June 2016

Self government

Brexit is about political autonomy, not economic globalism | American Institute of Enterprise

Since the Brexit vote, critics of the outcome have leveled multiple criticisms at the Leave campaign, including the idea that the argument being sold to the British people is not what the British people are going to get, and on two fronts: first, the question of immigration; and second, the economic question.

I will leave the issue of immigration aside for now as there seems to be suspicion and division within the Leave camp as to what it wants to achieve in negotiations with the EU regarding the opening or closing of the UK border. Suffice it to say, this is a complex issue and the current Schengen crisis is not limited to EU members.

Vote Leave supporters wave Union flags outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall.

The heart of the Brexit argument, even among Leave campaign leaders, has never been purely economic.

On the economic issue, my ever-incisive AEI colleague James Pethokoukis argues in The Week that the Leave campaign’s portrayal of post-Brexit Britain as a global trading power – a “Texas on the North Sea” in the beautiful expression of Pethokoukis – is “a magical thought.” The deregulation that results from Brexit is not a spell that will magically produce growth, rather Brexit will cause economic hardship or, at the very least, will not provide the added value that makes Brexit worthwhile. Pethokoukis notes that Britain’s economy is already extraordinarily healthy by many measures, and finally speculates that the “pro-growth” policies the Leave campaign is promoting will be less appealing to Britons who voted for Brexit.

I am happy and grateful that Pethokoukis pushed Brexiters to clarify and define their economic plan. There is no doubt that a lot of work will have to be done on this in the months to come. But Pethokoukis’ conclusion – “Never before have we risked so much for potentially so little” – is, in my opinion, out of step with his economic consideration.

The heart of the Brexit argument, even among Leave campaign leaders, has never been purely economic. Nor is the price to pay for staying in the EU. Indeed, Brexit is about the EU’s attempt to transform an economic partnership into a political union. It is precisely the hijacking of a strictly economic partnership that has driven men like Daniel Hannan, whom Pethokoukis cites as a supporter of the “pro-growth” argument, to plead for Britain to leave the EU.

In an op-ed by Hannan of The Evening Standard quoted by Pethokoukis, the Conservative MEP notes that non-EU countries that have trade deals with the EU “thrive while having relations with the EU based on the market access rather than political integration”. It is this, and not pro-growth policies, that is at the center of the argument. Assuming political integration with the EU means acknowledging lawmakers who are not accountable to the votes of ordinary Britons. That means voters can’t hire and fire their lawmakers. In other words, it is a surrender of self-government.
The Founders believed that political independence was worth “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor”.
As Hannan pointed out in a debate that preceded the June 23 vote, the British “wage a civil war…to establish the principle that laws should not be passed nor taxes raised except by our own elected representatives”. Hannan went further: “It is a natural and healthy thing for a democracy to live according to its own laws while trading and cooperating with all the other countries of the world”. That Hannan has to explain this to a country that invented parliamentary democracy and twice saved the free world from destruction at the hands of a continent empire It’s incredible.

We, too, fought a war to establish the principle of self-government. At the start of this war, our Founders wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence, which we will celebrate this weekend. There, the Founders present themselves as English people deprived of their political rights by their British brothers. The Founders believed that political independence was worth “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor”.

If the free self-government, which the British people are also gaining, and which was central to the Leave argument, is worth what the American founders promised themselves, it is worth the economic risks.

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Self government

The End of Self-Government on Norfolk Island – Rear Vision

For several decades, the small population of Norfolk Island was self-sufficient and self-sufficient. But the final steps in making them ordinary Australian citizens will take place on July 1 and, as Keri phillips reports, not everyone is happy.

Since the descendants of the Bounty mutineers took up residence on Norfolk Island, there has been a debate over the independence of the island.

While the people there have long viewed their home as an independent nation, the story of whether they were granted full ownership is murky.

I thought it was direct democracy that worked the best I have ever seen.

