Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, June 23, 2016


I've been trying to keep an eye on the Brexit polling leading up to today's referendum.  It looks neck and neck with a surprising number of undecideds.  Typically, whether it's Quebec, Scotland and now Britain as a whole, those undecideds break for the status quo pretty heavily.  I would wager that Remain gets about 53-55% of the vote.

The surprising strength of Brexit is not based on factual information.  Most of the arguments for leaving the EU are spurious, if not outright lies.  What is striking is the anger and vehemence among working class Britons, many of whom could respond to this by abandoning the Labour party for UKIP, the slightly less racist cousin of the BNP (which is outright fascist).  The asshole who shot Jo Cox was a BNP-type.  UKIP is somewhat less racist and xenophobic, but we are talking measures of degrees not type.  The horrible irony is that much of the British racism is focused on South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis) and not Eastern Europeans.  And immigration from South Asia has nothing to do with the EU.

You have an incoherent anger against brown people and a desire to wall yourself off from your biggest trading partner.

Britain is having its Trump-Moment.

British politics isn't quite as polarized as American politics, and Boris Johnson has already insulted Donald Trump, so there isn't a lot of common ground in the details.  When you step back, however, you see a great deal of similarity.

Point that out to your British friends when they shake their heads about the GOP nominating Trump.  Tell them he's really just the unholy child of Johnson and Nigel Farange.

One thing should be clear to people around the developed world from the politics of 2016: the age of meek acquiescence to globalization is over.  While I think that outsourcing is only about half the problem the working class faces in Detroit and Manchester and Marseilles (the other, unspoken half is automation), it's a big deal.  Since the benefits of globalization - lower consumer prices, relative peace - are effectively invisible it's a very hard sell, especially when you layer xenophobia and racism on top of it.

I lean free-trade.  But increasingly, the idea of a universal minimum income looks like it will need to be the handmaiden of free trade.  There are benefits to free trade, but unless someone steps up and delivers some of those benefits to the bottom 60% of the developed world, there's going to be hell to pay.

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