UK and the EU

The EU referendum is less than two months away, yet many people still don’t really know what the EU is about or what it does.  The leave camp tell you it is an interfering bureaucracy hell bent on a federal Europe, and the remain camp tell you that if we leave we will be left in an economic wilderness. Neither is true, so here is my take after working there for ~20 years.


What is the European Union and how does it work?

The EU is based on the assumption that Europeans have more in common than they have differences. That by working together we can achieve more than we can individually. The impetus for all this originated from the aftermath of the second world war. The first steps to try to bring Europe back together again were made in 1950 by Robert Schuman (French foreign minister), specifically to avoid the possibility of any future conflict. On 9 May 1950, he proposed establishing a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). In countries which had once fought each other, the production of coal and steel would be pooled under a common High Authority. In this practical but also symbolic way, the raw materials of war were being turned into instruments of reconciliation and peace. Six countries initially joined – Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

This security aspect has largely been forgotten in the intervening years. We easily forget that Spain was ruled by the dictator General Franco until 1975, Portugal by Salazar until 1970 and Greece by a military junta until 1974. Greece joined the EU in 1981 while Spain and Portugal only joined in 1986, which helped secure their new democracies. The UK, Denmark and Ireland had already joined in 1973, bringing a ‘stable’ European Community up to 12 nations.

More controversial perhaps was the rapid expansion following the fall of the iron curtain, leading first to the re-unification of Germany and then later to the ‘EU enlargement process’  including former Soviet block countries. On the one hand this process has been a huge stabilising influence on the new democracies of Eastern Europe, but on the other hand has caused external tensions with Russia and internal EU tensions due to their large initial disparity of GDPs. However, one thing is important to remember in the debate about resultant EU migration to the UK. It is predominantly young people who have come to work in the UK and who have no intention whatsoever of becoming British citizens. This is not immigration as such, since the vast majority will eventually return to their home countries. It is no different to UK citizens working or retiring to France, Spain or the rest of the EU because they find housing and the cost of living cheaper. They pay taxes and contribute to the UK economy exactly like anyone else. Nor would they be here if jobs were not readably available for them in UK firms. It is unfair to imagine that they are somehow stealing jobs from British people.  Either there is a free single job market in Europe or there isn’t.

One of the further problems of Enlargement has been to  complicate EU decision-making as now there are 28 nations to consult in as many languages. It is mainly for this reason that the original member states lost their absolute veto to new legislation. This is now causing headaches and perhaps for this reason it is true that the rush to Enlargement was a bit too fast for the older member states, particularly the UK.

The single market

Sometimes the argument about the EU is reduced to just money. How much does the UK pay in and how much do we get out? The UK pays about twice as much in as we get out, but this is mainly because we are richer than the new member states. Funds are allocated specifically to help poorer economies catch up with the rest of Europe. Is this a price worth paying? That depends on whether you think peace and stability in Europe is the most important goal. Less developed regions of the UK are also eligible for funding.


Many of the benefits of the single market are not that obvious and we have learned to take them for granted. For example the wide choice of food, wine and restaurants now available across the UK is a direct spin-off of our membership of the EU. Cheap air travel, free movement for holidays and tourism are all indirect benefits. Even the dreaded euro has made traveling around Europe as easy as driving around Britain. I remember the days when at every border crossing you had to stop at the bureau de change and convert currencies, always at a loss.

So should the UK have joined the euro? Certainly if we had joined the euro then we would not be having a referendum about leaving. The euro has been good for some countries and bad for others because their national economies were already disparate when the euro started. The euro has been a boom for German exports because it artificially kept their prices lower, and a disaster for Greece with higher than normal prices partly due to a bloated public sector. The euro must eventually succeed or the EU itself will fail. For that reason euro states are being forced to adopt the same monetary policies, resulting in a loss of sovereignty. While the UK remains outside the euro we escape this dilemma. However what exactly is sovereignty? Have we really lost some of our sovereignty and can we get it back again by leaving the EU?

If the UK wants to decide everything for itself without EU interference, then it will come with a price. If you want to sell your products on important markets you have to respect the rules valid for those markets. If you want to attract investments you have to make sure you are attractive by either being, or being part of, a big market. If you want to be safe, then you have to take an active part in close security cooperation with allies. If you want to have influence and not be irrelevant on the world scene you have to work closely with others. All this means sharing sovereignty with others – especially allies in Europe and the US.