Captain Cook was the first European to visit Norfolk Island in 1774, and when Governor Phillip arrived in Sydney with the First Fleet in 1788 he almost immediately sent Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to establish a penal colony there.

At the start of the 19th century, the penal colony was closed, but there were problems on another small island, Pitcairn, where the descendants of the Bounty mutineers were struggling.

They petitioned Queen Victoria, who agreed to move them to Norfolk.

Peter Maywald, who was the Norfolk Island government secretary from 2003 to 2010, said the Pitcairners all moved by 1856.

“This is where the story gets murky, as Norfolk Islanders or Pitcairn descendants claim that Queen Victoria gave them the island in perpetuity on the condition that there are no punitive taxes.” , he said.

“The Australian government is disputing this, and the paperwork is ambiguous, I would say.

“But they still believe they were given Norfolk Island, it’s theirs, it’s not part of Australia, and Australia claims it’s outside territory.”

A successful democracy

Over the years, Norfolk’s administration fell to New South Wales and the federal government, until in the 1970s a royal commission recommended it be completely absorbed into Australia.

But, says Maywald, the locals weren’t happy with this. They communicated their feelings in no uncertain terms to then Home Secretary Bob Ellicott, who surprisingly enough agreed to empower them.

The Norfolk Island Act was passed in 1979, granting the island limited autonomy.

After the passage of the Norfolk Island Act, a legislative assembly, similar to that which governs the ACT, was established. As an advisor to this government, Maywald said he was surprised to see how well the system worked.

“I thought it was direct democracy that worked the best I have ever seen,” he says.

“They had citizen-initiated referendums, they didn’t have political parties, so all members were elected on their own political platform and expected them to deliver when they arrived. Cabinet ministers became the four or five who got the most votes, so the public really elected ministers.

“And parliamentarians were totally accessible to the people. It’s inevitable in a small community … If they were at the Foodland supermarket on a Saturday morning, people would come and ask about roads, retreats or whatever. And the other thing was that all of their parliamentary decisions were totally public and they were all broadcast live.

“It was a functioning parliament on the model on which I thought democratic parliaments should function.”

How the GST and GFC broke Norfolk

Norfolk Island was largely self-financing – it funded the hospital, school, infrastructure and power plant, says Jon Stanhope, who was Norfolk Island’s deputy administrator in the 1990s.

“The Norfolk Island Legislature has developed its own pension scheme, its own social safety net and its own medical benefit scheme, but of course nowhere near as generous as the schemes on the mainland.” , did he declare.

“But unlike that, of course, they don’t pay income tax and contribute to the continent’s tax base.

“I lived there for two years in the early 90s and it was a very, very happy, vibrant and proud community that, if asked, would almost unanimously respond that they had the best lifestyle. in the world.”

But Norfolk Island’s revenues were hit hard by two events in the early 2000s, first the introduction of the GST and then in 2008 the global financial crisis.

Maywald says Norfolk effectively lost its duty-free status when the GST went into effect.

“The things that were taxed at a very high rate on the mainland, the so-called luxury sales taxes on things like perfumes and alcohol and some household appliances and jewelry, they were extremely cheap on the island. from Norfolk because they didn’t have that sales tax, ”he says.

“Tourists would come there for a week and pay for their tickets with all the savings they made on their purchases.

Norfolk Islanders have not been compensated and tax changes have hurt their tourism.

“From that point on, most tourists were retirees or people on fixed incomes,” says Maywald.

Then in 2008, tourism plunged again as GFC made it difficult for the elderly to travel, while the high Australian dollar made vacationing abroad more attractive.

The roadmap to be part of Australia

These increasingly difficult economic circumstances ultimately ended self-government on Norfolk Island.

In 2010, in a decision that apparently surprised many Norfolk Islanders, Chief Minister David Buffett told the Legislature that the island would relinquish its autonomy in exchange for a Commonwealth bailout.

