Brexit was logical, neither racist nor irrational

Summary: The campaign against Brexit featured fantastic predictions of doom (but seldom with much supporting fact or logic) and assertions that it was racist and irrational. Europe’s elites resorted to these barrages of fear for good reason: the EU does so much for them. Here’s a look at the costs to Europe’s people, which journalists seldom report.

“Simple Brexit lesson: When people are pissed off about mass immigration address their concerns — don’t call them racists.”
Mickey Kaus (conservative gadfly).

The voice of the ruling elites in the US & EU, united.
But too much of a good thing is disruptive.

Obama on Immigration

Will Brexit begin the End Times? While the result will not be a box of candy for Europe, I doubt the results will match the hysterical anti-Brexit propaganda of UK (& US) elites. But the responses of most journalists and columnists, as usual, faithfully parrot the establishment’s views.

“With a single vote, England just screwed us all. …The result is that we are now entering a world in retreat from progress…”
— Felix Salmon (financial journalist), boldly speaking for UK and US elites. He lividly fantasizes about the horrors in the future if we dare to disobey.

Slate’s headlines today provided a full suite of elitist anti-democratic advocacy. Elections & courts are good only when they endorse elite opinion! This is the dumbest (as if investors are the global economy, and their happiness is the top goal of public policy: “The Brexit Just Gave Us Global Financial Turmoil, Just as “Remain” Supporters Warned” by Henry Grabar (a hysterical reaction to one day’s market action — which wasn’t extraordinary).

A close second is “Old England’s Overthrow” by Gabriel Roth — “The doughty British establishment conspired with voters to bring about its own destruction.” Any bets on UK elites still in the saddle next month? Next year? In 20 years?

Seldom mentioned in the news were calculations of Brexit that contradicted the narrative of doom. For example, in Au Revoir, Europe: What if Britain left the EU? David Charter (a Times journalist) reported that if the UK and EU negotiated a bilateral trade treaty (likely, the medium-term effects would be small. Despite the confident predictions of certain catastrophe, the overall effect depends on the speed of the Brexit and how the UK and EU implement it.

Massive immigration is a box of candy for a nation’s elites. It forces wages down (supply and demand). It boosts aggregate economic growth, although not necessarily per capita growth (nor does it usually “trickle down” to the average Jane and Joe). The combination of these two factors boosts profits. If done on a large scale, it can destabilize a society — making organization against its elites less likely (e.g., unions).

Elites hijack the EU

Most importantly, as Susan Watkins explains, Europe’s elites hijacked the unification program. Europe’s people hoped the EU would prevent another war and create prosperity. Instead their elites use it to bypass the democratic machinery built with so much blood and tears during the past 2 centuries.

It’s evident in the voices of the elites and their supporters. See examples posted in the comments

Why Brexit?

A few columnists gave a fair look at the drivers of the Brexit vote. Such as “Why Immigration Pushed Britons to Brexit” by Reihan Salam at Slate.

“To that end, Blair also presided over the opening of Britain’s borders to immigrants. Since 1997, when the Labour Party, under his leadership, swept into office in a landslide, British society has been transformed by a wave of immigration unprecedented in its history. Over the following years, roughly twice as many immigrants arrived in the United Kingdom as had arrived in the previous half-century. Many who arrived during that earlier era hailed from the Caribbean and South Asia, and by the early 1990s, 7% of England and Wales’ population belonged to ethnic minorities. By now, that share has grown to over 14%.

“This, more than anything else, has been Tony Blair’s legacy, and it is a legacy his successors Gordon Brown and David Cameron have been grappling with ever since.”

Another sound analysis is “Why Britain Left” by David Frum (conservative columnist) at The Atlantic — “The June 23 vote represents a huge popular rebellion against a future in which British people feel increasingly crowded within — and even crowded out of — their own country.” Excerpt…

“The force that turned Britain away from the European Union was the greatest mass migration since perhaps the Anglo-Saxon invasion. 630,000 foreign nationals settled in Britain in the single year 2015. Britain’s population has grown from 57 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2015, despite a native birth rate that’s now below replacement. On Britain’s present course, the population would top 70 million within another decade, half of that growth immigration-driven.

