Alternative History: 2016’s UK Basic Income Referendum
By Greg Scorzo –
A Thought Experiment
Imagine Brexit never happened. Imagine a world where David Cameron never won the 2010 general election. Instead a coalition government was formed between the Labour Party and the Lib Dems. Gordon Brown won the next general election on August 7th, 2015, creating an outright majority for Labour.
In February 2016, Gordon Brown announced that there would be a public referendum on Universal Basic Income (UBI) on June 23rd, 2016. Enacting UBI would mean that every British citizen would get a set amount of tax payer funded income, regardless of what they earned.
Some were cynical about Brown’s decision, as it seemed to have more to do with him resolving a dispute within the Labour Party than him wanting to give the public a chance to create substantive political change. Brown himself campaigned against UBI, on the grounds that UBI would be far too damaging to the economy. Such damage, Brown argued, would be negative for jobs and growth, as well as incentivising young men to turn to crime and violence. An oft-repeated phrase during Brown’s numerous anti-UBI speeches was “The devil makes work for idle hands.”
Brown, however, still believed that, regardless of his own opinion, the decision to have or not have a universal basic income should be put to the people. Brown’s opponents in the Tory Party, the Lib Dems, and even Labour took a much darker view. For them, UBI would not simply leave the country worse off. It would be an unmitigated disaster for the UK. The most vocal opponents of UBI insisted that UBI would not only lead to exploding crime rates and a new recession, but that it would also enable scroungers and drug addicts to feel entitled to public money. Even worse, it would exacerbate a culture in which, according to many UBI opponents, rich people were casually demonised. UBI opponents frequently insisted that, since the 2008 economic crash, the rich had become the only remaining demographic group in the UK it was ok to discriminate against.
Many UBI opponents also had a firm conviction that UBI enthusiasm was actually an expression of ‘populist resentment.’ For them, all populist movements were synonymous with demagogues seducing the less educated elements of British society into cultivating an irrational hatred for successful people. This is why many people who initially had some interest in UBI were suddenly opposing it, once they became aware of its associations with populism and alt-left politics.
The loudest and most vocal opponents of UBI were extremely effective at using major mass media outlets to characterise the UBI campaign as an expression of dangerous populism. On this narrative, the campaign was driven by lying, charismatic and plain speaking extremists (George Galloway, in particular) hell bent on whipping up hatred in thick working class people. This hatred, on the anti-UBI narrative, was hatred towards the best and brightest of British society; rich people who contributed greatly to the British economy with both their spending and entrepreneurial spirit; rich people who looked beautiful in movies; rich people who would never stab you on the street, and rich people who would never demand free money from the tax payer. Even the more quiet opponents of UBI mostly went along with this narrative.
The effectiveness of the anti-UBI campaign’s demonisation of the pro-UBI campaign created an atmosphere of extreme polarisation. Yet this febrile atmosphere, despite the public not liking it, was mostly blamed (in mass media) on the referendum itself. Everything from the BBC to big business, higher education and the entertainment industry, uncritically accepted that siding with UBI was tantamount to siding with a dangerous form of left-wing populism. Alt-left extremists liked George Galloway liked UBI, after all. Galloway had once been photographed in front of a poster containing rich and well dressed Londoners casually walking past crying homeless children. Many interpreted this poster as an incitation to violence.
What was talked about far less in mainstream media was that for many, the UBI referendum was actually exciting. It was a way that ordinary people, people with views all over the political spectrum, could suddenly feel like they had a voice in politics. Although it rarely got media coverage, many Tory and UK independence party supporters were surprising advocates of UBI, believing it was a more efficient and fair replacement of the benefits system. Right leaning supporters also liked that UBI would incentivise the de-regulation of the business economy, making it much easier for employers to sack badly performing employees.
For more left-wing supporters of UBI, the referendum was an unprecedented opportunity for all UK citizens to live in a capitalist society without being threatened with either extreme poverty or homelessness. Yet for UBI opponents, this reasoning was not simply wrong; it was dangerous. For them, attempting to remove the threat of poverty and homelessness was deeply unethical. Poverty and homelessness, after all, provided the incentives that explained why the economy was as safe, prosperous, and dynamic as it had become after the crash of 2008.
