Article 44: The Recasting of Brexit As Knowledge-Only Policy.
I have noted previously in this website that throughout the debate for and against Brexit, none of the protagonists ever did more than offer opinions and counter-opinions which, as in all debates whatever the subject, are never more than those of beliefs/counter-beliefs respectively supported by partially selected facts/counter-facts, evidence/counter evidence or news/false-news, no set of which is ever debate-terminating conclusive knowledge; and that such protagonists never notice the absence of conclusive knowledge, or the need to acquire and to use it to terminate these otherwise futile debates. At the current stage of this website, I now refer to the Book, Why Vote Leave which was written by Daniel Hannan prior to the Brexit referendum to provide timely reasons for leaving. However, my intention in referring to it now, is to show that Daniel Hannon presents these reasons as beliefs and opinions supported by facts and by evidence selected by him, while in this article, my intention is to recast these reasons, wherever possible, as knowledge-only policy.
Indeed, his own lack of confidence is conveyed to the reader when he states in Appendix Two of his book, that people say ‘I wish someone would set out the full objective facts’, to which he responds that ‘this would be nice’; but that ‘there is no such thing as impartiality in politics’; that ‘what one person considers objective, another regards as outrageously biased’; that ‘this is how we are made’; that ‘we all trust our hunches, pick the facts which sustain them and screen out the ones which don’t’; and that ‘if you can’t find a single neutral source, if everyone has prejudices and assumptions, then how are you supposed to get to the truth?’. To this question, he responds that ‘you do so by listening to the competing cases of the two sides’; that ‘referendums and elections work on the same basis as criminal trials‘; that ‘the two campaigns make their best case, like the prosecution and the defence, and then the voter, like the juror, comes to a balanced decision’; that ‘if neutrality is impossible, the best we can hope for is accuracy’; that ‘as you’ll have gathered from its title, his book doesn’t purport to be neutral’; but that he has ‘tried to be accurate in the sense of not using any false information or bogus statistics’. At this point, my response is that neutrality would in no way be decisive; and that the missing entity in all such cases is debate-terminating conclusive knowledge.
Let us now examine his facts and non-bogus statistics to determine the extent to which they amount to the conclusive knowledge which has thus far been unrecognised by politicians and voters alike. However, before we do so, I must clarify the phrase, ‘Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics’, which is the title of Daniel Hannan’s Appendix 2, and which is often applied specifically to economics. Here, I recall another such assessment which jocularly claims that ‘if all economists were laid in a head-to-foot row, they would still not reach a conclusion with which all would concur’. As to why these quotes may be applied to statistics in general and to economics in particular, I observe that statistical analysis is often applied to two parameters which have no known cause-effect relationship to one another; and that conclusions drawn from such arbitrary relationships do indeed link statistics to lies, damned or not; and that my dismissal of such statistics is fully compatible with my newly definitive differentiation of the dichotomies of knowledge/belief, truth/falsehood, wisdom/folly, right/wrong and good/bad.
On this assessment, let us now proceed to consider the extent to which the data supplied by Daniel Hannan’s book can be utilised to convert Brexit to a knowledge-only policy, despite its having thus far been treated as a subject for belief/counter-belief debate by all political parties in the manner of all political discussion since time immemorial. I start with Daniel Hannan’s Introduction, sub-titled ‘Please Sack Me’, where he describes his first-day surprise at the level of the expenses he was entitled to claim tax free as an MEP. As to ‘air travel from London to Brussels or Strasbourg where the European Parliament meets alternately, it enabled the claimant to pocket the better part of £800 per week’; that ‘for general expenses, the claimant was entitled to nearly £3,500 per month as a bock grant straight into a nominated bank account without any receipts being required’; that ‘the claimant was also entitled to more than £12,000 per month, which if you think about it, is enough to take on a secretary, a researcher and a press officer and still have a large dollop over for your wife’; and that he ‘wished he could say that the practice of hiring immediate family members was beneath British representatives, but that the reality is that people respond to incentives regardless of nationality’; and that ‘if anything, the Brits were unusually keen to keep things within the family’.
