It is accordingly encouraging to read an evaluation of the recent British vote to leave the European Union as A Stern Rebuke to Arrogant Elites. That's particularly encouraging when it comes via Common Dreams out of Boston's Globe. The more usual characterization we get from that set of latte liberals is that the mob has had a temper tantrum. Thus the following description of the clerisy is particularly refreshing.
It is run by a corps of unelected bureaucrats, many of them unconnected to traditional society and contemptuous of public opinion. Visionaries who promoted European unity in the years after World War II saw it as a gift to the continent’s people. But their successors have rarely consulted those people, listened to their complaints, or adjusted EU policies to meet their needs. Instead, they embraced the ideology of deregulation, privatization, and reduced social spending. They imagined Europe as a free-trade zone with open borders but little social protection for ordinary people. That is hardly a vision to stir people’s hearts.Particularly when the disconnect from traditional society takes the form of a self-despising multiculturalism, and the unassimilable migrants who cross the open borders become the quintessence of an absent social protection. Or, as James Heartfield suggests, perhaps the referendum is a privilege check for the Eurocrats.
I have taken students to the Brussels Parliament, which is a bit like visiting the offices of the IMF. The only people that you see hanging around outside and waiting to see someone, are themselves very haut bourgeois. By contrast, if you go to the Palace of Westminster, you will see large crowds of school children, nurses, veterans, and ethnic minorities. Parliament is often very bad in its decisions and its cliquishness, but the people do look to it in a way that they will never look on Brussels. That law making should have passed so silently and sneakily off to the European Commission is not something that ordinary British people approve of, and they are right.He also deals with the "temper tantrum" argument, and some of the other tics of the boutique multiculturalists. "What they usually mean is that the common people have spoken, and spoken clumsily, without the tortuous manners of the intersectional left. But by and large the exiters were not angry with migrants so much as they were angry with the established order." He concludes with his own version of Complex Adaptive Systems Do What They D**n Well Please. "One thing is for sure: the vote shows that very few of the experts, the academics, the media, lawyers and politicians have any insight into the will of the people, or even understand the meaning of the words sovereignty and democracy." Voting is one path of emergence.
In that spirit, Peter Hitchens, always the more conservative brother, suggests that the British political establishment is its own version of the Permanent Fusion Party, in which their version of Hillary Clinton sells influence and their version of Donald Trump buys it.
So the important thing is that we do not miss this great moment when the people have joined together against a discredited and failed elite.With the current incarnation of the Republicans fracturing on cable news as we type, and with elements of the Democrat coalition expressing reservations about party unity as early as 2008, and the Sanders voters still not quite on board with Naggin' Careless Crooked Hillary, perhaps something similar is afoot in the States.
What we need is for the Tory Party and the Labour Party to collapse and split and be replaced by two new parties that properly reflect the real divisions in the country.
Since both the old parties are empty and decrepit, with few active members and reliant on state support and dodgy billionaires, the collapsing and splitting bit should not be too hard. The replacement is up to us, the British people, who have now demonstrated our power if we unite.
More encouraging is the thinking of former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker for The American Interest. Elites have pushed policies that go against the basic sense of identity, security, common sense, and morality of many citizens. Indeed. How long have I fulminated about the usual patter from the usual talking heads sitting before the usual backdrops? And no, Kirsten Powers, those heavy glasses are a losing proposition aesthetically.
What is more significant—and more worrying about the Brexit vote—is that it demonstrates just how deep the gulf has become that separates governing elites and the people they are meant to govern.A civics lesson. Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their Just Powers from the Consent of the Governed. What is this "meant to govern" stuff?
Whether in Europe or the United States, our ruling elites have pushed policies—political, economic and social—that go beyond what sits well with the basic sense of identity, security, common sense, and morality of many citizens.
