Brexit and Trump: Populism or Manipulation?

The Brexit vote, like Donald Trump’s campaign, is less a populist uprising against the elites than a contest of one elite over another in manipulating popular sentiments, argues ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Some explanations for the outcome of the British vote to leave the European Union are specific to Britain. This includes the divisions within the governing Conservative Party over E.U. membership (divisions that led Prime Minister David Cameron to conceive of the referendum in the first place) and the lackluster defense of membership by the leader of the opposition.

U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet they made on the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer game (which ended in a tie), during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, June 26, 2010. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet they made on the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer game (which ended in a tie), during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, June 26, 2010. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

Other reasons, on which much of the immediate post-referendum commentary has focused, go far beyond Britain. The Brexit vote was partly an expression of nationalism that has become so strong a tendency in the politics of so many nations that it can be considered the prime defining characteristic of the current era.

It also was an expression of xenophobia that is shaping much of the politics of the very European continent from which the Brexiteers want to separate themselves and has become a major part of the U.S. presidential campaign in the form of Donald Trump’s candidacy.

The vote exhibits something else that transcends Britain: most of those who voted for Brexit were voting against their own interests, certainly as defined by whatever affects their economic well-being. The economic case for remaining in the E.U. was strong to overwhelming. The issue was not one on which honest and competent economists split evenly, or anything close to evenly.

The reaction of financial markets, including in Britain, to the vote was a resounding affirmation of which side had the stronger economic case. Assertions by Brexiteers that most of the benefits of accessing the European market could be secured without the costs and burdens of membership are belied by the experience of non-members such as Norway and by analysis of what will be the E.U.’s interests and motives in negotiating economic agreements with a non-member Britain.

And the portions of the British electorate that voted most heavily in favor of leaving, including many of the less well educated and less well off, will feel some of the worst effects of non-membership. One of the first attention-getting voting results Thursday night came from Sunderland in what turned out to be a heavily pro-Brexit English northeast, notwithstanding that one of its biggest employers is a Nissan automobile factory that was built there because of its access to the EU market.

Going against one’s own interests in this way can be explained, and has been explained, as a protest vote: an expression of anger and a use of the heart more than the head. It can be anger about one’s own economic situation, or about faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, or about strange-looking immigrants, or something else, and the anger can be translated directly into a vote without an intermediary step of applying reason regarding what electoral outcome would best serve one’s own interest. Certainly many of the votes cast in Britain on Thursday can be described as this kind of emotional, unthinking act.

A Misfired Protest Vote

Another kind of protest vote involves somewhat more calculation, but a calculation about the outcome of the vote. The prevailing expectation on the eve of the vote, as reflected in the odds set by British bookies, was that Remain would prevail over Leave, and some voters thought they could make a protest gesture by voting to leave without their vote making any difference in the outcome.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions donning one of Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" caps.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions donning one of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” caps.

The actual outcome is a severe lesson in the danger of using one’s vote this way. Supporters of Bernie Sanders who are contemplating sending some sort of message by voting for Donald Trump should take careful notice.

But beyond these categories of voters is another reason many people vote against their own interests; they are simply mistaken about which outcomes would help and which would hurt those interests. Many British voters genuinely believed that erecting higher barriers to the cross-border movement of people, goods, and capital would make them better off than the alternative.

The situations of some of those people made them correct, but most such people were mistaken. We see the same phenomenon all the time in the United States, in the form of working-class people voting for politicians who enact policies that favor the one percent and disfavor the working class.

Simply put, people are ignorant. The ignorance is underscored in Britain by lots of people scrambling after the vote to learn what this European Union business is all about. It is underscored in the United States by Trump declaring after one of his primary election victories, “I love the poorly educated.”

Venturing into this subject risks getting one branded as elitist. Much interpretation of the vote in Britain has been phrased in populism-vs.-elites terms. But at the level of the individual voter and his or her interests, this is a mistaken conception.

The ignorance that causes many people to vote contrary to their interests is not all spontaneously generated. Much of it is nurtured by elites for their own purposes. The contest is more one of elites versus other elites.

