Monday, 4 July 2016

Sovereignty

We have all kinds of different levels of organization in our lives. There are international agreements, nations, provinces and states, municipalities, communities, families and individuals. These can be a little fluid and we could argue about subdivisions of the individual - I didn't mean to make a comprehensive list - but the point is that there are many different levels at which decisions are made and those decisions are imposed upon other levels with varying amounts of authority.

In Ontario whether or not it is criminal to perform the work of the sort a particular professional engages in is a country-level question. What is required to qualify to perform a certain kind of work and laws regarding worker rights more generally are a province-level question. Where work of a given kind can be performed is a municipal-level question. Who actually does that kind of work - given compliance with other laws - is an individual decision. That's, apparently, what we think is a good balance of collective and individual decision making to determine who practices law, who teachers at a high school, who collects garbage, and who sells sexual intercourse.

A person might disagree with that. Maybe they think that provinces should have the power to pass criminal laws of their own, just like states do south of the border. A person might also disagree with whether boundaries are being respected. For example, they might try to argue that in making selling sex illegal is interfering with provincial powers to set employment standards.

I'm sure lots of arguments could be made about the best way to organize powers into a hierarchy. But one that I really can't accept is that the United Kingdom had to leave the European Union to get back its "sovereignty."

It would be pretty hard to organize the world in such a way that the UK did not have to answer to the EU in one form or another. Rather than being a member they might simply work out international agreements, but those would presumably have some kind of enforcement mechanism. One way or another, the UK isn't going to simply go it alone, and Europe's input will continue to matter to UK policy.

So if someone is concerned about EU management of fish stocks, or they would like a return of a visa system for visitors to the UK that would clearly be disallowed by the EU, then I can see why they might want out of the EU. But if it's just about sovereignty, then they are saying, without feeling it requires any further explanation, that a number of unspecified powers currently allotted to the EU would be better managed by the UK.

This strikes me as being like those people who say that sex education shouldn't be taught in school because it is properly taught in the home. It's an appeal to natural order or natural law.

Of course there is nothing natural about children being educated in anything by the parents as opposed to by other members of the community. There is nothing natural about national sovereignty or even about nations. I bet there are some good-enough reasons to think that certain powers of the EU would be better as powers of member states. But "sovereignty" is the outcome of separation, and not a reason for it's own being.

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