Brexit: “An off ramp from the road to serfdom”

Next month, Great Britain will vote on whether to exit the European Union. One of the main arguments against a “Brexit” seems to be that Germany and company will punish Britain economically if it exits in order to deter other states from following or perhaps just out of spite.

For some, though, this reality may be an argument in favor of leaving. Why remain attached, and cede more and more authority, to an entity this powerful and vindictive?

The core argument for leaving is forcefully set forth by George Will. He points to the EU’s “democracy deficit” and contends that it flows inexorably from the very point of the EU — to create a continent-wide administrative state.

In Europe, as in the United States, the administrative state exists to marginalize politics — to achieve [the] goal of “replacing the government of persons by the administration of things.” The idea of a continent-wide European democracy presupposes the existence of a single European demos, the nonexistence of which can be confirmed by a drive from, say, Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.

Quoting Michael Gove, secretary of justice and leader of the Brexit campaign, Will maintains that the ongoing concentration of power in Brussels guarantees “regulation in the interest of incumbents” who “do not want a dynamic, innovative Europe.” Under Europe’s administrative state, interest groups are stronger than ever and they prefer social stasis to the uncertainties of societies that welcome the creative destruction of those interests that thrive by rent-seeking.

Then there is the matter of mass migration. Will states:

If, as some serious people here fear, Europe’s current crisis of migration is just the beginning of one of the largest population movements in history, the E.U.’s enfeebled national governments must prepare to cope with inundations. But each E.U. member’s latitude for action exists at the sufferance of E.U. institutions.

I would move the analysis back one step and argue that the EU’s national governments should be able to decide the extent, if any, to which their country shall be inundated.

Consider the issue of Syrian refugees. The German chancellor wants a large influx of them because her country doesn’t have enough people. Trying to make the mass influx of Syrians acceptable to the German public, she insists that other EU countries take “their fair share” of refugees, and claims they have a moral duty to do so.

But some EU nations don’t lack for people. Thus, their interests diverge sharply from those of Germany and certain other EU countries. And because they don’t share Germany’s guilt over World War II or its level of prosperity, their sense of moral responsibility may diverge, as well.

Separate entities with separate demographic interests and separate views of what is morally required should be able to make separate decisions about immigration. As I argued here, it’s one thing for the EU to dictate banking rules or antitrust policy. It’s quite another to tell a nation whom it must allow to settle inside its borders.

That the EU apparently perceives no material distinction illustrates how dangerous it is.

Will concludes:

If Britain rejects continuing complicity in the E.U. project — constructing a bland leviathan from surrendered national sovereignties — it will have rejected the idea that its future greatness depends on submersion in something larger than itself. It will have taken an off-ramp from the road to serfdom.