It’s an article of faith amongst libertarians of every stripe that society is best organised when responsible adults are left free to make rational choices in their own self-interests. Indeed, as I understand it, Ayn Rand’s philosophy holds this to not only be the most rational and productive organisation of society, but the only truly moral one which exists.
This rational egoism is what compels a man to become a baker, what might compel him to become the best baker in town, in the country, in the world. And it is this same rational self-interest which informs his customers in choosing him over anyone else. Nobody wishes to become a baker out of a selfless desire to provide the world with cake, nor a customer to frequent a baker of awful cakes and masticate his foul creations through gritted teeth just to keep the hapless fool in business.
In short, the world is a better place with great bakers and without bad ones, for the simple reason that, within agreed laws and codes of conduct, people act in their own self-interest.
Does the same apply to nations? Well, not if you ask europhiles. The received wisdom of Brussels and Europe’s elite for the last 70 years has been that the idea of national self-interest and any form of resistance to a grand, supranational euroaltruism has been the cause of war and everything ugly in European history. Only by subjugating national interests for ‘the greater good’ will Europe enter a golden age of peace and prosperity, so the narrative goes.
Well, as the Americans are wont to say, how’s that working out for ya?
Let’s not be under any illusions here; the ‘immolation’ and ‘crucifixion’ of Greece (to use the Guardian’s words) upon the altar of the euro is the very definition of this subjugation of a nation’s rational self-interest in the ‘greater’ interests of the whole.
Greece’s government, against the wishes of its people, decided to reject the notion of popular sovereignty embodied in her constitution as much as the bailout referendum and submit to euroaltruism; condemning its nation to decades of pauperism as an economic protectorate of Germany rather than following Iceland’s example of snatching prosperity from the jaws of disaster through sovereignty and democracy as expressions of individual and national, rational self-interest.
The Greek crisis has been heralded by spectators as the beginning of the end of the euro and even the entire federal European project. My hope is that it goes further and damns the whole notion of supranationalism itself; not in the hearts of the common people, who never cared for it, but in those on the Left who have hectored souveraintists as, at best, backwards and, at worst, outright fascist for a generation.
Things certainly seem to be going that way. Eurosceptics have warmly embraced enfant terrible Owen Jones’s conversion to the cause and, as evidenced by articles linked above, even the Guardian is beginning to realise that submission to supranational organisations essentially boils down to a rejection of democracy.
If the Left does take this course, as it took the europhile course in the 1980s, it will have some noble heroes; giants of the Old Left like the late Tony Benn always saw the European project for what it was – the suppression of popular sovereignty as expressed through the primacy of Parliament, in the interests of finance, special interests and big business. That, at least, is a banner I hope both the Left and Right can rally around when the In-Out referendum comes.