The Youth of Today

Today for the first time I ticked all the boxes: History, Finance, Science, Travel, World Affairs.

It’s impossible to write about Britain leaving the European Union—which to me equates with leaving Europe—and not consider that all these are significant.

So many words will be uttered by the chattering classes over the next weeks that I struggle to pen something worthy of your attention.

This decision compromises the future of our children—a Scottish friend of mine put it best: Turkeys vote for Christmas.

I’ll start with the winners, since the losers are the youth of Britain and Europe. And with the lessons.

As in any messy divorce, the winners are scuttlebutt and legal wrangling—the media will boom and lawyers will make a killing. One tabloid nailed its colors to the mast this morning, claiming responsibility for the British Exit.

The first key lesson is for young people: vote, because bystanders lose.

Democracy is like wealth accrual or weight loss—it doesn’t just happen. You have to run hard just to stay where you are, and then run some more to make things change.

The second key lesson is for nations: asking this kind of question in a referendum is tragic. Germany learned it at a huge cost—I invite you to refresh your historical memory.

Perhaps the greatest indictment of Brexit was the enthusiastic praise from Donald Trump, a man who knows demagoguery better than most. Mein Trumpf, as the fringe groups refer to him, was visiting Scotland at the time—north of Hadrian’s wall they prefer a more direct approach.

A landmark British protest image, with the inevitable imperturbable constable. Memories of the early days of the first Thatcher government cam flooding back.

A landmark British protest image, with the inevitable imperturbable constable. Memories of the first Thatcher government came flooding back.

Powerful imagery these days is often met with wry comments. One person requested that the US build a wall so Trump couldn’t get back, and got the reply: “No, we’re building a fan. He’ll die of embarrassment when we aim it at his head.”

But my award goes to someone who considered the sobriquet inappropriate because the subject ‘lacks warmth and depth.’

One of the most shocking examples of demagoguery is the British nationalist Farage, who has been encouraging Britain to leave the EU for the last twenty-five years.

Sometimes referred to in the UK as ‘the toad‘, Farage was partly responsible for all this debacle, a fact that fills him with immense pride. His UKIP party pushed the conservatives further to the right, and that helped Cameron make the worst decision in his now-defunct political career.

There are many ironies in all this process, and many still to come—in Farage’s case, were it not for the EU, the man would never have held elected office. He’s a member of the European Parliament, because European elections are based on proportional representation—the UK system would never award him a seat.

His victory on Friday cost him that job, and the Tory party hate him more than fries with mayonnaise—like Cameron, his political future ended on Independence Day.

So much was said about the cost that European Union membership represented to the UK, and sadly very little is true—the left-behinds will continue to be… left behind.

Science is a small part of GDP but a strong indicator of a country’s success. The Royal Society analyzed the UK’s financial performance in European science, and the advantages are obvious.

British capacity to attract European science investment in Framework Program 7, 2007-2013.

British capacity to attract European science investment in Framework Program 7, 2007-2013 (data normalized to GDP). The UK comes in second place, compared to the last three, Germany, France, and Italy, who benefit much less than they contribute.

These kinds of subjects are irrelevant in a referendum, where the questions are so simplistic as to defy imagination. Would you like to pay less tax?

The issues at stake in the process that just ended are complex and have multiple sub-optimal solutions. They also interact with each other, so that ‘fixing’ one problem triggers another.

The National Health Service is a case in point. ‘Fixing’ European immigration breaks the NHS, where one in five workers are EU citizens from outside the UK. Of course there’s always the Australian points system—another small irony given the historical labor relationship between the two nations.

Regional distribution of the UK referendum vote.

Regional distribution of the UK referendum vote. Stay: Scotland (62%), London (59.9%), and Northern Ireland (55.8%). Leave: rest of England (57%), Wales (52.5%).

The regional aspects of the vote show anything but a united kingdom. This is hardly ‘man bites dog’ news, but it does open up another can of worms which the next government must address.

Since the polling stations map into constituencies, I would be curious to see how this vote would split the nation if the first-past-the-post method used in general elections were applied.

Two models are normally used for trade-offs: a zero sum, such as the outcome of a football game with one winner and one loser, or a positive sum such as education, where sharing knowledge enriches both parts.

Thursday’s outcome is the worst deal of all—a negative sum that enriches neither party—both are significantly worse off today than they were last Wednesday.

The one group of winners I didn’t mention are the most despicable people in the world—those whose life is dedicated to destroying the things that make us good. You may not know who you are, but we do.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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