Over on Facebook, where I occasionally joust with Remainers who are still in shock and anger at the impertinence and evil of their fellows in voting to leave the EU, a person applauded an apparent suggestion that the result could be blocked, by the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the UK political system. I wrote this, and decided I might as well put it on Samizdata as well:
The original post applauded the fact that the House of Lords, which is not elected by anyone, but composed of inheritors and favourites of governments, is to try and block the result of a democratic referendum in which more people voted than in any election since 1992. The enormity of this should give us pause. I find it mind-boggling that it is being contemplated.
The post claimed the referendum is illegal. No grounds are given as to what supposed laws were broken by holding this referendum. None. I’d be grateful if someone could give a law that was broken to justify the claim.
One can argue that the Leave side told lies (the same applies with some of the Remain side, by the way, as they often exaggerated the effects of Leave), but disliking the conduct of those in a referendum does not invalidate the result or render it void. Some Leavers may indeed be bigots, fools, or whatever. Quite a few Remainers are hardly models of logical thought, either, from my experience. If you claim that people voted without full knowledge of the consequences, that could be used to invalidate all elections, and be an excuse for dictatorship of supposed Platonic philosopher kings.
It is quite obvious to me that, when stripped of any flimflam, that a lot of those who wanted to stay in the EU have a low view of most of their fellow citizens, and wish they should be prevented from voting on anything of significance. There are uncertainties ahead; there are also uncertainties of remaining in the EU, particularly given the weak nature of the eurozone and the continued terrible economic and financial problems of Southern Europe.
The House of Lords is an anachronism, but it is at least easier for the UK to reform such a chamber, as it should, than for 28 members of the EU to change the structures of the EU. (I think the HoL should be an elected chamber, maybe by PR, or some other approach.) I think it is good to have an upper chamber to act as a brake on the Commons; all good political systems of ordered liberty need checks and balances. (The US Founding Fathers understood this.) Blocking the results of a referendum, however, is not a step to be taken lightly.
The European Union has been a collection of nation states, but is clearly moving towards full statehood, and the eurozone cannot really work without this to make fiscal transfers, etc, acceptable (consider the rows between Greece and Germany, etc). Such an outcome is not what most Britons want, including, I imagine, some of those who voted Remain. There is no broad mandate for the UK to become part of a European state.
The UK is a parliamentary democracy, and referendums should be used sparingly, and only on matters of overwhelming constitutional importance. The fine details must remain with parliament. The fact remains, however, that the outcome of the referendum, while not overwhelming, is clear enough: Leave.
I may be informed mostly about investment and financial issues in the EU, rather than politics, (I used to be a full-teim political correspondent) but my reporting on the EU and its financial regulations gives me a good vantage point on seeing how the EU works on a daily basis – I have covered the creation of god-knows how many directives over the past 20-plus years (gulps!) and it is clear that despite some good points, it is a centralising, bureaucratic and in too many cases, unaccountable body. It is not, I believe, reformable because too many countries want to keep it as it is. Cameron tried to get concessions and he failed.
A major power centre has been challenged and almost by definition power centres have some control over the public narrative. For decades EU apologists have wielded their immense budget and nomination powers to promote people with the “right” attitude and projects with the “right” purpose. Simultaneously a highly skewed PR narrative has been dished out so incessantly (complimentary of unaware taxpayers) that numerous voters now confuse this narrative with the truth. This is why so many EU apologists genuinely seem to perceive the EU as a force for everything worthwhile, and every EU-critic as either dumb, a xenophobic throwback or misled by the PR-narrative of the other side.
It is such a shame, though, that the term “metropolitan liberal” is used here. I like to think I am a liberal in the John Locke/Ludwig von Mises use of that fine word, and also glory in living in the greatest metropolis on earth – London. It is one of those terms that is in danger of becoming hackneyed. Stop it.