What really is sovereignty about anyway, and what does it mean in today’s world?
The British political philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote about it in his book Leviathan in 1651. This was a description of a state with an absolute sovereign – a ruler with absolute power who decided everything for everybody. Louis XIV (the Sun King) of France lived and ruled during the same period, and he tried to decide everything. Examples today are Kim Jong-un in North Korea and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Sometimes populations actually need protection from such absolute sovereignty. There is no doubt that being a member of the EU did stabilise democracy in Spain, Greece, Portugal and the new member states, and this on its own must be a good thing. The UK is different of course, but even so continuing to be a member of the EU ensures that some future government cannot take extreme measures in the future. Few remember how close Britain became to adopting radical socialism during the Wilson and Callaghan years, or that Tony Benn, militant tendency and Socialist Workers Party all also opposed membership of the EU. Such safeguards from political extremes of left and right does indeed involve a loss of sovereignty. A basic requirement of EU membership is a democratic government, free press, human rights and an open and free market economy.

So what has the EU ever done for us apart from cheap wine? One reason why we British feel a bit disconnected from EU membership benefits is simply due to language. Language teaching in UK schools is diabolic and getting worse. If all young people had a basic grasp of conversational French or German or Spanish or Italian then they would benefit far more from being part of Europe. There are exchange schemes for students to live, study and work in Europe which most schools and universities don’t take any advantage of. The fact that UK is an island also has a psychological effect making it appear to be more difficult to travel around Europe, but this is not really true. More interaction with different European cultures would also bring us other benefits. For instance the number of UK staff working in EU institutions is far too small for our size. We are the second largest contributors to the EU budget yet have proportionately the lowest number of EU employees. The best way to get more influence is simply to have more UK staff working in Brussels. The fact is that we have far more in common culturally with Europe than we do with say the US. Just using the same language is not the same thing as having the same outlook. We share common European values with a long history.

So how does the EU work ?

At the core of the EU are the Member States and their citizens. The unique feature of the EU is that, although these are all sovereign, independent states, they have pooled some of their ‘sovereignty’ in order to gain collective strength and the benefits of size. Pooling sovereignty means, in practice, that the Member States delegate some of their decision-making powers to the shared institutions they have created, so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made ‘democratically’ at European level. The EU thus sits between the fully federal system found in the United States and the loose, intergovernmental cooperation system seen in the United Nations. The decision making powers of the EU are defined in treaties.

The EU treaties

The European Union is based on the rule of law. This means that every action taken by the EU must be founded on treaties that have been approved voluntarily and democratically by all EU countries. The treaties are negotiated and agreed by all the EU Member States and then ratified by their parliaments or by referendum. The treaties lay down the objectives of the European Union, the rules for EU institutions, how decisions are made and the relationship between the EU and its Member States. They have been amended each time new Member States have joined. From time to time, they have also been amended to reform the European Union’s institutions and to give it new areas of responsibility.

A list of all such treaties is as follows:
1. The Treaty of Paris, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, was signed in Paris on 18 April 1951 and entered into force in 1952. It expired in 2002.
2. The Treaties of Rome, establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), were signed in Rome on 25 March 1957 and came into force in 1958.
3. The Single European Act (SEA) was signed in February 1986 and came into force in 1987. It amended the EEC Treaty and paved the way for completing the single market.
4. The Treaty on European Union (TEU) — the Maastricht Treaty — was signed in Maastricht on 7 February 1992 and came into force in 1993. It established the European Union, gave the Parliament more say in decision-making and added new policy areas of cooperation.
5. The Treaty of Amsterdam was signed on 2 October 1997 and came into force in 1999. It amended previous treaties.
6. The Treaty of Nice was signed on 26 February 2001 and entered into force in 2003. It streamlined the EU institutional system so that it could continue to work effectively after the new wave of Member States joined in 2004.
7. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed on 13 December 2007 and came into force in 2009. It simplified working methods and voting rules, created a President of the European Council and introduced new structures with a view to making the EU a stronger actor on the global stage.

Who takes the decisions?

Decision-making at EU level involves various European institutions, in particular:

  • the European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them
  • the European Council, which consists of the Heads of State or Government of the EU Member States
  • the Council, which represents the governments of the EU Member States
  • the European Commission, which represents the interests of the EU as a whole.