In Britain, Boris Johnson, by championing the Brexit cause, now is in good position to replace his fellow Etonian Cameron as prime minister. In the United States, politicians stoke economic discontent, security fears, and urges over social issues to win votes from the hoi polloi while enacting economic policies that are more in the interests of elites who finance their campaigns. And currently it is the maybe-billionaire Trump who is riding a similar formula to a presidential nomination.

There is no ready way to overcome self-damaging ignorance within the electorate. Many problems are involved besides the impossibility of making masses of ignorant people smart quickly. In the United States, the mess that constitutes campaign finance law in the post-Citizens United era is one of the bigger problems.

Vigorous efforts to make politicians accountable to the truth certainly help but can only go so far. Trump, for example, has overloaded the circuits of fact-checkers by unashamedly telling one whopper after another. And the cultivation of damaging ignorance is not simply a matter of factual truth and individual falsehoods.

It is at least as much a matter of insufficient respect for knowledge and for expertise based on knowledge. Knowledge and expertise in this context are not to be confused with Straussian claims by an elite to having special insight into what is good for a nation or for mankind.

Rather, it is knowledge comparable to what is contained in the strong judgment of economists about the consequences of Brexit, or what the overwhelming majority of climate scientists say about human-induced global warming — and to which the only dissenters are elites who have a narrow interest in arguing otherwise, or masses whose ignorance has been encouraged by those elites.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

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33 comments for “Brexit and Trump: Populism or Manipulation?

  1. Joe Tedesky
    June 27, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I am for the most part a great fan of Paul Pillar, but Mr Pillar, really?? You brought up Citizens United, well this morning Hillary while giving a speech in Cincinnati declared she will end that dreaded Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United…. Okay, so will Hillary give back all the special interest money her campaign has taken in? I kind of doubt it. Is Hillary’s loop hole going to be her and Bill’s giving 250k on up speeches? Mr Pillar, you talk about elitist, yet at the same time, your article here makes you sound like one. Let’s face it, it is nearly impossible to not vote against your self interest, when all that’s left to vote for is the lessor of the two evils. BTW, I will be voting for Jill Stein, and never Trump or Hillary. Now, what people really don’t like is these trade agreements, of any kind. Since, these trade agreements have come to be, people have watched their employment fade away, to far off distant lands. No one is against helping out the third world nations, but replacing good standard of living jobs with slave labor is anything but noble. You brought up the feared nationalism trend that seems to be running through England, but what is globalism when such an entity as NATO can go wherever, and whenever it wants to bomb some third world nation. Nationalism maybe something to fear, but Globalism is anything but comforting. No, Donald Trump is not the answer, and no Hillary Clinton is definitely not the answer, and probably the Brexit is in a practical way just wrong, but what the elitist of the New World Order forgot to consider with all their magnificent planning, is there are people out there effected by their selfish decisions. Every law, every trade agreement should start with considering the benefits of the commons. Corporations should be subservient to the people, and not the other way around. Enough of lifting the profits of the true socialist, which is Wall Street, and the City of London bankers. For crying out loud, there are people out here, now listen to them.

    • chris
      June 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      I generally agree with your points. I would like to emphasize that there is a general resentment and distrust towards un-elected bodies that dictate policy from afar that impacts one’s way of life and prosperity. Government should, in my opinion, be much more of a local affair. BREXIT voters may have been poorly informed. However, the sentiment is one based on this resentment and distrust of far removed central authority. This is a large contingent of the Trump base of support. Will he lessen centralized control and re-write the trade deals that have savaged the American industrial base? Probably not. Will Hillary do so? Definitely not. The choices are poor but the push against globalism is real and it is not going away.

      • Joe Tedesky
        June 27, 2016 at 1:24 pm

        You already probably have, but read what RPDC has written for us. RPDC, said it all much better than I have, and I believe he has it really right. Trump I will admit says some pretty provocative things, but I’m not sure if he can be trusted, and he loses me with his racial rants. We don’t need race riots, in order to detach ourselves from NATO. HIllary is a lie walking, what more can be said. I’m voting third party if for no other reason, but to prevent the next president (Hillary or Trump) from having my political capital. Plus, I have to live with myself afterwards. Thanks for your response, and be happy Chris, it’s good we can all talk to each other the way we do on this site…thanks Robert Parry.

