Lastly, we personally always thought it would be best if the world consisted of a collection of territories the biggest of which was Switzerland. The Germany we like best politically is the one that consisted of more than 360 independent sovereign states, prior to 1794. Citizens could literally “vote with their feet” – and nothing is better to keep one’s rapacious and power-hungry rulers in check.
Germany before 1794: a collection of independent ecclesiastical principalities, free imperial cities, secular principalities and other minor self-ruling entities – click to enlarge.
However, we are not “isolationist” by any means – as our readers know, we fully support free markets, free trade, and free movement of people and capital. In fact, one can have all these things, even if there is no central political power imposing them (actually: especially when there is no such central power!).
For instance, the 360 German states mentioned above all used the same money (the coins all had different pictures, but the mints had gotten together to standardize weights), and traded freely with each other. As to the free movement of people – no-one would even have thought to wonder about that point or would have considered “should people be free to go where they want” a legitimate question – passports didn’t even exist yet! Locking up people within the territory ruled over by a specific force monopolist and forcing them to carry papers and ask their bureaucratic overlords for permission to travel is an invention of the modern “free world”.
Due to scientific, technological and economic progress we are all trained to believe that whatever comes later must be better. But this just isn’t so (the science of economics is a pertinent example). We have gained many valuable things, even liberties, we didn’t have before – but we have also lost a great many things that would have been well worth preserving.
The Dark Ages weren’t as dark as most people assume, so to speak…in fact, the darkest of all ages was the 20th century, when governments murdered more people than in all of the rest of history combined – all for the “greater good”!
As an aside to this, what ended the brief period of economic liberty that followed on the heels of the Western Roman Empire’s collapse? Charlemagne – the first medieval central planner, who at the synod of Aachen in AD 789 and at the Council of Nijmegen in AD 806 introduced a “usury ban”, price controls, and a “ban on speculation”. In short, as soon as a new central power arose in Europe, it was all over with leaving people alone to do their thing in peace.
Medieval central planner Charlemagne. As soon as the first emperor after the fall of West Rome was firmly ensconced in power, he significantly curtailed the economic freedom people had enjoyed over the previous three centuries (erroneously dubbed the “Dark Ages”). A prime example for why big centralized states are really bad for the common man.
If Europeans want to have free trade, do they really need a bureaucratic Leviathan in Brussels regulating every nook and cranny of their lives? No. All they need is the back of a napkin, on which they could write: “Henceforth, there will be no more tariffs between us” – and then shake hands on it.
Alas, they probably won’t sleep as well anymore. Brussels has ensured that Europe’s citizens all sleep like babies: There are 109 EU regulations concerning pillows, 5 EU regulations concerning pillow cases, and 50 EU laws regulating duvets and sheets.
Yo, Brits! You can get those beds of nails down from your attics now! No need to hide them away anymore!
Just remember… not the ideal bedding if you’re tossing and turning a lot in your sleep.
Cartoon by Arthur Kleisent
We will have more to say on the Brexit in coming days – for now, we just want to point out that the times have become a lot more “interesting”. As we have said previously, we believe shaking off the Brussels yoke will be quite positive for the UK – although it is by no means enough. The country’s own bureaucrats are no slouches either when it comes to regulating everything to death. Much will therefore depend on the choices that are made from here on out.
It is a dark day for the citizens in the rest of the EU though, as they are losing the strongest supporter of subsidiarity and economic liberalism (relative to the rest, that is). The biggest danger is actually that with the UK gone, the political elites of continental Europe will try to accelerate the socialist super-state project in a kind of flight forward. However, it may well be too late for that. More on this to come – stay tuned.
Cartoon by Steve Bell