The essence of the "Brexit" vote in Great Britain is captured in a wonderful cartoon by Patrick Chappatte on the The New York Times' Web site.
The cartoon shows a picture of Great Britain with the British flag planted on the island. There is a banner that proclaims "Free at Last." Two people are depicted on the island, and one says to the other, "Who are we going to blame for our problems now?"
This was the gist of my post of Monday, June 20 "Brexit Vote Would Be a Step Back for U.K. in a Changing World."
"U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron miscalculated when he pursued the idea that Britain should vote on whether to stay in the European Union.
"Although it had been growing before Cameron made his decision, nationalistic populism in the UK grew faster than anyone expected -- just as it has elsewhere in Europe and in the U.S.
"The move to vote on Brexit highlighted the concern of many people and became a catalyst for those fearing the future to express these fears."
The amazing thing is that Thursday's vote just showed us the depth of that fear. It is a fear that can build on itself and become cumulative.
The basic problem of such a fear is that there is no immediate solution to be found. In the eyes of those facing such a fear, there is just disorder, a society that has been disrupted with little or nothing to hold on to.
Jobs have been lost with nothing coming forward to replace them. As a consequence, people stop looking for jobs. The growth of labor productivity drops off and real wages fail to rise. As a consequence, income inequality grows and grows. Migration grabs the headlines and people fear that others will be taking their jobs. As a consequence, the fear of foreigners increases.
Individuals facing such problems want solutions and, in their despair, they want them right away. These individuals are responsive to "leaders" that have immediate solutions, solutions that tend to place the blame for the problems of the individuals on outsiders, generally foreigners or "undesirable" others.
These "leaders" suggest that the solution lies in withdrawing from the rest of the world, in excluding those foreigners or "others" that are the source of the problems they see.
And, when these "leaders" become successful, what happens then?
There is no one left to blame and there are no real policy solutions available to resolve the fundamental problems that are the cause of the initial despair. There is just more disorder.
The disorder that was the basis for the fear and discontent can result in a cumulative spiral.
This is where the real leaders must step up. The real leaders cannot let fear and despair drive the political process. The real leaders must bring order to the disorder and generate policies that address the real issues creating the problems. They must not give in to the politician's drive to just focus on the next election.
Unfortunately, these policies often take time to construct, take time to execute and can be complex and difficult to explain. And, it is often the case that we, ourselves, are the cause of the problems, not foreigners or "others."
The results of the Brexit vote must be taken very seriously because there are too many other situations in the world where the "populist" movement is gaining traction. And, the more successful these populist movements become, the more disorder will result.
See full Brexit coverage here.