The most popular anti-UBI argument was that when people who lived in homes saw how sad, filthy, and pathetic homeless people appeared on the street, this motivated them to be more industrious and fiscally responsible. This industriousness and fiscal responsibility was what supposedly explained Britain’s amazing economic recovery. On this reasoning, much of what caused the precipitous drop in homelessness after 2010 was the British public’s refusal to see the homeless as victims. In both political discourse and in popular culture, the homeless were increasingly described as having agency; of rightly suffering the consequences of their own poor decisions.
Opponents of UBI also insisted that removing poverty and homelessness by giving free money to drug addicts and layabouts would plunge the economy into a dangerous 1930s style recession. It would, among other things, incentivise the more anti-social elements of society to follow their passions, rather than work hard to find and keep a job. If anti-social people were incentivised to follow their passions, this meant the UK would see an unprecedented explosion of theft, murder, and rape. This is why many attractive and white female celebrities went so far as to claim that opposing UBI was an important feminist cause.
Soon not just UBI opponents, but mainstream media began to increasingly characterise UBI as though it was evil incarnate; like its implementation would lead Britain down a path towards either becoming a third world country, or engaging in something like the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Many people could sense that the anti-UBI campaign was becoming increasingly hysterical and anti-democratic, while opponents of UBI saw themselves as the highest expression of democracy. Moreover, it was the anti-UBI campaign that was most successful at controlling the terms of the debate. In a short period of time, they effectively changed what ideas were socially acceptable to advocate in polite society. More impressively, they managed to do this without anyone noticing such a change had even occurred.
During the build up to the referendum, UBI proponents were befuddled at how political ideas that were always mainstream (such as the desirability of a UK that contained no homelessness) were now suddenly seen as evidence of alt-left extremism. As the spring of 2016 came to a close, it seemed like both BBC media and most of Parliament were united in their worry that UBI represented a form of dangerous radicalism.
Yet what this anti-UBI establishment consensus couldn’t see was its own radicalism. It was so worried about economic turmoil and violence resulting from UBI, that it couldn’t see how extreme its own attitudes were becoming, regarding the welfare state. BBC commentators, celebrities, and activists could be seen on nightly politics programs, repeatedly stating that rejuvenating the economy by redistributing wealth was nothing more than a delusional fantasy of stupid and resentful bigots. They repeatedly denigrated Britain’s benefits system, constantly drawing connections between any reported violent crime and free money for layabouts and drug addicts.
Just 1st to June 22nd, 2016
By June 1st of 2016, BBC interviewers were no longer feigning any pretence to neutrality regarding the UBI referendum. Nearly every question they asked any guest on the subject presupposed that the pro-UBI campaigners were mostly an ill informed hate mob. If you sided with UBI, presenters would talk to you as though you were either an alt-left extremist, a lazy scrounger, or someone who was unusually thick (compared to the presenter). On June 16th, anti-UBI campaigner Lord Alan Sugar was publicly murdered by a mentally unstable South African Communist who happened to be a supporter of UBI. After this shocking and unexpected national tragedy, there was virtually a stigma within mainstream media against vocalising any concern about the inequalities between rich and poor. Presenters acted as though this concern was inextricably linked with ‘populism’ and ‘hate’.
Adding to this tense atmosphere, there was even confusion about what exactly UBI meant. The referendum question never specified how much money every UK citizen would be getting if UBI had passed. This lead to a conceptual distinction many campaigners made between “Hard UBI” and “Soft UBI”. Hard UBI was a form of UBI that would guarantee every citizen a living wage, paid for by the government. Soft UBI would guarantee every citizen 15 pounds a week. Soft UBI was often described by more cautious UBI proponents as what would happen if UBI won the June 23rd referendum. Many proponents of basic income claimed that since no one could realistically live off 15 pounds a week, Soft UBI was UBI in name only.
Despite Soft UBI being totally at odds with the common sense notion of what a basic income is, it had the virtue of being the version of UBI that was guaranteed not to cause too much economic and social disruption. However, it wasn’t at all obvious that the motivation for casting a UBI vote was the desire for anything like 15 pounds per week. People were excited by the idea of not being threatened with homelessness, if they couldn’t find or keep a job. People were excited by the prospect of restructuring the economy in a radically new way. That is, people who liked UBI were mostly excited by the hard version of UBI that its opponents described as an avoidable, irresponsible and calamitous man made disaster.
