Political Science

Analysts said the Philippines’ temptation to cut a side deal with China could undercut US efforts to put pressure on Beijing to back off its more maximalist claim to 85 per cent of the South China Sea — the nine-dash line” — by using the tribunal’s decision to mobilise international public opinion.

According to Richard Heydarian, a political analyst at De La Salle University in Manila, the new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, “will surely look at ways to leverage the arbitration . . . to extract concessions from China”.

…Zhu Feng, director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing the University, said Beijing’s efforts to cut deals with neighbours on maritime claims is a longstanding policy which even has a name: roughly translated it is called “shelve disputes in favour of joint development”.

He pointed to a number of diplomatic successes — a compromise with Vietnam on maritime claims in Beibu Bay in 2000 and a joint marine seismic work agreement signed with Vietnam and the Philippines in 2005.

…A number of areas of co-operation have been floated in the Chinese media: joint development of oil and gas resources, shared access to the fishing waters and collaboration in research for restoration of coral reefs in the region.

That is from Charles Clover at the FT.

“Some have begun to call public schools ‘government schools,’ a calculated pejorative scorning both education and anything related to government,” he [Davis Merritt] wrote.

That elicited a response from Bob Weeks, the host of “WichitaLiberty.TV,” a show about Kansas politics and public affairs.

“It is surprising to me that liberals and progressives object to the term ‘government schools,’” he said on the show. “They like government, don’t they? These people want more taxation and government spending, don’t they? Well, when we think about our public schools, we find they have all the characteristics of government programs.”

That is from Julie Bosman at the NYT.

The [1707] Act of Union was a legislative measure agreed in Scotland by a tiny patrician elite against some internal parliamentary opposition and much external popular hostility.

That is from T.M. Devine’s new and useful Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present.

…I work occasionally at the VA as a psychiatrist in both inpatient and outpatient settings. My impression is that the men going into the recent wars are far less psychologically healthy then the men who went to WWI, WWII, or Korea. The prior longitudinal studies of the wars of the first half of the 20th century, such as they are, do indeed suggest that most men exit war with similar psychological profiles as to when they entered. Could the recently documented ‘sense of loss’ so many returning veterans express reflect something similar to inner city youths and gangs, namely, that the camaraderie of combat and order of military life provided the paternal presence they lacked growing up? Military life and combat provided what communities and families had provided similar men when they returned from WWI and WWII. Take away the military life and combat, and they are left where they were prior to joining.

That is from a recent post on reading.

Which Danish restaurant gained a third Michelin star in February 2016?

How many municipalities are there in Denmark?

In what constellation did the 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe discover a new star?

Questions such as those are part of a new Danish citizenship test so difficult that more than two-thirds of applicants who took it for the first time in June failed, the Integration Ministry confirmed this week.

Here is the NYT article, this one stumped me too:

Danish Radio recently asked the actor Morten Grunwald a question on the test: When was the premiere of the first movie about the Olsen Gang, a fictional criminal syndicate? Mr. Grunwald, a star of the film, replied, “That, I can’t even answer myself.” His memory was jogged when he was given the choices: 1968, 1970 or 1971. (It was 1968.)

I hope you have all seen the episodes of the TV show Borgen, one of my favorites.

…Brexit is against the “personal” interest of most of UK politicians. The EU institutions and Brussels lobbies offer major career opportunities they definitively do not want to be cut off.

That is from daguix.

Or will it at all?

With the resignations of Cameron, Boris Johnson, and now Farage, it seems few leading politicians are keen to “own” Brexit and its consequences.  If those individuals wish to step back from accepting the consequences of Brexit, might that tendency spread more generally?

If your thoughts run along the lines of “they have to do this, otherwise there will be violence in the streets,” or “they have to proceed with Article 50, otherwise British government will have no legitimacy,” I say Beware The They!

