Thursday, June 02, 2016

Arbitrary lines

With all the fluff and bluster going on at the moment around our (UK) membership of the European Union and the exit-brigade bleating on about sovereignty and independence as if the UK has always existed as some rose-tinted Arthurian vision. I thought it germane to point out that the concept of a "country" from geological, historical and genetic points of view (i.e. reality) is an entirely arbitrary, made-up thing that only exists in the minds of people at a point in time.

It's strange how so many people feel so strongly attached to these lines on the map when history shows us that they are in reality very fluid. It's almost like they feel the need to create in-group out-group situations where none are required, is this patriotism or insecurity?

As a business founder, owner and employer of around 100 people in the UK I want us to stay in the EU, it makes complete sense to me, why isolate yourself from the largest market for goods and services on the planet that also happens to be right on your doorstep? All this stuff about bureaucracy and overhead simply isn't true, if anything it's the opposite. It's far, far easier for me to hire a European than it is say an Indian or American person, but not because of any red-tape (I employ people of many nationalities). The cultural, economic and language barriers are a lot lower and in practical terms it costs me less (Europeans can visit home over the weekend, for long-haul employees they're understandably gone for a month at a time) I also don't feel the constraints that the exit-people claim are there. Last year my company set up an office in the USA, we did this fairly easily and are now transacting business over there as easily as we are in Europe, what these people don't seem to factor-in is that business systems (the foundations upon which commercial organisations sit) these days are already internationalised, integrated and sit in "the cloud", borders simply don't feature that much in how we design, build and support products and systems now. In many ways businesses are way ahead of the politicians in terms of integration, and yet many of them wish to drag us back to an age of isolation and discontinuity, it baffles me.

Of course, it goes without saying that there needs to be constant reform and tweaking of the house-rules, this is true in any organisation; but in my experience it's far better to have a seat at the big table than to have your nose pressed up against the glass looking in, unable to materially influence things at all. Much as the exit-crew hate to admit it, the days when we could send a gunboat to resolve commercial disputes are long gone.

Cartoon from the wonderful XKCD (click for a larger view)

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