That year, Neil Pope, a former Victorian Labor MP and conflict resolution expert, went there as an administrator to negotiate what was known as the Norfolk Island Roadmap, in order that the island can be part of both the Australian tax system and the social safety net.

“We would back up their budget, but only on the basis that they were able to respond to various aspects included in the roadmap,” Pope said.

“They needed to increase their income, so it was things like trying to introduce property tax, which they never had. They might be props, but basically their only real source of income was a 12 percent GST that applied to everything.

He says the vast majority of the islanders were in favor of joining Australia’s tax system, but the loss of self-government was a sticking point.

“The way it’s portrayed is as if self-government has always existed on Norfolk Island. Well, self-government has only existed on Norfolk Island for 36 years, ”he says.

In 2014, the Standing Joint Committee on the National Capital and Outside Territories conducted a survey of the economic development of Norfolk Island, with particular emphasis on tourism. Jon Stanhope says their mandate was to inquire about the economic future and capacity of Norfolk Island and the main recommendation was to end self-government.

“They didn’t invite submissions on governance. They did not collect evidence on governance. Basically, they deceived the whole community, ”he says.

Integrating Norfolk into our democracy

One of the members of the Joint Standing Committee who recommended getting rid of self-government is Gai Brodtmann, the Labor MP for the Canberra seat, the ACT electorate where the people of Norfolk Island will now be registered to vote.

She says the current governance arrangements are holding back the island’s economic growth.

“Every time I have been up there I have seen a further deterioration in the economic situation: more shops closed, more industries failing and more people leaving the island, and that is very concerning.” , she says.

“All of these reviews highlighted the fact that the existing governance arrangements were not serving the island to the best of their ability. The current arrangements were simply not viable.

From July 1, what is called a regional council will take charge of what is traditionally the competences of local councils: roads, taxes and garbage. At the federal level, it will become compulsory to vote in the Canberra electorate in the ACT.

Where state laws would apply, it will be the laws of New South Wales, although residents of Norfolk Island cannot vote in New South Wales state elections. South.

“Just imagine any other community in Australia on the continent where you’re going to be holus-bolus in an electorate and you aren’t even asked for your opinion on this proposal,” Stanhope says.

“Especially when you live a few thousand miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and they’ve decided to tie you into a landlocked electorate that is part of the nation’s capital.

“There is no responsibility, there is no political responsibility for the day to day decisions that affect your life.”

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Is England ready for autonomy?

Is England ready for autonomy? This is a question that the English used to ask people less well educated than them, like the Indians and the Irish. But it’s time they asked themselves that.

Brexit is essentially an exit: if the Leave side wins the referendum, it will almost certainly be without majorities in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Despite all the rhetoric about reasserting UK sovereignty, the desire to leave the European Union is primarily driven by the rise of English nationalism.

And the main consequence of Brexit will be the emergence of England as a self-governing nation. Whatever entity may eventually emerge from a tumultuous break with the European Union, it is almost certain that in the long term it will not include Scotland: a second referendum on the independence of the Scotland will be inevitable, and this time Scots will vote to stay in the EU.

This may or may not include Wales. (A resurgence of Welsh nationalism in reaction to the rise of English nationalism seems possible.)

And its relationship with Northern Ireland will be increasingly tenuous and strained: if nothing else, the Brexit campaign has made it clear that what is happening in the North is hardly worth English afterthought. The kingdom founded by Boris I will, over time, be bounded by the English Channel and the River Tweed.

So what? English nationalists will say that this is a normal situation, that England is returning to its glorious traditions of solitude, as it did against the Spanish Armada and Adolf Hitler. But when did England really stand alone? The English are much less used to being on their own than they think.

Historically, England has only been a political entity for two relatively short periods. One was between the end of the 9th century, when the first English national kingdom was created by Alfred the Great, and 1016, when it was conquered by Canute the Dane. The other was between 1453, when the English kings effectively abandoned their attempts to rule France, and 1603, when James VI also became James I to unite the thrones of Scotland and England. And even then, in this second period, England included Calais (until 1558) and Wales (from the 1530s) and was increasingly intertwined with Ireland.