They, they, they.  Try he and she.  Word on the street these days is that Article 50 won’t even be seriously considered before the French and German elections, which means Fall 2017 at the earliest.  OK, so let’s say it is October 2017, and Brexit is more unpopular because the intervening uncertainty has created a recession.  Do you, as an individual British legislator, wish to claim an ownership of the process at that point?  If Farage didn’t want to own it, and so quickly realized that, why should you pick up the bag?  Yes I know most individual constituencies, evaluated as constituencies, were pro-Brexit.  But they were also anti-recession and anti-chaos, and so you must choose between giving them the means they want and giving them the ends they want.

It’s already being debated whether Article 50 invocation requires an Act of Parliament or not.  I can’t judge the constitutional issue (can anyone?), but practically speaking it seems to me that if Parliament says it requires their explicit consent than it does.  Similarly, if Parliament washes its hands of the matter, who or what can overrule them and make them vote if they don’t want to?  So I see a few scenarios in this multi-stage game:

1. Parliament wants no vote in the matter, and claims it doesn’t have to vote.  In this scenario, the new PM may not act on it either.  Note that Theresa May was originally pro-Remain, she will believe that Article 50 will worsen the recession and thus her electoral prospects, and she wouldn’t have parliamentary approval as cover for pushing the nuclear button.  If I were in Parliament, with a moderately pro-Leave constituency, I would be rooting for this scenario.  No one acts, but everyone can blame other parties for not acting.

2. Parliament cannot run away from its voting rights, or even positively seeks to assert them.  Under this scenario, commentators may suggest that Parliament as a whole has to desire Brexit, if only to keep its legitimacy.  But recall that before the referendum, Parliament as a whole was about 3-1 pro-Remain.  Why chase after a voting right you don’t wish to have?  If Farage didn’t want to stick around for such an outcome, why should you?  So vote Remain, claim you had initially campaigned along with pro-Remain forces, claim you are sticking to your original electoral mandate, and see what happens to your political future.  Say it is “the others” who are detaching Parliament from the will of the people.

3. The 2017 PM and Cabinet take to the British people an alternative, non-EU vision of what Leave would look like, but they don’t lie too much to make it look so great.  They hold a second referendum, not on Leave vs. Remain per se, but on whether that is a satisfactory target option for a Leave scenario.  In fact they can design the plan to fail simply by being somewhat realistic.  The option fails, and the politicians claim everyone has to go back to the drawing board.  I get sick of my Twitter feed being full of so much Brexit talk for so many years, and I stop following so many British people.

4. The trickling, tortuous uncertainty through Fall 2017 is so economically costly that everyone realizes a decision must be made and soon.  “Leave” is the only decision which is focal, because of the referendum, and so Leave is set in motion and Article 50 is invoked.  You will note that this scenario, while it sounds plausible, is a bit at odds with waiting until Fall 2017 to begin with.  So the reality of waiting today has to lower the probability of this one somewhat.

5. The trickling, tortuous uncertainty through Fall 2017 is so economically costly that everyone realizes a decision must be made and soon.  “Leave” is a more focal decision, but it still takes years to negotiate and consummate, thereby ensuring the uncertainty continues to kill the British economy.  “Leave” therefore is discarded through political shenanigans and Remain rules the day because only the status quo ex ante can be brought about so quickly.

6. In the meantime, the EU does something really stupid, which includes the steady insulting of the British people and government, and almost everyone in the UK wants to leave by Fall 2017.

6b. In the meantime, Putin does something really stupid, and English opinion shifts strongly to Remain and Remain comes about through emergency national security channels.

7. In the meantime, the French and German elections require those governments to reassert at least partial control over their borders vis-a-vis immigration.  This right is then offered to the UK, if only verbally, and the support for Leave more or less collapses.  There is the beginnings of negotiation for a new EU treaty, in the meantime a bunch of EU nations including the UK break the rules of the old treaty, yet without being punished.  This strikes me as one of the more plausible scenarios.

I get how #4 and #6 pretty clearly lead to actual Brexit, as does one branch of #2, but when you look at these scenarios as a whole, I don’t think the chances for an actual Brexit are so overwhelmingly high.  The key obstacle is getting so many pro-Remain legislators to attach their names and reputations to a scenario which Johnson and Farage already are running away from.  That is just not so easy.