The statistical correlation between both age and relatively low levels of education, on the one hand, and a vote to leave on the other, was much remarked upon, not only in Britain but throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Age and lack of education were usually taken by commentators as a proxy for stupidity. The majority vote to leave was therefore a triumph of stupidity: for those who vote the right way in any election or referendum have opinions, while those who vote the wrong way have only prejudices. And only the young and educated know what the right way is.
While age is certainly not a guarantee of political wisdom, the ever-increasing experience of life might be expected to conduce to it. But in the wake of the vote, there were even suggestions that the old should have no vote because they wouldn’t have to live as long with the consequences of it. The reaction to the referendum exposed the fragility and shallowness of that each person’s vote should count for same.
The relation between political wisdom and levels of education is far from straightforward. It was educated people who initiated and carried out the Terror in the French Revolution. The Russian Revolution, and all the great joy that it brought to the Russian people, was the denouement of decades of propaganda and agitation by the educated elite. There was no shortage of educated people among the Nazi leadership. And the leaders of the Khmer Rouge were also relatively highly-educated, as it happens in France. The founder of Sendero Luminoso, who might have been the Pol Pot of Peru, was a professor of philosophy who wrote his doctoral thesis on Kant.
… and we all know how reliable and objective polls are, right?
“Brexit shocked people in the EU,” Francois Kraus, head of the political and current affairs service at IFOP, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“Seeing the Eurosceptics’ dream come true must have triggered a reaction in people who usually criticise the EU and blame it for decisions such as austerity measures.
“But when people realise the real implications of an exit, there’s new-found support for the European project,” he said.
Ah that magical term “austerity“. Taxing people less so that they get to spend their own money, rather than the government spending it, is not “austerity”. And there I was thinking keeping more of my own money was “abundance” rather than “austerity”. Go figure.
Andrew Kennedy writes at Conservative Home about how the Conservative Party has seen a post-Brexit surge in membership. Commenters point out that the same thing has happened in the other British political parties. But why? None of the parties performed in recent weeks in a particularly attractive manner, so what’s happening?
I think that commenter David Webb, a recent (re)joiner of the Conservative Party, nails it:
I rejoined post-referendum because of a feeling that politics mattered again. Within the confines of the EU, nothing much was worth debating, as nothing much could be changed. Apart from the continuous drift to the bureaucratic European superstate, inertia ruled.
With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream … that’s not to say everything will be wonderful, but once again ideas count, and things can get done.
But then, I would think that David Webb nails it, because I said something very similar in my posting here at the time when the referendum result was becoming clear. I didn’t say that all the political parties would now have a membership surge, but I could have and should have, because it was the logical thing to deduce from what I was then realising. Political debate matters again, not just for me and for all those who think as I do, but for everyone with any sort of political opinion.
As David Webb says, “ideas count” means that bad ideas also now count for somewhat more than they did, unless they are the bad ideas that the EU stood for and imposed upon us, in which case they now count for slightly less.
It will be interesting – and no doubt in some ways rather scary – to see what British public opinion now consists of, given that for the last few decades much of it has been sedated by our EU membership. First out of the blocks were the racists, who perhaps imagined that Britain voting Leave meant that all the bloody foreigners now had to leave.
But what other political ideas will emerge? As I also said in that earlier posting: good times for blogs like Samizdata, where our good ideas will be celebrated anew and the bad ideas of others will be denounced. Again, speaking for myself, I find that the urge to blog is now stronger. Because it will count for a bit more than it did.
Perhaps the most important next discovery about another bit of British public opinion will concern the forthcoming Labour leadership contest. Labour has also, see above, had a post-Brexit surge in membership. But are those new members yet more Corbyn supporters, or are they anti-Corbynists, wanting a nicer and more traditional Labour Party? My guess is that the Labour leadership contest will be closer than it was last time around, with quite a few who voted for Corbyn last time voting against Corbyn this time around, but not close enough to unseat Corbyn. The Labour collapse will continue. But, what do I know? We shall see.
