Brendan O’Neill, the editor of the publication Spiked, and who is an ardent Leaver when it comes to the European Union, has been writing about how the exit vote last week can be largely explained in terms of class and attitudes of elites. (O’Neill is, or is recovering from being, a Marxist, so his economics still seems a bit suspect to me, even though I like the cut of his jib generally, especially on other issues around liberty and government).
I think the class analysis has some validity; it is worth noting that there is more to class-based interpretations of what is going on than the Marxian version. There are, in the classical liberal/conservative traditions of political philosophy and approach, uses of class as a way of seeing how the world works. One person’s essay that I am reminded of is the famous one by William Graham Sumner, The Forgotten Man. Or perhaps a riff on the same tune is Nixon’s “great silent majority”. These approaches aren’t really about proletarians versus “bosses”. They are, in my view, more about those who are broadly self-reliant, deriving the bulk of their earnings from their own efforts and who aspire to have, and retain, capital, and those who do not. The latter can be those who subsist on state benefits, or grander folk working in the public sector paid for largely by the first group. (There are fuzzy boundaries between all types.) And I think that sort of split maps better in explaining whether you are going to be liberal or protectionist, for a big State or a smaller one. But it doesn’t necessarily help on explaining all the voting on the Brexit debate. I wrote this in response to one of O’Neill’s posts on Facebook, and I reproduce it here with some light edits:
I am not sure how far the class-based analysis can be made to work in terms of having a causal effect (remember that old warning about correlation and causation). Whether used in a Marxian or other sense, class can explain some of the differences, but some of the arguments cut across. I am middle class, working in the media covering private banking and wealth management around the world. My job takes me to the continent a lot, as well as Asia, the US, and Middle East. Some of the people I work with are from continental Europe. I am relaxed – mostly – about free movement of labour. I went to a good state school, went into higher ed. in the 1980s, my late mother was posh, my old man was a grammar schoolboy who later became a farmer and is comfortably off. I like classical music, fine art, French wine and sailing. So from a lot of points of view I am “middle class”. And I voted Leave. To some extent I “voted my wallet”, not, as might be the case with someone from the old industrial north, because I was worried about “cheap labour”, or had some notion that this will “save the NHS” or suchlike, but because I want the UK to have the freedom to negotiate new economic links outside the EU to hedge this country’s economy against the weakness, and possible crisis, in the eurozone. I am on the free market, libertarian end of the political and philosophical spectrum. I therefore loathe the unaccountable, nanny tendencies of the EU, and think my values will flourish if we leave.
When surveyed about what aspects of their lives give them happiness most people cite such reasons as family and friends, a decently paid job, or interesting hobbies. Sorin Hershko may have some or all of those. I don’t know. But in addition to any other sources of satisfaction he also has this:
40 years on, child hostages look back on Entebbe raid.
But the most emotional part of the day at the Peres Center, for most of the former hostages, came from the chance to reunite with Sorin Hershko, the IDF soldier who became a quadriplegic from an injury sustained during the operation and who was on hand to witness the celebration and receive an honorary certificate from the Peres Center for his bravery and heroism.
“After 40 years to see the children, to see the kids…”
Hershko said, trailing off, a broad smile on his face.
“I still them call children, despite the fact that they are all grown up and have families and their own children.
For me it is very important to see them and I am very satisfied that they are all here and well.”
Who would be the best candidate to be the next leader of the Conservative Party? Ideally, I would have preferred either of [Lords] Nigel Lawson or the Chingford skinhead Norman Tebbit. Both played distinguished roles under Margaret Thatcher, the first as her chancellor, the second as her “bovver boy.” At ages 84 and 85, however, Lords Lawson and Tebbit are now too frail to bear the burdens of the premiership. Fortunately, there are two outstanding candidates who are fighting fit and at the peak of their powers: David Davis MP and former Defense Secretary Dr. Liam Fox MP. Both are consistent long-term, hard-core Brexiteers.