    • exiled off mainstreet
      June 27, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      I agree with your take on the Pillar article and am disappointed in his failing to see the anti-neoliberal critique of the EU. The fact is, Corbyn made a tactical error by caving into the old Blairite Labour core on Brexit. If he had put it to the new, augmented party membership, it would probably would have opposed remaining in the EU at that point in the campaign based on the EU’s record in Ireland, Greece and elsewhere then there would have been a serious leftwing critique augmenting the successful populist one and the EU would not have had a prayer. It was not defeated by rightists, but by traditional Labour voters recognising the odium of the yankee-dominated neoliberal anti-democratic corporatist project.

      • Joe Tedesky
        June 27, 2016 at 9:44 pm

        I’m with you on that. In fact, while many are claiming this Brexit being a Trump type issue, I say, what about Bernie. Although, I’m not sure where Bernie is on this Brexit, his criticism of the one percent fits in nicely to such things, as this Brexit seems to represent. One of the problems, and I’m guilty of it myself, is many of us are trying to figure out who owns this revolt against the establishment. Is it left, or is it right? The fact is, it’s a people issue. When people see their wages stagnate, and their cost of living elevate, along with zero job opportunities, well that effects left and right voters alike. When a person finds themselves in that position, it is no wonder that they start blaming the dislocated migrant. Who gives the migrant worker the homies job, the corporate employer who’s looking to escape such things as liability compensation, or at the very least an employee who will work for less. It’s a win win for the company. The establishment is very clever by their media’s broad brush painting this as a racist revolt, against the unfortunate who have been misplaced, whether due to a trade deal wiping out their livelihood in their homeland, or a bomb destroying their living quarters they once called home. The corporate one percent must be enjoying the hell out of watching all of us little people argue amongst ourselves, and laughing even louder when they see Donald Trump trying to lead us. I refuse to give either Trump or Hillary my political capital, and I’m doing this only so I can look at my ugly mug in the mirror each morning before I start out on a new day. Talk about a new day, we need an honest leader, who would represent what the common people need done to have an adequate live. A leader who would tell the corporations, enough with your trade deals, and enough with your wars of hegemony. If Brexit should stand for nothing else, it should stand as a beginning of the people pushing back against the corporate tide, which has become a violent tsunami destroying the very things we love. The best part is, the corporations would not be able to profit without the worker, so what’s that tell you? Who has the real power? It’s the motorman and the maid, it’s the soldiers and the nurses, it’s teamster and the receiving clerk, it’s you and me.

        • odc
          July 5, 2016 at 8:19 pm

          So revolve now

    • Peter Loeb
      June 28, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      IGNORANCE??

      I never feel that it is appropriate to say people are “ignorant”. This
      is a very snobbish use of a derogatory term indeed.

      People are unaware (ignorant?) of the results of policies on which
      they are requested to cast a vote. In addition, this lack of awareness
      is more and more often encouraged by all sides as we well know.

      While Joe Tedesky may have gone a bit overboard on some points, his
      basic criticism of elitism and the fact that almost all of us do in the
      last analysis vote our own interests. Perhaps that is because all of
      us are not 100% experts on economics, trade, trade deals and the like.

      Most people are not “ignorant” but may not understand the results
      of intricate policies. Prime among such complex areas are
      those involving economics. I myself had a difficult time
      recalled what a “strong” dollar might mean. The Brexit vote
      had already happened. I understand a bit more but I am not an
      economist.

      I have in recent years read about areas distant from my day-to-day
      life (eg weapons manufacturing etc.) and yet am not “expert”.

      I believe that your essay would have profited greatly with
      another title as it did raise some excellent points.Your
      essay would have given more with less focus on the
      US political slants.

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  2. June 27, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Intelligence agents love globalism. It makes it easier for them to wreak havoc around the world. Reclaiming sovereignty and reducing inequality is not a significant factor in their calculus. If the only reason a Japanese country locates a factory in Britain is to access the EU they deserve to leave. When the people from other EU countries working in Britain leave, more jobs will be available to the British people.

