Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lessons Learned

We don't know what the long term consequences of Britain's decision to leave the EU will be. But, Tom Walkom writes, there are already lessons to be learned:

First, democracy and advanced capitalism aren’t always compatible. Britain’s voters were asked whether they wanted to stick with a globalized system designed to increase wealth in the aggregate. The majority looked at what they were getting out of the arrangement and said no.

Second, nationalism is alive. There was a time, not so long ago, when the nation-state was viewed as passé. It is not. When Britain’s leavers said they didn’t want to be governed by bureaucrats in Brussels, they meant it.

Third, full labour mobility is, politically, a step too far. The conceit of the European Union was that it had erased borders — that EU citizens could travel, work and live anywhere.
Thursday’s referendum showed that a lot of Britons simply don’t agree. If the polls are right, a lot of other Europeans don’t agree either. They fear an unrestricted flood of newcomers will drive down wages. Sometimes, these fears are justified.

Fourth, the refusal of centre and left parties to deal with any of this has allowed the hard right to monopolize antiglobalization sentiment. In Britain, the right dominated the leave campaign in part because there was no one else.

In the United States, would-be presidential nominee Bernie Sanders articulated a centre-left critique of globalization. But his Democratic party didn’t agree. Now demagogue Republican Donald Trump has the field to himself.

The United States has its critics of globalization on both the Left and on the Right. In Britain, it was the Right that won the day. And there are lessons, too, about the kind of leadership the Right espouses:

The motives of those who voted to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum were not always noble.

Racism played a role as did plain old xenophobia. Those leading the leave campaign were hardly Churchillian. They included Nigel Farage, the odious leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party as well as former London mayor Boris Johnson, a buffoonish toff who may well end up being the country’s next prime minister.

But the most important lesson was simply this:

Global integration may serve that abstraction known as the economy. But it doesn’t always help real, flesh-and-blood people.

The lessons are there. We'll have to wait and see if people around the world are paying attention. 



Toby said...

Cameron forgot one of the principles of politics: if you don't know the answer don't ask the question.

Brexit has spawned a mess. It doesn't matter who started it, or why, the result is going to be rough.

We are hearing a call for a second referendum by people who didn't vote. Well, they had their chance and can be counted as stupid.

I would have voted to leave and would also vote to leave NAFTA and all of Harper's awful trade deals. Of course the world needs international agreements. What we don't need is deals that favour transnational corporations at the expense of local labour, health, environmental and other concerns. We need to be ramping up corporate responsibility but we have been tearing it down.

Owen Gray said...

We now have an incredibly complicated mess, Toby. I make no predictions about how or when this is going to end.

Dana said...

Oh, I'll be more than happy to make predictions.

There will be a new Tory government led by Boris Johnson come October and as soon as Article 50 is declared the Tories will re-introduce and pass all the right wing bushwa the EU prevented them from implementing previously. Workers rights will be slashed, environmental protections required by the EU will be trashed, the pressures on the NHS will increase and there will be less money budgeted for everything.

Prices of food will rise and costs of mortgages will increase. Many companies that do business with the EU will decide that being forced to comply with 2 differing sets of regulations will not be worth it and they will opt to move out of England and do business with the larger market of the EU. London's financial serices sector will be decimated and The City's role as the financial centre for Europe may simply cease.

The export regions of the country, almost all of which voted leave, will suddenly discover that for the first time in over 30 years they will have to deal with new sets of tariffs should they want to continue their trade within the EU.

And all of this will be made more difficult the longer the Brit government delays triggering Article 50. In fact if they delay it long enough they will generate more acrimony than only among the EU countries. The longer the uncertainty lasts because of their stupidity the less gracious a long list of countries are going to be.

Scotland will have another referendum - no right away - but not years away either and this time it will pass. So may there be a fresh and possibly violent drive to unify Ireland. The UK will become England and Wales and Wales maya not be entirely happy with it after a while.

Britain today has strong worker protection laws and environmental protections because of the EU, not because of Westminster. The EU came into being post WW2 in the hopes that the nations of Europe would not simply declare war on one another as they had for centuries and most bloodily in the first half of the 20th.

Wish for it to fail all you like. No one will hold you responsible.

Owen Gray said...

What was it that Yeats wrote, Dana? "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."