It is madness to want to leave the E.U., but it doesn’t make sense to join

“The United Kingdom Has Gone Mad; The problem with holding out for a perfect Brexit plan is that you can’t fix stupid.” (nytimes) is by Thomas Friedman, a guy whom nobody can accuse of being stupid (he married the daughter of a billionaire and lives (large) in Maryland, an awesome jurisdiction for divorce litigants who can claim to be the less wealthy spouse).

What I can’t figure out how it is logically consistent for Americans to criticize the Brits for wanting to be independent and fully sovereign. We spend way more money on our military than would be necessary to prevent an invasion from Canada or Mexico. Why are we spending that money if not to preserve full sovereignty and not have to listen to anyone else in the world?

From a strictly dollars and cents point of view, if being part of the E.U. is so great,why doesn’t the U.S. seek to join? In our age of telecommunications, container shipping, and air travel (preferably by Airbus!), geography should not be a barrier.

If we want to say that anyone in the UK who opposes EU membership is “stupid”, as the giant brains of the NY Times have concluded, shouldn’t we also be trying to become part of the EU ourselves?

11 thoughts on “It is madness to want to leave the E.U., but it doesn’t make sense to join

  1. Maybe the name, European Union, might be a clue on the attitude on the colonies, and most importantly, on the unwashed masses there. We feel is best that the colonies are not, ever, allowed to join, under any circumstances. I trust I need not explain.

    • Perhaps it is obvious that the U.S. would be an unwelcome guest at a governance party, but why wouldn’t you want Canada, for example? Canada supported the UK uncritically during both World War I and World War II. As far as I am aware, Canadian companies were not also seeking to profit from doing business with Nazi Germany (as U.S. companies were). Canada has a virtuous immigration policy, having publicly promised to take any asylum-seekers than the U.S. rejects.

    • Oh mercy, Phil, do you think people like Canadians here? or that they are aware of Canada’s existence? There is a country called ‘France’ and a Canadian province called ‘Quebec’ where people speak similar languages — the people of Quebec are desperate to be French, but the people of France would never let those poutine eating hillbillies through the door, let alone other Canadians.

      Canadians might help all they like, but that’s expected from the colonies.

  2. Relative (economic) size? If you are a small country in Europe with dozens of close neighbors, you have a lot to gain from being in a union with them, having frictionless trading, a shared currency, and not having to militarily defend your borders against them. The US would see fewer of those upsides. The UK is somewhere in between, which is why it is such a contentious issue.

  3. The most important question, why EU adherents from USA are not looking to move to EU? It is win-win situation and principle of free people movement, the only remaining moral absolute, to whenever they feel good is re-enforced.
    Anders, “not having to militarily defend your borders against them”? That makes little sense to me. If there is will to enforce centralized rules against local desires then it could happen within EU framework.

  4. The issue with Brexit is the trade off between low friction trading with the continent and a loss of sovereignty over things like immigration — so if Germany wants to assuage its guilt over Auschwitz by admitting a million Muslim immigrants from Syria these people once they are admitted to the EU have a right under the single passport to then move to Britain. The Bank of England has estimated a financial cost of exiting the trade union of 2% of GDP. Though the cost can be ameliorated by Britain entering into trade unions with other countries like the US. It seems unlikely that the US would give up its sovereignty to say Germany for 2% of GDP (though President Obama was all in favor of the US giving up aspects its sovereignty to multilateral institutions run by “experts”) so it is unclear why Britain should. As a side issue, Thomas Friedman is a blowhard, don’t you think? He is one of these characters who has been pontificating about all sorts of nonsense for years and pretends he is an expert on this and that & churns out the kinds of books that are stacked high on the tables at Barnes & Noble but that no one in his right mind would actually read. I admit he is useful to get a debate going here but otherwise?

    • Of course it would be a serious offense against Marie Kondo’s rules to clutter our house with one of his books. I have not seen Friedman express any original ideas, but that makes him more useful as a guide to the thinking of conventional-minded East Coast college graduates.

      Bank of England estimates? says it has been 2% of GDP since 2016 and that a “no-deal Brexit” would cost 8%:

      Paul Krugman says that the 8% number is ridiculous. Given his track record predicting a stock market collapse due to the election of Donald Trump, maybe this means that the 8% number is actually correct?

      (Given that the UK is not part of the currency union, if the current system of UK/EU free trade actually benefits both sides I don’t see why it wouldn’t continue as a voluntary arrangement. Therefore the impact on GDP would be small. But maybe the EU will try a scorched earth policy so as to discourage future secessions? Abraham Lincoln’s policy of unlimited war against the American South was not obviously economically rational compared to, for example, simply developing a trade agreement with the Confederacy.)

  5. The difference is the US is rich and powerful enough to be fully sovereign and then some (and even absorb the cost of colossal blunders like Iraq War), as is China, possibly even Japan and India, but the UK is not, nor any other country in Europe in isolation.

    The UK left WWII bankrupt and had to be bailed out by the US, despite still having an empire and industry, nowadays most of their economy is based on services (i.e. tax chicanery) and those are the “exports” that are most vulnerable to non-tariff barriers like accreditation requirements for lawyers or locale rules for financial services.

    The US is hardly disinterested in wanting the UK to remain in the EU, of course, as the UK is our inside man, fifth column and lobbyist in one, and losing that will dramatically reduce the usefulness of the UK to the US. Also, a leading financial center like London being destabilized is not good for the global economy at a point where it is teetering on the brink of recession.

    • Fazal: What you’re saying makes sense, but look at

      in which a lot of successful countries aren’t huge and aren’t part of any EU-style system. Let’s leave out the oil-rich states. Switzerland is a great example. Aside from their lack of competence at building stuff, what stops the UK from having the same relationship with the EU that the Swiss do?

      How about Singapore? Aren’t they fully sovereign? They are doing way better than any EU nation except Luxembourg.

      Taiwan has a higher per-capita GDP than the UK or the EU. They’re not huge or part of a larger group of countries, right? But they’re not a good comp to the UK because they are so good at manufacturing?

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