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Independence in a Strange World

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It’s a strange world. Tomorrow, while we celebrate our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, proclaimed precisely 240 years ago, voters in Great Britain are declaring their independence.

Not from us, but the European Union. Still, President Obama waded into their internal politics to warn that a vote to leave the EU would put our so-called BFN (best friend nation) at the back of the bus as far as making any trade deal with the U.S.

As an aside, I’ve always thought that opening markets, freeing up trade, shouldn’t require elaborate wheeling and dealing. Complicated agreements tend to serve the interests of crony capitalism, misleadingly labeled “protectionism.”

The American political class, like the British political elite, are still aghast at the terrible tragedy of the Brexit vote. Just as the intellectual ancestors of both groups were no doubt shocked and appalled for scores by the American Revolution.

The Revolution was change by cannon and musket ball, by bloodshed; Brexit, on the other hand, was a democratic vote of the people, a referendum, a peaceful revolution.

Both means of change are necessary in our world, though I much prefer the vote-counting of elections to the body-counting of violent conflict. President John F. Kennedy, a late member in good standing of the liberal elite, seems to have understood: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Some in our chattering class, however, think ‘the people’ ought not have access to either revolution or referendum, neither musket ball nor ballot measure.

“Brexit is a reminder that some things just shouldn’t be decided by referendum” was the condescending headline on Emily Badger’s Washington Post’s Wonkblog post. Ms. Badger informed capital readers that “signs have quickly emerged of the flaws in holding a referendum on such a messy, massive, far-reaching decision.”

Flaws? Like losing?

Her first complaint was that the “[p]oliticians responsible for explaining what’s at stake have admitted they may have fudged some of the consequences.” So, politicians behaving badly is the first reason to allow only politicians to decide such issues from now on.

Badger also duly notes that “the value of the British pound plummeted and global stocks tanked” after news of the vote. Of course, stocks have already rebounded, though banner headlines certainly haven’t shouted that news.

Moreover, is the liberal media now actually floating the idea of a “stock market veto,” where any action by voters or legislators followed by a marked drop in the value of stocks or bonds or the currency would automatically be declared null and void?

I’m not for that.

Furthermore, Badger reminds us that “British media have also been full of stories of voters saying they regretted their decision.” In fact, a petition for a re-vote has already gathered support from three million United Kingdom citizens, though who knows how many actual Regrexits.

Yes, media on this side of the pond are often full of . . . such stories, which theoretically could perhaps be sometimes slightly spun in a political direction.  Still, what part of supporting a re-vote squares with the notion that we cannot trust voters, that voters are incapable of making such decisions?

If it turns out enough voters want a re-vote, would it be so awful to have one? Until that time, however, UK government should follow the policy endorsed by the majority of voters full-speed.

This really isn’t rocket science.

“All of this was, perhaps, predictable,” writes Badger, “as some political scientists and historians have warned that a simple yes-or-no public referendum can be a terrible way to make a decision with such complex repercussions.”

For an objective source, Badger reaches out to a Princeton University historian, David Bell, who years ago wrote an article in the New Republic, entitled, “The Case Against Referendums: From Greece to California, They Always End Up Undermining Democracy.”

Yes, democratic votes are “always” anti-democratic, you see. At least, according to some Democrats.

Of course, Greece’s ongoing economic catastrophe certainly wasn’t caused by policies enacted by voter initiatives or referendums. Greek politicians bearing gifts ran up that tab. Likewise, Bell blames all of California’s problems on the initiative and referendum process, primarily Prop 13. That grassroots 1978 property tax measure spurred the Golden State to decades of impressive economic growth as well as sparking a much needed tax revolt that swept through 42 more states in the two years that followed. Proposition 13 has also been credited with creating the preconditions for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential victory.  

Some in academia may need no further evidence to condemn direct democracy.

Like most opponents, Bell explains that referendums “take relatively technical issues away from legislators who have the time and expertise to deal with them, and give them to voters who do not.”

Still, somewhere someone might question the extraordinary expertise of legislators.

Yet, even the anti-referendum professor, according to Badger, believes that public votes are “appropriate” when considering “fundamental questions of sovereignty (should Quebec become independent, or Scotland break away from Great Britain?).” Amazingly, Badger disagrees that the Brexit vote over the UK “breaking away” from the EU and becoming “independent,” meets that definition.

The Big Government crowd loves decision-making by experts. In their mind, that’s them. They don’t care much for democracy, because then — rarely, but sometimes — voters, not experts, have the power to decide.

Without meaningful democratic checks on power, no republic, including our Republic, can survive as a society rooted in individual freedom. That was true in 1776 America, in the recent Brexit vote, and it’s true for Venezuelan citizens now struggling to get their corrupt socialist government to honor a recall referendum so they can vote to send their dictatorial ruler packing.

Viva la democracy, the road to freedom and independence.

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