-By Karl-Heinz Gabbey. Karl is a retired teacher and regular contributor.
Already, the Brexit seems to have some unintended consequences. One of those is the possible breakup of the United Kingdom. Scotland voted 62% in favor of staying with the E.U. and has threatened a referendum to leave the United Kingdom, as has Northern Ireland. The British pound took a big hit; the financial market(s) as well. That also means that incomes, savings, and pensions of ordinary Britons will be impacted.
Buyers’ remorse? There’s an online petition already signed by three million U.K. citizens to keep the nation in the E.U. The Brexit vote was advisory; Parliament will make the final decision. It’s quite possible that many will regret their vote to leave because of the economic uncertainty that is sure to follow. The E.U. gave the Brits the blessing of a quick Brexit.
It should be noted that much of the fervor for leaving the E.U. was driven by right-wing racists and xenophobes. Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, was murdered by a right-wing extremist (neo-Nazi?) for her support to remain in the E.U. The murderer had ties to the National Alliance, a white supremacist group based in the U.S. Right-wing politicians like Farage took shameless advantage of the substantial anti-immigrant sentiment in the British public, but offered no plans of how deal with the void in Britain’s economy left by the Brexit vote.
Widespread discontent among working-class Britons due to the nation’s immigration policy and the E.U.’s growing neoliberal (“free market”) economic policies caused many to vote for the Brexit. If E.U. member states and their politicians continue to push for these neoliberal policies, they’ll face growing resistance in their own countries. In June of 2015, tens of thousands protested in Germany against neoliberal economic policies and globalization during the G7 Summit. In March and April of this year, large demonstrations against neoliberalism occurred in France as well. Neoliberal economic policies have benefited the few at the expense of the masses in Europe and in the U.S. Ironically, neoliberalism was introduced in Britain by none other than the “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher. Policy makers need to come to grips with the fact that neoliberalism has been a dismal failure. What can Americans learn from the British anti-neoliberal reaction in the Brexit vote?
We’ve experienced this “free market” neoliberalism right in our own backyard for nearly 40 years. Thanks to the “Chicago Boys” inspired and led by Milton Friedman, Americans became the first guinea pigs in the neoliberal economic experiment and globalization. Then our politicians (You know, the people whom we elected to office) exported it with our so-called “trade” agreements to the rest of the world. Although too many of our fellow citizens here in the U.S. have no understanding of neoliberal economic policies that have driven our economy into the ground, the discontent and anger generated by these policies will play an enormous role in our November election. Hillary has tons of work cut out for her. She’d better take some pages out of Bernie’s playbook. Ideally, she needs to take Bernie’s entire playbook.