Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Theresa May in Conversation: A Cup of British Tea and a Swiss Roll by Lake Geneva

Shortly after the EU referendum, Theresa May decided to spend a few days in Switzerland. What a coincidence that this country is part of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), but not the European Economic Area (EEA).


Complicated? Yes, it sure is. Luckily Google can help me out.

 Let’s start with the EFTA: It’s a trade agreement between 4 countries: Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. Head office in Geneva.
Now, the EEA: The EFTA has access to the EU free market thanks to the 1992 EEA agreement (EU member states are automatically part of the EEA). Head office in Brussels.
However, Switzerland decided not to ratify the EEA agreement. And, you guessed it, they did this via a referendum. “Switzerland has retained observer status within the EEA and developed its relations with the EU through bilateral agreements in order to safeguard its economic integration with the EU.” (quote from the EEA website).
What “observer status” means is anybody’s guess.
So what does the EEA agreement actually mean? Well, let’s ask the man himself, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Comission:
 “Well, mon cher George (or is it Georges?) This basically means that these countries pay ME to have the right to sell their goods in MY European theme park, and must accept ALL my rules and ALL the immigrants I throw at them without questioning my authority.” 
Now, now, Jean-Claude, don’t get cocky with me, sunshine. My philosopher friend Jean-Jacques Rousseau is going to put you right back where you belong. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland, no less…  Being in Switzerland, Theresa May can see not only see how prosperous a land can be outside the EU, but also acquire the political inspiration of one of the great voices of European philosophy. After she’s enjoyed very British cup of tea and a Swiss roll, of course.

In conversation with Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Whilst in Switzerland, Theresa did do something useful. She got hold of some of the writings of the Swiss-born philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (JJ from now on), and went for a quiet cup of tea by Lake Geneva to think things through.


Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.

Now JJ, I wouldn’t go that far. All she wanted was a bit of peace and quiet.

She basically wanted to ask herself what she had done, how and when she had done it, what she should do about it, and, when should she begin to undo what she had just done. Confusing?

Ah, child’s play. It’s so simple, even  a 5 year old child can understand it. Is there a 5 year old child in the classroom? I can’t make head or tails out of this… (Groucho Marx)

Well, to be honest, Theresa May didn’t do anything to start with. David Cameron ordered the referendum, in the name of democracy.


If we take the term in the strict sense, there has never been a real democracy, and there never will be. It is against the natural order for the many to govern and the few to be governed. It is unimaginable that people should remain continually assembled to devote their time to public affairs, and it is clear that they cannot set up commissions for that purpose without the form of administration being changed. 

What you’re saying, JJ, is that it’s impossible for people to acquire such power as in a referendum, and use it sensibly. Politics is a full-time job and must be left to elected politicians. No wonder the voters caused chaos. They just weren’t prepared enough for such an important vote.

Now, the Swiss are world champions when it comes to referendums. And they’re still in trouble over the vote concerning EU immigration. JJ was right, nothing but trouble.

But why are the Brexiters so aggressive? Apart from the fact that they have Nigel Farage’s example to follow. And what do the Brexiters really want?

“I want my country back.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. They want their country back, literally. Apart from those, of course, who voted Brexit to get rid of fish quota’s and EU foreign nationals. Well, the fish may want to leave UK territorial waters after Brexit, but the EU nationals are staying put.

What do you say to that JJ?

What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses.

You see, Theresa, your idea of sovereign authority is fundamentally absurd. For JJ, the sovereign is the collective grouping of all citizens. Yep, every one of us has to band together for our own preservation, and abide by the rules. This “social contract” will determine what sort of society we live in. It’s a bit like the highway code where you can drive safely, freely and with the radio on, in the knowledge that nearly everybody respects the highway code (with the exception of France and Peru).

And if you don’t like it, you can lump it and go and live in the Amazon. There, you can really do want you want and nobody cares (this would be Man in his “natural” state).

But what actually is the foundation of the “social contract” JJ?

It should be remembered that the foundation of the social contract is property; and its first condition, that everyone should be maintained in the peaceful possession of what belongs to him.


You see, Theresa, the whole of society, according to JJ Rousseau, revolves around property. So then, give the Brexiters a semi detached house with a rose garden. Add in something useful to all, like a local hospital that’s not understaffed, a half decent school that runs itself, 3 A-Levels for those snotty nosed teenagers, and a job for life for everyone, and they won’t bother you again, I assure you. They will even forgive you for employing too many over-payed civil servants, be it in the UK or EU, and will also make all the sacrifices you ask. All this, and more, as long as they see that it’s for the good of the country as a whole. Their country… Everybody’s country.


 The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land said “this is mine”, and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes, might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor, you are undone if your once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
Well said JJ. You do know that, even though you didn’t live to see it, you were a key figure in the French Revolution?

The rise of Homo brexitus

But you know what the worst part is, Theresa? You and your fellow politicians have had 43 years to get this right. Ever since the UK joined the Common Market, as the EU was then called, back in 1973.
And every time that there was an election, the average UK voter gave your lot a chance to get it right. True freedom, for the voter, was the possibility to make his/her life better by voting for the right politician. Over the years, the UK voter who was in favour of the UK being an integral part of the Union, has evolved into what I would describe as Homo brexitus. This is not used as a sign of disrespect to all those who voted Leave, but used to describe the anti-establishment voter who “evolved” as such over a period of 43 years.
The English think they are free. They are free only at the time of parliamentary elections.
You were the ones who were supposed to draft the social contract JJ wrote about. The voter will follow you, even if it means sacrificing certain personal interests for the general interest of the country as a whole. But the voter must be able to see these benefits, and, above all, must feel that he maintains autonomy and freedom in society. He decides but remains bound by the rules of the social contract.

Unfortunately, nothing has really changed for Homo brexitus. He has now evolved from his ancestors into a fully “disillusioned with the establishment” voter. There’s no going back, unless you radically change his environment so that he can return to the way he was 43 years ago: a citizen full of hope for the UK and in love with Europe.

And finally, JJ?

Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.

Yes JJ, I get it. The chains are the chains of society elaborated by the “have’s” and directed against the “have not’s”. And this is what you meant with your slogan “Back to nature”. It reminds me of John Major’s “back to basics”. Man is probably happier in a natural environment than in a man-made society overflowing with inequalities and hatred.
Nature never deceives us. We deceive ourselves.

Well, JJ, it’s been a pleasure to get to know you.

The real problem for you, Theresa, is that leaving the EU is not going to change much for Homo brexitus, but well for the rest of us.

Welcome to 2017, Theresa.