by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
… [T]o trace the principles that animate Downton is to understand more of what drives Britons who voted Leave.
Downton Principle I: Property comes first. Really first–before freedom, equality and love. As the show opens, every character, down to the last footman, knows that the Downton estate has stayed together only because Lord Grantham in his youth took the drastic step of marrying a Cincinnati dry-goods heiress.
So precious is the accumulation of capital that the characters all accept (not agree with) the rule of “entail,” under which the entire estate must pass, part and parcel, to a male descendant, even if that means skipping the daughters of Lord Downton and handing over the mansion to a third cousin once removed. In the Downton narrative the resounding emphasis on property benefits all, leading (eventually) to justice, equality and romance: Lord Grantham long ago came to love his dry-goods lady, the beautiful Cora. And the next generation of Crawleys get to stay in their house because that third cousin in the end marries a Crawley daughter.
The EU respects no entail. Indeed, the Charter of Fundamental Rights relegates property to a status so low it would make Thomas Jefferson uncomfortable. …
… Downton Principle II: Downton (Britain) takes care of its own. When Lord Grantham ignores his own instincts and calls in a specialist rather than the family doctor to attend the birth of a grandchild, he is punished with tragedy: The specialist makes the wrong call, and the baby’s mother, Sybil, expires from complications of eclampsia.
At Downton Abbey faraway courts rate as unreliable as faraway doctors. Lord Grantham judges his valet Bates to be innocent of a charge of murder, but a British court convicts him. Later, information materializes that exonerates Bates and vindicates the patriarch.
Europe, by contrast, favors faraway law over local law, custom and regulation. A pre-Brexit-vote EU plan to ban some popular appliances, including a tea drinker’s favorite, the high-powered electric kettle, set Britons aboil.
Downton Principle III: Suspect high taxes. The unexpected death of a Downton heir triggers a tax liability so great that it jeopardizes the estate anew. Today Britain’s tax burden represents 33% of gross domestic product. Britons don’t love the idea of going to, say, 45%, France’s level.
Downton Principle IV: Look West. In this show Europe is where young men go to die or vacation; the U.S. is a source of ideas and those occasional and crucial capital infusions.