  3. RPDC
    June 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Is there a new “fairness doctrine” that requires CN to publish one autocratic neoliberal response to Brexit to balance the well-reasoned analyses of John Pilger and others? I do notice a common thread of Messrs. Pillar and Fuller, and it appears that three decades of CIA brainwashing makes people very protective of the Agency’s pet project known as the EU.

    It would be more accurate to say, “Simply put, CIA people are ignorant.” Brexit was an tremendous victory for democracy over neoliberal autocracy. People are not “ignorant.” In fact, they intuitively understand that people like Paul Pillar have spent the last 40 years selling what was not his to sell. Specifically, the economic prosperity of the United States, which has been shipped overseas in exchange for geopolitical items like military bases and air rights. None of which benefits the people whose jobs were sold, but which does further enrich the oligarchs who ultimately own and control the CIA, and whose goals and methods were described by Smedley Butler many years ago.

    Mr. Pillar’s economic ignorance underpins his insular perspective. The economy is not a GDP, and it is not the stock market. The rich getting richer does nothing for the actual economy. The real economy is the median wage, and on that measure, we are doing horribly. The US became the world’s only superpower and wealthiest country on earth under a series of nationalist, protectionist Presidents who protected US manufacturing and avoided intervening in other countries’ affairs. As productivity rose, so did median wages, from our founding until 1971. Since 1971, the US has been governed by globalists like Mr. Pillar, who think that US Empire is more important than US citizens, and that the rich must be made richer at all costs. Instead of protectionism, we adopted “free trade” and “open borders” to suppress wages in the US and destroy the labor movement. The result – the bottom 75% of workers haven’t had a raise in 40 years.

    People realize that they have been sold out by the government. Open borders and “trade deals” might increase the GDP, but they do so through “labor arbitrage.” The rich get richer, but the working class gets much poorer. The result of which is that money no longer moves through the economy. Instead, it is merely hoarded by the wealthy elite, such as Mr. Pillar’s former paymasters. That fact is dramatically displayed in the monetary velocity statistic. From 1959 through 2009, monetary velocity varied from 1.7 to 2.2, occasionally dipping below 1.7 in the 60s and 70s. Today, it is the lowest it has ever been – 1.45 – and heading south.

    Brexit and Donald Trump threaten to reverse the neoliberal agenda, putting nationalism before globalism, making the people richer and the rich poorer, and returning the US to its former policy of non-interventionism. The unfortunate reality is that Mr. Pillar spent 28 years making the world worse, and the United States much worse.

    The people are waking up to the fact that there is no such thing as “US Interests.” The people have no interest in the CIA overthrowing foreign governments, and they have no interest in the global empire that the CIA has spent 70 years building. That is the interest of the oligarchy, the same people who want open borders and labor offshoring wrapped in the false packaging of “free trade.” It is a class war, and Mr. Pillar is on the wrong side.

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      RPDC, great comment!

    • Winston
      June 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Neoliberalism will not go away with Brexit. In fact effects will get worse. Please also note the youth voted for Remain. But youth mostly outside Northeast as its festering depression has meant the youth have left it for greener pastures elsewhere.

      London has more migrants and Londoners voted overwhelmingly to Remain.

      Boris is a lightweight. Was not even a good mayor for London. He is more likable than Trump;but he is a lightweight just like him.

      Problem with US is Hillary is worse than both the Labour andTory leaders;and Trump is such a narcissist , he even scared Reagan. Anyway, neither of them is the leader needed at this time. They will just make matters worse at home and abroad.

      • RPDC
        June 27, 2016 at 5:04 pm

        Of course “neoliberalism will not go away with Brexit.” It’s a small battle; not the entire war. And I’m not sure what you mean by the “effects will get worse.” You think there will be even more inequality and perpetual war? The “effects” might get worse from neoliberal policies and actions prior to Brexit, but I certainly don’t see how you could argue that neoliberalism will increase. You think TTIP is more likely after Brexit? You think we’re more likely to start new wars after Brexit?