“British population growth is not generally perceived to benefit British-born people. Migration stresses schools, hospitals, and above all, housing. The median house price in London already amounts to 12 times the median local salary. Rich migrants outbid British buyers for the best properties; poor migrants are willing to crowd more densely into a dwelling than British-born people are accustomed to tolerating.

…The June 23 vote represents a huge popular rebellion against a future in which British people feel increasingly crowded within — and even crowded out of — their own country: More than 200,000 British-born people leave the U.K. every year for brighter futures abroad, in Australia above all, the United States in second place.

“…Is it possible that leaders and elites had it all wrong? If they’re to save the open global economy, maybe they need to protect their populations better against globalization’s most unwelcome consequences — of which mass migration is the very least welcome of them all?

“If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany — and then all Europe — to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come.

“Merkel’s catastrophically negative example is one that perhaps should be avoided by U.S. politicians who seek to avert Trump-style populism in the United States. Instead, the politician who most directly opposes Donald Trump — presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — is doubling down on Merkelism.  “Hillary Clinton’s first reaction to the Supreme Court decision on executive amnesty looks at the issue exclusively and entirely from the point of view of the migrants themselves: “Today’s heartbreaking #SCOTUS immigration ruling could tear apart 5 million families facing deportation. We must do better.”

That U.S. citizens might have different interests — and that it is the interests of citizens that deserve the highest attention of officials elected by those citizens — went unsaid and apparently unconsidered.”

Frum is right. Mass immigration in a slowing economy was a key driver of American populism in 1880-1932, as it is a driver of its resurgence in 2016 — with Trump as its avatar. See The numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign and Immigration to the US surges. It’s good news for Trump.

Posts about Brexit

  1. Politics of the EU: “Vanity and Venality” — by Susan Watkins (editor of the New Left Review).
  2. Brexit was logical, neither racist nor irrational.
  3. An anthropologist looks at Brexit: The World Changed Overnight — By Maximilian Forte.
  4. The reactions to Brexit show its true significance.
  5. Immigration: a cause of Brexit, denied by the Left.

For More Information

The best analysis of Brexit I’ve seen, written with an anthropologist’s dispassionate vision: An anthropologist looks at Brexit: The World Changed Overnight by Maximilian Forte (Prof of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal). Also see this analysis by John Fund in National Review — “Brussels elites ignored sound economics to further their own agenda“.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See these posts about immigration, and especially these…

14 thoughts on “Brexit was logical, neither racist nor irrational”

    1. Thank you for your comment. It’s especially valuable from someone like yourself, with such an broad perspective.

      From the “About” page of his website:

      Born in Canada, studied in Canada, USA and UK. Nationality Canada and UK, living in Malaysia. …Consulting assignments for Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Sri Lanka, Syria, Timor Leste, UK.

  1. The Empire Strikes Back

    For a fascinating window into the thinking of EU elites, see this by Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, a former EU commissioner for external affairs, and Chancellor of Oxford: “A British Tragedy in One Act“. He see the forces that led to Brexit, but can’t bring himself to acknowledge them.

    He asks “So, why did it happen?”

    “First, a referendum reduces complexity to absurd simplicity.”

    A gentle way of saying that such matters are too complex for the people to decide. They must be left to Britain’s elites.

    “Second, …With Brexit, we have now seen Donald Trump-style populism come to Britain. Obviously, there is widespread hostility, submerged in a tsunami of populist bile, to anyone deemed a member of the “establishment.”

    He doesn’t ask why, or if this hostility is deserved.

    “That points to a third reason for the pro-Brexit vote: growing social inequity has contributed to a revolt against a perceived metropolitan elite. …Globalization, these voters were told, benefits only those at the top – comfortable working with the rest of the world – at the expense of everyone else.”

    A “perceived” elite? Are they not an elite? Who caused (or allowed) growing social inequality? Also — has globalization in fact benefited those at the top, not the majority? He doesn’t say.

  2. Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University, writes about “Britain’s Democratic Failure“.

    “The real lunacy of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union was not that British leaders dared to ask their populace to weigh the benefits of membership against the immigration pressures it presents. Rather, it was the absurdly low bar for exit, requiring only a simple majority. Given voter turnout of 70%, this meant that the leave campaign won with only 36% of eligible voters backing it. This isn’t democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics.”

    Odd that we hear this now. What about the previous referenda about EU integration? Why were majority votes acceptable when surrendering national sovereignty?