You will note that this list does not include the most-talked about candidate, Boris Johnson. Despite his jovial populist image and the entertaining clown act, Mr. Johnson did a poor job as London mayor, is often not on top of his brief and is unpopular among Conservative MPs. His Brexiteer credentials are also doubtful, notwithstanding the major role he played in the campaign. He sat on the fence for a long time before announcing which side he would support. In fact, it has just been revealed that before deciding which side to take, he wrote two letters to be published, one supporting Remain and one supporting Leave. He himself then admitted that he found the Remain letter more convincing, but opted to join the Leave campaign instead. There is a lingering suspicion that he had calculated that he had nothing to gain if Remain won, but if Leave won, Cameron would be out and he could swan in as the man who had saved the Brexit cause to become Cameron’s obvious replacement. Mr. Johnson is, thus, an opportunist.
– Kevin Dowd
Read the whole thing, as it contains some excellent analysis.
My friend Preston pointed me at what the Adam Smith Institute calls the “EEA Option”, which would apparently provide many of the free trade and movement benefits of EU membership without being in the EU or beholden to most of its rules.
Certainly worth a read as people start contemplating what one would want the negotiated exit from the EU to look like.
And they worry the pound might crash? Pay attention to the euro.
– Zero Hedge
There has been much speculation the government will simply ignore the LEAVE result of the Brexit vote and not invoke Article 50 to start the clock running to leave the EU.
So why do I not think that will happen?
The one word answer:
The slightly longer answer:
Look how many Tory (and indeed Labour) MPs supported REMAIN, but their constituencies voted for LEAVE: i.e. most of England.
Now imagine come the next election, and we are still in the EU because the political establishment basically said “fuck you, we are just going to ignore the vote to LEAVE”.
Does anyone seriously think UKIP will end that election with the one MP it currently has? In my opinion they could quite literally wipe out the Tories as a meaningful political party a la what happened to the Liberal Party by 1935 (and UKIP would probably take a nice big bite out of Labour in Northern England). I would rather that not happen, but if that is what it takes…
That is why I think Brexit will indeed happen. Political self preservation. But I hope Farage has bodyguards.
In all the talk and words about the UK Brexit vote last Thursday, a regular line is that the Leave side has been “misled”, and doesn’t know what it is doing, and it is going to have buyer’s remorse, etc, etc. Who knows, maybe that criticism is apt. However, it is a bit rich for those who, for example, favoured the creation of the European single currency, as many pro-Remainers did (they might hope we’d forget) to claim that those who wish to leave an entity with pretensions to be a superstate are not thinking of the risks. That is a bit rich.
The launch of the single currency is arguably one of the riskiest, most hubristic transnational projects of recent decades, and I still see very little sign of contrition for rolling out a new form of fiat money without creating the economic and political architecture to deal with life inside a one-size-fits-all interest rate.
One reason why remaining EU states are scared of what has happened is the fear that a eurozone member state, envious of how the UK has just voted, might have similar ideas.
I’m not British. However, I’m a reasonably frequent visitor to the United Kingdom.
I spent last Thursday night having dinner in New York City with a bunch of Brits from the home office of the London based consulting company I’m affiliated with. I’m not an employee, but I’m a close-enough friend of the company’s management that there that there’s much more of a spirit of “we” than “they” when I talk to them.
The whole firm was, of course, heavily on the “remain” side since they have contracts all over the continent and The City is a huge source of revenue. The reason The City itself has grown to be so huge is because it is the finance capital of Europe, and it vies with New York for finance capital of the world as a result.
That, sadly, may be over soon.
The firm’s business also relied (I should say relies, it isn’t gone, at least not yet) on being able to do things like taking a contract in Frankfurt and sending people there from London without more of a thought than an American firm would have about taking a contract in Stamford, Connecticut even though they’re based in White Plains, New York – another state entirely.
