“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.” Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary 1905 -1916
Sir Edward Grey’s prescient words on the eve of Europe’s ruling elites’ tragic and barbarous folly, the First World War, resonate again today. Even the leaders of the European Union (EU) recognise that something is amiss with their idealist political/bureaucratic experiment to create an EU Superstate from diverse countries. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, recently declaring “Europe is not in good place” – an understatement of their folly and incompetence, which Mr Cameron, for the moment, wants to keep us a part of. He may yet succeed through weight of deception, induced fear and the assertion attributed to Otto von Bismarck (the Iron Chancellor who united Germany by intimidation and force): “The mistakes that have been committed in foreign policy are not, as a rule, apparent to the public until a generation afterwards.” If disaster is again in the offing where exactly are we heading?
The future is always guesswork, the unexpected can and frequently does happen. Yet much is also quite predictable, from basic economics, or the laws of physics, also from some highly influential ‘dyed in the wool’ behaviour and trends that are already here and can reasonably be expected to continue. For example: ruling elites and bureaucracies tend to pursue their own interests often to the loss of others without power; paradigms or conceptual frameworks (for rulers of knowledge, assumptions and aspirations) are remarkably resilient even in the presence of conflicting evidence or changed circumstances (effectively ‘in denial’); major demographic shifts and population movements are occurring (causing major problems); aspirations (of quality of life and democracy, including in poorer countries) are rising; significant economic wealth is transferring from the West to Eastern Asia and within countries of the EU from private to public sectors; the knowledge and Internet based economy is growing and jobs in older or energy intensive industries disappearing; the low wage service economy is expanding (in this country facilitated by readily available cheap labour). Major disruptions or discontinuities, for example, wars and successful new technologies or innovations, tend to be products or outcomes of these quite predictable factors or circumstances.
The EU (including associated British officialdom) has an order of precedence for its direction of travel, mind-set, policy making and actions. Over everything else is its objective, its raison d’être, of creating a centralised, homogenised, internal borderless bureaucratic Superstate with territorial ambitions, and advancing its own institutionalised interests. There is also an imperative to expanding control and coercion over countries and our individual lives. In furtherance of its aims, ideology and interests: democratic legitimacy, transparency and accountability can be ignored; laws manipulated; national cultures and heritages, including the Judaeo Christian heritage, undermined or trashed; deceit and deception perpetuated until events become irreversible; corruption tolerated or even facilitated; acquiescence, loyalty and EU-phile propagandising bankrolled; mistakes concealed and their major consequences left unacknowledged and unrectified. This is hardly then an encouraging recipe for future stability, prosperity and general wellbeing in an increasingly competitive, technologically advancing and dangerous world in which the EU is already falling behind.
How will the EU, its political/bureaucratic ruling elite and their privileged fellow travellers cope in a challenging future? Not well, based on their performance to date. The EU will dogmatically follow its existing agenda and be slow to respond even when problems are obvious. The EU is likely to exacerbate existing major problems and facilitate an expanding range of new ones impacting adversely on the peace and security, well-being and quality of lives of populations of member countries. Areas for concern (about the EU) include: falling competence and (ethical) standards; poor economic management and prioritising redistribution of existing wealth rather than facilitating new (per capita) wealth creation; increasing taxation and regulatory burdens (on businesses and the Public) with associated (lost) opportunity costs (the hidden costs of EU membership); increasing ‘one size fits all’ control of formally national policies and priorities, for example, economic policy and taxation, education, defence and security, health, safety, border control and migration, national infrastructure (roads, railways, air travel, energy), the judiciary, criminal law and punishment, national assets (such as land, agriculture, the coast, fisheries); undermining of traditional personal freedoms (including freedom from fear); ignoring democratic legitimacy, transparency and accountability; extravagance, waste and corruption; expanding corporatism (rule of the few in government bureaucracies and large organisations for the few – powerful vested interests and ruling elites); increasing German hegemony; destabilising territorial expansion. The EU can also be expected to become more dysfunctional (as crises, such as mass migration, terrorism or a financial crash, mount) and ‘out of touch’ (with ordinary people, events, technological and economic changes and impacts of its policies).
A serious problem with ideologies and the organisations driven by them is the absence of any non-coercive imperative to evolve towards the stated idealist end result with compassion and humanity, or even an empirical ‘reality check’. Thus there can be no absolutes of good or evil, or Judaeo-Christian values of love, compassion, pity and humility, just the values of the strong or ruling elite. When ‘push comes to shove’ or panic sets in, for example, the organisation’s future is at stake or the promised goals are clearly not achieved, this is a slippery slope towards tyranny, intolerance and inhumanity. It is a subjective assessment how far the EU and its ruling elite are along this path already and where it could end up in future, but there is a risk.
Being part of the problem, how can the EU be part of the solution? Any meaningful or substantial ‘reform’ of the sclerotic and increasing obsolete EU is very unlikely even with the obvious existence of strong evidence that change is necessary. Our Prime Minister’s ‘reforms’ and ‘renegotiation’ then are a misleading chimera created out of a Sisyphean task; renegotiation could have a sting in the tail and freer ‘Associate Membership’ of the EU would be a short-lived illusion. The will for change isn’t there in the EU’s officialdom, or the essential mechanisms in place. Whatever superficial change occurs, it will neither be far reaching and irreversible nor change the underlying behaviour and reflexes, culture or aims and direction of travel of the EU. Professor John W Hunt, based on his studies of organisational behaviour in the EU and other international bodies, concluded that reform always gets pushed to the bottom of the pile. He noted: “International bodies rarely have a power base of their own….. To justify themselves, highly paid, often initially idealistic staff spend their time developing yet more ideas that can’t be implemented. The result is the worst of all worlds, there being nothing more cynical than a bunch of rich, demoralised ex-idealists.”