        I’m fully aware that young people voted for remain. I’m also aware that the largest funders (at least initially) were Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Cameron, Obama, Clinton, Wall Street, and endless multinational corporations were all on the side of Remain. Either the young people or all of those individuals and groups were misinformed; I’m going to trust that Goldman and JPM knew what they were doing more than the youth of the UK. Also, London is the heart of global finance (i.e., inventing new ways to gamble through a witch’s brew of QE, fiat money, and fractional lending); I think they might’ve had a bit of a vested interest.

        The fact that Boris and Trump are lightweights is of no consequence. This is not about 2016-2020. It’s about the next 40 years. If you maintain the status quo, you will always have the status quo. Neoliberalism has been a runaway train since Bill Clinton and the DLC hijacked the DNC, rebranding pro-choice Republicans as “Democrats,” and Brexit and Trump could derail that train. Trump is anti-TPP/TTIP, anti-interventionism, anti open borders, and wants to protect SS & Medicare. Hell, assuming Bernie isn’t the nominee, Trump might be the closest thing we’ve had to a New Dealer candidate since LBJ.

        I’m not saying that Trump is the “leader needed at this time,” but he is certainly less dangerous than Hillary. If your choices are Xenophobia or Genocide, you pick the former. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/31/whatll-it-be-folks-xenophobia-or-genocide/ Plus, Progressives cannot take over the DNC if Hillary wins. As a general rule, political parties that win tend not change.

        • exiled off mainstreet
          June 27, 2016 at 7:44 pm

          This is correct in all aspects. The fact is, Blair’s quisling project “new labour” was a reflection of the Clintons’ hostile takeover of the Democratic party. Neoliberalism could flourish once the more socialistic element had been coopted and sidelined. Corbyn represents the return of real Labour. Trump, a former democrat, takes positions to the left of the harpy in many areas, including the key ones, militarism and corporate trade. His more absurd statements are necessary to retain the bozo vote. He will wear better than the obviously corrupt, odious and reactionary Hillary unless the propaganda of the presstitute media is so ubiquitous that people otherwise of good will are taken in. She has the record of a war criminal and unindicted fraudster based on the record of the corrupt Clinton foundation and the millions in bribes they have received for giving flattering speeches to parasitic corporate elements.

          • dahoit
            June 28, 2016 at 9:47 am

            The bozo vote?They all voted for Obomba and the shrub.In fact they are a clown school.
            Liberals calling others bozos!

    • Bill Bodden
      June 27, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      Brexit was an tremendous victory for democracy over neoliberal autocracy.

      RPDC: I have my reservations about much of what Mr. Pillar has said, but I’m also very skeptical about your opinion of Brexit being a tremendous victory for democracy. There were different reasons for voters to leave the European Union, and many did so for reasons other than democracy. The “victory” was only 52-48. Very few people would consider that a resounding victory.

      Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in an admirable democratic process, but he was pressured by Blairites in his party to support “Remain.” His support was described as being lukewarm. Despite his admirable history of being a man of the people, neo-liberals who wanted to remain with the neo-liberal EU are out to remove him from party leadership.

      Scotland and Northern Ireland had large majorities in favor of remaining under the authoritarian regime in Brussels suggesting democracy was not a high priority for the Scots or Ulstermen.

    • DocHollywood
      June 27, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Brilliant, RPDC; thank you.

  4. Zachary Smith
    June 27, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    The economic case for remaining in the E.U. was strong to overwhelming. The issue was not one on which honest and competent economists split evenly, or anything close to evenly.

    After reading that gem I made a quick search to see what honest and competent economists think of the TPP treaty.

    That’s pretty much the argument all critics make: TPP is a bad deal for working people, written behind closed doors by fat-cat corporations. But talk to economists and you get a different story. Almost invariably, they say, free trade deals are good — for everyone in society.

    http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-05-22/why-economists-love-much-criticized-trans-pacific-partnership

    So I’m going to say that what the “economists” think about this or that doesn’t necessarily impress me a bit. They have employers too, and will say whatever they need to say to keep their jobs. Just like most everybody else.

