Brexit in Context by Michael Spence - Project Syndicate
Given the magnitude of recent economic shocks, developed countries’ citizens might be less unhappy were there evidence of a concerted effort – based on genuine burden sharing – to address these issues. In the context of Europe, that would mean a multinational effort.
Sat Jun 25 13:34:16 2016 - permalink -
But, for the most part – and again throughout the developed world – effective responses have been missing. Central banks have been left largely alone with objectives that exceed the capacity of their tools and instruments, while elements of the elite wait for a chance to blame monetary policymakers for weak economic performance.
In the face of non-monetary policy responses that are somewhere between deficient and non-existent relative to the magnitude of the challenges we face, the natural response in a democracy is to replace the decision-makers and try something different. After all, democracy is a system for experimentation, as well for the expression of citizens’ will. Of course, the “new” may not be better and could be worse – perhaps significantly worse.
Third, the EU is confronting, in more severe form, a problem facing much of the developed world: powerful forces operating beyond the control of elected officials are shaping citizens’ lives, leaving them feeling powerless. But while all countries must deal with the challenges of globalization and technological change, important elements of governance in the EU are beyond the reach of democratic institutions, at least those that people understand and relate to.
Brexit is a part of this larger drama. It is primarily about governance, not economics. From a strictly economic point of view, the risks for both the United Kingdom and the rest of the EU are almost entirely on the downside. But if that was all there was to the issue, the outcome would be a foregone conclusion in favor of staying.
The real issue – effective and inclusive self-governance – is not an easy one to tackle anywhere, because forces such as technological disruption do not respect national boundaries.
But a more fundamental question of political identity is also at stake – just as it was in Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014.
Some Britons (perhaps even a majority), and many other EU citizens, still want future generations to think of themselves as Europeans (albeit with a proud British, German, or Spanish origin), and are prepared to take another shot at reforming Europe’s governance structures. And they are right to think that the world would be a far better place with a united, democratic Europe as a major force for both stability and change.
the British vote, along with similar strong centrifugal political trends elsewhere, should bring about a major rethink of European governance structures and institutional arrangements. The goal should be to restore a sense of control and responsibility to the electorates.
That would be a good outcome in the long run. It would require inspired leadership from all corners of Europe – including government, business, organized labor, and civil society as well as a renewed commitment to integrity, inclusiveness, responsibility, and generosity. That is a tall order; but it is not an impossible one to fill.