  3. Opposition to Brexit in the US is largely from the Left, calling it racist, isolationist, and irrational. In part because the Right has long opposed the EU, for reasons I don’t understand. But more so because globalization and immigration have become core beliefs on the Left.

    Especially immigration — massive immigration, even open borders. While there are those on the Right who favor it (especially of the corporatist and libertarian schools), this is stronger and broader on the Left. For example:

    When did that happen? Why?

  4. The american right has been suspicious of the EU on the basis of it becoming a pinko commie liberal USSR opposed to the USA. The american left quarreled with the white working class and has treated minorities as a source of votes or potential cannon fodder in revolutionary fantasies .

    That said my impression is that the latest waves of migrants/refugees are hardly the result of European elites quest for cheap labor rather than an avalanche reality is sendind their way. Stopping it would require brutal measures that would make a mockery of “European values ” and whose support is not robust enough. Not yet at any rate.

  5. More migrants in London, which voted to remain. Young also voted to remain.

    Pillar nails it: “Brexit and the Transnational Triumph of Ignorance“, The National Interest, 27 June 2016 – “The Brexit vote, like Donald Trump’s campaign, is less a populist uprising against the elites than a contest of one elite over another in manipulating popular sentiments, argues ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.”

    And you will find this article by a sociologist of interest: “The Roots of American Decline” by Richard Lachmann, Contexts, Winter 2011.

    1. Sajida,

      Thanks for the links!

      Pillar’s analysis is interesting, but assumes the accuracy of the “remain” arguments. Since the economic and political foundations of the EU are quite weak, and its actions disastrous since the current crisis began in 2010, there is good reason to consider his certainty excessive — and perhaps wrong. Also suggesting this is the large fraction of people in the EU who want their nations to follow Britain out.

      Pillar dismisses the concerns of so many as beneath consideration. Well, OK then. Nice to know.

      As for Lachman, perhaps he should have consulted an economist before writing his opening paragraph. It’s bizarrely exaggerated.

      “The United States, we are told ever more frequently and emphatically, is heading toward fiscal disaster, unable to simultaneously pay for its extensive military involvements around the world, its current commitments to social programs, and the investments in education, infrastructure, and research needed to compete with China and other rivals.”

      How would he grade an sophomore’s essay that opened with “we are told” as supporting evidence for its key premise? It’s a remarkably sloppy essay.

  6. But Lackman is right about connencted people and the problem in Military expenditures. It is beyond the 1%. The MIIC factionalism also highlighted here:

    Why Are Defense Policy Wonks So Ineffectual?

    About the youth voting Remain, please see:

    ‘This vote doesn’t represent the younger generation who will have to live with the consequences’: Millennials vent fury at baby boomers for voting Britain OUT of the EU
    Young Britons voted in droves for Remain with 72 per cent against Brexit
    Leave campaign won, with 56 per cent of 50 to 64-year-olds backing Brexit
    Young people protested by Parliament and vented anger on social media
    Britain’s youth voted Remain
    Three quarters of British voters aged 24 and under voted against Brexit.
    British millennials like me are the real losers in the Brexit vote

    “London has the greatest number of migrants (3.0 million foreign-born people in 2014) among all regions with comparable data in the UK.”

    Some nuggets:
    The foreign-born make up almost 16 percent of the labor force of 31 million.
    Of the foreign workers, 60 percent were born outside the EU
    The U.K. isn’t the largest EU port of call for migrants (note it is grmany, which has opening for workers beyond supply)
    What You Never Knew About U.K. Immigration
    The Right-Wing Roots of Britain’s EU Referendum
    Brexit is a fake revolt – working-class culture is being hijacked to help the elite

    1. Sajida,

      Your comment makes little sense to me.

      Your defense of Lachman makes no sense at all. Yes, there is military factionalism. No, that doesn’t mean the US is going broke.

      You appear awed that the young voted to “remain”, as if their votes should have priority. They don’t.

      Your comments about UK immigration have no obvious relevance to the EU debate. The aspects of immigration that were one part of the Brexit vote concern its magnitude — and the large fraction of them who are unskilled.

      That Brexit has roots on the Right is not a disqualification. Also, the Left – Right divide is not between the 1% and the rest of us. The 1% are influential in both liberal and conservative parties.

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