Megan McArdle visits Britain and learns that there is more to a nation than its economy:
Somehow, over the last half-century, Western elites managed to convince themselves that nationalism was not real. Perhaps it had been real in the past, like cholera and telegraph machines, but now that we were smarter and more modern, it would be forgotten in the due course of time as better ideas supplanted it.First of all, they're not right. Second, they are evil, self-serving people who shouldn't be trusted about anything. Third, if they're for it, the wise thing to do is oppose it at all costs even if you don't have a clue about it.
That now seems hopelessly naive. People do care more about people who are like them -- who speak their language, eat their food, share their customs and values. And when elites try to ignore those sentiments -- or banish them by declaring that they are simply racist -- this doesn’t make the sentiments go away. It makes the non-elites suspect the elites of disloyalty. For though elites may find something vaguely horrifying about saying that you care more about people who are like you than you do about people who are culturally or geographically further away, the rest of the population is outraged by the never-stated corollary: that the elites running things feel no greater moral obligation to their fellow countrymen than they do to some random stranger in another country. And perhaps we can argue that this is the morally correct way to feel -- but if it is truly the case, you can see why ordinary folks would be suspicious about allowing the elites to continue to exercise great power over their lives.
It’s therefore not entirely surprising that people are reacting strongly against the EU, the epitome of an elite institution: a technocratic bureaucracy designed to remove many questions from the democratic control of voters in the constituent countries. Elites can earnestly explain that a British exit will be very costly to Britain (true), that many of the promises made on Brexit’s behalf are patently ridiculous (also true), that leaving will create all sorts of security problems and also cost the masses many things they like, such as breezing through passport control en route to their cheap continental holidays. Elites can even be right about all of those things. They still shouldn’t be too shocked when ordinary people respond just as Republican primary voters did to their own establishment last spring: “But you see, I don’t trust you anymore.”