Megan McArdle on Brexit

Megan McArdle has this to say over at Bloomberg:

For though elites may find something vaguely horrifying about saying that you care more about people who are like you than you do about people who are culturally or geographically further away, the rest of the population is outraged by the never-stated corollary: that the elites running things feel no greater moral obligation to their fellow countrymen than they do to some random stranger in another country. And perhaps we can argue that this is the morally correct way to feel — but if it is truly the case, you can see why ordinary folks would be suspicious about allowing the elites to continue to exercise great power over their lives.

Actually it is not the morally correct way to feel. The rulers of a nation have a greater responsibility to the people they govern than to the people of another nation. That is not to say that they have no responsibility to foreigners, a President or Prime Minister can’t just go killing random foreigners because it conveniences his own voters, but his main duty is to the voters, not the foreigners.

The Western world is currently organised around the ideal that the rulers should be held accountable to the interests of the ruled through democratic checks. The rulers don’t like this: they would rather govern according to abstract ideas and not according to the concrete interests of their voters. Those ideals of course conveniently align with their own economic interests and let them escape accountability. The ruled sense this, and resent it.

I can’t say whether or not the Brexit is a good thing, time will tell, but it is entirely understandable.



  1. I’ll put your analysis down to you staying away from television and newspapers. In the last 15 hours the UK’s economy has lost considerably more than they ever contributed to the EU. Counting the 30 year low on the currency we’re looking at hundreds and hundreds of billions. The UK economy is (now- was) heavily dependent on its business friendly tax structure *as a member of the EU*. Outside the EU they become considerably less attractive. Now businesses will need to move to somewhere with unfettered access to the free market. In essence they were the Delaware of Europe. The problem is if Delaware ceased to be an American state…

    1. Yeah, weekends are news blackouts for me.
      I’m not equipped to opine on whether the Brexit will be good or bad for the British economy over the long run, though it was obviously going to be difficult short term.

      1. Think of it in terms of Trump. Their proposals are more or less the same as his. Also somewhat incoherent.

      2. Probably a good parallel.
        Trump is a symptom though, the standing order is inherently unstable: his big rallying point seems to have been his insistence that the world’s most powerful nation should be able to enforce its own immigration laws, which according to the government that wrote those laws is beyond the pale: it is impossible, immoral, and besides, who is going to mow the lawn?
        What is it that is pushing the EU’s unpopularity? What is the problem that the elites and media see as unmentionable, that the regular people see as intolerable?

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