Friday, June 24, 2016

For Good Or Ill



Britain is out. Yesterday was momentous and there is no telling what the consequences will be. But, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, yesterday had everything to do with what he calls, "the misery of bigness:"

Years ago, the great Austrian economist Leopold Kohr argued that overwhelming evidence from science, culture and biology all pointed to one unending truth: things improve with an unending process of division.

The breakdown ensured that nothing ever got too big for its own britches or too unmanageable or unaccountable. Small things simply worked best. 

Kohr pegged part of the problem with bigness as "the law of diminishing sensitivity." The bigger a government or market or corporation got, the less sensitive it became to matters of the neighbourhood.

In the end bigness, just like any empire, concentrated power and delivered misery, corruption and waste.  

Kohr was an iconoclast whose

masterful and humorous work, The Breakdown of Nations, argued the root of most evil lies in big government and big institutions. Whenever power reached it, a critical mass, its wielders, no matter how nice or educated, tended to abuse it. Bigness not only allowed but invited the abuse.   

The only way to stop the cancer of bigness was to return to the modesty of smallness.

"If a society grows beyond its optimum size, its problems must eventually outrun the growth of those human faculties which are necessary for dealing with them," wrote Kohr.

The problem, he added, "is not to grow but to stop growing; the answer not union but division."

Yesterday the Brits put another nail in the coffin of globalization. Despite what its cheerleaders say, it's falling apart. The centre cannot hold -- for good or ill.



36 comments:

Steve said...

Spot on Owen! I cant decide if this was a win or a lose for the masters of the Universe. On one hand a weaker EU makes Neo Cons happy, on the other hand a weaker EU makes controlling the sheeple harder.

Zoombats on Georgian Bay said...

Call it N.A.F.T.A., or call it T.T.P., or the E.U. by any other name. It still adds up to the same thing doesn't it. It's bad for the common working stiff and all about big money and control. "Global Serfdom" is what I call it.

Owen Gray said...

The natives are in revolt, zoombats. And the nobility are just waking up to that fact.

Owen Gray said...

I really can't predict the outcome, Steve. But we could be entering a much more dangerous world.

Lorne said...

I don't profess to know whether this departure will ultimately prove good or ill, Owen, but Rick Salutin has an interesting perspective today that mirrors some of what Nikiforuk says in his piece: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/06/24/should-they-stay-or-did-they-go-salutin.html

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Lorne. Like Salutin, I find it hard to decide whether Britain's exit will make things better or worse. But I confess to a sense of foreboding, wondering what rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.

Dana said...

There is absolutely nothing to celebrate in any of this. The immediate results will be bad, the mid term results will be worse and the long term results may well be catastrophic. Not just for Great Britain which will almost surely cease to be the United Kingdom. Scotland and Northern Ireland will not be dragged out of the EU by England. Westminster will become what it has always truly been - the English Parliament. The EU itself will probably fall slowly asunder as the various right wing movements in other member states achieve their own referenda and tell sufficient lies, propagate sufficient fear and sufficiently denigrate intellectualism to tear apart the European experiment.

I feel worst for the young who collectively will have to live with the decisions made by their elders and especially for the young who weren't quite old enough to vote but mature enough to understand how they have just had their futures fucked over.

Toby said...

As a side issue to this, several years ago Gwynne Dyer wrote about Climate Wars. The first futuristic scenario included the breakup of the EU and "Fortress England." Some of Dyer's predictions were eerily prescient. You can listen to the Ideas version here. http://gwynnedyer.com/

I would happily tear up NAFTA and most of the other so called trade deals. They were all put together for the benefit of big money and big corporations. Everything and everybody else were pushed down. When we should have been striving to improve standards for health, labour, the environment, local governance, etc, the trade deals lowered them. One way or another, the deals have to go.

Owen Gray said...

That's one of the messages from the referendum, Toby. But, if Dyer is right, the future looks dark.

Owen Gray said...

Certainly, Scotland and Ireland were not in the majority, Dana. The United Kingdom may have just signed its death warrant. And the young will be left with the mess.

Dana said...

And I will add this to the mix. Boris Johnson, soon almost certain to be GB's new unelected PM, has a forgotten history. What follows is a Facebook post, copied and pasted for those not able to read Facebook posts, from Martin Fletcher, former foreign editor of The Times.