Failure to control immigration? Amnesty? Social benefits for non-citizens when citizens are suffering? Nation-building wars abroad instead of nation-building at home? Massive debt? Failures to confront terrorism effectively? Businesses moving jobs overseas? Recession in the countryside while the capital prospers? Rapid changes in gender politics? Bizarre contortions of politically correct speech, which shout down what many see as common sense? It has left many in the electorate angry and disenfranchised. And when those in the public who feel this way have objected or resisted, elites have doubled-down, rather than listen and adjust.
The rulers of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States—take your pick—are so convinced that they know better than the masses, and that they are building a better world, that even in defeat, they are bemoaning how wrongly the masses have voted. And that is the looming danger for the future that the Brexit vote foreshadows: that elites will still not address the concerns of a large proportion of their own citizens.Perhaps. But it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish their Government. Sometimes the fourth turning includes an explicit revolution, or a civil war. Sometimes, the alteration can be accomplished using the approved forms. The British referendum is an attempt to use the approved forms. Let the clerisy tremble.
To be fair, the vast majority of policies and arguments put forward by the elites about the global economy, integration, foreign policy, and more are substantively compelling. Most of the social policies are aimed at creating a more tolerant and inclusive society that benefits all, not just the majority. That should be a good thing. Overall, we are all better off with free trade, immigration, and dealing with foreign policy and global security problems before they get worse.
We need better leaders—ones who are true to core values of freedom, democracy, market economics, the rule of law, and human rights. We need leaders who can listen to those with whom they disagree, and find compromises and solutions. We need leaders who worry more about governing than about sound bites and elections. We need leaders who truly mean it when they say they are “serving,” rather than ruling for the pleasure of exercising power in pursuit of their own agendas.That's a diplomatic way of saying enough with the usual process worship, but it's a start. Reason's J. D. Tuccille explains that process worship, no matter how immaculately conceived, tends to degenerate to rent-seeking.
The current money-raising, lack-of-privacy, “gotcha” style of politics today has discouraged some of the most capable and well-grounded people from ever wanting to run for public office. But with the choices our country faces in our upcoming election—and the warning shot fired by the British people at their own leaders—perhaps some better leaders for the United States and for Europe will begin to step forward.
Specifically, it was perfectly possible for voters in the U.K. to vote to leave the E.U. not because they wanted to slam the door on the world, but because they wanted to engage with it while managing their own affairs, without being pushed around by unelected, meddlesome bureaucrats who actually put hurdles in the way of international commerce.On the other hand, if you'd like a good wallow in the old-time religion, there's a lengthy D. M. Green essay that delivers, at length.
In 2013, the European Union stirred a hornet's nest with a proposal to require restaurants to serve olive oil only in commercially purchased bottles, not in refillable cruets or bowls. The ban, almost certainly intended to benefit large producers at the expense of local producers unable to package oil in single-use containers, was promptly pulled amidst a righteous outcry.
Western policy makers have made people desperate by serving the interests of the overclass during already massively stressful times. This greed and treason has been incalculably stupid, even for the perpetrators, in the same way that FDR had to save capitalism from greedy-to-the-point-of-self-destruction capitalists in a prior telling of this same tale. Their greed is so insatiable they are bringing the house down around their own heads too.There's a lot more in this vein, but you'll have to go there to read it. The schadenfreude would turn sour if I quoted and reacted to much more.
And so there is rage, often of the blind, unthinking sort. Like I said, for me, the wonder is not that it’s happening, but that it’s taken as long as it has. In European and other countries, that delay probably can be explained by relatively robust welfare state programs that substantially cushion the blow. In America, it has a lot to do with the political power of bigotry. The Republican Party has been dining out on the faux enemies of the white male working class for decades now. Give ‘em somebody brown or female or foreign to hate and to blame, and they don’t notice while you’re picking their pocket. The Democrats of the Clinton/Obama era, meanwhile, pretend to give a shit, all the while doing arguably even worse damage to their historical constituent base (i.e., America) than Ronald Reagan ever did. What a racket.