    Certainly many of the votes cast in Britain on Thursday can be described as this kind of emotional, unthinking act.

    I’m quite sure this is true, but it’s hardly unique to the Brexit vote. I distinctly recall a US news report from 2000 quoting a young woman who said she was going to vote for Bush because he looked so great in a tight pair of jeans.

    Many British voters genuinely believed that erecting higher barriers to the cross-border movement of people, goods, and capital would make them better off than the alternative.

    The situations of some of those people made them correct, but most such people were mistaken.

    So what does Mr. Pillar propose as a solution to this dreadful situation where “voters” genuinely believe something that HE and other Brahmins knows to be incorrect. Endlessly encourage the peasants to blindly follow the dictates of their Highly Educated and Well Informed betters? Abolish the vote entirely so these ignoramuses can’t muck up well-oiled systems?

    What?

  5. J'hon Doe II
    June 27, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    CNBC just reported that Soros profited from the Brexit vote — how many other neolib giants made out like bandits, I wonder?

    Below is a snippet of what Soros wrote on Saturday… .

    GEORGE SOROS
    JUN 25, 2016 45
    Brexit and the Future of Europe

    NEW YORK – Britain, I believe, had the best of all possible deals with the European Union, being a member of the common market without belonging to the euro and having secured a number of other opt-outs from EU rules. And yet that was not enough to stop the United Kingdom’s electorate from voting to leave. Why?
    The answer could be seen in opinion polls in the months leading up to the “Brexit” referendum. The European migration crisis and the Brexit debate fed on each other. The “Leave” campaign exploited the deteriorating refugee situation – symbolized by frightening images of thousands of asylum-seekers concentrating in Calais, desperate to enter Britain by any means necessary – to stoke fear of “uncontrolled” immigration from other EU member states. And the European authorities delayed important decisions on refugee policy in order to avoid a negative effect on the British referendum vote, thereby perpetuating scenes of chaos like the one in Calais.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open her country’s doors wide to refugees was an inspiring gesture, but it was not properly thought out, because it ignored the pull factor. A sudden influx of asylum-seekers disrupted people in their everyday lives across the EU.

    The lack of adequate controls, moreover, created panic, affecting everyone: the local population, the authorities in charge of public safety, and the refugees themselves. It has also paved the way for the rapid rise of xenophobic anti-European parties – such as the UK Independence Party, which spearheaded the Leave campaign – as national governments and European institutions seem incapable of handling the crisis.

    Now the catastrophic scenario that many feared has materialized, making the disintegration of the EU practically irreversible. Britain eventually may or may not be relatively better off than other countries by leaving the EU, but its economy and people stand to suffer significantly in the short to medium term. The pound plunged to its lowest level in more than three decades immediately after the vote, and financial markets worldwide are likely to remain in turmoil as the long, complicated process of political and economic divorce from the EU is negotiated. The consequences for the real economy will be comparable only to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

    That process is sure to be fraught with further uncertainty and political risk, because what is at stake was never only some real or imaginary advantage for Britain, but the very survival of the European project. Brexit will open the floodgates for other anti-European forces within the Union. Indeed, no sooner was the referendum’s outcome announced than France’s National Front issued a call for “Frexit,” while Dutch populist Geert Wilders promoted “Nexit.

    Read More:
    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/brexit-eu-disintegration-inevitable-by-george-soros-2016-06

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 27, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      An ‘inspiring gesture’ would be for George Soros too invest in such infrastructure projects, which would benefit the very people who he is so disappointed with. Instead, Soros name seems to pop up in nearly every negative event which occurs in our modern world. I really hate how the elites and the media have given this whole Brexit thing a racist, and a low educated ramble inspired narrative, which takes away from the sovereignty issue that it should be.

    • June 27, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      VERY good piece, Joe. THANKS!

      RAY

  6. Winston
    June 27, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    An interesting perspective from a sociologist :

    “If neither military nor overall spending are increasing burdens on the U.S. economy, then they cannot account for U.S. decline. Instead, I hope to show that the real problem is the misallocation of government revenue and expenditure, resulting in resources being diverted from the tasks vital to maintain economic or geo-political dominance.

