Elite Disloyalty

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Megan McArdle ended up chatting with locals in Luton:

The Luton council estimates that “between 50% and 75% of the population would not have lived in Luton or not have been born at the time of the 2001 Census.” It is now minority white British, and only barely majority white.


As an American, this did not strike me as odd; this is what our cities have been like for centuries, particularly on the coasts. One group of immigrants moves in, creates an enclave, then gets rich, assimilates and moves out, making way for the next group that will throw a little of their food, their language and their customs into our vast melting pot. But this is not normal in most of the world. Nor is it necessarily welcome.

Most places in Britain are not like Luton, of course. But that’s not quite the point. Anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. is often found in places that don’t have enormous immigrant populations, and wonks who proclaim this to be irrational seem not to grasp that those people may be looking at the places that have been transformed by immigration and responding with a fervent “No, thank you.” There’s a lot to be gained from globalism, the mixing of two or more cultures into something new. But something specific and local and much-loved is inevitably lost at the same time, and the people who feel that loss most keenly are the inward-looking people who stay in place, not internationalist elites.


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.

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.”


  1. Slovenian Guest says:

    It will never happen, Brexit. It’s a nice charade thoough, but no chance. I’ll get one of those Luton city hats and eat it if it does.

    Mainly because the UK is no longer the country of Blashford-Snells or Hesketh-Prichards but a nation of sheep.

    And the only thing modern Englishmen like more than a skirt to hide under, are two skirts! They are good boys, the British, and would never dare to disappoint their other mutti Merkel.

  2. Adar says:

    It is not that the elites do not believe nationalism to be real but they do not want it to be real.

  3. Slovenian Guest says:

    Now which hats are the tastiest? It’s even a double whammy, now with Cameron resigning! Scotland, Northern Ireland and the City of London voted remain, the rest more or less for brexit, which was just enough.

  4. AAB says:

    Slovenian Guest says:

    It will never happen, Brexit. It’s a nice charade though, but no chance. I’ll get one of those Luton city hats and eat it if it does.

    Treat yourself to some English cooking instead, something quintessentially English, like a Spotted Dick and Custard; it’ll give you a lot less gip than a bowl of roasted Trilby. Our cooking’s not as bad as they say. Well most of it isn’t anyway.

    For those who don’t know, here are the official results:

    Leave the EU
    Vote share: 51.9%
    Votes: 17,410,742

    Remain in the EU
    Vote share: 48.1%
    Votes: 16,141,241

  5. AAB says:

    I should’ve added a post-script that the Prime Minister David Cameron is resigning, and Jeremy Corbyn (the Labour leader) is rumoured to be going as well because they were both ‘Remain in the EU’ advocates:

    Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

    In a speech given outside Downing Street this morning, he explained he would step down by October to ensure the country has a “strong, determined and committed leadership”.

    (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/24/david-cameron-announces-his-resignation—full-statement/)

    Jeremy Corbyn faces calls to resign from Labour MPs over disastrous referendum campaign
    (Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-resign-brexit-eu-referendum-labour-leader-a7100446.html)

  6. Anomaly UK says:

    Damn, the real question is why I didn’t manage to bump into her.

  7. Anomaly UK says:

    AAB, to be accurate, the reason Corbyn is in trouble is not because he supported Remain; it’s because he is suspected (probably correctly) of doing so only to sabotage it.

  8. Anomaly UK says:

    Seriously, anyone who’s the sort of person who reads (or gets quoted by) Isegoria should ping me on twitter if they happen to find themselves stranded in Luton for an extended period (which can easily happen).

  9. Grasspunk says:

    You are a brave soul, Anomaly. Back in the early 90s I once let a fellow user of USENET’s aus.motorcycles crash at my place on his way up the east coast of Australia. That was one totally tedious evening. Then, of course, he showed up unannounced on his way back down the east coast.

Leave a Reply