Mar 292019
 March 29, 2019  Posted by at 1:19 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Leonardo da Vinci Vitruvian man c1510

Leonardo wrote: “Vitruvius, architect, writes in his work on architecture that the measurements of man are distributed in this manner”:

The length of the outspread arms is equal to the height of a man.
From the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of the height of a man.
From below the chin to the top of the head is one-eighth of the height of a man.
From above the chest to the top of the head is one-sixth of the height of a man.
From above the chest to the hairline is one-seventh of the height of a man.
The maximum width of the shoulders is a quarter of the height of a man.
From the breasts to the top of the head is a quarter of the height of a man.
From the elbow to the tip of the hand is a quarter of the height of a man.
From the elbow to the armpit is one-eighth of the height of a man.
The length of the hand is one-tenth of the height of a man.
The root of the penis [Il membro virile] is at half the height of a man.
The foot is one-seventh of the height of a man.



It’s almost silly to write anything on Brexit right now, because at right now+1 everything may have changed again. But almost silly is not the same as completely silly. At this point, whatever the outcome will be, it will serve to ridicule the idea and image of the UK as a functioning democracy. Something that ironically all participants in the Kabuki theater claim to be intent on preventing.

Both major parties -and supposedly other politicians too- say that “not respecting” the result of the Brexit referendum would imperil democracy. But “respecting” it at all cost will imperil it just as much, if not more.

On June 23, 2016, people voted on the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” But nobody knew what they were voting for, and that’s reflected in today’s lack of agreement on what Brexit means, almost 3 years after the vote.

People had been inundated with promises about what Brexit would mean, especially from the Leave side, anxious to paint a vision of a wealthy country ‘finally’ able to sign it own trade deals with the world, free from compulsory contributions to Brussels. But none of these things were facts, they were promises, most of whom have so far turned out to be empty.

The notion that it is the summit of democracy to make people vote on things they don’t understand (because no-one can tell them) is a curious one. And it’s perhaps even more curious to maintain that voting when people have a better idea of what their vote will entail is undemocratic. That would open a “chasm of distrust”, is the claim. In reality that chasm has long been opened, just by the behavior of politicians.

What is happening as we speak is that politicians are free to turn on a dime – and do just that- when it comes to who or what they elect to support, but people are not. And that is being presented, by both left and right, as -more- democratic. They would like you to believe this is how a democracy should function, but none of that is cast in stone. It’s just another idea.

Underlying this idea about democracy is undoubtedly to some extent the fear of violent reactions from the Leave side if there were to be a second referendum, or if Brexit gets postponed “too long”. But do they really expect the country to accept all this cattle trading lying down, where MPs scramble to find something, anything that is accepted by a narrow margin, and that narrow margin will be used to push through Brexit, which itself was voted through by a narrow margin?!

That’s a serious question that no-one seems to ask: do they believe the 6 million people who have signed an anti-Brexit petition, and the over 1 million who marched in London on March 23, and who may come out in even larger numbers on the 30th, to remain peaceful after having witnessed how their interests are being squandered by politicians jockeying for position?


In the June 23, 2016 referendum, the Leave side got 17,410,742 votes (51.89%) while Remain got 16,141,241 votes (48.11%). That’s awfully close. In most jurisdictions it would be impossible to hold a vote with so much potential impact on a country, on its legal system, its trade etc., with such margins. Often if not mostly, a 2/3 majority would be needed to make such drastic changes.

There are solid reasons for such legal requirements. Many people would summarize them as guaranteeing the quality of a democracy. To name an example, one would expect a potential petition to get rid of Britain’s royal family to not be decided by just one vote either.

But that’s what is very much possible in the case of Brexit. If one of the 8 indicative votes held in Parliament had gotten a one vote majority, it could have dictated the way forward. The same is true for Theresa May’s deal, even after suffering two historically large losses in the house. Boris Johnson left government because of it, then said he’s sign up anyway, and the day after did a 180º again. Is it that strange that a democracy would want to build in a few safeguards against such shenanigans?


But perhaps most of all, what other countries would turn to much sooner when mired in a mess such as Brexit under May has become, is a national government. Because that is the ultimate instrument to make sure your democracy functions. Provided it’s executed in good faith. Such a government need not consist of -only- politicians either. Which fits in nicely with the anonymous comment from the Guardian that I posted under the title The Failure of Party Politics earlier this week:

We are no longer able to govern, we cannot lead and we cannot decide. We must return the question of our place in the world back to the people and once that’s done we must dissolve this house and our parties and a new slate be mined because right now not one of us is fit to stand in this place and claim leadership of this disunited kingdom.

Drag the UK out of the EU on 1 or 2 votes now, after almost 3 years of chaos and incompetence, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up with more chaos, at least some of which will not have a peaceful character. In order to prevent that from happening, take a step back and start talking to each other. In a venue other than that Parliament, because it has failed the people.

