An open letter to Barack Obama, responding to the American president’s heartfelt intervention in our EU referendum debate
Welcome back to Britain, Mr. President. It’s always a pleasure to have you here.
Thank you also for sharing the fruits of your wisdom on how we should vote in our coming referendum to leave or remain in the European Union. Your deep respect and affection for the United Kingdom (and the countless small ways in which you have honoured the special relationship since taking office in 2008) is well known here, and we are sure you would not have made this intervention at David Cameron’s personal request unless you sincerely believed it was the right course of action, and had our country’s best interests at heart.
But before you jet back to Washington DC on Air Force One, Mr. Obama, please allow us to reciprocate by sharing some words of advice for your own country and fellow citizens. We offer this advice in exactly the same spirit with which you blessed us with yours.
Mr. President, it is time for the United States of America to admit that the age of the nation state is over, to let go of excessive pride and patriotism, and form a political Union of the Americas. Don’t waste another moment. Assemble the heads of state from North, Central and South America and immediately sign and ratify a Treaty of Tijuana creating a political and customs union between your respective countries. For this is the only way that the great prosperity which Americans have known in the twentieth century can possibly be preserved in the twenty-first.
Now, we know what you’re going to say. The United States is still the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power. That’s true. But the same was said of the United Kingdom a mere century earlier, and look what a beating Britain took in the first eighty years of the 20th century – a huge expenditure of blood and treasure defending freedom in Europe, a global empire lost and an economy which went from being the world’s largest to smaller than that of Italy.
It was only by
the election of Margaret Thatcher joining the European Community that a battered and declining Britain managed to staunch the bleeding and halt the decline. America should seize the initiative, recognise that – like Britain – her best days are firmly in the past, and hedge against the scary and uncertain future by dissolving the political ties which separate her from Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Suriname, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guyana and Brazil.
Consider: America’s economy will soon be overtaken by China in terms of raw nominal GDP, as will that of our own blessed European Union. And the population of the United States is dwarfed by both India and China, two developing countries with nuclear arsenals and strong regional interests which are often at odds with America’s. If you wait too long to band together into a regional political union based on your shared continental values it may be too late – China will divide and conquer the continent.
No one country from the Americas can hope to stand up to China or wield the leverage to sign the amazing trade deals that one of your potential successors is promising. Only by binding your fate inexorably to that of Venezuela and Ecuador can the United States hope to secure a fair deal. Remember: united you stand, but divided you fall.
And speaking of being united, isn’t it about time that any citizen of North or South America was able to live, work or retire anywhere they please? The new American single market for goods, services and capital is incomplete if there is not also a single labor market, and so the very first act of this new Union of the Americas should be to abolish national borders and establish passport and visa-free travel across the entire continent.
Now, some may object to this with shrill warnings about national security, but consider – as part of this new Union, the United States will have access to the world-class intelligence services of Peru and Costa Rica. As we all know, national security cooperation is only possible through full political union, and so by joining this Union of the Americas the CIA and FBI will for the first time ever be able to share information with Mexico and Canada for the prevention of crime and terrorism.
We anticipate that your labor unions will also kick up a fuss at the thought of millions of economic migrants from South and Central America moving to the United States in search of work and higher living standards. But if you give Tony Blair a quick call, he will tell you that it is possible to overcome these objections by furiously ignoring them and labelling anybody who gets angry about the suppression of wages and conditions as a racist or xenophobe.
So how should this Union of the Americas work? Well, we humbly suggest that you model it on our own European Union, whose institutions are so beloved by all European citizens and whose founding fathers are no less well-known and revered than Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin.
Of course you will need a government for this union. We have found that a Commission of 28 mostly failed politicians from our respective countries serves this purpose very well indeed. This body will be the only one which can propose new laws for your union, so finding the right calibre of candidates is important. It’s the strangest thing, but former prime minister and presidents who left office under a cloud of scandal and popular dissatisfaction often turn out to make amazing commissioners. We don’t know why it works, it just does.
