So, today I want to write about an element in the Brexit campaign that fascinates me. It’s what I would call its strand of hyper-capitalism – a kind of start-up patriotism, encapsulated in the phrase they drum through their speeches: “Take back control”.
Take back control contains, I believe, a double strategy. A very clever libertarian elite within the Leave side is consciously stoking popular fears about immigration, and consciously linking them to questions of national sovereignty (or in Gove’s repeated phrase, “self-rule”).
Their opportunism is breathtaking. An urbane, cosmopolitan, ideas-driven set of right-wingers are playing with the fires of xenophobia – and this in order to get the chance to exert a wildly experimental brand of policy over one of the world’s major economies and polities.
These libertarian leavers believe they’re catching a wave of anti-institutional, anti-bureaucratic, pro-enterprise and pro-individualist attitudes sweeping across the developed world at the moment. The EU, a structure that penetrates common continental standards deep into the heart of particular nations, is a sworn enemy of this process.
The core message here, buttressed by all the physicists and biologists Cummings cites, is that modern science is currently modest about its ability to predict the behaviour of complex systems. He says that modesty should also include complex human environments like education, or the economy, or health.
So if you want to foment change, say the libertarian Leavers, the last thing you do is pass another crude bureaucratic edict from the Brussels (or for that matter, Whitehall) machine. The point is to encourage experimentation, novelty, variety, non-standard approaches. You need a healthy, market-driven tumult, which will hopefully evolve robust new organisms (or organisations).
This explains the deliberate chaos of Gove’s free school movement, or the steady marketisation of health services – indeed, the relentless marketisation of everything. Inequality, in this picture, is required for the whole ecosystem to work properly.