It would be remiss of me to let the vote of the British people to leave the EU go without mention.
I feel it is the best thing to happen on the international scene for some time. Whichever way I look at it I cannot see that it is anything but quite a major defeat of the forces that have up until this event been almost completely successful in their efforts to centralise control.
An indicator of the quality of a democracy may be how close decision making power is to the consequences of its decisions. From this viewpoint the rise of supernational bureaucracies like the EU that assume power over national affairs is inconsistent with healthy democracy. The political class has become a class apart from the people but at least they usually live in the countries where they exercise power. The notion that legislation passed by appointed officials in Brussels should be applied in Poland, Sweden, France and Britain is a setup completely at odds with democratic values.
Though we should keep in mind that power does not refer to the standard definition of democracy that citizens do, being that citizens should have some meaningful say in how their country is run. Chomsky explains the elite view of democracy
Even the mainstream democratic theorists have always understood that when the voice of the people is heard, you’re in trouble, because these stupid and ignorant masses, as they’re called, are going to make the wrong decisions. So, therefore we have to have what Walter Lippmann, back in 1920 or so, called the “manufacture of consent.” We have to ensure that actual power is in the hands of what he called a specialized class — us smart guys — who are going to make the right decisions.1
You can be sure that the 'specialised class' is lamenting the wrong decision made by the ‘stupid and ignorant masses’ in Britain. According to the authors of a report to the Trilateral Commission on The Crisis of Democracy we can expect that power’s response to this ‘excess of democracy’ will be an attempt ‘to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions.2’ The best instrument available to power for this purpose is mainstream media and we can expect, as we have already seen, bias programing serving as damage control.
What else is heartening is that the common sense of the British people was not deterred by specious economic arguments that they should stay put as a near colony of the giant EU bureaucracy. Apparently the voting majority of British people are not prioritising economic considerations to the extent they are supposed to. Or, better still, they aren’t believing the story at all. What these sorts of very public campaigns do is bring economics to the fore of national discussion and hold it there for a little while. The problem for the pundits of financial internationalism is how to make a pretty thin story go the distance.
Some weeks ago (Australia’s Last Fridge) I wrote about the fashion of referring to globalisation as a ‘trend’ which suggests the inevitability of its progress. British rejection of the EU shows us that globalisation progresses by the decision of people and can be halted or reversed by the same means. So if you are a defender of national culture and sovereignty, if you value real diversity over commercial uniformity and believe that a good government is a small one that you can get at, then here is living proof that not only do many other people agree with you but that the ‘Big Idea’ is not inexorable or invincible.
So far as the British are concerned the EU withdraws across the channel. The hope is that it doesn’t end there. A message has been sent from Old England that systems are made for men, may it be heeded far and wide.
- Noam Chomsky interviewed by Bill Moyers. 1988. Meaningful Democracy. A World of Ideas, Doubleday, 1989, pp. 38-58 Available from https://chomsky.info/1988____/
- Crozier, M., Huntington, S., Watunuki, J. 1975. The Crisis of Democracy. New York University Press, (http://trilateral.org/download/doc/crisis_of_democracy.pdf