July 4th 1776 - The First Brexit
The markets have recovered from the Brexit panic, but people are still reeling in the aftermath of the UKs vote to leave the European Union, at least in part because it seems like such an unprecedented action.
But it really isn't so unprecedented.
The truth is that we had something like the "Brexit" 240 years ago on July 4, 1776, when our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence officially declaring the American colonies' independence from the British Empire and the transnational corporate elite that the empire supported, the British East India Company.
Just as the American colonists rejected the British East India Company, voters in the UK recently rejected the neoliberal multinational corporatists that had co-opted the economic and political powers of the United Kingdom.
By the 1760s, the East India Company controlled nearly all international commerce to and from North America along with large portions of the commerce in India, and the company was aggressively importing opium into China to take control of larger markets there as well.
The British East India Company was essentially the Wal-Mart of the colonial era, and the fact that so many members of British government and high society were stockholders in the Company made it easy for the company to lobby for laws that exclusively benefited their transnational corporate interests.
In the decade leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the British government passed a series of laws, like the Townshend Acts of 1767 and the Tea Act of 1773, to increase the East India Company's power and influence, while reducing competition.
For example, many people today think that the Tea Act was a simple tax hike that led to the Boston Tea Party and the eventual Declaration of Independence.
But it was more than that, it was the largest corporate tax cut in history at that time. The whole purpose of the Tea Act was to give the East India Company full and unlimited access to the American tea trade, by helping them wipe out American small businesses.
The Tea Act exempted the East India Company from taxes on tea exported to the American colonies, and gave the company a tax refund on millions of pounds of tea sitting in inventory that the company couldn't sell.
According to the official British version of the history the 1773 Tea Act was a "legislative maneuver by the British ministry of Lord North to make English tea marketable in America" with a goal of helping the East India Company quickly "sell 17 million pounds of tea stored in England."
The American colonists didn't appreciate how the Company used the colonies as a profit center, and they especially resented the fact that American small businesses couldn't compete with the East India Company's subsidized prices.
So, just like the Vote Leave groups in the UK rejected corporate-friendly neoliberal economics at the expense of the British working class, the colonists cried "no taxation without representation" and rejected the British imperialism that supported the East India Company's transnational monopoly at the expense of American workers and small business owners.
The Boston Tea Party, for example, was an early rallying point in the fight against this corporate colonization of the early American states.
We're seeing something very similar to that discontent with the worldwide surge in populism, the rejection of global neoliberalism, and the insane corporate-managed trade deals that are destroying the middle class in the developed world and concentrating global wealth into the coffers of a very few members of the global corporate elite.
The Boston Tea Party wasn't just about "taxation without representation", even though that was their rallying cry.
Based on the writings of George Robert Twelvetrees Hewes, a colonist who took part in the Boston tea party, we know that a large part of what was really driving the colonists' rage is the fact that England was passing tax laws solely for the benefit of the transnational East India Company, and at the expense of American workers and small-business owners.
In Britain, anti-immigrant sentiments have been cast as the driving force behind the Brexit, but a survey of more than 12,000 voters in the United Kingdom shows that the number one reason they voted to leave was their belief that the U.K. should remain a self-governing entity that's not responsible to some overarching supranational body that simply hands down rules and regulations about the economy to the benefit of a few political and economic elite.
In the 18th century, the British Empire was likewise blocking the American colonies' economic sovereignty, and in the Declaration of Independence the American colonists included "For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent" in their list of grievances against the empire.
On July 4, 1776, American colonists signed the Declaration of Independence, making it clear that the American colonists wanted their sovereignty from a global empire intent on rigging the worldwide economy to favor the East India Company and its stockholders.
On June 24, 2016, the UK declared its independence from the neoliberal multinational corporatists that govern the EU and hand down economic decrees which only benefit the economic and political elite in Europe.
And now, like Bernie Sanders recently wrote in the New York Times, it's time for Democrats to wake up and come together to reject these insane corporate-managed trade deals that have wiped out the American middle class, undermined our national sovereignty, and funneled our wealth into the coffers of a handful of our corporate economic elite.
It's time for America to declare our independence again, this time from corporate trade agreements and corporate trade courts, so we can take back our economic and legal sovereignty to make our democracy and our economy once again work for the American worker and the American middle class.
Happy Independence Day!