Yet the chance that Britain will try to sever itself from Europe is unsettling. In the 20th century, Europe was the font and exporter of global barbarism. (Yes, our own country is working on winning that title for the 21st century.) With exhaustion and the death of empires, Europe became a region of civilization. Its disaggregation can't be a good sign, can it?
Anthony Barnett is writing a book online at Open Democracy titled Blimey, it could be Brexit! which I have found enlightening. Here's how he describes his project:
And here are some nuggets, not in the order Barnett serves them up, that might be thought provoking for people in the States.
He names the signal failure of Britain's recent rulers; both Labor and Conservative governments have squandered the presumption that they rule in the best interests of the majority.
With that loss of legitimacy, space has opened up for the strains implicit in an "unwritten constitution" within which whatever party rules in Parliament in Westminster can take the country wherever it chooses without much legal check.
Brits have relied on accreted, uncodified, snippets of law and liberty; the European project, meanwhile, is an attempt to define by diplomacy a written legal framework for many national states, accommodating differences but gradually eroding them.
Barnett faults "the left" for failing to break out of the apologetic frame within which Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has cast the referendum. Membership in Europe could be positively good not only for Britain's economic health, but even more for equality, diversity, and democracy.
In the last week a young Labour member of Parliament was murdered by someone who is apparently a nativist crazy. Jo Cox did inspire through her work with refugees and for the poor. Brits are still shocked by political murder (are we?). Whether this horror jars the result in the referendum where polls show Leave ahead will be seen on Thursday. Barnett intends to finish his book after the vote is taken; whatever the result, the issues he raises won't go away.