Didn’t the Sex Pistols sing about “…now I got a reason to be waiting”?

Yes, British legislators do have a reason to be waiting.  They are waiting.  Should that reason become stronger or weaker over time?  Why think that “weaker” is so obviously the correct predictive answer?  There is no clear deadline forcing their hand.

In the 1960s and 70s, America and the UK had riots all the time.  I’m not saying this is good!  (Though it did lead to an excellent Clash song.)  But once underway, in fact it is politically acceptable in many situations, or sometimes even politically desirable.

Addendum: Here are a few more points to consider:

a. Parliamentary systems behave very differently when off their steady-state stability path.  There is now a power vacuum, no courts to produce definitive rulings, and the executive and legislative branches of government end up as bankrupt at the same time and in the same ways.  Things are stuck and the traditional local comparative statics simply do not work.  So our usual intuitions for what is supposed to happen in British politics may not be so reliable, and indeed few people had predicted the outcomes the country has received so far, including all the resignations.

b. The status of the Queen will either go up a lot or down a lot.  Many people still believe, if only in inchoate form, that she is there for moments of constitutional crisis.  But a moment of truth is coming where she will have to cough up her creative ambiguity, or not!  If she does nothing, which I consider the more likely scenario, the monarchy will become all the more irrelevant.  If she issues a pronouncement of some kind, she will either be a grand heroine or look pretty bad.

c. In some ways the EU had taken on the “backstop” role formerly held by the British monarchy.  This is not widely understood.  And indeed without the EU, it seems British politics is quite chaotic.  This is a huge embarrassment for the Leave forces, and few if any of them foresaw this or are willing to admit this now.  But that is in fact how British politics has been evolving over decades.  To a keen reader of Bagehot, however, this does not come as a surprise, and it is another reason why the Leave vote was a huge mistake.

A contentious EU-Canada trade agreement is at risk of becoming bogged down in a spat between EU capitals and Brussels over whether national parliaments should get to ratify the deal.

The European Commission has waded into sensitive political territory by suggesting that, legally, the wide-ranging accord could simply be approved by national trade ministers and by the European Parliament to take effect.

While EU leaders are highly supportive of the trade deal, known as CETA, the commission’s push for a streamlined adoption has raised the prospect of an ugly power struggle even as the bloc seeks to cope with the trauma of Britain’s vote last month to leave the EU.

At stake is whether a total of 38 different national parliamentary chambers, including in some cases regional assemblies, should have a binding say. In addition to the commission’s belief that this is not required under the EU’s treaties, a pressing political concern is that it could be the death knell of a deal that took five years to negotiate.

The outcome of the tussle could also have implications for how complicated it will be for post-Brexit Britain to negotiate a trade deal with the EU.

That is from Jim Brundsen and Duncan Robinson at the FT.  And Canadian exports are far more resource-intensive, and less services-intensive, which ought to make that free trade agreement especially easy.

I’ve seen various articles suggesting Britain has only about twenty trade negotiators and the country will look to New Zealand (!) to borrow expertise in this area.  In other words it will rely on immigrants of a sort.  What does that tell you about the level of preparation?

Wolfgang Munchnau on Twitter suggests that Tory leaders can deliver and support only hard forms of Brexit, without EEA or a real trade agreement.  The French are talking about no longer spending the money to cut off migrants in Calais and instead letting them cross the channel so the British can deal with it themselves.

People, this already isn’t going well!

I very much liked yesterday’s Ross Douthat piece, and I agree with most of it, and I regard him as one of the truly great columnists writing today.  Still, there was one tiny part I disagreed with, and I see the point being repeated in varying forms elsewhere, so I thought I would pull it out and add a few comments, namely:

(There is more genuine cosmopolitanism in Rudyard Kipling and T. E. Lawrence and Richard Francis Burton than in a hundred Davos sessions.)