Gordon Brown exacerbated this confusion, warning against the dangers of Hard UBI, while simultaneously talking as though a Hard UBI would never happen, even if UBI won the referendum. Yet the one thing that was abundantly clear in Gordon Brown’s numerous campaign speeches was that the UK referendum would be a once in a generation vote. A government made leaflet was given to households, in which it was explicitly stated that UBI was a one shot deal, where the government was committed to implementing whatever the public decided.
For Brown, this was simultaneously another argument in his cumulative case against voting for UBI. Brown claimed that a pragmatic reason for siding against UBI was that one could never be fully certain of what the consequences of UBI would be. All that was certain was the consequences would exist for at least a generation. Hence, even if one believed very strongly in the idea that UBI was just and humane, it was still safer to vote against it on June 23rd.
Yet paradoxically, Brown also claimed that UBI proposals would never, in practice, be so economically disruptive as to explode crime rates in a way that jeopardised law and order. Many took this to mean that basic income would never remove the threat of poverty and homelessness for young men. In other words, even if basic income won, it would always be less than 15 pounds a week for a single person. Brown made it very clear that, like his fellow UBI opponents, he had absolutely no interest in protecting criminally minded young men from poverty and homelessness. He stated repeatedly that any young man who would commit a violent crime deserved no help from anyone; ever. Brown was criticised for this, as it seemed at odds with his past reputation for attempting to rejuvenate the British economy through state spending on inner city social programs.
On June 23rd, the public went to the polls, and 52% of the public that went to the polls, voted for UBI. It was the biggest democratic mandate in British history.
On June 24th, the UK seemed to temporarily descend into political chaos. It wasn’t a chaos whereby there was violence on the streets or disruptions of traffic. It was a chaos borne out of the fact that whenever one looked at either mainstream or social media, one got the appearance of a political system disintegrating. Westminster became something like a 24 hour version of Eastenders. The parliamentary system seemed like it was splitting and re-configuring itself without really understanding exactly what the new formations were. It was readily apparent that the political establishment had taken for granted that the UK would choose not to vote for UBI. Because things did not turn out in the expected way, many politicians and public figures seemed genuinely shocked, frightened, and angry. The heavy emotions were palpable all over the media and in the virtual realm, even as the outside world carried on much the same as before.
Almost immediately after the referendum result was announced, the value of the pound dropped dramatically. Gordon Brown resigned. Social media and commentariat rage exploded in a dizzying avalanche of anger and disgust. Incidents of classist violence and hate crimes against the rich were reported throughout the subsequent days. There were dramatic squabbles within the political parties, dealing with the fallout over Brown’s resignation. Ed Miliband quickly became an unelected Prime Minister. An attempted no-confidence of Conservative Leader Boris Johnson started in full force (for not campaigning hard enough against UBI). There were numerous and tearful protests against the UBI vote, constantly getting quite detailed and sympathetic media coverage. Many people who had voted for UBI were paraded in front of television cameras to speak about how they wished they had voted against UBI. A second referendum was quickly proposed by many commentators and activists, initially because of UBI campaign falsehoods regarding how UBI could save the NHS money.
Here, the media seemed to be drowning in unacknowledged double standards. There was minimal coverage of happy, celebrating UBI voters, excited to both change politics and get money that would allow them to stay in their flats without anxiety. There was minimal or no coverage of conservative proponents of UBI, delighted at the prospect of a less regulated business economy. There was little or no coverage of the many citizens who had voted against UBI but now wished they had voted for it, upon seeing the media reaction to its victory. Nor was there much from those who voted against UBI but who were happy to accept the democratic decision as it had been a complex issue for them with pros and cons on both sides. But even more worryingly, everyone in mainstream media seemed to suffer a collective amnesia. They instantaneously forgot about the many dodgy claims made by anti-UBI campaigners, including claims from chancellor Ed Balls that wilfully mislead the public about emergency budgets, in the event of a UBI victory.
People also forgot that in any election campaign battle, there are typically lies told by both sides. Hence, the reasons for demanding a second referendum were reasons that could apply to any election. But the anti-UBI narrative now used the regret of certain pro-UBI voters to effectively paint a picture of the UBI vote as one inspired by lies and manipulation, based on a campaign targeting either a public which was too gullible or too classist to see it had been seduced by such dark political forces.
Conservative MP David Hammy described the UBI vote with adjectives like “madness” and “nightmare” before advocating that Parliament should try to override it. Hammy went on to say, “We cannot usher in rule by plebiscite which unleashes the “wisdom” of resentment and prejudice.” Doughty Street QC Geoffrey Robinson said “Democracy in Britain doesn’t mean…the tyranny of the mob.”
