The reactions to Brexit show its true significance

Summary: The two previous posts brought us to the edge of analysis about Brexit, beyond which lies guessing. But there are sparks by which we can see what might happen in the next few months. I’ve gathered some of them here for you.

Sunrise or sunset for Britain?We make it sunset or sunrise.

Elites & their courtiers consider it foolish to allow a vote by peons on their fate.

“Why did he do it? Why take such a needlessly cavalier risk with the country’s future and his own?”
— The Honorable David Runciman (Prof Politics at Cambridge) in “Why did he do it?” at the London Review of Books.

The contemptuous reaction to the Brixit vote shows with rare clarity the desire of Europe’s elites to roll back the past century’s shift to democratic institutions. Why should the peons have a say in their fate, interrupting the smooth government by their betters?

“IYI”: intellectual yet idiots. It is often falsely used to describe powerful people (and their courtiers) acting in their own interest — usually successfully so.

Brexit might be a rare case of failure by elites when ruling a western nation by fear. But mass hysteria might yet bring victory to UK’s ruling elites.

“We are heading towards the biggest crisis in UK history? Don’t you get this?”
— Hysterical tweet from a British financier. She’s forgotten about Britain’s civil war, Napoleon, WWI, 1930, and Hitler.

Fear-mongering is the primary tool used to influence public opinion on major policy issues. Left and Right, they all use it because it so often works. The Brexit vote represents a rare failure. But the vote is only advisory. The Leave advocates have to win many more battles before an actual victory. Don’t assume that Brexit is all or nothing. In politics few things are binary.

Why did Brexit win?

Glen Newey (Prof Philosophy at U Leiden) gives the best brief answer I’ve seen, in “What will happen now?” at LRB.

“Remain did nothing to cater for those who aren’t doing well, who see little or no benefit in Britain’s EU membership. Scaremongering works least well on people for whom things are already crap, especially coming from those who have made things that way.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s {head of the Labour party} stance made good political sense, as well as being born of sincere lack of conviction. The EU is a technocratic capitalist club. Remain had no convincing story, in fact no story at all, about how it can benefit unskilled and semi-skilled workers and the long-term unemployed, or how the structural tensions between its central institutions and democracy could be resolved. From the Labour leadership’s standpoint it made and makes good sense to lie low while the Tories slugs {sic} the daylights out of each other.

“Liberal Remainers’ fancy that the EU is a benign despotism friendly to worker and refugee alike has proven remarkably resilient to the facts.”

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept gives a more detailed analysis in Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions”. I am a fan, and agree with his overall analysis — but he imposes his values and concerns onto those of the British “leave” voters. Most importantly, immigration was one of key issues (or perhaps the top one).  But Greenwald never mentions it. His blindness is understandable. Support for mass immigration is a defining characteristic of the Left today; Greenwald cannot fairly speak of it.

Politico gives a more detailed and well-supported analysis: “The behind-the-scenes story of a failed campaign to keep Britain in the European Union”. Note the large role of immigration. For more evidence of this see “Why Immigration Pushed Britons to Brexit” by Reihan Salam at Slate.

Stock Market Crash

What about the economic collapse of Britain caused by Brexit?

The core of the “remain” case consisted of predictions of economic disaster for Britain if it left the EU. Such confident doomsterism has become standard fare for political debates in our time, as each side musters economists to show that the desired policy will bring Heaven — or Hell. Obamacare, tax increases, tax cuts, environmental regulations — even, on a smaller scale, safety regulations (mandating air bags was said to begin the End Times for the American auto industry).

The sad reality is that economists are unable to reliably predict the effects of most major public policy changes, as they have little understanding of the drivers of economic growth. The wildly inaccurate forecasts of US growth since the crash — even without massive policy changes — should produce humility in even the most delusionally confident economist (but it won’t).

As for US stock prices — see this by John Hussman (fund manager, was prof of economics at U MI): “Brexit and the Bubble in Search of A Pin“.

What happens next?

The effect of Brexit will depend on the speed and wisdom of its execution. Horrific outcomes are possible from even minor policy disputes, such as that in July 1914 between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. But most policy challenges are met more or less successfully. Our rulers stoke our fears to make us easy to manipulate. This requires our cooperation; do not do so.

Brexit has revealed the foundation of sand under the EU. Europe can use this opportunity to rebuild, as America did after the failure of our first constitution (the Articles of Confederation) — or fragment. It’s a choice.

“Nothing is written.”
— Lawrence of Arabia in the 1962 film.

