I was reminded by FT columnist Janan Ganesh yesterday of this poll question in June: ‘How much, if anything, would you be happy to lose from your own personal annual income to tighten the control Britain has over immigration and reduce the number of EU migrants entering the UK?’
68% of respondents answered, ‘Nothing’.
What Ganesh thereby reminded his readers was that the public didn’t vote in June for ‘the Japanese compromise: a less virile economy for a more familiar culture‘. Rather, voters didn’t see a compromise. As he comments, ‘Leavers did not win the referendum by exploiting a new tolerance for economic risk. They won by refuting any economic risk.’
Democracy hides a peculiar moral hazard: the majority electorate can err in judgement; act rashly, unfairly, or with prejudice; base key strategic decisions on a false premise, or with no experience, knowledge, or research; and yet, they can never be sacked, held to account for their decisions, be ousted by election, or stripped of their powers. Empiricism, rational thought, fairness, equality, equal opportunity: they’re ultimately nothing more than options on a salad bar for the majority to pick or reject with impunity.