During its Industrial Revolution, Britain was a beacon of domestic liberty and economic progress that stimulated liberal reform on the European continent. An independent Britain in the 21st century
can could play that role again, argues Dan Sanchez in this guest post. In doing so, Britain would help Europe outside the EU far more than it ever could on the inside.
Brexit Wins: Why That’s Great News for Europe, Too
by Dan Sanchez
British voters have elected to leave the European Union in a national referendum. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage declared Friday Britain’s “independence day.” That is quite a statement given British history. A little over two and a quarter centuries ago, America had its own first Independence Day, and the British Empire was the super-state from which Americans declared independence.
It must be noted that independence is not isolation. This is the key distinction that is intentionally blurred by the “Better Together” rhetoric of the “Remain” camp. When they scaremonger about “leaving Europe,” it conjures images of Britain putting up the shutters and abandoning Western civilisation. But the European Union is not the same thing as Europe. Exiting a mega-state in defiance of an imperium is not withdrawing from civilisation. In fact, such an exit is propitious for civilisation.
Small Is Beautiful
Advocates of international unions and super-states claim that centralisation promotes trade and peace: that customs unions break down trade barriers and international government prevents war. In reality, super-states encourage both protectionism and warfare. The bigger the trade bloc, the more it can cope with the economic isolation that comes with trade warfare. And the bigger the military bloc, the easier it is for bellicose countries to externalise the costs of their belligerence by dragging the rest of the bloc into its fights.
A small political unit cannot afford economic isolationism; it simply doesn’t have the domestic resources necessary. So for all of UKIP’s isolationist rhetoric, the practical result of UK independence from the European economic policy bloc would likely be freer trade and cross-border labour mobility (immigration). Political independence fosters economic interdependence. And economic interdependence increases the opportunity costs of war and the benefits of peace. (Not to mention how taking one of the EU’s two big bill-payers from the checkout will help concentrate the minds of every European welfare project they’ve been paying for.)
The Power of Exit
Super-states also facilitate international policy “harmonisation.” What this means is that, within the super-state, the citizen has no escape from onerous laws like the regulations that pour unceasingly from the EU bureaucracy. But with political decentralisation, subjects can “vote with their feet” for less burdensome regimes. Under this threat of “exit,” governments have incentive to liberalise in order to compete for taxpayer feet. Today's referendum was a victory both for Brexit and the power of exit. That's good news for European liberty.
During its Industrial Revolution, Britain was a beacon of domestic liberty and economic progress that stimulated liberal reform on the European continent. An independent Britain in the 21st century could play that role again. In doing so, Britain would help Europe outside the EU far more than it ever could on the inside. Brexit may be a death knell for the European Union, yet ultimately a saving grace for the European people.
Dan Sanchez is the Digital Content Manager at FEE, developing educational and inspiring content for FEE.org, including articles and courses. His articles are collected at DanSanchez.me. This post first appeared at FEE.