I do not recognise your account of democracy in Lessons on democracy from Brexit – 29th July 2016, which is based on the mistaken idea that we live in a democracy. We live in a class-based, representative oligarchy, which works well for the minority over against the majority.
The ‘problem’ with referenda is that they allow the majority to vote in a way that is not entirely controlled by the elitists who make up the oligarchic classes, which is why the latter have always hated any such genuinely democratic methods of decision making.
Your theme that the average voter is none too bright is also a theme that has continually been present in oligarchic and anti-democratic thought since the time of the ancient Greeks. However, history shows how shambolic ‘educated’ autocrats, monarchs, tyrants, aristocrats, plutocrats, oligarchs and their experts have been at political decision making, except in so far as it furthered their personal advantage. For me, the Brexit vote was a prime example of the ‘wisdom of crowds’ that is exemplified in really democratic decision making. People may not have had the same level of understanding as the experts, but together they came up with a better decision than the politicians and experts would have done left to their own devices.
By the way, although I agree with Democritus that ‘poverty under a democracy is as much to be preferred to so-called prosperity under an autocracy as freedom to slavery’, I believe that the economic outcomes from Brexit will be much more positive than the continuing propaganda of project fear would suggest.
Ian Logan, Oxford, UK
I am 70 and clearly Mr Traugott is not. I just want to say that the freedom to travel and get employment in Europe and elsewhere were not the gift of the EU. In the ’60s there was very little restriction on travel for young people (apart from never having enough money, of course) both inside Europe and throughout the world. It was a much kinder world in many respects and I met with astonishing levels of generosity and tolerance in my travels in Europe during my early twenties.
As for employment, youngsters from all over the world could make a living in Britain for a while at least and, notably, that included Commonwealth citizens. The EU restrictions on access by people who are often literally our cousins causes Britons enormous offence. So any assumption that the world is made worse for the young by leaving the EU certainly seems ridiculous to the old.
This is in addition to the problem of democratic deficit in the EU which increasingly makes voting in national elections a waste of time. We older people feel that youngsters can only benefit if British politics regain significance and ‘democracy’ is again seen to be the enormous benefit we thought it was when I was young.
John Lamble, Cambridge, UK
An interesting view on the “entitlement culture” attitudes of the young.
However they needn’t be worried about touring, or working in Europe. Most of my generation did that before the EU was formed. There was minimal paperwork required. I worked for two years in Germany, and a friend worked for five years in Paris.
More paperwork involved getting a German driving licence than getting a job!
Steve H, Mayfield, UK
Dr. Nima Sanandaji’s article drawing attention of the myth of the Nordic socialist model was refreshing. Debunking the idea that Scandinavia is some socialist nirvana is overdue.
Any doubtful readers can compare Denmark and the USA on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. The two countries’ scores are almost identical on average, although very different in specific areas.
Denmark scores significantly higher in freedom from corruption, property rights, financial freedom, investment freedom and monetary spending. Denmark even beats the USA on trade and business freedoms. But you don’t seen the American left calling for business deregulation and lower trade tariffs to promote Danish style social equality.
Clarke O'Gara, Halifax, UK
In response to Marian Tupy’s article about McDonnell and Corbyn, you only have to think about the fate of British Leyland to realise how ridiculous their economic plans for the future of this country are. Today, if you visit Longbridge in Birmingham, the old factory has been swept away and replaced by a shopping centre. Is this their future vision of Britain? If we are to compete in a global economy, we will need to change our current approach to the provision of education in this country, both for children and adults, which will mean breaking the political ideology of the teaching unions and forcing them to put the interests of their pupils first, rather than their own narrow armchair revolutionary politics
Odo Saunders , Droitwich Spa, UK
It is unfair of Marian Tupy to label the current leaders of the Labour Party as narcissists. Vanity must afflict every person who chooses to be in the public’s eye, and being an MP is surely one of the worst ways to boost an ego, given the risk of losing an election and the toil and degradations involved when serving constituents.
If left-leaning egotism motivates Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell they would find there are much easier and lucrative alternatives like journalism, acting, and all the degrees of celebrity now made possible by being a social justice warrior on the World Wide Web. But judging from Corbyn’s demeanour – and his dress sense – he really believes what he says. His problem, as far as it can be described as a problem, is that he is a genuine socialist. He sincerely disagrees with how most societies are run, believing there is a better alternative.
Corbyn and McDonnell also disagree with all the ‘progressives’ and social democrats who reject socialism, and who think we are best served by a moderated form of capitalism. Obviously this leads to a lot of discomfort for Labour’s current leaders, because most Labour MPs are capitalists. If anybody deserves to be labelled as narcissists, it should be capitalists who refuse to admit they are capitalists, and who refuse to argue for the benefits of capitalism, just because they seek the popularity that comes with criticising a system though they are unable to suggest better alternatives.
It is possible to profoundly disagree with Corbyn and McDonnell whilst respecting the way they have honestly fought for their beliefs over a long period of time. I find it harder to sympathise with the Labour MPs whose political views are closer to my own, but whose language and behaviour is essentially hypocritical. Some describe the Labour Party as a broad church, but their coalition of capitalists and socialists will always suffer sectarian rancour.
So I admire the efforts of Corbyn and McDonnell to make their party a vehicle for socialist policy; they are being true to themselves. Their enemies in Labour would do a better job of serving public debate by ending the fudge that lies at the heart of their party. Instead of fighting their leaders – and their members – Corbyn’s opponents within Labour should leave and set up a new party that respects the intelligence of voters by advocating for a ‘progressive’ form of capitalism, instead of repeatedly trying to silence, harness and control their socialist colleagues
Eric Priezkalns , Aylesbury, UK | @ericpriezkalns