Sunday, November 20, 2016

A world of "free" nations stumbling in the dark

The utter confusion and chaos that prevail in the UK after the Brexit referendum is just a taste of what may follow if the politics of nationalism and identity keeps making advances in the public opinion. The first thing we should worry about is the use of the referendum as a privileged tool of democratic decision making. National-populists love referendums both when they win and when they lose. Referendums are not bad per se. It was through plebiscites that Spain advanced to democracy in the 1970s and that Chile defeated Pinochet in the late 1980s. But it was also through plebiscites that Hitler cemented his monopoly of power in Germany. His 1933 referendum wad the last one in Germany, and not even German reunification in 1989 was approved or ratified in a popular direct vote. In Scotland, although the nationalists lost the vote in 2014, they used it to mobilize and to basically eradicate the left from the political landscape (as the nationalists have done in Ireland and Israel), so that they could have a huge victory in the next general election. In the UK, if Brexit had narrowly lost, they would also have achieved the great political objective of mobilizing and making their preferred issues prevalent in the public mind. Perhaps they would even have preferred to lose the referendum, given the mess in which their country has plunged subsequently. The second thing we should worry about is the thought that the relevant unit of freedom and democracy is the nation, or the nation-state. These are obsolete categories that only work in the mind of human individuals, but that are ill-adapted to solve the problems of today's world. A planet of communities dominated by people who believe that they belong to somehow "free" nations would be a planet that would not solve problems like climate change, fiscal havens, financial instability, Internet regulation or global migrations.

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