You can renege on May’s article 50 decision and continue in the EU, just with a lot of broken trust. But push through May’s contorted plans today and you’re stuck outside pretty much forever. There’s a lot wrong with the EU, and there’s little wrong with the idea in itself of leaving it, but people didn’t vote to Leave only to get stuck with even more incompetence than they had with Brussels. And chances are they simply won’t accept it.

So forget about your party politics, that system is dead regardless of any outcomes, you’ve just shown that day after exasperating day. Get a group of judges and lawyers and business people and people from all walks of life together and start a national conversation based on trust. You’re not going to like any of the alternatives.

By sticking to the Brexit process as it’s been developing up to this point you’re not guaranteeing democracy, you’re guaranteeing its demise.

NB: I fully expect you to continue as you have. I have good friends who live in the UK, and many readers, but it’s not where I reside, so it’s not really any skin off my back. But you guys hurt my eyes. As I wrote earlier today: Sometimes I wonder what John Lennon would have said.



Home Forums The Demise of Democracy

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    Leonardo da Vinci Vitruvian man c1510 Leonardo wrote: “Vitruvius, architect, writes in his work on architecture that the measurements of man are distr
    [See the full post at: The Demise of Democracy]


    There is an awful lot of children who have other concerns than Brexit.
    Survival of the fittest


    Isn’t it generally the case that when people vote they don’t really know what they are voting for, because they are voting for something in the future? What information do they have to go on? the press, the media, promises, speculations, predictions. When people voted Lib-Dem in 2010 did they know they would be facilitating a Tory government? Should we rerun that election? The 2015 general election doesn’t count as a rerun of the 2010, those years are lost forever.

    Polder Dweller

    Well, it’s another good essay and yet there’s still something missing, there are simply way too many questions left unanswered.

    Why didn’t Cameron insist on a 2/3 majority or at least 10% difference between remain and leave? Why did Farage, Johnson and Gove all run away when Leave won? Why did no “brexit champion” stand up to lead the country into its glorious future? Why did May (a remainer) get the job of leading the UK out of the EU? Why did Corbyn miss every open goal he ever saw? Why out of eight possible ways forward could not even one get the backing of a majority in the house of commons last night? Why is it not possible to hold a second referendum? Why doesn’t May out-cojone all the “men” she’s surrounded by and just revoke Article 50 in the nation’s best interest?

    The truth is that real power is being wielded behind the scenes and that power has decided that a hard brexit is required – the UK must be broken away from the EU. As a theory it doesn’t answer all the questions, but watching this slow motion, avoidable, train wreck happen, convinces me there must be quite some truth in it.


    The Brexit vote was not like some run of the mill election democritus. It wasn’t about voting for some person or another, but about electing to leave something you’d been a member of for 40-odd years, and which had written, along with you, many of your laws.

    It’s no longer, at this point, about the EU either. It’s about gross incompetence of your own political system and the people inhabiting it. Which have been too busy infighting for 3 years to prepare for what they claim to desire.

    As for your comment in today’s Debt Rattle:

    The characterisation of leave voters as xenophobic is bigotry. We voted for democracy. We don’t want to be trampled on by a totalitarian regime like Greece was.

    I don’t know who called leave voters xenophobic, but it wasn’t me. And democracy is not what you’re getting, you’re getting, no you already have, a totalitarian regime worse than the EU.

    So you’ll end up being trampled either way. Unless you smell the roses.


    The term ‘xenophobic’ was used in the New Statesman article.

    Isn’t the UK system more democratic than the EU, with its non-elected commissioners who write the laws?

    Stone Lodge

    I, too, have stayed away from commenting on Brexit, mainly because I don’t live there (don’t want to live there) and I knew from the start it was going to be an enormously complex mess, and I have too many other things to claim my attention. I did, however, get into a bit of a verbal row with a UK anarchist who was aghast that the Leave position had prevailed, way back just after the vote occurred. I challenged her self-proclaimed anarchism if it did not celebrate de-centralization, devolution of the EU political structures. To her credit, that took her aback and she started turning over the matter from a different perspective.

    But here is what puzzles me about the whole Brexit thing: What the hell have the government been DOING besides arguing back and forth about whether and when the UK should leave? Although I read about it far more than I would really want to, I don’t hear anyone asking HOW? What are the legal requirements that need to change or be modified? What customs provisions have to change? What structures do they need to set up to maintain international communication and cooperation? In other words, as far as I can tell, no one there is actually discussing HOW to exit the EU, merely prancing about and scoring cheap political shots at their counterparts whenever they can. Certainly the media have given me no conception of any sort of actual plan to effect the exit.

    This whole sordid can of worms doesn’t have anything to do with democracy — at least not “democracy” as most people conceive of the term. If one understands that “democracy,” as in the rule of the “People,” only refers to the “People” defined by the ruling elites (as in revolutionary America, where the “People” did not include Natives, blacks, women and non-landholding white males for voting or representation purposes), then one can get closer to understanding what Brexit is all about. When you have both Merkel and Macron warning (last November) of “blinkered nationalism” (thus comparing nationalist citizens to livestock), trumpeting the inevitability of multi-lateralism and globalism, and you can see that Greek citizens are not “People” for the EU, then one can begin to grasp the motivations underlying Brexit.

