One day I woke up and I’ve suddenly realised that the two most precious freedoms that I’ve acquired in my lifetime, namely the freedom of movement within Europe and the freedom to trade anywhere in Europe, where gone with a stroke of a pen, quite literally on a ballot paper. As a European immigrant in UK in the following days (but even in the previous months of the referendum campaign to be fair), I found myself at the centre of the bullseye. It was shocking to hear about the racist comments on internet and on the street.
That morning I woke up with my life in the hands of the mob; my job, family and future threatened as I’ve never experienced before. But adding insult to injuries that day and the week to come I have been shocked to read tens of articles and hundreds of comments on internet from my fellow libertarians all over the world that were cheering and celebrating the death of tyranny and the rise of a new libertarian dawn. How contrasting with my feelings. How was it possible that the very same comments I was reading were the exact copies of the militants of UKIP, Britain First, Le Pen, Italy’s M5S and Lega Nord?
How was it possible that the same people that I was so entuned with regarding liberty the day before, the day after were celebrating the choice of a master over another one? A master, chosen by the mob that we always despised, of which they knew absolutely nothing was preferred to an older master with an act of spite. Reasons behind it? The older master was a socialist leviathan that was oppressing the people with bureaucracy, crony capitalism and evil bankers. So it appears is and will be the new master, only that the older master had other masters that could stop and veto him/her to counterbalance his/her power. Because this is the main reason why as a libertarian I’m not cheering at all about Brexit: the EU is a bureaucratic monster of gigantic proportion but so is the single Nation State, but it is the lesser of the two evils because there are counterbalancing forces within it -6 months rotating presidency, national parliaments, regional parliaments, commissions, ethnic and language minorities etc. – that prevent this monster to move the balance to even more extreme positions.
From what I hear in libertarian comments, blogs and sites it seems like we moved from tyranny to a libertarian paradise. Let me tell you something: The United Kingdom is not a libertarian paradise and never will be and the mob that wanted to leave never wanted this to be the case. Quite the opposite actually: everyone spoke of increased control on the territory, centralisation, block of immigration, classification of residents in A, B and C classes (even though they pay same amount of taxes) and return to a glorious jingoistic imperial past. This is the “little Britain” that voted for Brexit. Listen carefully then: The Brexit that you dream of does not coincide with reality so please think twice and do a reality check. Not all the people that voted for Brexit were racist pigs or pure tax-consumers but ALL racist pigs and tax-consumers voted for Brexit, whereas tax-payers like us middle-class workers and entrepreneurs voted to remain. The reason for this is that a tax-consumer has nothing to lose from Brexit: he/she is on benefit now in the EU and will be in benefit within a nation-state. For a tax-payer like an entrepreneur though the loss in free movement and trade and increase protectionism and import/export duties will make him/her think twice before choosing such a move like the Brexit. He/she will never trade these just to give more power to a local politician.
Getting rid of a transnational institution that guarantees at least these freedoms plus the reasonable balance of forces, to get an anachronistic Weberian Nation-State in my humble opinion is foolish, especially for a libertarian that is and always be a persecuted minority in both cases.
Secession is good but it is not always the best option if this comes at the expenses of freedom of movement and trade and with an increase of nationalistic protectionism. Moreover, crony capitalism increases the more local is the government. In fact, a lot of the EU single-market regulations are more market-friendly than any nationalistic policy can be, for the simple fact that the Nation-State will physiologically favour only its own companies over any other else’s. So as you can see on one side we have the loss of freedom of movement and trade, the increase of racist and nationalistic policies, a physiological growth of crony capitalism and protectionism; on the other side we have freedom of people and goods, open immigration and some break on crony capitalism with, yes I admit it, a lot of regulations and bureaucracy. Honestly I do not know why a libertarian would choose the first.
Many will read this as an enthusiastic endorsement of European policies. It is not, I can assure you. It is just that I happen to be the EU’s Devil’s advocate to show you that only a foolish would trade liberties for the unknown.
Moreover, let me have a final rant on the enthusiasm that I’ve seen among libertarians for the referendum. How a libertarian could be cheerful about a vote in which a small majority have decided the fate of the other 50% for me is a mystery. If the vote were about the increase in the taxation I’m 100% sure that every single libertarian on this globe would have been against it for the simple fact that that vote could have been a violence of the mob against the individuals. Rothbard expressed this brilliantly with the “ballots or bullets” argument. No bayonets or guns this time but votes were able to force part of the population to do something they did not want to. How is that that the Brexit vote was any different?
It is, as many described it, a civil war disguised as a peaceful democratic process in which families, companies, town and counties are split in two camps and this time it happened to be the Brexit side that is forcing the other side to do something they do not want to do. I call it violence and there is nothing cheerful about it nor, in my humble opinion, libertarian.
Thus my appeal to my fellow libertarian friends that are enthusiastic about Brexit: It’s understandable that you are excited about the demise of a big political project but I’m sure you would agree with me that reason comes before whim and that the rebirth of a Nation-State with imperialistic dreams is not a good trade off; you would also agree with me that the UK has two only big industries, higher education and financial sector, both of which are linked to the European Union, so a part for these we have nothing else to support the economy for the foreseeable future; we are at the mercy of vindicative EU’s politicians and bureaucrats that will do everything in their power to make Brexit a catastrophic failure so no Norway or Switzerland model will save us from the disaster; society and the Kingdom itself are split and the scars will stay with us economically and socially. There are other ways to achieve some of our libertarian dreams but the end does not justify the means and does not justify the alliance with xenophobic, nationalistic and fascist forces. Please do not stain our noble principles by jumping on these people’s wagon.