The Brexit Reaction Is The Reason Brexit Happened

Authored by Matt Taibbi, originally posted at RollingStone.com,

...the freedom to make mistakes is itself an essential component of freedom.

As a rule, people resent being saved from themselves. And if you think depriving people of their right to make mistakes makes sense, you probably never had respect for their right to make decisions at all.

This is all relevant in the wake of the Brexit referendum, in which British citizens narrowly voted to exit the European Union.

Because the vote was viewed as having been driven by the same racist passions that are fueling the campaign of Donald Trump, a wide swath of commentators suggested that democracy erred, and the vote should perhaps be canceled, for the Britons' own good.

..."This isn't democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics. A decision of enormous consequence… has been made without any appropriate checks and balances."

 

..."Since ancient times," he wrote, "philosophers have tried to devise systems to try to balance the strengths of majority rule against the need to ensure that informed parties get a larger say in critical decisions."

 

..."Elites matter in a democracy," Sullivan argued, because they are the "critical ingredient to save democracy from itself."

I would argue that voters are the critical ingredient to save elites from themselves.

The overall message in every case is the same: Let us handle things.

 ...

"Too much democracy" used to be an argument we reserved for foreign peoples who tried to do things like vote to demand control over their own oil supplies.

Now it's not just carpetbagging visitors to the Third World pushing this line of thought. Just as frequently, the argument is aimed at "low-information" voters at home.

Democracy appears to have become so denuded and corrupted in America that a generation of people has grown up without any faith in its principles.

What's particularly concerning about the reaction both to Brexit and to the rise of Trump is the way these episodes are framed as requiring exceptions to the usual democratic rule. They're called threats so monstrous that we must abrogate the democratic process to combat them.

...

My admittedly primitive understanding of democracy is that we're supposed to move toward it, not away from it, in a moment of crisis.

It doesn't mean much to be against torture until the moment when you're most tempted to resort to it, or to have faith in voting until the result of a particular vote really bothers you. If you think there's ever such a thing as "too much democracy," you probably never believed in it in the first place. And even low-Information voters can sense it.

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