    But no one seems to even bother doing any work to make it happen. From my perspective across the Pond, that looks exactly like modern democracy, with a pretty little bow on the package.


    It seems obvious that confusing leaving the EU (an idea which I for one do like) with leaving the EU the way the UK have gone about it (which I think is shambolic), doesn’t lead us anywhere. Leaving with no plan for how to leave would appear a silly plan no matter how you look at it.

    As an aside: after 40 years of EU membership, how much of the UK’s legal system (its laws) is still truly its own? And how much has been redone to (re)make it its own over the past 3 years? What is the legal status of all those laws that have come from Europe? 80,000 is a number I picked up. Will they still be valid post-Brexit? But doesn’t that mean Britain will still run on EU laws?


    As someone that’s born and bred here on the British Islands, at the time of the referendum I was not convinced that the political class here were anywhere near up to the task of extricating the country from the EU successfully. I remember trying to find out how many bits of legislation would get passed between elections, and the only thing I found was that during the last 2 years of the tory/lib dem coalition they managed to pass around 180 bits of legislation. How these puffed up peacocks that strut around were going to pass all the bits of legislation necessary during the Article 50 process, while at the same time negotiating a new trade deal with the EU, along with the rest of the world, seemed like an unbelievable fiction. Now that we’ve passed brexit day with still no idea of where the politicians are taking us one thought that keeps popping into my head is that a lot of the problems that brexit is going to cause are bureaucratic in nature, and the answer to them will also be bureaucratic. I reckon that this omnishambles that is unfurling in Westminster is a glimpse though of how unprepared our western, industrialised economies are for the financial and environmental problems looming on our global horizon.

    V. Arnold

    Pass, thank you… 😉


    They shouldn’t have called a referendum without having some plan on how to leave.

    They’ve copied most of the laws into the UK statute books, so after we leave they can be changed by the UK government as required. How and when they come into effect I expect depends on the method of leaving.

    But it seems we cannot leave because we are part of the Republic of Ireland.


    I used to think that the UK was still a place of grown-ups, responsible, confident and capable, keep calm and carry on. What this farce shows is how low that country has sunk. Their entire political class: timid, incompetent, confused, pusillanimous, faint-hearted, indecisive, quarrelsome, weak-willed, irresolute, in over their heads. A laughingstock of the world. Prisoners of a thousand bureaucracies. “What are we going to do with the Halibut Commission? Oh, goodness gracious, the Halibut Commission! This is just too, too much! I think I’m about to faint!” Their ancestors set up an empire on which the sun never sets, now they go weak at the knee at the very thought of just ruling themselves… Unthinkable! Inconceivable! We will all be dead by week 2! Lord, lord, have mercy on our souls!

    Dr. D

    Agree with Polder and Stone. What they HAVE is Oligarchy. Exclusively. (And the U.S. too) What’s going on has NOTHING to do with anything we’re seeing. They’re fighting in the back channels, but don’t want to admit that because it would show so clearly that they have anything, anything but democracy, even the bad type where 51% choose all.

    Reminds me of the U.S. where they complain of ‘capitalism’ now that we basically don’t have any of it at all.

    So back to what I was saying, they Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant a big mess. They waaaaaaaaaaaaant a lot of ruckus and blame. And Polder brings up that maybe they would rather just have status quo but with an internecine war going on, their PRIORITY is to survive among each other, billionaires, power-players, and the people and appearances with the useless, powerless masses are a far distant afterthought.

    Because, yes, if there were any good faith they could solve for example, citizenship of minors in a few minutes, even by edict from the queen. Same with EU laws: you just say ‘they exist until we can undo them.’ Bam, done in seconds. They don’t, they won’t: they don’t care.

    Excellent point on bureaucracy, which as they say, REALLY runs everything, with includes the Deep State who will just stall and wait all the elected officials out if they feel like it. And they did. Are they not, therefore, one of the largest threats to the nation? As often remarked in history books? Should we not then, fire them all, repeal everything we can find, and push their power down locally as far as we can? Only a thousand local councils CAN, have the bandwidth, to review 80,000 laws in a few years’ time.

    “Their entire political class: timid, incompetent, confused, pusillanimous, faint-hearted, indecisive, quarrelsome, weak-willed, irresolute, in over their heads. A laughingstock of the world. Prisoners of a thousand”

    We need a poem written of this.


    Notice people (on radio 4) still blame the leave campaign for false promises and claiming they could deliver things which they could not. But the government’s own leaflet said “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.”. But they have so far been unable to do this. You could argue that people didn’t know what “leave” meant, but it certainly didn’t mean staying in the EU.


    The post-Brexit train wreck is really something that should make you cry in despair. But in case you’d rather laugh, an all-too-true analogy:


    Excellent, tabarnick. At last, someone who makes sense. Or rather, 5 of them. Or is that 6?

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