The European Council defines the general political direction and priorities of the EU but it does not exercise legislative functions. Generally, it is the European Commission that proposes new laws and it is the European Parliament and Council that adopt them.
The Member States and the Commission then implement them.

What types of  legislation are there?

There are several types of legal acts which are applied in different ways.

  • A regulation is a law that is applicable and binding in all Member States directly. It does not need to be passed into national law by the Member States although national laws may need to be changed to avoid conflicting with the regulation.
  •  A directive is a law that binds the Member States, or a group of Member States, to achieve a particular objective. Usually, directives must be transposed into national law to become effective. Significantly, a directive specifies the result to be achieved: it is up to the Member States individually to decide how this is done.
  • A decision can be addressed to Member States, groups of people, or even individuals. It is binding in its entirety. Decisions are used, for example, to rule on proposed mergers between companies.
  • Recommendations and opinions have no binding force.

Every European law is based on a specific treaty article, referred to as the ‘legal basis’ of the legislation. This determines which legislative procedure must be followed. The treaty sets out the decision-making process, including Commission proposals, successive readings by the Council and Parliament, and the opinions of the advisory bodies. It also lays down when unanimity is required, and when a qualified majority is sufficient for the Council to adopt legislation.

The great majority of EU legislation is adopted using the ordinary legislative procedure. In this procedure, the Parliament and the Council share legislative power.
The procedure begins with the Commission. When considering launching a proposal for action, the Commission often invites views on the topic from governments, business, civil society organisations and individuals. The opinions collected feed into a Commission proposal that is presented to the Council and the Parliament. The proposal may have been made at the invitation of the Council, the European Council, the Parliament or European citizens, or it may have been made on the Commission’s own initiative.
The Council and the Parliament each read and discuss the proposal. If no agreement is reached at the second reading, the proposal is put before a ‘conciliation committee’ comprising equal numbers of Council and Parliament representatives. Commission representatives also attend the committee meetings and contribute to the discussions. Once the committee has reached an agreement, the agreed text is then sent to the Parliament and the Council for a third reading, so that it can finally be adopted as law. In most cases, the Parliament votes on proposals by simple majority and the Council by qualified majority voting, whereby at least half of the total number of EU Member States, representing about two thirds of the population, must vote in favour. In some cases, unanimous voting is required in the Council.

National parliaments receive draft legislative acts at the same time as the European Parliament and the Council. They can give their opinion to ensure that decisions are taken at the most appropriate level. EU actions are subject to the principle of subsidiarity
— which means that, except in the areas where it has exclusive powers, the Union only acts where action will be more effective at EU level than at national level. National parliaments therefore monitor the correct application of this principle in EU decision-making. There are a few areas where the EU has exclusive powers over national governments. These cover: trade, customs, competition rules, monetary policy for the euro area, and the conservation of fish.

In all other policy areas the decisions remain with the Member States. Thus, if a policy area is not cited in a treaty, the Commission cannot propose a law in that area. However, in some fields, such as the space sector, education, culture and tourism, the Union can support Member States’ efforts. And in others, such as overseas aid and scientific research, the EU can carry out parallel activities, such as humanitarian aid programmes.

Eurozone monetary policy is managed by the European Central Bank. Fiscal, labour and welfare policies remains with member states, but eurozone countries must conform to EU set rules on deficit and debt levels.

The Commission.
The commission is essentially the civil service of the EU. It is divided into Directorates (ministries) each with a politically appointed Commissioner (Minister), one from each member state. There is a president of the Commission who holds regular ‘cabinet meetings’ with Commissioners to decide budgets, strategy, policy, future legislation etc. The active Policy Directorates (Ministries) are:

Agriculture and Rural Development
Economic Affairs
Education and Culture
Health and Food Safety
Humanitarian Aid
Information Technology, Networks
Research and Development
Regional and Urban policy
Fisheries and Maritime affairs
Justice and Consumer protection

So for example, Universities and small companies can apply for research funding for large projects to DG Research and DG Information. Regional governments can apply for infrastructure funds through DG REGIO. Schools and University students can get grants to study and live abroad under the Erasmus programme. I am sure the UK doesn’t get our fair share, but this is also partly due to our ignorance and poor internal communication. The work of the Commission is  monitored by the European Parliament who also have the power to sack the Commission. They actually once did this by forcing the resignation of the Santer Commission in 1998, following various scandals. The Commission is often criticized for having too much political power in Europe, but nevertheless it is still subject to democratic control.

