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Columnists

Why Pose the Question?

April 13, 2019
Eraklis Diamataris

Most people that think they live in democracies, don’t – they live in republics. In principle what does it mean to live in a republic-style country? It means that instead of the government taking direction from the people themselves through simple majorities, the public is asked to elect representatives to create legislation and interpret the nation’s governing legal document (constitution) on their behalf.

In the last 10 or so years we have witnessed an interesting trend springing up around Europe from Greece to the United Kingdom where the public was asked by the leader of the nation to give a clear direction so that the leader could guide the country according to the direct orders of the people.

Now in theory, that’s what we all want – a government that takes the mandate of the people to heart and executes their wishes. But what if the people are uninformed and wrong?

Such was the case when George Papandreou wanted to consult the Greek people in 2009, such was the case when Alexis Tsipras actually asked the Greek people in a referendum what they thought about the eurozone and then decided their opinion didn’t matter, and now the United Kingdom is mired in a similar quagmire.

When incendiary rhetoric is peddled by Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, aided by covert Russian operatives, to sow division and spread falsehoods in the hopes of making people vote scared, then can the people’s opinion be really trusted to guide the nation forward on such grave decisions?

Harry Truman, unlike Donald J. Trump, believed that the “buck” stopped at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Our leaders are elected so that they may make the hard decisions on our behalf because we have deemed them to have the best ideas, put forth during a campaign, and we trust them to use the full extent of their intellectual capabilities to effect (hopefully) positive change.

The United Kingdom, much like Greece, in recent years has lacked imagination, freshness, and leadership at the head of their government. Global leaders in recent years – in Europe in particular – have seemed unwilling to make the hard choices themselves and deal with the political consequences later. They have effectively punted their responsibilities to the people and then swoop in to clean up the mess, by which time, it’s often too late.

The United Kingdom exiting the European Union is an unmitigated disaster. The decision to put it to a public referendum was criminal; what would be even more egregious is if Prime Minister May decides that after such a blunder, they won’t respect the wishes of the people and simply switch the referendum results into something more palatable.

The people gave their response, it’s time to honor it, to whatever end may come. Sometimes it’s true: don’t ask questions that you don’t want to hear the answers to.

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