That is Ross, do read the whole piece for context, but here are my worries.  They may be nitpicks, but actually I feel a fair amount is at stake here:

1. It seems unfair to compare Davos sessions to some rather robust, historically important, top-of-the-line explorers.  Virtually all sessions are boring, including or maybe even especially in the 19th or early 20th centuries.  How about comparing the elites of back then to the elites of today?  Then I think the Davos set would look quite good.  Or if you compare the explorers of more recent times — say Jan Morris or Louis Sarno — to the explorers of back then, still the present day looks good and possibly even considerably superior in terms of curiosity, tolerance, and a broad outlook.

Overall, I see a lot of evidence — both cross-sectional and time series — that those qualities are what economists call normal goods rather than inferior goods, or in other words those qualities rise with income.  And do we moderns not in some ways have an overall better and more accurate perspective?  Have we not read much more, learned better social science, and developed a greater facility for spotting prejudices and logical fallacies?

2. I suspect either the elites or the explorers of today are better when it comes to understanding differing perspectives of gender, neurology, sexuality, race, age (should you beat your kids?), and a variety of other dimensions.  Maybe none of these wisdoms fall exactly under the heading of the adjective “cosmopolitan,” but still they seem relevant for whether today’s elite is wiser and broader.  How many of the earlier elite were women, and embodied that set of diverse perspectives, to pose a simple comparative question?

3. I’ve never been to Davos, but I know some people who have.  They’re weird!  And I mean that in a (mostly) good way.  I am reluctant to overgeneralize about them, and I suspect they are more diverse than is often thought to be the case.  Almost by the virtue of having been invited, they are some pretty extreme outliers, consider for instance Bill Gates or Elon Musk.  I’d also like to see data on how many of them have spent serious time in say poor rural villages in less developed nations, or had other strange or diverse experiences.  The answers might surprise us.

Who amongst us knows this about CEO and billionaire Patrick Byrne of Overstock?:

“30 years ago in China I contracted Hep C.  I got a bad head wound and a ‘barefoot doctor’ they called him, sewed me up.  I’ll give you the facts, I went stage 4 last summer, seemed to have gotten through the treatment but it’s been quite harsh on me and it’s on top of a long, I’ve actually had 106 surgeries, 51 times they stopped my heart electrically, another 50 times chemically,”

Isn’t that a kind of cosmopolitanism?  And the medical treatments also have given him some pretty novel perspectives.  Patrick by the way is fluent in Mandarin and has spent years in strange and unusual parts of China, and during a time when it was far less safe and comfortable than today.

Or how about what Jeff Sachs does?  Whether or not you agree with all of his economics, it’s not easy, and I mean on both the mind and the body.  How about those Harvard MBAs who are Mormons and have done missions in exotic locales and gone door to door for two years?

Muhammad Yunus was born in a Chittagong Muslim village into a family of nine children, circa 1940.  Later “From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.”  Isn’t that a pretty incredible diversity of life experience?

Thomas Friedman, a classic exemplar of the globalist mindset and whipping boy for many, in fact spent serious time in Beirut covering the civil war, and doing original reporting in situations of very real danger, winning Pulitzers and a National Book Award for the quality of his work.  During one later four-year period, he traveled over 500,000 miles.  Nicholas Kristof is another good example of someone who really “gets out there,” in his case often in Africa but not only.

If you are curious, here’s a basic list of Davos attendees.   Note also that the very real increase in segregation by income in America — mostly a bad development and which Ross mentions — seems to be centered around the upper middle class, not the Davos set, as the very wealthy and the elites always have lived somewhat apart.

Overall I think Ross and many others are somewhat underrating Davos.  I do understand that Davos attendees may, as a whole, suffer from excess hubris, excess complacency, or be excessively fond of technocracy.  And the fact that many (by no means all) of them have not suffered very much does limit some of their perspectives.  But are they not in fact actually about as cosmopolitan as we might hope for?