Is this a once in a lifetime decision? Will the UK eventually be forced to join the Euro if we remain in the EU, and get subsumed in some future super state?  No it isn’t – because any such moves would trigger new referenda, and it would not just be the UK who might then vote no. All new treaties require the unanimous approval of all member states. This provides long term safeguards against forced loss of sovereignty.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Niels Thogersen for providing background material.

About Clive Best

PhD High Energy Physics Worked at CERN, Rutherford Lab, JET, JRC, OSVision
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to UK and the EU

  1. Andrew Carey says:

    I am curious how a long article about the EU doesn’t mention the single biggest item in the budget, which is the compulsory and despicable transfer of public funds to agricultural landowners. I presume Niels Thogersen is on the payroll of the EU and doesn’t want attention drawn to this.

    • Clive Best says:

      You’re right the Common Agriculture Policy still takes a large chunk of the EU budget, but that percentage has been decreasing over many years. It is now about 30% of total EU expenditure. In the UK many large landowners do indeed benefit.

      Niels Thogersen is a larger than life character from skeptical Denmark. He left the Commission before I did. The article is mine using some of his background information.

  2. Ron Graf says:

    “The fact is that we have far more in common culturally with Europe than we do with say the US. Just using the same language is not the same thing as having the same outlook.”

    Hi Clive,

    Here in the USA the seen benefits of sovereignty versus global governance is alive but simply lumped into a basket of each of the two main political parties with other issues. The main issue IMO is that there is has been a steadily growing political divide dating back to the Vietnam War that is tearing the country in two (I don’t know if you heard). Whether one over here favors giving up authority to the UN at the expense of US sovereignty seems determined, like all the more and more issues in the USA; what party you identify with.

    Why we have this divide came about is a complex mix of the Cold War, socialism and normal political scapegoating of ills. It’s likely better for a separate post. But the strange result is that positions of climate change, for example, depend on party affiliation more than knowledge of the 100 topics related to the sciences defining the problems or engineering the solutions.

    If I could take an oversimplified stab at the strongest root difference between the parties, the Democrat Party fears the power of private enterprise generally more corruptible and thus more industry is more evil than government. The Republican Party feels the opposite and trusts government power less.

    Democrats favors redistribution through higher taxes on businesses and wealth in order to increase the standards of the economically poorer off through welfare and subsidy. It’s thought that this is necessary in order to equalize the sinking level of employment opportunities for the masses now competing with global labor. This side also favors a strong (large and expensive) government to strictly regulate industry and commerce to “keep them honest” and to prevent them from “ruining the planet.” However, ironically, this side also wants this powerful government to look the other way on illegal immigration, drug use and street crime (gang violence). Democrats see themselves as more compassionate, civilized and enlightened.

    Republicans think Democrat politicians are simply taking advantage of the poor buying their votes to gain power for its own sake, the harm being that welfare saps individual initiative. And, at the same time larger government it leads to over-regulation comes with constant inefficiencies in day to day management decisions leading to the unintended consequences barriers to small business starts, barriers to markets in general, both leading to economic stagnation and decline. They also feel that money in the hands of an enterprising individual will be better spent than in the hands of a bureaucrat. Republicans are more likely to stay of debt unless there is a clear plan for tangible returns on investment. However, the Republican Party generally favors regulating social issues such as drug use, crime and policing in general, and, of course, abortion, which is still a hot topic.

    Update: recently the Republican Party is experiencing a split or shift away from focus on social issues in favor of the fiscal ones. Some are outright pro-drug legalization and pro-gay marriage and for liberty and limited government on all levels. These are known as Libertarians or with the Tea Party.

    The Dems are also splitting and shifting toward pure socialist ideology, particularly with the young coming out of college.

    Is Europe paying attention to this divide in the USA and it it the same there? Is the EU issue split down party lines? Are the issues dividing the parties the same as here in the USA?

  3. Clive Best says:

    Hi Ron,

    The US has a 2 party system like the UK and the trouble with that is that it tends to polarize opinions and this is dangerous. Opinions and policies have to change with changing situations. A good example of this in the UK is the National Health Service which has become a sacred cow. It is currently impossible to criticize, change or modernize the NHS, because it is viewed as the main achievement of the post war Labour party. When something is free then it will get over-used, and as treatments and drug costs have increased so the NHS has taken an ever larger slice of public expenditure, so that it now costs more than 3 times the defense budget. It is unsustainable and at some point we will have to introduce charges, at the very least for non urgent treatment. However it is political suicide currently to suggest such a thing.

