Referendum: Latin - that which must be referred to another.
I am not a historian. I wanted to study history at A-level but was persuaded to study Latin instead, mainly, I now realise, because it suited the school timetabling. Had I studied history at A-level it is highly likely that I would have read history at University rather than languages. However, I have an abiding interest in history and politics and have read widely and esoterically, probably the more so because I have never focused my interest on a certain country or period. I have also been aware of world events for the last 50 years, long enough to see what goes around come around again.
Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others. In truth there is only one alternative form government, and that is dictatorship, whether by an individual or a group. People talk of 'benevolent dictatorship' as an acceptable form of government because it 'gets things done' without the restraint of consultation. It is utilitarian - the greatest good for the greatest number- which is fine unless you are not part of the greatest number. In a dictatorship, if your neighbourhood is in the way of a new airport or sports stadium, then you are well advised to find somewhere else to live PDQ as the bulldozers are just around the corner. Moreover, there is but a short step from dictatorship to tyranny, if not under the dictator then under whichever individual or group succeeds him.
Western Europe, over centuries of evolution and occasional revolution, has established a method of reducing the likelihood of dictatorship arising in its midst. That method is parliamentary democracy. Of course it is very insecure, and can be overthrown in very short order by a ruthless and ambitious opportunist with the backing of an army, whether national or private. It failed three times in Western Europe in the last century and produced three dictators who had at first a benign and then an extremely malign effect on their countries and subsequently on most of the world.
A parliamentary democracy is dependent on constant vigilance on the part of its citizens. It is tempting for people in power to create layers of bureaucracy and reduce accountability. In the end, our liberty depends on our ability to remove from office those who govern us if we believe, whether rightly or wrongly, that they are not acting in our interests. It is a model which Europe has exported to the more successful nations of the world and it has ensured a level of civil and political stability in a surprisingly large number of countries given that it is in the nature of the powerful to seek to retain and increase their power.
I have heard people say, and I have said myself, that it is global, multinational organisations which now truly run the world. What we must bear in mind is that, powerful as they are, they cannot imprison us without trial, torture us, send us into exile or execute us because they do not like what we say or write. It is dictatorships that do this, and our rights, both civil and legal, depend on preventing ourselves from falling into the hands of a dictator.
So then, the European Union. I will not rehearse the oft repeated arguments about whether the UK should remain or leave. In any case the die are cast now and it is up to us to do the best job we can with what we have. People voted to leave for many reasons. Mine was simple. In a union of 28 countries, citizens are too far removed from the seat of power. The European Commission is appointed, not elected. True it is appointed by the elected MEP's, but the very numbers make it extremely unlikely that the MEP's could remove the members of the Commission if they felt they were acting against the interests of the people. In addition, where countries as diverse as, for example, the UK and Estonia are concerned, the interests of the citizens may diverge substantially. It could be argued that there are very few areas where all the nations that make up the EU have common interests. They may have common goals - peace, prosperity - but very different ideas about how these are to be achieved.
Thus we have a situation where the EU, when it makes laws, has to be utilitarian. It has to attempt to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people. Therefore if an individual state is the only one to be disadvantaged by a new EU law, then it is in the position of the neighbourhood which is standing in the way of the airport.
For me the EU is a form of benevolent dictatorship. Over the last 40 years I have watched it take to itself, and away from individual member states, more and more power over the lives of their citizens. I have watched governments trade their country's lawmaking powers for economic benefits which in some cases have been short-lived. I understand and appreciate that everything a government decides to do will be to the disadvantage of some of its citizens, but when the EU passes a law the potential disadvantage is to millions of people and there is in reality no way that those people can oppose those making the law and remove them. There is a constant accrual of power to the powerful and a distancing of citizens from the levers of power.
I have heard many young people say that older people have taken us out of the EU against their will and jeopardised their future. On the contrary: I voted to take us out of the EU in order to protect their future. Economic prosperity is by its very nature uncertain. It is important but it is never more important than liberty. It is likely that the EU will not move from dictatorship to tyranny. It is likely that other nations would elect to leave if they were clearsighted enough to be aware that it was happening. In any case, I probably won't be around to witness it. I take issue with members of Parliament, such as John McDonnell, who insinuate that those who voted to leave were the old, the poor and the uneducated who did not understand the issues. They are underestimating the intelligence of those whom they govern, and for the moment we are still able to make that clear to them with our votes.