Addendum: Rob Howse offers some useful remarks, and also notes the connection of the “genuine cosmopolitan” idea — a tricky concept — to Leo Strauss.  Here is his closing bit:

Is it so that the cosmopolitans Douthat despises merely retreat into comfortable and familiar neighborhoods in global cities?…[many are] working in a combat zone with Medicins sans frontiers; or persisting as a foreign correspondent in a country where journalists’ lives are threatened; or setting up a truth commission to heal wounds in a conflict-ridden nation; or soldiering as a social entrepreneur to empower women’s small business in an African village; or confronting traditional community leaders about female genital mutilation.  These are all quintessentially cosmopolitan roles, which involve real risks, real sacrifice, and often wrenching encounters with otherness.

I agree with Ross’s description that the Davos set is very often “liberal Christianity without Christ.”  But maybe that’s the most cosmopolitan philosophy going these days.  The bigger question of course is, given slow economic growth and institutional rigidification, how much that really helps us.

She is in the running to lead the Conservative Party and be the next PM.  Here are her words on Theresa May, the front runner and heavy favorite, under whom she may well end up serving as a Cabinet member:

She’s a superb candidate.  A brilliant Home Secretary and a seriously intelligent and principled person.

And on Michael Gove, her more direct rival for the number two slot for a possible run-off against May:

Michael is an incredibly decent person.  I don’t buy all this talk of treachery and evil.

Here is some of the talk of treachery and evil, based on the notion that Gove stabbed Boris Johnson, ostensibly the previous front-runner to be PM, in the back.

The Telegraph article, an interview with Leadsom, is in the paper edition titled “I like to think I have the qualities of Lady Thatcher.”

Here are some critical remarks about Andrea Leadsom.

The author is Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon and the subtitle is Britain and Europe from the End of Empire to the rise of Euroscepticism.  It is maybe the best book to read on Britain’s earlier relations with the European Union.  Here is one bit:

The vast majority of the Labour Party was anti-EEC, believing that it was a capitalist conspiracy that would undermine Britain’s control of its own industry.

That was during the 1960s.  And this:

When it awoke on the morning of 1 January 1973 as a full member of the European Economic Community (EEC), the British public was deeply ambivalent.  In a poll taken 3-7 January 1973, 36 percent of the public reported being ‘quite or very pleased’; 33 percent were ‘quite or very displeased’ and an astonishing 20 percent purported to be ‘indifferent’ (the remaining 11 p cent were undecided, but not indifferent.

By August 1973, 52 per cent were opposed and only 32 per cent still in favor.

Definitely recommended, a book for our times.

Offhand I can think of at least four.  I would suggest these as options to consider, rather than verified:

1. The comparative advantage of the largest nations is greater than before.  The UK stands relatively powerless vis-a-vis the EU, and the EU itself may be dissolving or at least weakening.  There is talk of “Nexit” for the Netherlands, yet they are far less well equipped than is the UK to go it alone without the EU.  The larger nations have long been a mess, and still are, but the smaller nations cannot coordinate as well as we thought.

2. Brexit is another example of the 1990s unraveling or being reversed.  It is hard to imagine that Brexit would have succeeded against the EU of 1985, which among other things still had border checks, Benelux aside.  So when exactly did the EU “grow too big for its britches,” at least from an English point of view?  I believe this has to be dated back to the 1990s, under Tony Blair, with a second episode coming after the boost in Eastern European migration after 2004, but the liberation of the east was ultimately a 1990s phenomenon as well.

3. Perhaps the law is so complicated, and politics now so dysfunctional, that contemporary governments just can’t handle crises any more.  Arguably the USA and UK governments spent their political capital during the financial crisis of 2008 (“trust us on these bailouts”), and they just don’t have enough left in the trust bank.  Thus we observe a near-complete paralysis of the British government, with even — especially — the opposition in complete disarray.  The existence of party discipline often feels fruitful, but it also means the lack of party discipline can lead to a crisis too readily, unlike in the United States, where there is sometimes party unity but rarely much party discipline.