    Climate change has become another sacred cow. All labour supporters and I suspect everyone in the US Democrat party follows an alarmist line, that we must ‘decarbonize’ the economy as soon as possible. Skeptics tend to be in the Conservative or Republican parties. However climate change is NOT a political problem. If anything it is an engineering and scientific problem. Simple physics and maths demonstrate that renewable energy can never work so why are we wasting so much money on it? The answer again is pure politics, and it will all end in tears.

    I have been following the US campaign. There clearly is a deep split between democrats and republicans. Thanks for the insight. The biggest change in the world was the fall of the Soviet Union and this caused a reassessment of what the West is. Europe still relies on NATO for its defense, but for NATO to continue it has to have a threat. Trump is rightly asking why should the US pick up the bill for defending Europe if we are not.

    Gorbachev recently said : “The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.”

    • Ron Graf says:

      Gorbachev mis-estimated a few things didn’t he.

      The attractiveness of the idea of the collective will continue until tragedy of the commons is taught universally. Socialism has a blind spot for human nature. Competition on all levels is essential to human progress, from playmates, neighbors and candidates to trading zones. Set the rules with that in mind.

    • Ron Graf says:

      However climate change is NOT a political problem. If anything it is an engineering and scientific problem. Simple physics and maths demonstrate that renewable energy can never work so why are we wasting so much money on it? The answer again is pure politics, and it will all end in tears.

      You could get banned for this comment on many sites that you and I know.

      If not banned you would be diagnosed as suffering from Dunning-Kruger Effect, delusional and overestimating your skill to make such conclusions. 🙂

      I’m taking the Mrs. to see Marc Morano’s “Climate Hustle” tonight.

  4. A C Osborn says:

    You lost the argument as soon as you wrote “The leave camp tell you it is an interfering bureaucracy hell bent on a federal Europe, and the remain camp tell you that if we leave we will be left in an economic wilderness”
    Because it is a Declared Intent for a Federal Europe, ask European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, so they are hell bent on a Federal Europe, or a single nation, whichever you prefer. Just google Federal Europe for dozens of statments of intent.
    Plus to say that they are not “interfering” is patently false as you only need to look at any aspect of life to see their “interference”, you may not call it that you would probably call it necessary regulation.

    So from your description of the EU you appear to be firmly in the “remain” camp.

    • Clive Best says:

      To be honest I am not totally sure what is best for the UK. I think the eurozone will have to move towards a more federal fiscal union and eurozone countries will have to ‘pool’ their sovereignty concerning taxation, expenditure and even social policy. No-one in Britain is today proposing that we ever join the euro not even the Liberal Democrats. Before 2008 Blair and Clegg wanted us to join. Nor is anyone in Britain as far as I know proposing that the UK gives up any more sovereignty to the EU. Britain is not alone – Sweden, Denmark, Poland etc. are also outside the euro.

      There will have to be a new treaty for the eurozone at some point. At that time the UK and others should be able negotiate some type of associate membership which maintains existing rights of membership, single market etc. but avoids any further loss of sovereignty. Then the UK will hold another referendum (Clegg changed the law specifically to trigger one)

      For that reason I think this referendum is happening at the wrong time. Cameron promised a referendum to placate his eurosceptics and to try to defuse growing UKIP support. I am sure he never imagined he would actually win the election, and actually have to hold it! At best he imagined himself being in coalition with Nick Clegg again, knowing that Clegg would veto such an in-out referendum.

  5. Javier says:

    I am afraid there are serious impediments to the future of the EU that you envision, Clive. Everybody agrees that the Euro was not properly designed from a monetary point of view due to the impossibility of achieving a fiscal union at the time. It was left for a future development. But then came the second mistake, fast expansion towards the East and South pushed by Germany to increase their natural market and influence. This had the effect of making the fiscal union even less likely and drive the EU towards a paralysis due to many diverging interests. What we have seen in Greece has given the chills to everybody for different reasons. Everybody has serious doubts about further integration. Some for the risk of being imposed highly unpopular measures (Spain was forced to change its constitution for the first time ever to favor foreign creditors), and some for the risk of being drag to pay for very unpopular foreign economic rescues. Now we see how the EU responds to problems, not by pulling together, but by pulling apart as has happened to the Schengen accords and the immigration problem. Illegal immigration was not a EU problem when it only affected Spain, Italy and Greece. It has become a huge problem when it has started to affect central and northern European countries now that immigrants are no longer attracted to the southern countries due to their worse economic situation.