You will need a Parliament for your union, too, in order to act as a rubber stamp for new directives and legislation. But it is no good having each country voting along national lines – remember, the goal is to gradually weaken and erode national identity so as to gain public acceptance for our new Union of the Americas. So each member state should be divided up into regions, with each region represented by a number of MAPS (Members of the American Parliament). You might think that the United States is already ideally divided into fifty such constituencies in the States, but this is entirely the wrong way of thinking. The regions should be arbitrary places to which nobody feels any sense of connection or belonging. Geographic descriptions like “North East” and “South West” are always a good choice, because they help to break down peoples’ backward and antiquated feelings of patriotism and pride in their home, and finally begin to see themselves as the pan-American citizens that they are.
And we can’t forget the judicial branch. Your new Union of the Americas must uphold the rule of law and ensure that national governments, corporations and individuals are in compliance with foundational treaties and Union laws and directives. The American Court of Justice (ACJ) will fit nicely above your own Supreme Court – and of course, any decisions which the US Supreme Court makes are subject to review by the ACJ because lovely though your own Constitution may be, Union Law must have primacy if this new arrangement is to work.
The goal, as you can probably tell, is the gradual accretion of power and responsibility at the supranational level, so that key decisions are taken in Tijuana rather than the capitals of each member state. National identity is so anachronistic, and stubbornly clinging to outdated concepts of nationhood will doom the American peoples to a lost century of relative decline. Now, naturally you may encounter some resistance to all of this from the voters, which is why it is actually best to talk about the whole enterprise exclusively in terms of trade and co-operation. If anybody accuses you of harbouring grander plans for political union, just dismiss them as cranks and conspiracy theorists. It works really well.
And don’t worry – you can keep all of your institutions. Congress, the Supreme Court, the office of the presidency, all of it will still exist under the new Union. It’s just that various powers and responsibilities will need to be outsourced to the supranational level to ensure the smooth running of the new Union. We think you will quickly come to like the arrangement – having dedicated civil servants in Tijuana administering social policy, negotiating trade deals and hammering out a common foreign policy will free up so much time for partisan grandstanding, political fundraising or a few more sneaky rounds of golf.
We know how tiring you have found the partisan gridlock in Washington. Well, by signing the United States up as a founder member of the Union of the Americas, you don’t have to worry about it any more! Democrats and Republicans can continue to posture, argue and filibuster about a whole range of largely symbolic issues, while increasingly all of the governing that actually matters moves to the supranational level. It’s a win-win situation.
I hope that by now you can sense the excitement we feel for the potential of this new Union of the Americas. And frankly, from a selfish European (I nearly said British – old habits die hard) perspective it would make our lives much simpler, too. It is rather time-consuming and expensive to maintain embassies and consulates in so many countries and cities across North, Central and South America. And at times of crisis, I know that Federica Mogherini, our incredibly well-qualified and able High Representative for Foreign Affairs, would find it so much easier if she only had to dial one number to speak to the Americas.
Nation states are a thing of the past. And good riddance, too – they have brought us nothing but war, misery and shame (as our French and German compatriots keep reminding us). So, Mr. President, let your parting legacy to the United States be setting in motion the process of her abolition.
But we do not need to convince you of any of this. After all, it is you urging us vote to remain in the European Union, because you understand the advantages of post-democratic, supranational governance better than many of our own stubborn, backward citizens.
And of course you would never recommend anything for your closest ally that you do not also consider good enough – and earnestly desire – for the United States.
Would you, Mr. President?
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You hit a nail on the head Sam, but I have a question. Not mine, but that of Philippe van Parijs, a much more prominent advocate of the citizens’ Basic Income. He wonders why the USA seems to work fine, if the EU is such a mess.
At least a part of the answer is of course culture differences, the feeling that Romanians and Bulgarians are not the same as ‘us’, or that Greece must not be fished out of its self-inflicted problems lest Ireland and Portugal expect the same.
But rich states such as California and New York have been quietly subsidizing the likes of Louisiana and Alabama for years. Migration is for all I know not even recorded. It is certainly not discouraged. Despite the increasingly vicious antics of the republicans, this lubrication of how the USA works has never surfaced as a political issue.
So yes, your comparison of the wider union is valid, for the same reasons, but surely, the moral is that if the USA works, with its vast wealth disparities, then there should be motivation to make it work on a wider scale on both sides of the Atlantic.
The basic income has a part to play in the necessary culture shift, as I try to explain in my blog,
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