What Would Chesterton Say about Brexit?


By Michael P. McKeating, J.D. 

            People have been asking me:  “What would G.K. Chesterton say about the Brexit vote?”

            I think I can unequivocally say that he would be delighted.  He would be standing free pints of Guinness for everyone in Beaconsfield!

            G.K.  Chesterton, who lived from 1874 to 1936, was the quintessential multi-tasker.  He was a journalist, essayist, lecturer, theologian, philosopher, politician commentator, humorist, and novelist.  He was one of the greatest literary lights of the early 20th Century, having published more than 50 books and more than 10,000 articles in newspapers and journals.

            G.K. Chesterton is the inspiration behind the Chesterton Network of Schools, private high schools in the Catholic tradition that teach a classical curriculum. 

            Chesterton was a huge proponent of the “principle of subsidiarity,” the central principle of Catholic social doctrine.  Originally enunciated by Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical Rerum Novarum, reaffirmed by Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno and by John Paul II in Centesimus Annus, holds that a government of a higher level should not interfere in the internal life of a government of a lower level.  The principle of subsidiarity was the foundation of the political philosophy of Distributism, which was very popular in England between the world wars.  It’s principal prophets were authors Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton.

            Chesterton’s novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill, is widely regarded as an allegory and a metaphor for the doctrine of subsidiarity.  The Outline of Sanity (1925) was a serious work of political essays in which Chesterton preached the principle of subsidiarity.

            The “Leave” vote for Brexit was a prime example of the principle of subsidiarity in our time.  The EU had become a swollen bureaucracy of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, whose function was to micromanage the member states and control the lives of their businesses and people. 

            The Brussels bureaucrats controlled everything from the packaging of meat and the labeling of sugar, to attempting to force Catholic countries like Poland and Ireland to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage against the will of their citizens. 

            The British people finally had enough of micro-managing, pompous paper-pushers, and struck a blow for independence, sovereignty, home-rule, and subsidiarity.  The minions in Brussels are petrified that other countries might follow Britain’s example.  And well, they might.

            I think Chesterton celebrated Brexit in heaven with a big, foaming Guinness stout!