Similar sentiments were echoed from inside of higher education. An often repeated stat in many higher education articles was that 90% of academics were anti-UBI. Vice Chancellor of De Montfort University Dominic Shia was quoted as saying, “Universities must fight back against the pernicious anti-intellectualism and distrust of experts that has marked the UBI campaign.” Shia told Times Higher Education, “As an institution where the accolate ‘expert’ is earned by painstaking years of study, we think people should be proud of that term.”
This was all very odd. Pro-UBI voters, throughout the pro-UBI campaign, had regularly made comments to the effect that anti-UBI campaigners were elitists who had a disdain for the masses. After the referendum, many anti-UBI voters were acting like this was both true, and not exactly a problem. For them, democracy had failed. It had created something foolish and morally repugnant; something that had happened because “good people” were too complacent; too willing to have civil conversations; conversations that gave their fellow citizens the benefit of the doubt. As a reaction to this complacency, political discourse was now virtually flooded with a distinctly middle class kind of sneering at the lower orders; a sneer covered in faux-conservative shades of sanctimonious outrage.
Throughout the remaining months of 2016, coming out as pro-UBI made UK citizens outside London media bubbles targets of unapologetic scorn, ridicule, and derision. Many angry opponents of UBI didn’t merely disagree with those who had voted for UBI. They wanted to shame and humiliate pro-UBI voters, insofar as they verbalised their UBI commitments. The repeated chant at many anti-UBI protests was “Shame on You! Shame on You!”
Opponents of UBI were regularly speaking about (and speaking to) UBI proponents in ways one might imagine far-right extremists speaking about (and to) illegal immigrants. Yet in mainstream media, there was only an abundance of paranoia about a pervasive hatred for the rich; hatred that was supposedly bubbling underneath the surface of all the UK’s polite social norms. What the media could not see was that after June 23rd, the socially acceptable form of hatred was not hatred for the rich; it was hatred for those who were pro-UBI, or had any affiliation with the ‘populist left’.
In pop culture and mainstream media, proponents of UBI were often characterised as though they weren’t human beings. They were described as something more like a public health problem; a virus that needed to be contained. Metaphors like, “lizard brain” and “shit emerging from bursting sewers” were used in scathing op eds expressing outrage at the sort of person who might be part of the ‘populist left.’ Facebook statuses like “Welcome to Chav Britain” became a popular in-joke for angry opponents of UBI. Even ideas which began as online jokes were taken seriously by many, like the suggestion that London become it’s own country, or that people over 60 should be deprived of the right to vote. There was a tremendous anger expressed at the older generation, since people over 60 were the biggest demographic to cast a vote for UBI in the referendum. Many commentators bemoaned that people over 60 didn’t have long to live, and yet still had the right to force younger people to live with the consequences of their ‘old fashioned’ and ‘out of touch’ decisions.
By the end of 2016, there were numerous anti-referendum arguments constantly trotted out on BBC media by opponents of UBI; new arguments to the effect that the referendum result was invalid, or that the public needed to vote again. One popular argument was that the initial referendum was only technically “advisory.” Yet everyone knew that no UBI proponent would ever claim the referendum “advisory”, had UBI lost. Throughout 2017 and 2018, many anti-UBI activists also claimed that the public should have a second referendum because, after 2016, there was more information about how UBI was likely to be implemented as Hard UBI, and Hard UBI was catastrophic for the UK.
Those who supported UBI countered that the public had already been told repeatedly that UBI would be catastrophic in 2016, and still voted for it anyway. They chose to vote for it anyway because they disagreed with the anti-UBI perspective that conceptualised negative UBI consequences as ‘a catastrophe’ rather than ‘justified hardships that the UK will persist through, as such hardships are worthy sacrifices in the aim of re-structuring the economy.’
Opponents of UBI countered that it was never part of the referendum campaign that a vote for UBI was a vote for Hard UBI. Proponents of UBI responded that Hard UBI was what excited people about UBI in the first place. If the options had been Soft UBI or no UBI, no UBI would have probably won. UBI only won, because people wanted a re-structured economy and a living wage for all citizens; things Soft UBI couldn’t fully deliver.
