on Brexit

June 25, 2016

If I were British, I would have voted “Leave”. The E.U. is a poor response to a misdiagnosed problem, and has shown itself impervious to change, even in response to events that have demonstrated its problems.

After the traumas of World Wars I and II, European leaders tried to figure out how to prevent similar wars from recurring. They decided the problem was nationalism; probably some of them saw democracy as part of the problem too. (After all, both Hitler and Mussolini were democratically elected, at least initially.) Now, while nationalism certainly played a part, and was used by the people who started the conflicts (as well as by those who resisted them) it was not really the problem. As I said in my last post, there are always those who choose evil, and when they get in power, whatever excuse they use, bad things happen.

Anyway, these people decided the solution was to put power into a supranational bureaucracy. Because bureaucrats always know what’s best, right? And the bureaucracy they created had few mechanisms for accountability, so when problems arose those bureaucrats, who after all always know what’s best, have doubled down on the very things that caused the problems.

This is why the “Leave” vote is so threatening to people here in America who believe in the wisdom of professional managers: it’s a rebuke to the idea of ever-increasing bureaucratic control.

Megan McArdle wrote a good article about this:

In many ways, members of the global professional class have started to identify more with each other than they have with the fellow residents of their own countries. Witness the emotional meltdown many American journalists have been having over Brexit.

A lot of my professional colleagues seemed to [take it personally], and the dominant tone framed this as a blow against the enlightened “us” and the beautiful world we are building, struck by a plague of morlocks who had crawled out of their hellish subterranean world to attack our impending utopia. You could also, I’d argue, see this sentiment in the reaction of global markets, which was grossly out of proportion to the actual economic damage that is likely to be done by Brexit. I mean, yes, the British pound took a pounding, and no surprise. But why did this so roil markets for the Mexican peso? Did traders fear that the impact on the global marmite supply was going to unsettle economies everywhere?

Well, no. This was a reflection of sudden uncertainty, not a prediction about the global economic future. But the sheer extent of the carnage made me wonder if one of the uncertainties traders were newly contemplating was when the morlocks are going to be coming for us outward-looking professional types with pitchforks.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

The professional classes, on both sides of the Atlantic, have been treating their fellow citizens with disdain and contempt for quite some time, and people are, not unreasonably, finally pushing back. You can only tell people to shut up and call them names for so long before they stop listening to you. That’s how you end up with candidates like Donald Trump.

(I think Trump is a con man who’s only saying what he thinks people want to hear, and the few times he’s actually advocated policy solutions they’ve been ones that are likely to make the problems worse, but at least he is acknowledging real concerns that conventional politicians have ignored. Although I’d have to classify myself as a #NeverTrump Republican, most of what others in that camp have been saying strikes me as completely tone deaf.)

Nations, economies, and such can’t actually be “managed”. They can be directed by leaders with vision and compassion, but they are composed of people, not automatons, and trying to manage them like a bunch of factory machinery only leads to disaster in the end.


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