No Fear

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 brilliant Matt Taibbi wrong a similar analysis at Rolling Stone: “The Reaction to Brexit Is the Reason Brexit Happened” — “If you believe there’s such a thing as ‘too much democracy,’ you probably don’t believe in democracy at all.”

Read more:
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

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Fear Wolf

10 thoughts on “The reactions to Brexit show its true significance”

  1. A key.
    “….support for mass Immigration….”. Very confused POV. We can all huddle together in the Food Stamp Lines? Holding hands and singing like at Occupy?

    Nice links to be read and that tweet from Nassim.


  2. Not quite the only American blog that has got Brexit right. But almost.

    Readers can view Mr. Farage in action before the EU Parliament castigating the elites for their subversion of democracy.

    Farage is Madison reincarnate.

    1. Frederick,

      I don’t follow European politics. But Brexit has revealed the foundation of sand under the EU. They can use this opportunity to rebuild, as America did when our first constitution broke (the Articles of Confederation) — or fragment. It’s a choice.

    2. I should have said:

      Readers can view Mr. Farage in action before the EU Parliament castigating the elites for their subversion of democracy. His speeches can be found on Youtube.

      David Owen may be more palatable for modern US liberals. He too may be found on Youtube explaining why an ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats supported Leave.

  3. I also believe this vote was a protest vote at 8 years of Tory austerity policies, imposed by no one but the British government. As much as a vote against that as a vote against immigration. Northern England and wales have never really recovered from the Thatcher years deindustrialization. Were talking about 30 years of decline, over seen by London, I’m not sure why you seem to be ignoring that? Have you ever been to the north of england? That alienation has little to do with the EU.

    You also have to factor in the relentless anti European propaganda in the right wing press since Thatcher became prime minister, lead by right wing free market ideologues who railed against things like the european court of human rights, the working time directives, environmental laws ect.

    I’m not sure how the leave voters think they will be better off in a Britain dominated by the tory right wing.

    I think you may be ignoring other issues in your thesis. As someone who has lived in London and Wolverhampton, there is far more going on than you are making out. I’ve also lived most of my life in Ireland, and despite our recent travails, just don’t find in your analysis much that chimes with my personal experiences of life in EU counties.

    With this however I fully agree
    “They can use this opportunity to rebuild, as America did when our first constitution broke (the Articles of Confederation) — or fragment. It’s a choice.”

    1. Merocaine,

      “I think you may be ignoring other issues in your thesis.”

      That’s quite a daft criticism. There are a thousand other issues related to this. This is a brief essay about the reactions to Brexit. It’s not the Britannica entry, or a description of the Cosmic All.

      As for your other speculation about the reasons for the Brexit win, can you provide any supporting evidence? Your guesses sound quite unlikely, imo. British voters have had ample opportunity to vote in protest of Thatcher and the “30 years of austerity”.

  4. I was referring to the series of 3 posts about the brexit referendum, not just the one I posted on, sorry for the confusion.

    The areas that voted strongly out are the old industrial heartlands of the UK, those are some of the most deprived areas in the UK. There suffering has come at the hands of successive British governments, years of neglect and under investment, and down right lies and slander. Hundreds of thousands of good jobs lost and replaced by lower paying service jobs, if at all. The EU has had sweet FA to do with any of that, it was driven by domestic policy.
    This was finally a chance to stick it to the London elite.
    This is an English working class revolt co-oped by an English nationalist fringe. Years of relentless propaganda has resulted in the EU being scapegoated. If you read the English press you will have some idea what I’m talking about, There are no media outlets which unequivocally supported staying in. The ones which did come down in favor of an in vote did so with much equivocation. The reason the remain campaign floundered putting a positive message across was that the center of gravity had shifted so far right that they felt they had to present it as the lesser of two evils. Cameron campaigning in favor of a yes vote was an absolute joke, he has spent the last 8 years attacking the EU for his own political gain. The Electorate saw right through it, if the establishment was all for it, then it must stink.

    I don’t have facts and figures but then who does at this point, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support my position.

    Just saying this might be about more than a bureaucrat in Brussels ruling on what shape an avocado has to be to be classed as A.

    ” British voters have had ample opportunity to vote in protest of Thatcher and the “30 years of austerity”.

    Just like US voters have had 30 years to vote against the right wing who were destroying the new deal consensus that created the space for them to prosper. But they didn’t right? they voted against there own economic self interest again, and again, and again.

    A referendum is not like an election, thats why politicians try to avoid them.

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