Otherwise, England have always been part of something bigger. From the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the mid-15th century, England was part of a larger political unit that included much of France. Then it was part (albeit dominant) of a multinational kingdom that included Scotland, Wales and Ireland. And from the end of the 16th century, England was the center of a world empire: its identity and its system of government were imperial through and through.

Thus, of the last 1,200 years of its history, England has “stood alone” for less than 300 years – and none were in the modern age. England does not have the modern experience of being a bounded national entity that governs itself and only itself.

Again, English nationalists will ask, so what? Many nations that gained the power to govern themselves had no modern experience of doing so. (Ireland is an obvious example.) Why should English independence be any different?

But it’s different. And the first big difference is that it’s unconscious, even accidental. Usually, when a nation cuts itself off from a larger entity, it does so through a long, difficult, and often violent struggle. The process is nothing if not deliberate. But England appears to be stumbling on national independence as some sort of unintended side effect of discontent with the EU.

Hardly anyone even talks about England: all Brexit arguments are framed in terms of Britain or the United Kingdom, as if these historically constructed and contingent entities would continue in the new dispensation regardless.

Brexiters imagine an earthquake that will leave the domestic landscape unchanged, a seismic shock that will cut through all the familiar political pillars without undermining them. English nationalism is therefore a very strange phenomenon: a passion that pushes a nation towards historic change but which seems unwilling to even articulate itself.

It’s hard to find a parallel to that. Successful national independence movements typically have five assets: a deep sense of grievance against the existing order; a reasonably clear (even invented) sense of a distinctive national identity; a shared (albeit largely imaginary) narrative of the national past; a new waiting elite; and a vision of a future society that will be better because it is self-managed.

The English nationalism that underpins Brexit has, at best, one of these five assets. The feeling of grievance is undeniably powerful. It’s also quite the opposite: it’s rooted in the shrinking of British social democracy, but the outcome of Brexit will be an even firmer embrace of the rampant neoliberalism that is driving that shrinking. There is a strange disconnect between the grievance and the solution.

None of the other four factors apply. As a cultural identity, Englishness is powerful but not distinctive: its success means it is globally owned. From the English language to the Beatles, from Shakespeare to the Premier League, its icons are planetary.

The great cultural appeal of nationalism – we need independence or our culture will die – does not wash away. And besides, take immigrants out of English culture and what are you left with? From the Smiths to Zadie Smith, from the Brontës to Simon Schama, it is very difficult to imagine an “English” culture that is not also Afro-Caribbean, Irish, Jewish, etc.

Is there a shared narrative of the English past that even functions as a useful collective invention? Good luck trying to integrate the pasts of John Ball and the Levellers, Mary Wollstonecraft and Tom Paine, with those of Imperial monarchs, generals and governors.

Apart from the Second World War, it is hard to think of any great event in history that functions as a source of undisputed national pride for contemporary English people.

As for a waiting elite, the English nationalist movement has one. But the elite shift of power that will accompany this particular national revolution will surely be the most intimate in history: from one set of public-school and Oxbridge Tories to another.

And this elite’s vision of a future society seems to boil down to the same amount of money – the (dishonestly) alleged £350million a week that will be saved by leaving the EU – being spent over and over again on everything from the National Health Service to Farm Grants. Plus, of course, fewer immigrants creating a sort of imaginary Lebensraum.

There is no attempt to articulate a set of social principles by which New England might govern itself. As the English social critic Johnny Rotten once said, “There is no future in the English dream.”

The English have as much right to their nationalism as anyone else. But nationalism, ultimately, is about them and about us. Brexiters seem pretty clear about them: Brussels bureaucrats and immigrants. It’s just the American part that they haven’t quite settled yet. To be ready for self-government, maybe they should have thought about it a little more.

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