am I getting my money’s worth?


I was very pro Europe, pro euro, and now I live here I don’t see the UK gaining any benefit at all. The UK endlessly subsidises larger countries, invariably with smaller populations, pays due heed to every EU edict while every other country ignores them. Seriously, the EU takes the piss out of the UK.

I stumbled across this comment from Roughseas on a post by Clare Flourish about Britain’s currently successful right-wing and anti-European party, UKIP. The comment goes to the heart of issues we are dealing with here in the UK, particularly with reference to the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.

There seems to be an obsession with getting out what we put into any agreement in financial terms only. Is the UK putting more into Europe than it’s getting out? Is Scotland putting more into the UK than it’s getting out? The fact of life is that for any kind of fair society that even attempts to provide equality for human beings, over half of the population need to put more in than they get back. There are always going to be people with more opportunities and better luck who are richer and more able to contribute to raising the living standards for those who aren’t. As a society, indeed as a species, we have a choice – do we accept real suffering at the bottom of the scale so that we can eat better food, buy bigger houses and go on better holidays or do we accept that life is better for everyone if we pool our resources?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the core differences in political leanings between England and Scotland – why is Scotland more concerned with looking after its population than England? Why are we more concerned with preserving a nationalised health service and welfare support for the poorest in society? I came to the conclusion that it’s to do with scale. We live in smaller communities here in Scotland and within our smaller communities we have a larger social and economic backgrounds – we grow up, go to school and live in communities with a wider economic cross-section of the population. I suspect in England there are larger pockets of affluent people who don’t actually in their day to day lives have to interact with anyone from different a economic reality. It reminds me of meeting up with my rich American cousin in downtown San Diego, going for a walk with him through the streets and his shock and distaste at seeing homeless people. His life in a gated estate, safe in huge cars to affluent work areas and affluent shopping malls and affluent churches, meant he never had to look at, nevermind interact, with anyone outside his bubble of wealth. In that kind of world, ‘poorer’ people are a different, unknown tribe that created their own misery and really need to just take care of themselves, not people you’ve known from birth who are just living their lives or may have struggled with schooling, poor health and other unfortunate circumstances.

We can’t measure how successful our society is solely on whether we are personally getting our money’s worth. Sure, money is important and shouldn’t be wasted through either mismanagement or corruption – but we have to accept that we’re a long way from eradicating these unfortunate occurrences in any society. More important considerations are freedom (the freedom of movement we have in the EU is fantastic), living without fear (our societies are generally peaceful) and knowing that our basic needs can be met, even if the most dire circumstances befall us (and our welfare safety nets just about cover that in terms of health, housing and food). I don’t just want this for Scotland, or just for the UK, or even just for Europe. Obviously, everyone would have greater peace of mind if images of war, disease and starvation weren’t still so prevalent around the world. But we’re never going to reach the point where these experiences are eradicated if we continuously naval gaze about how much personally, or as a small nation, we are getting out of co-operative arrangements we make with other people and other societies. By openly pooling our resources, our talents, our knowledge and our money, we have a much better chance raising living standards for everyone.