Archives for posts with tag: sceptic

If I don’t know which piece of cake I’m going to get, I’m more likely to cut fairly than if I do.

The world, as a cake, is very unevenly cut – look at it.

Global GDP Cake

History suggests that uneven distribution of capital is sought for. In International Relations we talk about the balance of power or rising powers. It’s almost every day that someone quakes because soon China will regain it’s world number one position after a 500 year slumber. So it seems self evident that uneven distribution is sought for by the powerful, and fought against by the weak.

In day-to-day life it’s the same. Most of us are individualistic. We have been trained this way by society because, short of a first-date, your dinner is not bought for you. To survive you must look after yourself (and your children) above others. If you had to cut the cake into four pieces, and you knew you were going to get first pick, you would cut yourself a massive slice, and then leave three small pieces behind. Life doesn’t work like that though. You didn’t choose your slice, nor did anyone else, nor any supernatural force (as if you are a chosen special-case, or doomed soul).

Picture this impossible situation: you have not been born – you don’t know where you will be born, who your parents will be, how much money you’ll have, or what your life chances will be. Indeed your conception of the world is covered by a ‘veil of ignorance‘. Now, all of a sudden, you have the power to decide for everyone how wealth will be distributed. How much do you give to who? Equal amounts to all so that luck doesn’t play a role? – or perhaps gamble? lots to some and far less to the rest; you might be rich, you might be destitute. I can tell you the result of this actual research: most of us choose a fair distribution.

The Lottery of Life

You can apply this conception (a little more realistically) again by swapping wealth for talents / disabilities. You do not know if you will be born into a wheelchair or as Usain Bolt. You can also do this with race, creed, height, hair colour, everything.

What’s the implication? Well basically, next-to-nobody would choose this global or national situation we are ‘in’, yet plenty of people get in the way of development goals globally or look poorly upon taxation domestically. (p.s. I don’t mean we should give to charity, in fact please do not give to charities. This creates a horrible cycle. I condone properly administered redistributive taxation as a form of compensation to the people with small slices).

This conceptual situation combines two ideas from John Rawls – one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th Century. He calls this the ‘veil of ignorance’ and the ‘original position‘. As you can see, the ‘veil of ignorance’ is not knowing where you will be born or what the situation is; and the ‘original position’ shows that your situation from birth is unfairly determinate to the rest of your life – something no-one would choose. Talents and fortunes fall like manna from above, as do you, so there’s no telling how good or bad your life will be.

There is no need to be so emotional about the EU, by flying Union flags or talking about sovereignty and the Queen, because its flaws are plain to see. We ought to be positive about the positives and negative about the negatives. Right now the sceptics are negative about everything and the EU is positive about everything – both choose to ignore reality for political gain.

The reason scientists and academics are so advanced, yet politicians are retrograde, is because the most often quoted phrase heard from any rational thinker is, “I don’t know, I’m sure there is someone else more qualified to answer”. In contrast, politicians jump at the chance to claim that they “know” and that they are the best to make a judgement.

If critics of the EU want a proper debate about Europe’s future, they must admit when they “do not know”, otherwise they risk being dismissed.

The European Union does not understand those who are sceptical of it.

It talks past its critics and ignores obvious statistics. If you’re British you probably dislike the European Union. Only 24% of us trust the Commission (the EU executive) and 23% do not know. However a resounding 53% know that they certainly don’t. (This data was taken from the EU’s own survey, page 173).

Mainstream disapproval in the UK is perhaps most vocally represented by Daniel Hannan – a Conservative MEP – and his article is typical of the criticisms mounted against the EU. Mr. Hannan outlines a broad and largely accepted view of the European Union, that is, the reason Brits dislike it is that it tries to do too much, too quickly and with no popular support. The EU contrastingly believes that it is not doing enough in order to be trusted. The sceptics and believers are at loggerheads – unable to have a conversation as they talk past each other.

However, the evidence weighs in on the side of the sceptics. For the UK a staggering 71% of us believe we have no voice in Europe (p.157). The fact is that the EU is not directly democratic in practice, even if we can vote for our Members of European Parliament and it is our nationally elected politicians who delegate others to make the rest of the decisions.

So why are the sceptics not gaining an overwhelming force behind their cause?

Sceptics are not reliable leaders of their cause because they refute everything the EU does, even if they do not fully understand it.

Most of the criticism we read or hear is based on misinformation perceived through the blinkers of certainty. I’ve spoken about belief before in this blog, and to some extent the concept reappears. The ability for the Commission or dissenters to make a valid judgement is always caught up in their respective political beliefs.

Example: It is because Daniel Hannan (in the video below) does not “get it” with regard to international politics, that he believes dealing with undemocratic nations is somehow supporting undemocratic nations. He cannot see that the EU uses its international presence to lure and enable rather than force its undemocratic neighbours towards democracy. That’s because he doesn’t understand how states become democratic. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t “get it”, as such, but it is due to this that his other valid points are dismissed by the European Union.

Why do we hate the European Union? Because we do not feel like we own it, we feel that it owns us. Until we are able to rationally debate about the pros and cons of the EU, we will hate it even more.

Christopher Bradley