He then states that ‘he has reported the above practices to draw his readers’ attention to the gap between theory and practice within the EU’. To this end, he notes that ‘because the EU was launched from exalted motives – peace and cooperation among nations – there can be a temptation to give it the benefit of the doubt’; that ‘we half-pretend we are dealing with some fantasy EU, one which rises above the grubbiness of politics and embodies a lofty ideal’; that ‘it seems almost bad taste to look in too much detail at the EU which has, in fact, taken shape (before our eyes) with its dodgy accounts and private jets’. However, he states that ‘the way in which MEPs are remunerated is (but) one small example of how rather than being pure, the EU is often, in the exact sense, corrupting – that is, it makes otherwise good people behave in bad ways’; that he ‘knows several MEPs who came to Brussels without feeling especially strongly about closer integration, but who drank in federal assumptions as they guzzled their allowances’; but that ‘what is true of MEPs is equally true of the many giant corporations, mega charities, think tanks, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), professional associations and lobbyists, who have learned how to make a living out of the Brussels system’; that ‘these groups are the Praetorian Guard of the “Remain” campaign’; that ‘for their executives, its not about sovereignty or democracy; its about mortgages and school fees’.
Having thus set the scene by showing the means by which the EU secures support by funding individual politicians and as many other corporations, organisations, charities, think tanks, associations and individual lobbyists as possible, Daniel Hannan asks rhetorically in Chapter 1; ‘Who would join the EU today’. Here he identifies the Western European nations most comparable to Britain, being neither ex-communist nor microstates, which have not joined the EU, these being ‘Iceland, Norway and Switzerland’ and he notes that ‘all of them have solid and settled majorities for not joining. In Iceland, which formally withdrew its application for membership in 2015, voters oppose joining by 51.1% to 34.2%. In Norway, the feeling is even more emphatic: 72.0% to 18.1%, a choice which has changed little over a decade. In Switzerland, opinion polls (on this subject ) are rarer, because membership was widely seen to have been killed off when a referendum in 2001 resulted in a massive 76.8% against reopening accession talks, and the latest shows 82% of Swiss citizens being supportive of their current bi-lateral arrangements’. He then quotes Anne Enger Lahnstein who led the successful ‘No’ campaign when Norway held its accession referendum in 1994: “to what problem is the EU a solution?”
However, he concedes in Chapter 1, that ‘back in 1975 when the UK held her previous referendum on membership this question (might have) seemed to have an answer’; that ‘the European Economic Community (EEC) was supposed to be all about free trade, while Britain had the three-day week, governmental control of prices and incomes, power cuts, double-digit inflation, and frequent strikes, while the almost universal assessment of pundits and politicians was of irrevocable decline’ that ‘throughout the sixties and seventies, the UK had been outperformed by every European economy’, and to quote Henry Kissiger, ‘it has sunk to borrowing, begging and stealing, until North Sea comes in’. Indeed, ‘the Wall Street Journal in 1975, the year of the referendum, was even blunter’: ‘goodbye, Great Britain: it was nice knowing you’. Thus, ‘when the British people looked across the Channel, they saw a comparative success story’; that ‘the then six members of the EEC had suffered more damage during the Second World War than Britain had’; that ‘their factories had been bombed, their bridges thrown down, and yet they had somehow bounced back to outperform Britain and its Commonwealth’.
However Chapter 1, also recalls that ‘the UK lagged behind because she had emptied her treasury and amassed an unprecedented debt in defeating Hitler’; that ‘by 1945, Britain had borrowed £21 billion, much of it from the USA’; that ‘unlike the European states which were deemed to have started afresh after the overthrow of fascism, this debt was not remitted, whereas the UK debt repayments to the USA were a drag on UK growth for the next thirty years with the last instalment being made in 2006’; that ‘while successive governments sought to inflate this debt away, this had a knock-on negative effect on productivity and competitiveness, which by the 1970s had brought Britain close to collapse and made attractive the ‘Rhineland capitalism’ which had apparently been responsible for Western Europe’s ‘economic miracle’. Indeed, while no-one knew it at the time, this ‘miracle’ was coming to its end just as Britain joined. I myself didn’t vote to join because by then I already knew that political decisions were always belief-consensual one way or the other; and that joining the EEC would not improve the chances for UK belief/counter-belief politics to become a choice between knowledge-only alternatives.
With UKIP members having recently been invited by the leadership to contribute to a post-Brexit “Activation of UKIP”, I proposed that this re-activation could include an offer to the electorate to pursue knowledge-only policies distinct from the belief-only policies of all other political parties, and I was encouraged to hear directly that Neil Hamilton welcomed this proposal and would promote this website as a means of increasing UKIP membership and electoral support. So far so good. 20/2/21.