American media pundits and government elites are upset by the close vote of the British people to leave the European Union. News story after news story give the impression that the British people are to blame for leaving and could create world economic havoc.
But they are not to blame.
The finger should be pointed directly at the EU institutions in Brussels for their lack of transparency and accountability. And those two words will enter discussions in governments all over the free world. Governments that continue to have a lack of transparency and no accountability will see public support decline and trust erode.
These "Blame the British" pundits should look at how the EU operates, where it spends the resources of those citizens from individual nations, and what results are being achieved by the multi-state government to see why Britain is the first to leave. You would need to look no further.
Several years ago, I had the honor to meet members of the European Parliament and asked them about the transparency of EU as an institution and EU program expenditures. One member representing The Netherlands told me that audits were not being conducted on spending and would certainty not be released to the public (hint: bad accounting and no accountability for dollars spent).
During my time in Brussels leading a group of graduate students to better understand the institutions, I was struck by how little anyone seemed to care about the citizens from all the member nations who were subsidizing the EU elites living in Brussels. The bureaucracy, intellectual elitism, and lack of being connected to regular citizenry were quite apparent. At that time, the popularity of the EU was so low that an expensive public relations campaign was being conducted in Brussels to demonstrate that the EU was reformed, relevant, and accountable. It was as if those working for the European Commission, the European Council, and working in the EU Parliament needed to remind themselves they were relevant and still important.
Surely those PR funds could have been spent in real programs that had a real impact on European citizens.
The EU should have engaged in significant reform.
The vote would have been different yesterday if the EU took seriously the need to reform itself. To provide public audits of its programs; to provide real-time "sunlight" into the cost of the EU bureaucracy and demonstrate the real benefits being provided. It should create a culture of releasing performance metrics on programs and initiatives to those "footing the bill" for Brussels.
Even the concessions provided to the Cameron government were designed to have "stay" win the election but not to enact fundamental reform and cultural change.
Technology is allowing the world to see how government operates, how resources are spent and what real impact government programs and initiatives have on the citizenry.
It will be harder for government to "govern" and consume resources of its citizens without the ability for citizens to see the results for themselves in real-time.