Brexit is the rejection of rule by economic elites

07/07/2016

On June the 23, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Admit it: you likely have no idea what that means. But the press, the kind of media we liberal elites look to, is very clear: Brexit is bad. Secession has had negative connotations since, oh, about 1861; prior to that, say from 1776 till then, it had a much better ring. How could so many people be so stupid? Well, maybe they aren’t. 

The Conservative Party originally pushed Britain into the E.U., in the early 1970s, saying it would prevent conflict and increase the wealth of all people. The Tories were joined by the right-wing elitists of the Labour Party; they believed people did not have the ability to reason for themselves, and that they must be forced to improve. That latter attitude is a kind of soft social Darwinism: it shares the contempt the social Darwinists (and, indeed, Charles Darwin himself) feel for the great unwashed masses, but it wants to do nice things for them nonetheless. In America, we call this being a “liberal.”

But the left-wing of the Labour Party, which has almost ceased to exist over the last 30 years, hated the idea of joining the union. They argued it would take away the power of voters in Britain to hire and fire their lawmakers. Instead, the left wanted to transform society in ways that only the leverage of the popular vote can allow. If unelected bureaucrats ran the government from Brussels, there would be no way to effectively apply popular and democratic influence upon them; you couldn’t vote them out, or even march in front of their headquarters. 

Elites didn’t understand this, and there was a telling battle within the Labour Party, which has now erupted again. It involves two men called Roy Jenkins and Tony Benn. Both Oxford educated and from political families, they each at one time nearly became the leader of the Labour Party. And they hated one another. 

Jenkins was the son of a Welsh coal miner-turned-politician and a social-climbing mother who dominated his childhood. Wales is thought of by some the way the East coast of the United States thinks of the western states: good for hills and mining, but hopelessly unsophisticated. Jenkins was self-conscious of his background and distanced himself from it as soon as he could. He believed the masses could not be educated and that reforms would have to be forced on the public. He also had an affair with Jackie Kennedy’s sister Lee, another unpleasant social climber. 

Tony Benn is more famous for later in his life becoming an opponent of the Iraq War and for repeatedly calling for Tony Blair to be tried as a war criminal. But in the ’70s, his principal issue was democracy. His point was that elites, by their nature, dislike and misunderstand democracy because it draws power and control away from them. He hated the E.U. for this reason. In 1975, the government pursued his idea to have a referendum on E.U. membership. European and British banks and corporations poured money in the pro-E.U. campaign, every major newspaper in the U.K. was for it and the “Yes to Europe” side won overwhelmingly. The vote was an early sign of the decline of left-wing politics in Britain, which formally collapsed 30 years later in the grotesque figure of Tony Blair infamously telling the public that markets must govern the economy and we ought to invade Iraq. 

But the echo we hear in the press today is of Roy Jenkins, the unrepentant elitist who could not imagine why people should be allowed to disrupt the management of the economy and society by unelected “experts.” He was cosmopolitan and wealthy; he didn’t know poor people other than as servants (we would call them members of the service industry) and he hated the idea that they might have a say in how they were governed. And so it goes with us: the Bay Area rich, wholly unconnected to the 40 years of economic decline that has defined the lives of the vast majority of Americans, are content to shudder or sneer at those people who would vote for Sanders or Trump. 

Which brings us to the two positive reasons to vote for Hillary. First, Trump is an embarrassment that even a state that elected Arnold Schwarzenegger should be too ashamed to vote for. Second, Hillary, an elitist born to rule, will hopefully permanently divide the corrupt Democratic Party. The lovely irony of Hillary is that the more successful she is, the more likely the populace will reject the destructive practice of politics she represents. She can’t win, particularly if she wins. And the long-forgotten voices, like Tony Benn’s, who knew that democracy meant the weak gathering together to negotiate with the powerful, not having your life managed from afar by unaccountable bureaucrats, are only going to get louder in the years ahead. 

Finally, at a party on the Fourth of July, a neighbor put forward a Marshall independence vote to separate ourselves from the rest of West Marin, beyond the ways in which nature has already made us superior. I called it Marxit. And if that sounds like a dangerous lefty idea, compare it to an existing proposal from another neighbor: the regressive notion of a new monarchy, a tyranny that this British elitist calls “Reffellia.”

 

Charles Schultz lives in Marshall. Guilty rich people can send checks to PO Box 893, Marshall, CA 94940.