    To understand American economic and geopolitical decline we must identify the elites who determine much of the federal spending and then explain how the transformation of U.S. politics in recent decades has allowed those elites to exert control over governmental resources and agencies. Sociologists, beginning with C. Wright Mills, have found that elites—the heads of large corporate and governmental organizations—exercise disproportionate power in the United States. I have found that conflicts among elites and with non-elites shaped the emergence of capitalism in early modern Europe and, as we will see in the next section, the decline of dominant powers in that era..”
    https://contexts.org/articles/the-roots-of-american-decline/
    the roots of american decline

    • Zachary Smith
      June 27, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      An interesting perspective from a sociologist

      It most certainly is! I found the long essay to be quite depressing for two reasons. First, I couldn’t refute it. Secondly, it really does cover most (if not all) the indicators of modern US decline. There is a word meaning “explain all” – panchreston – and Lachmann’s hypothesis is just that to me. I’ve been working on a very pale and weak version of the same idea, but never suspected there was a historical background.

      At the end of the piece were some references, and I downloaded the last two so as to chew on them a bit.

      Thanks for the link!

  7. J'hon Doe II
    June 27, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    The roaring fires sweeping Southern California or the devastating flood waters in West Virginia are a type of picture of the sudden and massive influx of Foreign Peoples into Europe. — This is the harsh reality that triggered the Brexit choice.

    In another sense it’s as “Rome Burning while Nero Played Fiddle” — what were these Masters of the Universe thinking when they unleashed Wahabbi Jihadists upon Iraq, Libya, Syria and surrounding areas? Is it that they acted w/o a plan or simply didn’t care about the MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of displaced or KILLED human beings grossly affected by their Malevolent Imperialism?

    Brexit is the backlash , the blowback and will there now be relentless political and economic turmoil added to the already crazy events disrupting the sea of humanity as well as the planet itself through climate change incidents… ?

  8. Bill Bodden
    June 27, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Something to ponder: “The Remain camp thought they could win the vote by relentlessly emphasising the economic risks of leaving the EU, though the real danger is political rather than economic as a populist right is empowered with little idea of what it should do with that power.” http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/27/brexiteers-have-much-in-common-with-arab-spring-protesters/ (My emphasis)

  9. Bill Bodden
    June 27, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    The issue was not one on which honest and competent economists split evenly, or anything close to evenly.

    An economist’s view on Brexit: “In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?” by Dean Baker – http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/27/in-the-wake-of-brexit-will-the-eu-finally-turn-away-from-austerity/

  10. Bill Bodden
    June 27, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    The economic case for remaining in the E.U. was strong to overwhelming. The issue was not one on which honest and competent economists split evenly, or anything close to evenly.

    Would anyone care to guess what economists might say if the bureaucrats installed in Brussels in an alliance with NATO get a war going with Russia?

    “A permanent, shared headquarters is needed for increasingly important EU military missions in places like Mali and the Mediterranean — something that all EU countries want, except for the British, who have blocked it” – http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/britain-exit-may-not-be-such-a-disaster-for-the-eu-a-1099797.html This comment suggests the EU sees the military as a means to an end. Couple that with the pathological arrogance of the EU’s top bureaucrats and who knows what march of folly will follow?

  11. J'hon Doe II
    June 28, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Beyond Fortress Europe
    Eurozine Editorial
    (excerpt) — http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2014-09-25-editorial-en.html

    The fate of migrants and refugees attempting to enter Fortress Europe has triggered a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights. A debate riddled with the complex, often epic, narratives that underlie immediate crisis situations.
    On 3 October 2013, over 360 men, women and children drowned off the coast of Lampedusa attempting to enter Europe. The tragic event – one of many at the gates of Fortress Europe – made Italian president Giorgio Napolitano lament the “slaughter of innocents” and triggered a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights.

