I wonder where the reputation of Gandhi would stand today if, instead of pursuing the goal of Indian independence, he had devoted his life to orchestrating economic studies demonstrating how many lakhs of rupees his fellow countrymen might be out of pocket were they not under the beneficent rule of the British Raj.
Gandhi, of course, was a dreamer: a believer in homespun cloth rather than in enrichment by industrialisation. But he was not untypical of the enemies of imperialism. Certainly “no taxation without representation” was one of the battle cries of the American revolution, but by and large the case for independence in each former colony was founded on a principled belief in freedom rather than a complex profit and loss account calculation of how much better or worse off the average citizen might be.
It is intriguing to reflect on how a genuine national consciousness managed to emerge in territory after territory whose boundaries did not reflect ancient ties of tribe, language or religion, but simply the arbitrary drawing of lines on maps by European imperialists.
Yet here we are on an island with an incomparably rich history of global leadership in almost every field of human endeavour, with the arguable exception of cookery, and a Prime Minister arguing, with as much passion as I have ever heard him apply to anything, that we cannot possibly afford to be independent.
Because house prices would fall (if true, great news for the young), interest rates would go up (great news for savers), the pound would fall (great news for exporters), we would not be able to trade with our neighbours (really?), mobile phone roaming charges might be re-imposed (why?) and students would not be able to go inter-railing (oh, come on).
You don’t have to be Michael Gove or Nicola Sturgeon to recognise that the alarmist economic stories put out by the Remain campaign each day are insulting nonsense.
As is the repeated sneer that Brexit is an option favoured only by the old, the poor and the stupid. I keep hearing that if you are university educated and not in receipt of an old age pension, you simply must have the good sense to see the huge benefits of membership of the EU.
Well, I am extremely well educated and moderately prosperous, and I have to say that this blindingly positive case for the EU continues to elude me.
I would be happy to accept the idealistic argument of those who genuinely believe that the sum of human happiness will be increased by the creation of a United States of Europe, where every important decision is taken for us in Brussels.
But hardly anyone on the Remain side dares to utter anything like such a sentiment. Instead they continue to lie through their teeth about the true aims and purpose of the EU, even as plans for a centralised EU tax system and an EU army are progressed under camouflage that will doubtless be cheerily whipped aside on 24 June.
No, instead we get the thoroughly depressing argument that the EU is desperately flawed, but better than the “uncertainty” of going it alone.
On the Remain side, every good thing that has happened in this country since 1973 is cited as a benefit of EU membership and a reason to stick with it. While, to be fair, on the Leave side every bad thing that has occurred over the last 43 years is similarly attributed.
Call me cynical, but I can’t help believing that lots of stuff would have happened anyway. And will continue to happen whether or not we leave the EU.
No, for me it is an issue of principle pure and simple – and I find it astonishing that a nominally Conservative Prime Minister does not share it. We are a grown-up country and we should be free to govern ourselves.
The fact that so many apparently intelligent people in the political establishment do not share this view makes me suspicious that there is some secret killer fact, too dangerous to be shared with the general public, that makes it essential that we stay bound to this surely doomed supra-national project.
Perchance it is hidden away, like the Monster of Glamis, to be revealed to each incoming Prime Minister along with the procedure for launching a nuclear attack.
I wish they would just tell us all what this killer fact is, instead of trying to scare us with obvious untruths.
Meanwhile, the clock ticks towards 23 June and the most resonant political analysis I can find continues to be that of the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, speaking at his party’s conference in 1962, when he warned that joining what is now the EU would mean “the end of Britain as an independent European state, the end of a thousand years of history”.
He was right then, he is right now, and we have been granted one slim chance of escape that is almost certainly final, at least until the EU collapses under the weight of its own contradictions and corruption.
If we don’t take this chance, I am prepared to bet very heavily that I will be spending the rest of my life saying “I told you so”.
And although I happily will not live to see it, within my children’s lifetimes I also feel sure that Britain, in anything like the sense those of us born before 1973 once knew it, will simply cease to exist. That might happen anyway, like all those good or bad things of the last 43 years, but at least leaving the EU would increase its chances of survival.
You can argue, of course, that the end of Britain will be a good in itself, and will serve us right for what our ancestors did to the native populations of America and Australasia in particular. But I still think that history will look with total amazement at a nation of turkeys that were twice conned into voting in favour of Christmas.