The Full Monty, a film set in Sheffield England is a sad but whimsical account of how six unemployed steelworkers attempt to scare up some money by becoming strippers. While taking off one's clothes is considerably easier than making steel, organizing an act that will actually pay is difficult enough and at the end of the movie when the steelworker-strippers are lustily cheered by a house full of drunken women, there is a sense of accomplishment that passes for a happy ending.
Of course, this happy ending is all fiction. The real story of Sheffield is far more miserable. This city had been the heart and soul of English steelmaking since they started making knives in the 14th century. In the 1740s, Benjamin Huntsman perfected a superior method for making crucible steel and by the 1850s, Henry Bessemer had moved to town with his vastly improved steel process. Steel was now a mass-produced product and by 1900, Sheffield's population had grown to 491,000. In 1973, the UK joined the EU. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher "rationalized" Sheffield out of the steel business in an EU-wide restructuring of the industry. Sheffield was probably targeted because of its long association with trade unionism. 120,000 people lost their jobs. Sheffield lost its reason to exist. And even if six of those ex-workers had managed a one-night payoff for going The Full Monty, that still leaves them suffering through an existential nightmare for over 30 years.
A.R. Heathcotes & Co - Steelworks
So guess what? The people of Sheffield voted to leave the EU. The vote was closer than in the surrounding countryside because Sheffield itself has become something of center for immigrant settlement. But the folks who remembered what happened to their city and lives were still enough to carry the day.
The EU is failing for one simple reason. It is based on a ridiculously stupid idea—neoliberalism. That idea set has been around since forever and can be directly implicated in such disasters as the Panic of 1873 and the Great Depression. You can fill libraries with solid evidence why these crackpot ideas don't work. Well, they do work for a tiny few who can afford to buy the economic conversation. Explain to me how someone in Sheffield whose life is as disaster can EVER relate to people who spout meaningless neoliberal platitudes that were so carefully drilled into their heads as part of their "elite" educations.
What EU doesn't understand is that most people, if given a chance, would gladly throw their smug butts into a dungeon, but will at least vote to get them out of their lives. Because while most detest the arrogance of our precious "elites," what really infuriates people is that they are so utterly incompetent at building a Europe that actually works for its citizens.
Some pretty good stuff is being written about Brexit. The ruling class usually gets its way. And goodness knows, they have a good chance of getting their way this time. But for a brief moment, they have caught a glimpse of what a world looks like where they don't pick the outcome even after buying up the economics profession, the newspapers, and damn near all the politicians. It's getting harder to bullshit people. This is a story worth writing about.
- The first article today asks a most obvious question, "why does the so-called left defend the EU?"
- Alexander Mercouris speculates on the spread of Brexit, The US, the EU and the Spectre of Brexit
- Finally, Michael Hudson snickers about the vast fortunes lost by folks betting the wrong way on Brexit.