Yes, he miscalculated. He overplayed his hand. He underestimated his adversaries. His bluff was called, and he lost. Nonetheless, British Prime Minister David Cameron made the most courageous decision by a European politician in decades. For that, Mr. Cameron merits praise.
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The European Union is a technocracy. Bureaucrats – sometimes with very personal agendas – are accustomed to running free, without boundaries. In many, perhaps most, European countries, a political caste governs without any regard for its subjects – otherwise known as “the people” in healthy democracies.
The people’s estrangement from politics was not the only reason for Brexit. Among others were the EU’s super-regulatory nature, its tendency to foment cartels instead of open markets and Eurocrats’ distaste for involving the people in decision-making.
The EU likes to burden its subjects financially (“Let’s save Greece for the nth time!”), monetarily (“Let’s flood the markets with money and debt!”), and with regulations (“Let’s make sure no one uses cash!”). These burdens influence individuals directly and intimately. Not giving people a say in these matters (and many others) is a recipe for certain failure.
British Prime Minister David Cameron made the most courageous decision by a European politician in decades
Eurocrats often respond to these criticisms by explaining that these are technical issues driven by day-to-day politics and are too complex for the people to understand them properly.
Quite the contrary. Such issues are fundamental, because they call into question the very nature of the EU. Is it a confederation of sovereign states or a new, homogenous regulatory body allowing for some local folklore? Is it an arrangement for commercial cooperation or a mutual bailout fund? These questions cannot be asked only when the circumstances arise; they are themselves the starting point for supranational collaboration.
Complexity is, if anything, a case for giving the people a stronger say in decision-making. The more complex things are, the more necessary the commitment of those who have to adjust their lives to that complexity.
The “democracy deficit” is deeply ingrained in European politics. And then came Mr. Cameron. Though his motives were elsewhere, putting EU membership to a vote was the right thing to do. And for that, he lost his job. On the continent, he is reviled for it. But in such situations, deferring to the people is the right thing to do. This time, it was also the courageous thing to do.
So for that, I offer my applause for Mr. Cameron.