4. More generally, might the Parliamentary system be worse than many people think?  I’ve seen it praised so many times in the blogosphere for its clean, swift, up or down properties.  But when there is a leadership void, it hits the legislative and executive branches together, and either before or after the void it is possible to shift very badly off course very rapidly.  There are fewer intermediate institutions or checks and balances to set things right, and as Martin Wolf noted: “36 per cent of eligible voters have been allowed to decide “without any appropriate checks and balances””.  The suddenness of the Brexit problems could not happen easily in the United States, and along a number of fronts the American system of government is looking pretty good these days.  For now.  So many trials of endurance!

We’ll see, but those are at least worth a ponder.

Risen in status: Buchanan and Tullock for The Calculus of Consent, Ben Friedman for The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.

Jacob Levy has a very good post on this topic, here is one bit from it:

There’s a level of popular belief that the EU enforces illiberal and market-unfriendly policies on Britain. On the fiscal side, here’s a comparison of British public spending as a share of GDP just before entry into the EU, and just before the Brexit vote:

1971: 42.0
1972: 40.8

2014: 41.8
2015: 40.8

(source)

Even when you add in the <1% of GDP that is paid to Brussels, this is just not a picture of a system that has forced Britain to become a big-spending social democracy. (Neither, of course, is it a picture of a system that has forced Britain into neoliberal austerity, a charge one hears from the left.)

Here is another:

According to the 2015 Economic Freedom of the World report’s overall measure for regulatory burden, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Ireland, and Romania are all less regulated than the UK. The most recent Heritage index of “business freedom” ranks Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Sweden ahead of the UK; for labor freedom, Denmark, Austria, and Ireland. In all these cases, these relatively-liberal EU countries compare favorably with other developed countries in or out of the EU.

Do read the whole thing, here are comments from Ilya Somin.

The Government of Canada has made it a top priority to re-establish and strengthen our relationship with one of our most important partners, Mexico. To this end, Prime Minister Trudeau today announced Canada’s intention to lift the visa requirement for Mexican visitors to Canada beginning December 1, 2016. Lifting the visa requirement will deepen ties between Canada and Mexico and will increase the flow of travellers, ideas, and businesses between both countries.

Here is the link, via (if I recall correctly) Adam Ozimek in my Twitter feed.

Yes, I am still pro Remain, and also generally pro immigration, and I am still hoping the Brits take a cue from DeAndre Jordan.  (I also see geopolitics and national security as a significant reason to favor Remain, just ask Putin; furthermore the transition problems are looking worse than many had expected.)  But I am growing distressed by the material I am seeing from the Remain side.  At some point we have to limit our moralizing about the vote and start treating it more like data, if only to figure out how to best overturn or reverse it.

As I interpret what happened, ultimately the vote was about preserving the English nation, and yes I use those last two italicized words deliberately; reread Fintan O’Toole.  Go back and read English history.  For centuries, England has been filled with English people, plus some others from nearby regions.  Go visit Norfolk and also stop in Great Yarmouth, once described by Charles Dickens as “…the finest place in the universe,” and which, for whatever decline it may have experienced, still looks and feels like England.  London does not.

As Zack Beauchamp notes (in a piece which is mostly an example of what I am criticizing): “…the number of foreign-born people living in the UK has gone from 2.3 million in 1993 (when Britain joined the EU) to 8.2 million in 2014.”

In terms of distribution and influence, the impact of those numbers is much larger yet.  London, the cultural center, business center, and political capital of England for many centuries, is now essential a global and indeed foreign city.  I spent almost two weeks in London in 1979, and while I clearly prefer the new version the difference is glaringly obvious to me, as I am sure it is all the more to most English people.  (And that contrast is clearest to the older English of course, and that helps explain one of the most pronounced demographic features of how people voted; it is inappropriate how many Remain supporters are cursing the arguably better informed preferences of the elderly.)

