I think economics can often be viewed best through the lens of biology (blame the undergrad degree) – particularly ecological studies. Money is the element upon which we all feed – upon which companies, countries, and all of human society feeds, for that matter.
And many want far more than they can reasonably consume.
This is particularly valid at this period in time, where many companies have grown to be larger than most nation-states, and have appetites to match.
Countries, nation-states, previously had habits of unifying into larger collectives in order to facilitate trade and better defend against or avoid wars entirely – the United States, for example, was formed for these reasons. The EU was formed for these reasons. This behavior has had the fortunate side effect of providing a useful defense against predatory corporations whose goal is to extract as much money from the system as they possibly can in order to benefit their (extremely few) stakeholders. It’s quite obvious when one looks at the predatory and in fact quite lethal practices that large companies have put on parade in countries such as:
- India (where Dow managed to kill 25,000+ with unsafe practices)
- USA (where BP’s oil leak has ruined the entire Gulf fishing industry, Wal-Mart abuses their workers and refuses to pay them a living wage)
- China and Bangladesh (where slave labor and child labor are endemic)
- the Ivory Coast (where Nestle uses slave labor to harvest cocoa)
- Nigeria (where various oil companies have ruined the Niger delta)
- Indonesia (where ExxonMobil employs a private army to protect its pipelines, said army also rapes, murders, and pillages the countryside, using Exxon equipment to dig mass graves for its victims)
- …and the list goes on.
Reviewing these travesties, it is quite clear that corporate interests are not human interests.
Which brings us to “Brexit,” the referendum on whether the UK should exit the EU.
Promoters of the exit strategy who focus on the economic factors say things like “It hasn’t helped us” or “they need us more than we need them”, that it “puts the UK at the mercy of Germany,” or that it is “destroying national sovereignty”. All of these are weak, at best – and stupid at worst.
- “It hasn’t helped us.” Yeah, as a matter of fact it has. The lack of tariffs across the board in the EU has opened the entire continent up for british goods, enabling companies like Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, and others to expand into new markets. Mom and Pop shops benefit too, as internet sales are enabled to ship without tariff to an enormous quantity of new buyers. Trade within Europe has risen by 55 percent since joining the EU.
- “They need us more than we need them” – this is just stupid. The UK’s manufacturing strength is a fraction of what it once was. Its workforce is dominated by unskilled labor, what IT workforce it has is underpaid and underskilled (and the best members of it end up working for banks, where they aren’t innovating anything but instead helping to cripple the UK economy further). The countries that trade their goods to the UK now will continue to do so long after an exit, and the tariff costs will simply be passed on to the consumer.
- “The UK is at the mercy of Germany” – The EU is not the solitary purview of Germany. There are a great many states here, and political unity is hard to come by. Germany in particular is in a weak leadership position as it stands, weaker still since its idiotic austerity measures have been demonstrated to have injured recovery efforts from the 2008 crash rather than helped. Furthermore, as an individual who has lived in both countries, even if this protest were true, the UK could get a great deal of benefit from following Germany’s lead for a while. Notice that this argument is in direct conflict with #2, above. This is usually a good sign that conspiracy theory bullshit is afoot.
- It “destroys national sovereignty” – this is just bullshit. This argument is so farcical and ephemeral that it can simply be dismissed out of hand. It literally has zero evidence behind it, no facts at all – and hence, there is nothing to refute. It’s just tinfoil-hat batshittery.
Other reasons, not tied directly to economics: there are as many of these as there are Brexit supporters. However, they are largely driven by demagoguery similar to that espoused by Donald Trump in the United States – fear and hatred of people not from the UK. It always boils down to some various flavor of “we don’t have a choice, we have to accept any murderer rapist or child molester from the EU,” mixed with a foment of anti-Muslim bullshit that’s frothed up since the Syrian refugee crisis.
Let me say this – of all the countries in the EU that I’ve visited, and those in which I’ve lived (four of them now), the UK, surprisingly, has been the most vividly racist nation of them all. It’s remarkable, and strange. When I first opened a bank account on moving to the UK, I counted nine different languages in use in the bank office. But in dealing with the people there, everyone was intensely concerned with what nationality or race everyone else belonged to – and if you weren’t of the chosen special few, you were an outsider. Each race had its place above the other.
And this built-in trigger is very easy to play on – particularly by less-than-scrupulous “news” organizations, such as FOX News.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think the UK gets its treatment of Muslims insanely wrong. However, it does so in the context of getting EVERY dumbass religion in the pipeline insanely wrong – and this is largely due to the UK’s fear of “offending” someone. The UK would rather shut down free speech and freedom of dialogue, would rather see people injured, would rather see children brought up intellectually and emotionally crippled, than to see someone get their fee-fees hurt. Well fuck you, MPs and Lords, you’re all a bunch of panty-twisted oxygen-wasters on that front.
This treatment of oddball religions only fuels the right-wing nutters, racists, and other undesirables’ fears.
Which makes FOX News – Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – very happy.
So what we have here is a series of easily-played-upon fears and catch-phrases that stir up irrational racism and fear, being used by media tools in the hands of corporations that would like nothing better than to have the UK exit the EU and revert to being a small, easily-managed nation with an easily-bribed leadership.
Once the exit is complete, and the UK is no longer protected by the umbrella of the EU, prices on consumer goods – everything from food to televisions – go up. Access to EU employment markets becomes harder – as will the ability to move cross-borders when one retires. All those geriatrics living in Spain? Guess what, they won’t have rights to live there any longer – and they’ll be coming home to live off their days on the NHS rather than on Spain’s buck. I won’t even speculate on what sort of retaliatory actions the EU may impose on the UK if things don’t end cheerfully (and divorces rarely do).
All these things spell a weak UK (weaker still once Scotland says “go f*** yourself” and leaves the UK to join the EU). A vulnerable, alone UK. And of course the news agencies will blame immigrants. Blame the EU. They’ll keep the population focused on each other, ripping each other down; focused on outsiders; focused on anything that isn’t the blade they’re twisting in the UK’s ribs.
Back to the biological metaphor…Komodo Dragons are especially insidious – they’ll single out a target, bite it, and then follow it for days as infection and venom sink in, making it easier to take. When lions hunt, they will tease out a single animal from the herd.
Because when an animal is alone, weak, and not defended by its herd, it’s far easier to kill.
And when the UK leaves the protection of its herd…