As Britain edges closer to holding its referendum on membership in the European Union, a whole array of economic and financial talking heads have sagely warned of the dangers that Brexit may bring to the economy. When the date of the referendum was announced, the value of the pound tumbled and currency traders rushed to buy up contracts that would protect them against an expected further fall in the price of the pound, suggesting that runs on the pound are expected to continue in greater severity if the British electorate decides to leave the EU.
These options hit their highest levels since the heady days of the Eurozone debt crisis (a crisis, by the way, created by the European Union). Meanwhile, a number of contradictory - yet ominous - predictions and warnings have been offered against Brexit, with the governor of the Bank of England and Christine Lagarde of the IMF all wading in, warning of potential financial disaster should we vote leave.
So, does this mean it would be wise to vote against leaving? Those clever currency traders seem to think it will crash the value of the pound, while those who head up the world's most important financial institutions are firm Bremainers. Should they be listened to? No. Firstly, a split between Britain and the EU, in and of itself, would not necessarily be the cause of any ensuing financial fallout.
Rather, fears of a drawn out and messy secession is the culprit. And this fear stems from the potential backlash and punishment Britain could face from angry EU officials and member states. This sort of financial blackmail merely reinforces the case for leaving the union. If the unity of the so-called family of nations rests upon malicious threats, it should surely be one we should seek to exit as soon as possible.
Beyond this, however, we should resist the idea that we should listen to the wisdom of markets or other financial oracles to decide such a fundamental question. We have repeatedly seen the pro-European Union side attempt to drum up fears over the impact on trade, and wheel out dodgy statistics about how many jobs are reliant upon continued EU membership.
Those in favour of Europe's ever-closer union have always been adept at using economic arguments and financial fear mongering. This may be expected from the "sensible" finance and economics types. Such people, as Oscar Wilde put it, "know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
But the question of EU membership goes beyond momentary financial concerns. Who governs us and how is the question that the referendum raises. Those who rule the EU - the Commission - did not gain their position through voters, nor can voters dismiss them. Those in the pro-EU camp are apparently comfortable with being governed by an unelected group of bureaucrats and only voting for the toothless and useless European Parliament.
It must be hard to convince the electorate that they should vote to be governed by the undemocratic technocrats of the EU Commission. So the decisively technocratic arguments over trade deals and financial market reactions are continuously called upon. But democracy - that basic idea that every few years those who make laws are subject to a vote of approval or disapproval by those who must live by said laws - is priceless.
Of course economic considerations influence political decision-making, but some are too fundamental to draw up a cost benefit analysis. At the heart of the issue is whether or not Britain should remain part of an expanding and undemocratic super-state. Democracy should not be sacrificed upon a cross of gold.Suggest a correction