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Is the European Union #EU at Peak Paradox?




I was an EU citizen, and I voted to stay within the EU. Having left the EU, I am still confused about why such a complex issue was boiled down to one question and offered to the public to vote on? My dad gave me some documents which he had safely archived (hoarded.) The 1914 correspondence and statements in Parliament “ Great Britain and the European Crisis”, the Harold Wilson “Britain’s New Deal in Europe” 1975 and the 1971 factsheet on Europe. Of interest is that the arguments for and against are presented and backed up with an opinion, facts, data, inter-generational thinking, values and reason. The difference between these vintage documents and the 2016 media snippet and headline frenzy is quite stark.

This got me thinking about the magnitude of the EU negotiation in a more nuanced way due to the 27 members. In a previous post, I explored “How to make better decisions using the peak paradox map.” If we replace the “Peak Individual purpose” with “Peak State Purpose” but keep the Peak Society Purpose as global. The state now wants to be or remain sovereign and decide and be able to act. Essentially a core tenant of the UK to leave the EU argument, even though in reality, in a global world, that power has already been relinquished. However, if a state via elections determines that health (COVID19) and safety (policing) are more critical (has a higher priority) than satisfying the broader global societal needs, then the state decides. Should the electorate be asked to choose between their own safety and a safer world? Given that typically less than 1% of GDP is provided as foreign aid from developed economies, we do not appear that eager to vote for world unification (Peak Social Purpose) over state-driven self-interest. This suggests that a state (like an individual) tends to only give to wider societal issues from excess or by a driven individual with a cause. However, we have to continually remind ourselves that we need to improve basic living standards for everyone (move away from Peak Human Purpose of survival) as we create more who can thrive, but at the same time find a way to bring along all of society, and balance more individual rights with those that work better for society. This is the EU dilemma.





Back to the 27 (April 2021) EU member states. As you now mentally run around the 27 members putting them on the Peak Paradox Map, each country has made different compromises (to be voted in) and some tend to favour more control, others thriving economics and some a fairer EU (global) society. In “How to make better decisions using the peak paradox map,” I reasoned that at peak paradox, the inner grey circle (diagram above) all parties (states) can fully grasp the paradox in their own position, the result may be a weak decision-making capability because there are too many super cleaver people from each state with strong well-reasoned opinions, mixed with too much data and mandates from the electorate. It all results in endless discussion and some trying to be the brightest person in the room. We try to understand everyone too much, but everyone is playing their game. Parties will predict unintended consequences and know that everyone is compromised and that no one party can do better than another to create the fairest outcome. The current set up will reach the worst decision, and in the long run, such negotiation will not create better outcomes, but everyone can live with it for now; or until someone else leaves.


The next jump is to create, like the USA and the EU, a constitution, which forms the body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organisation is acknowledged to be governed. This forms a basis for decision making to avoid the endless revisiting of the arguments until something new appears (amendments). However, do you remain loyal and focus on the interruption of the constitutions as intended (belief) or as relevant today? Given we have experienced a fundamental shift towards new values over time, and therefore a shifting of compromises on the peak paradox model, holding on to the original interruption appears less appropriate as it holds to the old values.

It is evident that humans have found ways to, constitutionally, remain in the ineffective middle of the Peak Paradox model and being able to make good decisions, which brings in the importance of governance. However, we don’t appear to have found a way to move or migrate from our existing peak purpose towards different peaks as our values change. Our history of struggling with power, agency and influence can become a millstone rather than a lesson. As values and principles change, we need to be able to reflect our learning into better governance, not the same governance. Finding a new north star appears difficult as the incentives of leadership are biased to the short term and not intergenerational. The UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is following the same lost journey as we have lost our core cause (reason to exist) and values that bind a togetherness and end up cycling through the centralised vs decentralised. War, battles, sovereignty, kingship, authentic leadership can be put into a perspective of forcing a change, however rarely for the good of all citizens.


However, we don’t appear to have found a way to move or migrate from our existing peak purpose towards different peaks as our values change.

When we have 27 parties, it is easy to comprehend that the peak paradox’s compromise creates terrible outcomes. Suppose the parties act as one with a constitution. In that case, it becomes how to agree to update the original’s thinking to reflect the new values and principles, where different players are themselves at different camps on the journey. The 6% rule. If 6% of a country in a voting democracy follow a cause, it will swing an election. Therefore politicians want to include those groups to vote for them before the 6% threshold and nullify their voice, essentially through the provision of promises, budget or protection. The 6% tend to focus on a more extreme version of a Peak, forcing a change, but from which no change occurs. Have we become stuck with a regulatory and governance model that is unable to adapt?


Have we become stuck with a regulatory and governance model that is unable to adapt?

In business, how many parties becomes two many in a negotiation and how many is too few? How do we act as one accord and what values unify us? How do we update our values and principles to reflect the new? Should we try and bring everyone with us or start with the pioneers? Is there a lesson here for multinational companies and organisations about culture? Corporate Governance has become too focused on compliance, forgetting its critical role in forging the new values and future.


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