"Appalled as I am at the prospect of my country voting to leave the European Union next week, I am hardly surprised.

For 25 years our press has fed the British public a diet of distorted, mendacious and relentlessly hostile stories about the EU - and the journalist who set the tone was Boris Johnson.

I know this because I was appointed Brussels correspondent of The Times in 1999, a few years after Johnson’s stint there for The Telegraph, and I had to live with the consequences.

Johnson, sacked by The Times in 1988 for fabricating a quote, made his mark in Brussels not through fair and balanced reporting, but through extreme euro-scepticism. He seized every chance to mock or denigrate the EU, filing stories that were undoubtedly colourful but also grotesquely exaggerated or completely untrue.

The Telegraph loved it. So did the Tory Right. Johnson later confessed: “Everything I wrote from Brussels, I found was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party, and it really gave me this I suppose rather weird sense of power."

Johnson’s reports also had an amazing, explosive effect on the rest of Fleet Street. They were much more fun than the usual dry and rather complex Brussels fare. News editors on other papers, particularly but not exclusively the tabloids, started pressing their own correspondents to match them. By the time I arrived in Brussels editors only wanted stories about faceless Brussels eurocrats imposing absurd rules on Britain, or scheming Europeans ganging up on us, or British prime ministers fighting plucky rearguard actions against a hostile continent. Much of Fleet Street seemed unable to view the EU through any other prism. It was the only narrative it was interested in.

Stories that did not bash Brussels, stories that acknowledged the EU’s many achievements, stories that recognised that Britain had many natural allies in Europe and often won important arguments, almost invariably ended up on the spike.

Boris Johnson is now campaigning against the cartoon caricature of the EU that he himself created. He is campaigning against a largely fictional EU that bears no relation to reality. That is why he and his fellow Brexiteers could win next week. Johnson may be witty and amusing, just as Donald Rumsfeld was in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, but he is extremely dangerous. What began as a bit of a jape could inflict terrible damage on this country.

Fight back!!!!!!"

Owen Gray said...

The British version of Donald Trump, Dana. He even looks a bit like him.

Toby said...

Owen, the discussion on BBC4 (radio) is speculating that European and some English officials might drag out the leaving process as long as they can. They are talking many years. The "leave" supporters are saying, "Out means out!" This could get bitter.

Owen Gray said...

This has been a very nasty campaign, Toby. One British politician is dead. Things could get nastier.

Anonymous said...

As Andrew Nikiforuk states Owen, "In the end bigness, just like any empire, concentrated power and delivered misery, corruption and waste." is the crux of the issue. The pomposity of the diminishing British Imperialism was evident with those who felt their loss of influence. There were pros and cons for staying or leaving the EU.

When Conrad Black announced the Brits should leave, I felt they should stay. When the traitorous Gordon Campbell said it was better to stay with the EU, I felt they should leave. It was kind of like a battle of titans where the only ones that lose in this topsy turvey situation are the ordinary folks.

At this stage,David Cameron has done the honorable thing by resigning, unlike Stephen Harper who prorogued Parliament or hid in a closet.

Steve said...

Owen we are already in a deadly world. We need better solutions.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Steve. And it seems that solutions are hard to come by.

Owen Gray said...

Cameron's side lost the argument, Anon. He showed integrity by resigning.

Steve said...

I suspect that Cameroon was part of the Brexit from the statt

Owen Gray said...

If he was then he must have planned on resigning, Steve.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I think Owen the brits just took the first step to saying no to the Neoliberalism practiced by the European Union. It won't be an easy transition, but I think the Brits showed real guts in their decision. They are also tired of being governed by an unelected elite group in brussels. The governments in the EU and this Brussels group actually get together and create laws, that the individuals of the Nation states have no say in.Their governments if not part of the EU would have to govern by having their citizens be aware of these laws.The "trade" deals on the table if ratified would have given the corporations more control and power over the citizens of the various EU governments.This is the only reason OBAMA wanted the Brits to remain.Like I said this is a first step in Britain taking back their democracy. The EU like the US is a corporate state. This is a big step on Britain's part and the road ahead is going to be really important in the direction it takes.The vote to leave was a vote against EU power and its elites. This is just the beginning. The Brits have alot of work ahead if they want to take their democracy and country back. There also are a number of very right wing governments in the EU that want to use this referendum on their own people during soon to be elections and that frightens me. These demogogues are only interested in power and only seek to impose their ideologue's on the citizens. There are many consequences, good and bad, that are not yet understood and I don't see any worthwhile political leaders even knowing how to fight for and return to social democracy.The Brits who voted to leave are rolling a snowball down a very long and steep hill. I hope it stops where they want it to. I'm impressed though by them deciding to take this risk and more EU countries may join them.