    It is clear that the Euro is set to fail in the future, as its problems can only increase and the solution will never be available for all who joined. This will drag the EU as we know it to its failure. It is impossible to predict what form this failure will take or when it will happen, but I would estimate that it will take place within 5-15 years. Great Britain is just voting between an early exit or a later exit. The exit of the UK would not be the cause of the EU failure, but could accelerate it as some governments will have to face the reality instead of continuing in denial.

    • Clive Best says:

      I see it that Europe will inevitably divide into two parts – the eurozone and the rest. The euro did not fail after the financial crisis and is unlikely to do so in the future, because Germany and France cannot allow it to fail. The deficit countries will be forced to comply with fiscal rules whether they like it or not. Greece could have opted out of the euro but chose not to.
      If the euro actually were to fail then the EU would collapse and that is why Germany cannot afford to let that happen. The migration crisis highlighted a lack of EU coordination. There is a border agency for Schengen – Frontex but it needs an EU level authority to make decisions. Instead national governments take unilateral decisions highlighting disunity. The euro and Schengen are the currency and borders of a federal ‘state’ which does not exist yet.

      Britain does not have to join any future federal state but instead will have an opportunity to redefine its role in its favour, whenever such new treaty is negotiated. Cameron’s so-called renegotiation was not effective and has no real legal basis.

      • Javier says:

        That is not my opinion. The South of Europe is being driven to the extreme left to the point that Spain has become ungovernable, and this is just because of the past crisis that hasn’t seen a full recovery seven years later. At the same time those same countries are increasing their debt, not reducing it. Perhaps the Euro can survive the next crisis, but it won’t survive the following.

        Fiscal austerity won’t be accepted by the South and lack of fiscal austerity won’t be accepted by the North. There is no way out of this conundrum.

        The past government in Spain has lost the ample majority it enjoyed despite the improvement in the economical situation that is helped by a deficit that is not acceptable to Brussels, yet the voters are claiming for more government expending. Not good.

  6. A C Osborn says:

    Clive I think that you need to read this.

    I found it on Tallblokes forum in this frightening article and Video, this is UN Agenda 21 European style.

    • Clive Best says:

      This treaty is for members of the Eurozone only and is intended to stabilize the currency. Yes it is pretty severe because they must enforce fiscal discipline. Eventually there will probably be one EU treasury and one minister of finance. That is the logic of the euro.

      UK is not party to that treaty. That’s why non-eurozone countries need some sort of associate member status.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Clive, I know what it is and what it is for, as I know the UK is not in the eurozone.
        But the devil is in the detail, take a look at article 27 clauses 2 & 3.
        Whatever they want to do cannot be prevented or overturned by courts or governments and they have complete immunity for everybody working there regardless of what they do, just like those working for the UN.
        There is no higher authority.

        I am merely pointing out how undemocratic the whole process is.
        Have you tried reading it?

  7. Ron Graf says:

    In evaluating any democratically elected adjustments to world organization the first question should be answered is what is the optimal number of national entities in a world? Like the optimal number of companies in a market there must be an optimum between increased efficiency resulting from competition and increased efficiency from production scale. Once one estimates how many nations are necessary to protect choice of culture and geography the question becomes how much impact must be allowed for an economic federation.

    The point is that those who might feel the optimal goal is a world that has one government might keep in mind that the powers of such a world body should only suffice to adjudicate disputes that could lead to war. A very loose federation can be followed with layers of more local authority to provide protections of markets of cultural competition, which certainly are a driver of the evolution of human progress as much so as technological innovations resulting from competition.

    • Clive Best says:

      Loose federations are the best, otherwise one country will dominate the others. There may be still some idealists who see a future United States of Europe, but they tend to believe that they know what is best for everyone else. Each country in Europe has a different history and different culture going back thousands of years. The US was able to define its new identity and constitution because most new arrivals were looking for a new beginning.

      In Europe after the second world war Germany was looking for a new beginning. The European Union helped it be reborn. Now it has regained economic dominance again over France. Europe needs the UK to provide a bit of skeptical realism.

Leave a Reply