April 15, 2017

BUCKING THE eND OF hISTORY:

Unleashing Arrogance, Complacency, and Mediocrity (THEODORE DALRYMPLE, 4/13/17, Library of Law & Liberty)

The reason that these philosopher-kings didn't object beforehand was that they were confident that the vision of the anointed (to use Thomas Sowell's pithy phrase) would triumph. So wedded to that vision is the author that he does not feel it even necessary to explain why Britain should have voted to remain in the EU. Beyond saying that serious economists, chief executives of large companies, the Governor of the Bank of England and the director of the International Monetary Fund were in favor of Britain remaining (which is, in essence, the argument from authority) he provided no arguments for his opinion--though, in fact, such arguments existed, the most convincing, at least to me, being Lord Falkland's famous principle that when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. Of course, when and whether change is necessary is always a matter of judgment, for no condition is perfect; but you don't wreck a room just because there is dust on the mantelpiece.

However, the main reason the author provides no arguments for his views is that he believes that there are simply no arguments against them, and that therefore everything goes by default. Apparently, anyone who is capable of reading a book must, almost by definition, agree with Mr. Oliver. Over and over again he says that the push to exit the EU was based purely on xenophobia and propaganda lies. One does not refute xenophobia or propaganda.

Unfortunately, to say that there were no arguments on the other side is itself a lie. It would be vain to deny, of course, that lies and xenophobia played no part in the campaign to leave, just as it would be vain to assert that Britain's manifold problems are principally caused by its membership of the European Union rather than by, say, the abysmally low cultural level of its population, including of the most highly educated class (as this book amply demonstrates). Culture is as much a matter of character as of education, and it is precisely character that our leaders lack.

But the most eloquent man on either side of the debate was Daniel Hannan, a man who speaks Spanish and French better than Oliver writes English, and who argued that leaving the European Union would make Britain more open to the rest of the world, not less; that far from being isolationist little Englanders, as alleged by their opponents, those in favor of the Brexit were not little Europeaners who had failed to notice that Europe was no longer the center of the world.

Part of the weakness of the book is that its author, though allegedly open to the outside world, shows no particular knowledge of it--not even of France, a mere 20 miles from our coast. If he had read its press during the campaign, he would have realized that the criticisms lodged by French commentators and even former French government ministers was just as scathing as that of Hannan and other articulate Brexiteers--namely that the EU is corrupt, bureaucratic, cumbersome, archaic, inhibitory of enterprise, economically dysfunctional, and undemocratic, and that its two most recent major innovations, the single currency and free movement across borders, had been disasters for many of its members. The only difference between the French critics and the British was that the former thought the EU was reformable, and the latter did not.

Though the author was Mr. Cameron's director of politics, whatever that might be (certainly not an elected position), he shows no interest in, or even awareness of, the political dimension of the question of Britain's EU membership. He writes as if the referendum was only about economics and immigration, ignoring that it was also a sounding of the public's view of the EU's self-proclaimed goal of ever-closer union. He therefore does not ask what the purpose is of that ever-closer union, what problem or problems it is supposed to solve, or where pursuit of this goal is likely to lead sooner or later.

This blithe unawareness of the political dimension is evident in the admiration Mr. Oliver expresses for a man called Bill Knapp, an American consultant (in what, exactly?) who came over "to sharpen lines for the PM's Question Time appearances and the wider TV debates"--a tacit admission that David Cameron is a dullard, left to his own devices a terminal bore. Knapp's "easy charm belies a razor sharp brain," he writes. "His thoughts are interesting. Almost fact free--appealing to common sense or emotion." And here is one of Mr. Knapp's  interesting thoughts: The purpose of the EU is the single market.

This establishes pretty conclusively that the consultant is either an unscrupulous liar or an ignoramus. The purpose of the EU has never been, and is certainly not now, the single market. Only someone completely lacking in political insight could take what such a man says seriously.

The notion that free people would willing choose a transnational institution ignores the universalization of self-government, capitalism and protestantism. The thought that this would happen at the heart of the Anglosphere was just delusional.

Posted by at April 15, 2017 8:22 AM

  

« PUSH THE DOMINO: | Main | PARADOXICAL NATION: »