwegian companies because EU competition rules for public procurement is overly strict. All too often we end up with ships, ferries, tunnels etc which are not up to Norwegian standards and conditions.
The EU eagerness to having no trade barriers is really creating a race to the bottom. Whoever can offer the worst deal to works, and set the lowest standards win. Sure member states can vote to raise EU standards but the EU is compromised of a wide variety of countries with radically different needs and at different levels of economic development.
A poorer EU country may not afford to set the same standards as Norway. Is it then fair that they are force to a higher standard than they can afford or that Norway is forced to a lower standard for its workers than citizens want?
The Case Against a European Superstate
Too many of the people in the EU driver’s seat are driving towards a European political union, in the form of a European superstate.
In the first EU elections in Norway the pro-EU crowed claimed EU would never turn into a union. It was before it was called the European Union.
We see clearly where it is going. There is a persistent and constant pressure for ever more integration.
Sure you can indirectly vote in EU elections and thus have a democratic voice. Yet when decisions are made for almost 600 million people centrally, the voice of local communities get completely watered down.
What 5 million Norwegians think about a subject, matters little if 80 million Germans have an entirely different idea. This problem is not unique to Europe. Just look across the pond to the US. IMHO as key source of political dysfunction in the US stems from trying to keep 330 million people under the same political system. You got half the country hating Donald Trump and the other half loving him.
And that is in a country far more culturally unified than Europe is. At least they have a shared history of nationhood, language and culture.
It is popular to say:
Together we are stronger
Sounds great, but at some point a very large group becomes weaker than the sum of its part. If bigger was better we would all be aiming for monopolies. European disunity has been a source of conflict but also of tremendous strength.
In 1525 China destroyed it vast fleet by orders of the Emperor. It opened up the gates for European naval dominance. As a large unified landmass China as a region had no protection against massively stupid decisions like that.
Europe in the 1500s in contrast did not need to fear a ruler ordering all ships burned, because Europe had no central government. The patchwork of European states gave fault tolerance and redundancy China lacked.
Europe provided a petri-dish for social and economic experimentation. Europe free thinkers frequently lived on the borders between two countries. If their ideas became unpopular in one country they could flee to another. It is not without reason the renaissance evolved in Italy, a country divided into multiple independent states, or that the Enlightenment itself occurred in Europe. Unpopular new ideas could not easily be squashed in Europe as they could in a strong centralized state like China.
America under Donald Trump is perhaps an equally good study in the dangers of a strong central government for a whole region. There are Trumpian tendencies in Europe as well but they pop up as regional problems such as in Hungary, Poland and should we even include Britain? The point is that whatever happens. There are always enough European nations to carry the torch for European values and principles.
The US is federalized and this protects American states to some degree. But it is very hard for the whole of the US to not get affected by poor leadership at the top. E.g. in the COVID19 response. Many important choices could not be made by states themselves. They dependent strongly on choices made by the central government.
The best protection Europe has for the future, is to be made up of strong independent sovereign nations.