Owen Gray said...

I agree that the vote was a rebellion against neo-liberalism, Pam. What bothers me is that there seems to be a narrow, inward facing nationalism at work -- not a nationalism that looks out on the world. As someone who grew up in Quebec, I'm wary of that kind of nationalism.

Dana said...

A rejection of neo-liberalism. Really?

A campaign conducted by the most extreme hard right wing of Britain's political scene, supported by the propaganda of Britain's most extreme hard right media and funded extensively by Rupert Murdoch has now been transformed into a rejection of the neo-liberal corporatist policies of the people who instigated and ran the campaign.

Really?

You're living in cloud cuckoo land.

The EU is rife with all sorts of problems, as are all governmental institutions, but it is about so much more than mere trade. The EU does a much, much better job of safe guarding workers rights than we do, a much better job of moving toward a carbon free economy, a much better job of so many other things that we are still struggling toward.

Here's a list of thirteen things that Britons have as a result of being in the EU that will certainly be lost under the new English (I don't say British because the Leave vote was predominantly older England Empire nostalgists), under the new English Conservative hegemony, led by Boris Johnson, to come. You tell me which of these things are worth rejecting.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/13-things-european-union-gave-8257113




Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Dana. I never said that the rejection of globalization and the solution the leave side offered made sense. Just as those who think that they will "make America great again" if they elect Trump are deluded, the leave voters were also deluded. Whoever claimed that human beings make rational decisions?

Dana said...

I'm saying there was no conscious rejection of globalization in this vote.

To try and infer that after the fact is an attempt to impose some kind of meaningful rationale or order on the mad, angry, chaotic, xenophobic, sclerotic reflexes of a bunch of under-educated, unthinking, elder proles with no care or consideration for the younger generations and who were so easily manipulated by demagogic proto-fascists and their corporatist partners.

There.

Owen Gray said...

I agree that it was angry and irrational, Dana. But globalization was driving that anger. Take a look at this piece and two possible subsequent scenarios:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/25/great-britain-just-killed-globalization-as-we-know-it/

Dana said...

Same response.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I definitely agree with you Owen there is "a narrow inward facing Nationalism at work." That is very worrisome. Sometimes the people can make the right decisions, but the results of those decisions can be manipulated by politicians with their own agenda.

Owen Gray said...

Exactly, Pam. This could lead to a better -- or a worse -- world. Leadership will make all the difference.

Owen Gray said...

I caught an interview with Margaret MacMillan, the Canadian historian, Dana. She's now at Oxford. She's not very hopeful. And she knows her international history.

Dana said...

I'm not very hopeful either. Quite the contrary.

I was thinking about this while strolling the aisles of my grocery store looking for beans and bangers.

Should Donald Trump become the next potus will that too be rationalized as a blow against globalization or neo-liberalism?

You've gotta know there will be journos making that case.

At least Trump has specifically talked about aspects of neo-liberalism (not by that name of course) and globalization (by that name).

The Brexiters didn't at all. If they had I might grant a bit more validity to the argument but they only banged on about "the other", and Britain's glorious past and so on.

We live in chaos, it's the central reality of the universe and here we are.

Owen Gray said...

Like MacMillan, Dana, I don't see much to cheer about.

Dana said...

Here's an interesting and quite explanatory comparative chart.

http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/what-leave-voters-really-think--Wkhj1mrpNW

Owen Gray said...

It appears, Dana, that ignorance has triumphed -- not for the first time.

Dana said...

Yet more on why the hard right wanted out.

http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/five-laws-the-european-union-helped-stop-the-tories-from-passing--ZygyRM8GAEZ

Owen Gray said...

Sounds familiar, doesn't it, Dana? British and Canadian Tories have a lot in common.