Magic Beans

BrexitReading time – 2:41; Viewing time – 3:48  .  .  .

The people of the United Kingdom have spoken and, while the final count was very tight (51.9% to 48.1%), the slim majority has decided the future of the UK and it is not with the European Union. World financial markets, governments around the world and a global army of pundits are trying to sort out the meaning and ramifications of the decision. Everyone wants to know how this works, what’s next and how it affects themselves. All good questions, but the far more important question is why apparently sensible people would do such a thing. What are the drivers for this out-sized behavior? Try this.

We’ve been told since the 1960s that the world is changing and that the pace of change will continue to accelerate. Indeed, it seems that the crystal ball gazers back then were right and the world now looks in many ways as it was predicted to be by outlandish science fiction stories of the past. And be clear that there are unintended consequences to all that change, one of which is job displacement.

One of the key drivers of the Brexit impetus was a reaction to immigrants. The EU mandate is to accept immigrants, many of whom come from Eastern Europe with not much in the way of marketable skills. The belief of the UK public is that these immigrants have been stealing jobs from the “natural” residents of the British Isles and, in consequence, depressing all wages. Regardless of the accuracy of that belief, Britons have reacted in a protectionist way, wanting life to return to a time when they had a steady job with good, livable wages. All they have to do, they apparently believe, is to raise an Anglo-Saxon finger eastward and prevent all that immigration. That feels ever-so-powerful.

Another way to say that is that the world has changed, they don’t like it and they want to revert to a time before the change, when things were understandable, life was steady and predictable and they felt in control of their own lives, when “others” weren’t upsetting their equilibrium. They imagine that they felt powerful then.

And that sounds a lot like the Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” message to American voters.

Millions of Americans are angry. Their jobs went somewhere to someone who would work for 1/30th of the wages they worked for. All they can find are jobs that pay poorly and have no benefits, so they can’t support their families, even as their well educated kids are living in their basements. They’ve been promised over and over that their leaders will make things better, but those same leaders have betrayed them for selfish reasons. They’re angry and they’re raising an American middle finger in just about every direction, especially at the establishment.

We, like the UK, are living in a state of change and some of it hits us hard. Worse, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring and human beings have an existential fear of the unknown that hates unpredictability.

Circus sideshow barker Trump is doing what the Brexit leaders did: he is promising a return to a predictable world, some imagined golden yesterday. That message sells well to people desperate for some sense of control and power in their lives, but it is nothing more than the illusion of vapor, something that nobody can deliver.

No one knows how this rapidly globalizing world will work; we humans are making it up as we go along. So, beware the charlatan who tries to sell us magic beans, lest we make a mess for ourselves the way they just did in the UK.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
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