Cities such as Bradford, while still predominantly white, no longer feel as English (and German!) as they once did.  And if you are thinking that voting “Leave” does not at all limit Pakistani immigration, you are truly missing the point; this vote was the one lever the English were given for sending a message to their politicians.

It would be a falsehood and exaggeration to say “Islam is now the major religion of England,” but given low rates of Anglican church attendance, it is not an entirely absurd claim to at least wonder about.  And for better or worse, a lot of people just won’t put up with change that is so rapid and far-reaching.  Believe it or not, they are not persuaded by my “British Muslims must lead the global Islamic Reformation” conviction.

All of this migration has brought a “cultural trauma” arguably more significant than anything for England since the Norman Conquest.  In fact, under a lot of estimates the Norman Conquest was no more than about 10,000 men, relative to an estimated English population of 1.7 million at that time.

Quite simply, the English want England to stay relatively English, and voting Leave was the instrument they were given.  That specific cultural attachment is not for Irish-American me, no, I feel no sentiment, other than perhaps good humor, when someone offers me “a lovely biscuit,” or when a small book shop devotes an entire section to gardening, but yes I do get it at some level.  And some parts of the older England I do truly love and I am talking the Beatles and Monty Python and James Bond here, not just the ancients like Trollope or Edmund Spenser.

Much has been made of the supposed paradox that opposition to immigration is highest where the number of immigrants is lowest.  Yes, some of that is the racism and xenophobia of less cosmopolitan areas, but it would be a big mistake to dismiss it as such or even to mainly frame it as such.  Most of all it is an endowment effect.  Those are the regions which best remember — and indeed still live — some earlier notion of what England was like.  And they wish to hold on to that, albeit with the possibility of continuing evolution along mostly English lines.

One way to understand the English vote is to compare it to other areas, especially with regard to immigration.  If you read Frank Fukuyama, he correctly portrays Japan and Denmark, as, along with England, being the two other truly developed, mature nation states in earlier times, well before the Industrial Revolution.  And what do we see about these countries?  Relative to their other demographics, they are especially opposed to very high levels of immigration.  England, in a sense, was the region “out on a limb,” when it comes to taking in foreigners, and now it has decided to pull back and be more like Denmark and Japan.

The regularity here is that the coherent, longstanding nation states are most protective of their core identities.  Should that come as a huge surprise?  The contrast with Belgium, where I am writing this, is noteworthy.  The actual practical problems with immigration are much greater here in Brussels, but the country is much further from “doing anything about it,” whether prudently or not, and indeed to this day Belgium is not actually a mature nation-state and it may splinter yet.  That England did something is one reflection of the fact that England is a better-run region than Belgium, even if you feel as I do that the vote was a big mistake.

Of course, USA and Canada and a few others are mature nation states based on the very idea of immigration, so they do not face the same dilemma that England does.  By the way, the most English of the colonies — New Zealand — has never been quite as welcoming of foreign immigrants, compared to say Australia.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have much less interest in “the English project” and of course they voted for Remain at high levels; the Welsh are somewhat closer to the English perspective and they had a majority for Leave.  I also would argue that Scotland and Northern Ireland have in fact never been truly coherent nation states, with many of the Irish in chaos for centuries and Scotland piggybacking on a larger Great Britain.  They (correctly) see the EU as a vehicle to attaining greater coherence, and thus it is no surprise that EU membership led to a nearly successful Scottish independence referendum, with perhaps another independence vote to follow.

Adam Ozimek has some good remarks on debating immigration.  Here are some interesting accounts of those who voted Leave.  Note that voting “Leave” may not even end up giving the English/British control over their immigration policies, once a new deal is struck with the EU.

Restoring and maintaining what is English?  “Too little, too late!’ says I, “you should instead find a way of strengthening and redefining English identity under the status quo ex ante,” I might have added, but of course I was not given the deciding vote or indeed any vote at all.

Most of all, I conclude that the desire to preserve the English nation [sic] as English is stronger than I or indeed most others had thought.  There is a positive side to that.  And if all along you thought there was no case for Leave, probably it is you who is the provincial one.