Today, the UK votes on whether to remain as a member of the European Union, or not.
Now, the important thing is, this is only a referendum – in UK law, the government doesn’t have to act on what the people decide. And, in politics and business, that’s how it should be.
“The masses”, to use a sometimes insulting colloquialism, be they grass-roots employees or the average Joe on the street at a time of political upheaval, are like the proverbial blind man feeling an elephant – they will only ever have partial information, through no fault of their own, usually.
However, the “powers that be”, to use another sometimes insulting colloquialism, can, and often do, suffer from “Ivory Tower Syndrome” – they get so caught up in their experiences, they forget those experiences are not universal. They take their knowledge of a situation for granted, forgetting that not everyone else will be privy to it. They fail to realise that other people, in other circumstances, may not share their priorities.
On any issue, you will always end up with various groups, all of whom are only partially informed.
The people who will be responsible for leading the organisation/country through the results and attendant changes of any decision will be the people at the top, while the grassroots folks will be the ones directly affected. (Power, and the wealth that frequently comes with it, protect people from consequences to an extent that is rarely fully appreciated.) Therefore, it is VITAL that these two groups enter into a respectful, helpful, logical dialogue. Emotion can, and should, have a place in that dialogue, but it shouldn’t dominate.
However, once the dialogue is done, the decision still has to be made – and it is right and proper that those who have the experience to lead people through the impact of that decision are the ones, ultimately, to make it.
The British public may vote to leave the EU – but they may not comprehend the complexity of Britain’s agreements with the EU, the legalities surrounding a withdrawal, or the political consequences in respect to other, binding, international agreements, or the societal impact to Britain’s position and reputation in the world’s eyes.
They may vote to Remain in the EU – but not be privy to information regarding current tensions, the current balance of power, or the direction the EU may be heading in.
Those who, it would be hoped, have better knowledge and experience than “the man on the street”, or “the woman at the bus stop”, who are aware of the full gamut of existing and potential threats, opportunities, and impacts of leaving, or remaining within, the EU, should be the ones who – with input from those whose lives will be directly affected – make the final decision.
Democratic? Not really.
Best for everyone? Almost certainly. If people were more able to put their emotions, personal concerns, and prejudices aside, if they were granted access to the full facts of a matter, if genuine, intelligent debate prior to the making of an important decision were encouraged and engaged with, then, perhaps, the people could be left to decide.
Until then, while it is right and proper that everyone be given the opportunity to have their opinion heard, I would prefer that lasting, irreversible decisions are made by people with full access to facts, not those subject to fear, prejudice, and assumption.
This isn’t just about Britain as a country – this is about business, groups of individuals, the world.
This isn’t just about the EU referendum – this is about every important decision, whether it is one faced by a country, a company, or a family.
Everyone has the right to an opinion, and the right to have that opinion taken into account – but only those in full possession of the facts of the matter, from all sides of it, should have the right – and the responsibility – to make the decision.
It is nothing short of abuse to delegate important, strategic decisions to those who have not been trained or equipped to appreciate their seriousness, or the impact of each and every possible decision.