Opponents of UBI countered that this reasoning was evidence that those who still wanted a Hard UBI had a kind of death wish; that they were willing to do grievous self-harm to Britain in the name of protecting people who were best written off as hopeless degenerates. UBI opponents were steadfastly certain that the consequences of a Hard UBI would be extreme: numerous lost jobs, medicine shortages, and an economic crash, not to mention the collapse of law and order. They were feverishly certain of these consequences, even though the government had repeatedly taken steps to ameliorate them as much as possible, in the event of a Hard UBI. But the certainty that UBI opponents felt about the catastrophe of Hard UBI was impervious to new empirical information. It had become something like a religious belief. For many opponents of UBI, the possibility that things might not be so bad after Hard UBI was itself deeply upsetting; even anxiety inducing.
Three Years Later
By 2019, Labour Prime Minister Ed Miliband was losing a humiliating battle to try and deliver the referendum result, while simultaneously satisfying UBI opponents who insisted it would be a catastrophe. Although Parliament was steadfastly against any version of Hard UBI, it still voted to reject three watered down Milibandian versions of Soft UBI. Although these versions gave no British citizen more than 60 pounds of free money per month, Parliament still felt that these versions would give too many young men an incentive to start stabbing people (instead of looking for a job). The pro-UBI public were also unimpressed, as 60 pounds a month would never fundamentally re-structure the economy. Nor would it save a single person (or family) from being kicked out on the street.
Ed Miliband finally stood down as PM on June 7th, 2019, replaced by the unelected Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn terrified opponents of UBI much more than even Miliband, as Corbyn had the temerity to display optimism about the idea that UBI could be implemented with government measures in place to ensure it would not be a catastrophe. Corbyn, much to the outrage of those against UBI, saw universal basic income as a positive step towards making the economy more dynamic and humane. He spoke often of how UBI could be an asset to struggling small businesses. Corbyn’s opponents, meanwhile, mostly saw this optimism as evidence of how deluded and deranged he was. The supposedly neutral BBC often reported on Corbyn in a way where they presupposed that Corbyn was both an incompetent buffoon and someone who put the hard left of the Labour Party above the interests of the country.
Corbyn however, was disgusted at how both the media and Parliament had denigrated UBI so consistently since 2016. He felt the constant and relentless attempts to stop UBI from giving people a living wage (or being implemented at all) was evidence of how contemptuous the political establishment was of the British people. He was even more disgusted that the first plan for UBI implementation had been delayed from March 29th to October 31st. Worst still, many MP’s in the Conservative, Lib Dem, and Ukip parties were working to pass legislation that would make it illegal to enact a Hard UBI. That is, they wanted to make it illegal for the government to gave any citizen even 16 pounds per week.
In response to this, Corbyn decided to call an unusually long prorogation, tightening up the time it would take for Parliament to pass legislation legally preventing a Hard UBI. Upon doing this, Corbyn was largely denounced both by Parliament and mainstream media as acting like a “tin pot dictator.” His prorogation gambit, although initially judged by the courts to be legal, was still described as “a coup d’etat” by both his opponents and most of mainstream media. Even worse, Corbyn chose to remove the whip of 21 Labour Party rebels who were siding with the other parties in preventing a Hard UBI.
In defence of the accusation that Corbyn was no longer allowing for dissent within the Labour Party, he pointed out that the whip was routinely removed from party members that vote against the party’s budget, vote against the party during a queen’s speech, or vote against the party during a vote of confidence. Corbyn claimed that enacting the UBI referendum result was a special circumstance where opposing him was the equivalent of giving the leader of the Labour Party a no-confidence vote. It was also an insult to the public, who after voting for UBI, had to endure not only scathing insults from much of Parliament, but three years of various Parliament coalitions attempting to thwart, water down, or simply nullify the public’s decision to enact UBI.
Most BBC and mainstream media did not see it this way. They did not think, like Jeremy Corbyn, that Parliament has no sovereignty higher than a popular mandate. Nor was the Conservative Party sympathetic to Corbyn’s claim that there should be a general election. This was odd, as such an election would ensure that the Prime Minister during such an important time was democratically elected. Moreover, if Corbyn lost, this would be a reflection of the public’s endorsement of Parliament’s legislative efforts to stop any form of UBI generous enough to give any citizen more than 15 pounds a week.
