Fake Constitutional Scruples
November 6, 2016 2 Comments
The British High Court recently decided that the government could not leave the European Union without a vote in Parliament. The politicians who brought this case claimed they had constitutional concerns. Their alleged scruples make no sense.
The government has the power to use force against those who disagree with it. If you think a law is wrong, the government can use violence to force you to follow it or lock you up for breaking it. You also have no choice about paying for the policies of the current government. If you like the government’s policy on harsher sentences for burglars and dislike the welfare state, you can’t fund one policy and not the other. If you tried to withhold some of the taxes imposed by the government, the government will ultimately lock you up for refusing to pay. This makes the government extremely dangerous. A constitution is a set of rules that constrains how the government can use force. Part of that constraint is that the constitution should specify some means by which the government can be held accountable and dismissed for incompetence or malice. So you can’t plead a constitutional scruple to stop the government from taking an action that will help restore accountability.
The European Union is an organisation that gives EU officials power without accountability. The EU also damages the accountability of British MPs since they have to pass laws to implement EU directives. Since politicians can’t control what the EU does they have excuses for failing to carry out promises to their constituents. So leaving the EU will make the government more accountable. As such, claiming constitutional scruples about leaving the EU makes no sense.
The excuse given for this ruling is that leaving the EU will take rights away from British people. This is rubbish. The EU takes rights away by passing laws that stop people from dealing with one another voluntarily. For example, if an employer wishes to hire you only on condition that you work more than 48 hours per week, he is not allowed to do that according to the EU’s working time directive. His right to choose the terms on which he deals with people has been taken by the EU. This is not an increase in rights for him. Nor is it an increase in rights for people who want to work those hours. Given the legal issues involved, employers will be less willing to offer such people what they want since they can’t make your employment conditional on working more than 48 hours per week. So the stated reason for the ruling makes no sense.