    The renewed focus on migrants landing on Europe’s Mediterranean shores has highlighted the difference of perspectives between southern and northern EU countries, which first surfaced with the economic crisis in 2008. Many southern frontier member states – Italy included – feel that they are being left alone to deal with the economic, legal and moral challenges that come with refugees and asylum seekers. At the same time, the tensions between western and eastern Europe have never left the agenda. Populist politics demonizes immigrants per se; the most recent occasion for xenophobic rhetoric being the lifting of work restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians earlier this year. There is a fortress within the fortress.

    The scale of the human tragedy afflicting migrants who seek entry to Fortress Europe has increased dramatically of late, triggering a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights. A debate riddled with the complex, often epic, narratives that underlie immediate crisis situations. [more] In Fabrizio Gatti’s account of another tragedy in the Mediterranean, it becomes painfully clear how the policy of the European Union, its laws and regulations, decides over life and death. According to Gatti’s estimate, at least 268 people drowned in the shipwreck of 11 October 2013 – just a week after the disaster that allegedly opened everyone’s eyes to the “slaughter of innocents” taking place in European waters. But the tragedy could have been avoided, writes Gatti, had the vessels in the vicinity been allowed to respond according to common sense. However, they were not. Referring to laws and regulations, Italian authorities passed the buck of responsibility to Malta.

    At some point such policies will be interpreted in ethical terms. As Kenan Malik writes, “Fortress Europe has created not only a physical barrier around the continent but an emotional one, too, around Europe’s sense of humanity.”

    Never have there been more refugees in the world as today: an estimated 45 million in total. Or more. At the end of September 2014, just before the Eurozine conference in Conversano, 130,000 Syrian refugees crossed the border to Turkey – in one weekend! Does increasing investment in surveillance – which has so far been the standard answer to such developments – really go to the core of the matter? More often than not, migrants have no choice but to flee conflict situations, poverty or environmental degradation. This fact will not go away. On the contrary, climate change and increased global inequality will only add to an already volatile situation. On the policy front, Eve Geddie argues that “increased securitization and discrimination against migrants has neither reinforced the freedom, security and wellbeing of EU citizens nor curbed irregular migration”, insisting that it’s time to change the European discourse on undocumented migrants. And confronted with these “new categories of human beings created by an international state system in turmoil” – refugees, asylees, IDPs (internally displaced persons), PRSs (those in a ‘protracted refugee situation’), stateless persons… – Seyla Benhabib calls for a “new conceptualization of the relationship between international law and emancipatory politics […] so as to create new vistas of the political.

  12. Silly Me
    June 29, 2016 at 6:57 am

    For some reason, most unwelcome events and most cases of mass manipulation with a predictable outcomes (e.g mass exodus to Europe or NATO buildup at the borders of Russia) goes down to the Stock Market (that’s where the money is) or the US budget (that’s where we get ripped off).

    Maybe both should be illegal? :)

  13. July 2, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Do I need to know ‘about’ all the issues and potential consequences of a choice to make it or accept it as given me to recognize myself in? Or do I simply need to discern the situation within an inner honesty to know My Purpose?
    When coercive deceit operates I can ‘smell a rat’ – that is to say – there is a recognizable resonance to a felt dissonance.
    Power struggle, identity assertion and validation, narrative control, all operate a mask over – or substitute for genuine communication and relationship – which has to be denied in order for the assertive-reactive ‘power’ struggle to play out. However, identity operates a sense of personal reality control – whether or not augmented with social reinforcements of consensual agreement.
    Of course if have investment in turning a blind eye to such dissonance in order to pursue a sense of my own hidden or masked agenda then I may seem to conspire with such intent in others and be part of a consensual ignorance and arrogance in which dissonance is redirected as blame – and teaching blame and punishment as truth when beneath the masks are choices of dis-integrity and conflicted identity presenting as blame defines them.
    What we accept as our choice is what and who we have to live with – regardless anyone else’s opinion. Do we need apologize or give justification for who we are?
    I can accept the perspective of my own choice as to my Brexit vote as a witness for sovereignty of will amidst our mixed and troubled inheritance rather than for the dictate of a corporately driven technocracy – masking in false thinking.
    It is difficult to share communication into frameworks of thought that are already operating as a set of mutually agreed defences. For the ideas we want to be true are protected as an investment and return of identity – often in place of what we fear to be true.

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