In 415 BCE, Alcibiades, a made-for-reality-TV Athenian with a lot of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in him, revved up his countrymen (the women had no say) to add Sicily to their empire. There being no checks or balances to blunt the passions of the voting demos, off they sent thousands of their finest over the objections of Nicias, a seasoned general who knew better. Few came back. Athens was never great again.
The story, as narrated by the historian Thucydides, was seared into my memory at school, the same school attended by Britain’s lame duck prime minister, David Cameron, and his bloated nemesis, Johnson. Had Cameron learnt a little Greek, he might have been slower to submit a question of no less consequence to a similarly unfiltered national plebiscite.
What moved 52% of British voters to opt for Brexit would appear to be much the same disgruntlement that has led to Trump becoming the Republican party’s de facto presidential nominee.
Happily, America does not choose its CE by referendum.