Brexit Or Fixit

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Many commenters compare Brexit to the American revolution. I think the constitutional convention is a better analogy for the moment and challenge ahead. A first attempt at union resulted in an unworkable Federal structure. Europe needs a constitutional convention to fix its union.

The EU's first attempt was basically aristocratic/technocratic. Brussels tells the peasants what to do. The EU needs a hardy dose of accountability, representation, checks and balances - all the beautiful structures of the US Constitution. What little thought the EU put into these matters is clearly wanting.

America did not wait for a state to leave. But, though even the Pope admits the EU structure wasn't working, the EU needed this wake up call. Bring the UK to the convention, and bring them back. Fixit. (#Fixit?)

Out of control economic regulation, labor laws, mandated social programs and "60% of British laws are made in Brussels" (I don't know the source of the widely quoted number, but the sentiment is as important as the fact) are the most sensible arguments I heard for Brexit.

Fraser Nelson's WSJ essay expressed this well:

The Brexit campaign started as a cry for liberty, perhaps articulated most clearly by Michael Gove, the British justice secretary... Mr. Gove offered practical examples of the problems of EU membership. As a minister, he said, he deals constantly with edicts and regulations framed at the European level-rules that he doesn't want and can't change. These were rules that no one in Britain asked for, rules promulgated by officials whose names Brits don't know, people whom they never elected and cannot remove from office. Yet they become the law of the land. Much of what we think of as British democracy, Mr. Gove argued, is now no such thing.

The important point, I think, is not the outcome - too much silly regulation, labor laws, and so on. The process is the important point.

America is, in my opinion, also a victim of stifling economic regulation, job-killing labor laws, incentive-destroying social programs. But, we still have a process in place - in trouble, creaky, under attack by results-at-any-cost progressivism. But we have a process. Regulations are supposed to be authorized by Congress; should follow the Administrative Procedures act, with public comment, cost benefit analysis, and so forth; can be challenged administratively and then in court; and Congress itself can pass laws overruling regulators (which the President can veto, as he has). Europe is missing this process, and European law is even worse than economic regulation here.

Last week's immigration ruling is an example of the same forces under strain in the US. I happen to agree with the Administration on policy grounds: People who have been here their whole lives, parents of US citizen children, should not face the constant risk of deportation, and should be allowed to work legally. (I had no idea there was such a thing as a "work permit" in the US, until President Obama mentioned it.) But, Congress passed silly laws mandating the opposite, and the Administration moved beyond its authority. When States are suing the Administration in the Supreme Court over its actions, we are in danger of Texit. But at least Texas can sue. Britain had no similar way to object to EU edicts.

Process matters, because democracy needs to form consensus and acceptance. When you force things down people's throats, they eventually gag.

Again quoting WSJ:

Instead of grumbling about the things we can't change, Mr. Gove said, it was time to follow "the Americans who declared their independence and never looked back" and "become an exemplar of what an inclusive, open and innovative democracy can achieve." Many of the Brexiteers think that Britain voted this week to follow a template set in 1776 on the other side of the Atlantic.

The answer for Europe is that it must allow people the option to change things they don't like. And 1787, not 1776 is the inspiration.

On economics, I think it's overblown.

Will this be a disaster for the British economy? Probably not. Norway, Switzerland, and Japan seem to get along. If the UK decided to be a free economy free trade and open banking center, it could do wonders.

It is nice to see a consensus (though sometimes implicit) on the advantages of free trade. Leave did not argue for the importance of preserving British jobs with trade restrictions. Alas, "free trade" now means "access to markets" or managed mercantilism.

The benefits of a continent-wide open labor market are easy to see in my business. As I visit universities around Europe, the typical smart young professor might come from Slovakia, have done an undergraduate degree in Spain, Masters' in the UK, PhD in Italy, is working in Sweden, with spouse working in London. The result is a resurgence of European universities, now dramatically better than they were two decades ago. The irony of Brexit is that English is the common language of Europe, making this integration possible.

So why are markets going so wild? I think political follow-on is very unstable. If Brexit leads to Britain becoming Norway, it's not a big deal. If the UK breaks up, and the EU breaks up, we have big trouble ahead. Fixit instead.