When it comes to actually doing Brexit – as opposed to merely voting for it – there appear to be a myriad of options. I do not know precisely how many there are but when three years ago the Institute of Economic Affairs held a competition to find the best way they were not short of entries. Worse still there are many people in positions of power who would very much prefer it if the UK did not leave the EU. If they fail to achieve their aim I am sure that some will try to create a situation where the UK has the appearance of independence but none of the reality.
So, how will we know when we have truly left as opposed to merely having left on paper? Here are a few tests:
Is it possible to buy good in pounds and ounces, feet and yards?
Can train operators also manage track?
Have those annoying cookie notices disappeared?
Are Google search results once again uncensored?
Are some residents of the European Union denied the right to live and work in the UK?
I should point out that I am not particularly keen on the last one but it is a good test. Free movement within the EU is, after all, one of its fundamental principles.
I am sure the commentariat can think of a few more.
Europe urgently needs a 150 billion-euro ($166 billion) bailout fund to recapitalize its beleaguered banks, particularly those in Italy, Deutsche Bank AG’s chief economist said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag.
“Europe is extremely sick and must start dealing with its problems extremely quickly, or else there may be an accident,” Deutsche Bank’s David Folkerts-Landau said, according to the newspaper.
Now, with blood barely dry on their lips, project fear has mutated into project stupid-idiots. I find it staggering that the remain minority can accuse the Brexit majority of not knowing truth from lies – unlike in all elections? – and could not have meant its vote. It should therefore be asked to vote a second time, and show due respect to its elders and betters. What planet are these people on? I would guess the leavers in a second vote would soar to 60%, out of sheer fury.
Brexit is starting to deliver. British politics was constipated and has now overdosed on laxative. It is experiencing a great evacuation. It has got rid of a prime minister and is about to get rid of a leader of the opposition. It will soon be rid of a chancellor of the exchequer and a lord chancellor. It is also rid of two, if not four, Tory heirs apparent. Across the spectrum the left is on the brink of upheaval and perhaps historic realignment, if only the Liberal Democrats have the guts to engineer it. The Greens and Ukip have both lost their leaders. An entire political class is on the way out. As Oscar Wilde said of the death of Little Nell, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh.
One of the arguments I occasionally hear is that the European Union has been an important force for peace in Europe following the Second World War and that further, the weakening of the EU as a result of UK departure will embolden enemies of Western Europe, such as Putin. However, here’s a thing: it was arguably the decisive defeat of Nazi Germany, and the determination of the NATO powers, led by the US, to contain the Soviet Union and combat forms of anti-West subversion, that was more important in keeping the peace. The EU was in my view part of the overall architecture of what the Western powers put together, but whether it was decisive is unproven at best.
And the the various missteps of the EU after the Berlin Wall came down have seriously reduced rather than increased the EU’s status as a stabilising, pro-peace, force. The greatest misstep of all was launching a single, fiat currency without full, democratically accountable political union. (I would not have objected to a common, hard-money system for those who wanted it, but that was never the aim of the European Union’s most ardent federalists.)
I can understand why leaders such as Margaret Thatcher (until the late 80s) regarded membership of the EU as one of those dues that had to be paid to keep the West together and why she fretted that it was becoming more of a problem towards the end of her time in office.
It should not be forgotten that during the 60s, under the Presidency of Charles De Gaulle, France withdrew itself from the command structure and active operations of NATO. Leave aside the reasoning behind it: you have a large, relatively strong Western European country leaving one of the main transnational groupings of the post-war era, a couple of decades before the Berlin Wall came down and before the end of Communism. But I hardly ever hear France getting heat for this. Maybe I read the wrong journals and websites.
It is worth remembering this episode if one ever hears a French commentator or politician bashing the UK for somehow “weakening the West” for getting out of an organisation that it did not like. Because France did leave an important group, but the sky did not in the end fall in.
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