A couple of weeks ago I posted a long post complaining about the low level of the discourse around the upcoming UK’s EU referendum. Since then, I had a few discussions on- and off-line. I’ve concluded that the original blog post is both too long and too short. It’s too long for its intended purpose: if you are undecided, it is relatively unlikely that you are ready to read a long essay written by an Italian living in the UK. Thus, I’ve decided to try a very different, not too serious strategy. Below you’ll find a flowchart, in Q&A style: a little guide on how to vote, according to me. Very patronising, so do note my apologies. The whole thing is based on the reasoning explained in the original post, if your curiosity is tickled, do check it out!
Some parts of the chart below are clickable, hovering over them will make the cursor change and will show a short text. Clicking on them will send you to the second half of this page, where my own explanations are written in short-form.
I know this suggestion will make many people howl in exasperation. Still, I do think that, for any vote, if you don’t care enough to think about your decisions, you shouldn’t vote. By voting you are making the result more dependent on the marketing machinery than anything else (without engaging, the superficial impressions count more), thus, you are most likely going to be exploited by demagogues than not. Stay at home, avoid making systematically bad choices and just trust those who care enough. Furthermore, if you don’t care and vote, your vote will count as much as the ones cast by people who do care, which does look marginally unfair.
Yes, this is to help the undecided!
A personal note: I’m wasting my time writing this because chatting with friends and colleagues I’ve realised how puzzled most people are. Thus, since I have an idea about how to resolve the puzzlement, I may as well try to make it known (FWIW). This whole little effort is really intended to help the undecided. If you already have strong opinions, that’s OK, do hold onto them.
Economic self interest.
In the main post, I do argue why “self interest”, when intended as direct economic self-interest, is a self-defeating position. It’s as if what happened in the world at large didn’t have economic effects in the UK… Furthermore, simple economic interest can’t help deciding, because the outcome is unknown: everyone says that for sure voting with their side will work best for all. That’s nonsense: in all cases there will be winners and losers, while overall we can only bet on a period of turmoil if the “leave” camp leaves. After that, nobody, I repeat nobody knows what will happen!
OK, how about cooperation outside the EU?
There is a genuine objection to be made here. If the UK leaves, wouldn’t this allow to cooperate more with the whole world? Maybe, but the obstacles that the EU poses in this direction are small. For example, if we wanted, we could allow anyone to have a student visa, that’s not prohibited. Fact is: the current government doesn’t want. [See also below]
The EU will fail. How do you know?
It may well be that the EU was always destined to crumble before delivering its promises. Fine, but how do we know it? If you have strong arguments to make this conclusion, please let me know. I am genuinely interested. One word of caution: saying people are selfish/short sighted doesn’t count. They may be, but they may not. What counts is how the political discourse unfolds: it can bring out the best or the worse, there are plenty of historical examples of both. Since here we are talking about what kind of world-view we do want to work for, appealing to the fact that people are (by definition) somewhat responsive to populist arguments simply isn’t enough.
I’m almost joking.
It’s reasonable to say “Yes, international cooperation is important, as well as solidarity, but other things are more important”. The trouble is demonstrating that other things can’t be done while also favouring cooperation. Moreover, why would being in the EU preclude cooperating with other countries? Yes, certain trade agreements are bound to EU-wide negotiations, but others aren’t, and there are other tools to be used besides trade agreements. Thus, if you really think cooperating is OK only if it’s cheap, I do feel entitled to suggest to prepare for the upcoming fights: you won’t be making many friends anytime soon!
So, you really think it all comes down to dog eats dog, don’t you? This conclusion really is bad. If cooperation, international law and political solutions are not worth your consideration, then I’d suggest retiring to the proverbial desert island…