Yet Conservative opposition leader Boris Johnson opposed the call for an immediate general election. This was unexpected, as Johnson had a reputation for constantly denigrating Corbyn for being an unelected Prime Minister. Johnson’s stated motivation for wanting to put off such an election was he felt it was first imperative that legislation be quickly passed which would block any form of Hard UBI. Many felt Johnson was showing his true colours here. His surprising reluctance to have an election seemed to signal that he preferred to bypass the question of whether or not the public would endorse his aggressive efforts to make any form of Hard UBI illegal. Simultaneously, any time Corbyn fought against new laws making hard UBI illegal, he was treated by both his opponents and mainstream media as a despot with no concern for the rule of law.
On October 9th, 2019, Johnson and a group of anti-UBI MPs passed a law which at least made the implementation of a hard UBI on October 31st illegal. Corbyn suffered an additional defeat, as an emergency motion was passed which required Corbyn to release all internal communications between him and his top advisors over his decision to enact his unusually long prorogation. Such communication included “all correspondence, whether formal or informal in both written and electronic form.” This motion-passed by 311 to 302 votes-additionally required that Corbyn’s government also publish all of its hard UBI planning documents. On October 11th, 2019, Corbyn suffered still another major setback, as Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that Corbyn’s prorogation was unlawful. Corbyn and his government stated they would appeal this ruling.
Parliament’s increasingly harsh opposition to Hard UBI seemed grounded in the notion that the common sense idea of basic income was the version of UBI for which there was no public mandate. Instead, the parliamentary opposition to UBI described any version of UBI which could function like a living wage as an outrageous affront to the public’s interest; something that was being pushed illegally only by corrupt extremists in the fringes of Corbyn’s Labour. Proponents of Hard UBI described parliament (and BBC media) as increasingly elitist, detached from the concerns of ordinary people; even contemptuous of democracy. But what they could not see was that opponents of Hard UBI were embracing a very different version of democracy to what had been the norm throughout the UK.
The New Democracy
In this new version of democracy, the losers of a public vote no longer have to take on the traditional obligations of losing. In the old version of democracy, the voter agrees to win if they win, and lose if they lose. In this new version of democracy, the voter only agrees to win if they win.
That is, even if the loser loses a public vote, they do not have to accept anything they might consider an intolerable outrage, be it an unjust law, a dangerous government budget, a particularly distasteful prime minister, or a decision made in the name of democratic sovereignty. The fact that the majority voted for any of these things is irrelevant. Even high voter turnouts are irrelevant.
What’s relevant is that no citizen (or minority of citizens) should have to accept decisions from the majority they consider foolish or morally repugnant. Hence, in this new conception of democracy, losing a public vote does not mean concession. After the loser loses a public vote, they can simply keep campaigning for their desired outcome, using whatever means at their disposal to stop what has been voted for from being set into law. They can even repeat their old campaign slogans, using more apocalyptic rhetoric the second time around.
Here, the losers aren’t merely campaigning for a second vote, once the result of the first has been implemented. They are campaigning to stop the result of the first vote from being implemented at all. They are campaigning hard to delay and frustrate its implementation, meanwhile continuing to spread the message that what had been voted for was a catastrophe, and its failure to be implemented is just more evidence of it being a catastrophe.
If the pressure to frustrate, thwart, or water down what the public voted for makes its implementation more unpalatable to the public, this is even better for the loser. It increases the loser’s chances of turning the public against what the public voted for. If the loser here has allies in most of the mainstream media, the corporate establishment, higher education, and the entertainment industry, the loser can at least create the illusion that the public are now on the loser’s side. A change in public opinion can mean a change in how the public sees the legitimacy of its initial vote. Even the illusion of such a change sends the message that really, the loser has won. The loser can win, even if more people came out on the day to vote against the loser.
Hence, what matters in this new democracy is not what most people voted for, but what most people seem to think at any given moment. Hence, public votes are relatively unimportant, as the public can vote for X on Friday and be convinced by the losers that X was wrong by Monday (if the losers throw a big enough tantrum). The tantrum is more effective if it seems both hysterical and frightening. For it to be effective, it needn’t even convince the public they were wrong. All it must do is send the message that the losers will go a little crazy, if they don’t get their way. This message is even more effective, if the mainstream media combines it with a more confusing second message: It’s the winners who might go crazy, if they don’t get their way. It’s the winners who might get violent. It is the winners who are the truly scary people, even if they might be the majority of the population.
This is the new democracy, both in the alternate history outlined above, and in the actual history where the 2016 UK referendum was about leaving the European Union.
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