We in the U.S. are of course used to such things – we don’t give thought to the idea of someone from New York selling something to someone in Los Angeles or flying there to do work for a month. No one needs to give you permission to do this, you just go and do it. We’re one big market, and that has helped our economy tremendously over the centuries. Europe had finally become like that, a place where you could do business all over without permission, and with it, a whole new class of companies like the one I work with rose up, companies that didn’t trade with Europe but in Europe.
→ Continue reading: An outsider’s view of Brexit
Hi! I’m the guy who hosts, and looks after, Samizdata. I’m a software engineer.
Several years ago I did the port from old Samizdata for Perry, largely as a favour, but also because I believe strongly in free speech and that it should be heard. I’ve looked after it since that time.
So I’m basically a free speech activist rather than any stripe of “libertarian”.
And I don’t generally post, but Perry invited me to do so years ago, and I thought this was a worthwhile opportunity.
So why did I vote ‘Remain’?
→ Continue reading: Why the Samizdata System Administrator voted ‘Remain’
The Liberal Democrat party, with its host of 6 MPs (much reduced in 2015) have pledged to ignore the Brexit referendum result and to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.
“Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain has won this vote, but it is not a vision I accept”, declared Lib Dem leader Tim Farron yesterday. “Even though the vote was close, the majority of British people want us to leave. But we refuse to give up on our beliefs”, he said.
Mr Farron, the relatively obscure leader of the party of heavyweights such as Cyril Smith, went on:
Mr. Farron argued that his party’s proposition was justifiable in a democratic society as older people’s votes were somehow less valid and because a vote against the EU was really a vote against Westminster.
“This was not a vote on the European Union alone”, he said, but a “howl of anger” against politics.
So, once the votes are counted, and if that ‘fails’, they are then ‘interpreted’ and in line with socialist logic, they don’t mean what a plain reading might fairly be taken to show that they mean. But is he not also saying that the vote was against him, as a member of the Westminster Parliament?
I would like to contrast this attitude with that of General Pinochet, well-known ‘strongman’ of Chilean politics from 1973 to 1990, who held a referendum on his junta (well, him) continuing to rule Chile in 1988, and who respected the outcome rejecting his continued rule, with a little prodding perhaps from General Matthei, the Air Force member of the junta (and friend of the UK in the Falklands War), who called for the result to be respected.
I suppose what we are seeing is a political auto-endoscopy by the Left, each trying to get further up their own arses than the other, with Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister indicating that the Scottish Parliament may have a veto on Brexit, a surprising interpretation of constitutional law from someone who is a solicitor.
I am confident that the bulk of people will see through all this, and see the Left, in all their shades, for the totalitarians that they are.
And yet just because the establishment failed, that doesn’t mean the demos have won. Not fully, anyway. We must stay vigilant. For there will now be a concerted effort to thwart our democratic statement, to weaken it by calling into question its legitimacy. This is already happening. Apparently the demos behaved rashly. We ‘voted emotionally rather than considering the facts’, says Labour MP Keith Vaz. We were in the grip of fear, say others. Or we were making a xenophobic statement, they claim, overlooking the irony of their pontificating about prejudice while suggesting that the 17.5million people who said No to the EU, this vast swathe of people, is a tabloid-poisoned blob given to disliking foreign people. Demagogues ‘injected poison into the nation’s bloodstream’, commentators are already saying, the implication being that we were brainwashed, made mad by evil men. We know not what we do. We’re children.
The efforts to rebrand this vote as a kneejerk thing, an emotional thing, a racist thing, are already underway. And others will no doubt argue that because the vote was very close, perhaps we shouldn’t take drastic measures; perhaps we should reform our ties with the EU rather than sever them. We must stand against all this, and insist that the people have spoken, and the people are sovereign, or ought to be. Indeed, that is fundamentally what the referendum was about: do you think Brussels or the parliament in London should be sovereign? The people voted for themselves.
– Brendan O’Neill