Today is one of the monumental days for the world. Voters in Great Britain have decided to leave the EU (European Union). I suspect this will be bad for GB in the long run. I’m fairly certain it will be bad for Europe and the rest of the world. Yet the risk of this happening was inevitable because decisions have consequences. And a lot of bad decisions paved the way to this spot in the road.
For quite some time now, the powers-that-be who run the EU, GB and Germany have chosen to cater to business (more precisely, to major shareholders and the wealthy finance and management classes who finance and run big business) and the entrenched elite while ignoring the concerns of the working and middle classes (solid folk as C.S. Lewis called them). Housing prices in London have put their very own capital city out of reach of the ordinary English. Uncontrolled immigration has driven down purchasing power and diminished opportunity for common folk. The sense of loss of sovereignty has not been off-set by widespread prosperity. The rich got richer. Finance dominated. Yet ordinary people were left to think government was not working for them. Life was not as good for ordinary Britons as the elite insisted it was.
It should because it’s happening throughout the Western world, including right here at home in the U.S. — hence, the unexpected support for fringe candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Hence, the willingness of a substantial part of the electorate to embrace a charlatan like Trump.
Bad decisions of policy makers and influential business persons and other people of wealth and influence have brought us to this place. They undoubtedly thought they could control the process for their own purposes. They were wrong. Decisions have consequences, and once you’ve made a decision you can’t assume you can control the consequences. The law of unintended consequences always rears its ugly head.
But ordinary folk can make bad decisions too. And suffer harsh consequences. I fear the ordinary folk of Britain have made such a decision. I hope I’m wrong.
I also hope the ordinary folk of America can avoid the temptation of following bad decisions with worse ones. But that’s a risk when people are pushed too far. Rationality often succumbs to emotion — to fear, anger and resentment. And right now there is a lot of irrationality in America.
Yesterday could have been avoided. If only the EU and the establishment that controls it — most especially Germany — could have been more deeply committed to building a true democratic union for the benefit of its people, the world would be a safer and more prosperous place today. If only the establishment could have seen beyond the posh apartments in London, Paris and Brussels and spent more time with the people of Wales, Normandy and Naples. If only the voters in Great Britain would have made better decisions along the way and not been so willing to buy what the likes of Prime Minister Cameron was selling.
We have progressed of course. In ages past these kinds of revolutions were always violent. Replacing the guillotine with the ballot box was a major step forward. But recent history has shown that progress isn’t inevitable or necessarily permanent. The people of Great Britain have decided to turn back the clock. I fear others may follow suit. If we do, the world is certain to be a less safe and less prosperous place.
The future is far more uncertain than we like to think it is.