What are the other lessons of the Brexit vote?

by on June 29, 2016 at 2:14 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Political Science | Permalink

Offhand I can think of at least four.  I would suggest these as options to consider, rather than verified:

1. The comparative advantage of the largest nations is greater than before.  The UK stands relatively powerless vis-a-vis the EU, and the EU itself may be dissolving or at least weakening.  There is talk of “Nexit” for the Netherlands, yet they are far less well equipped than is the UK to go it alone without the EU.  The larger nations have long been a mess, and still are, but the smaller nations cannot coordinate as well as we thought.

2. Brexit is another example of the 1990s unraveling or being reversed.  It is hard to imagine that Brexit would have succeeded against the EU of 1985, which among other things still had border checks, Benelux aside.  So when exactly did the EU “grow too big for its britches,” at least from an English point of view?  I believe this has to be dated back to the 1990s, under Tony Blair, with a second episode coming after the boost in Eastern European migration after 2004, but the liberation of the east was ultimately a 1990s phenomenon as well.

3. Perhaps the law is so complicated, and politics now so dysfunctional, that contemporary governments just can’t handle crises any more.  Arguably the USA and UK governments spent their political capital during the financial crisis of 2008 (“trust us on these bailouts”), and they just don’t have enough left in the trust bank.  Thus we observe a near-complete paralysis of the British government, with even — especially — the opposition in complete disarray.  The existence of party discipline often feels fruitful, but it also means the lack of party discipline can lead to a crisis too readily, unlike in the United States, where there is sometimes party unity but rarely much party discipline.

4. More generally, might the Parliamentary system be worse than many people think?  I’ve seen it praised so many times in the blogosphere for its clean, swift, up or down properties.  But when there is a leadership void, it hits the legislative and executive branches together, and either before or after the void it is possible to shift very badly off course very rapidly.  There are fewer intermediate institutions or checks and balances to set things right, and as Martin Wolf noted: “36 per cent of eligible voters have been allowed to decide “without any appropriate checks and balances””.  The suddenness of the Brexit problems could not happen easily in the United States, and along a number of fronts the American system of government is looking pretty good these days.  For now.  So many trials of endurance!

We’ll see, but those are at least worth a ponder.

Risen in status: Buchanan and Tullock for The Calculus of Consent, Ben Friedman for The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.

1 Ray Lopez June 29, 2016 at 2:32 am

Risen in status: “PAT” Buchanan, the Nobel Non-Laureate.

Franky, I think having a strange neighbor is hardly reason for fright. Then again, I have several passports and several properties around the world (in three countries). Granted, the one time I saw somebody stabbing another was in Omonia square, downtown Athens (avoid, it’s where the drug dealers and users hang out), and he was from Somalia (from his look). Greek police and ambulance services were nearby but taking a break. Only what looked like a south Med tourist prevented a fatality, by distracting the slasher, and also the victim had the presence of mind to block some stabs with his briefcase and hands. Welcome to Athens.

2 ChrisA June 29, 2016 at 2:42 am

My view is that this is actually being driven by Pinkerian forces – despite the various hysteria about such things as Putinism and Islamism, they are pretty small beer compared to the existential threats of the recent past. The UK would not have dared mess up the EU relationships or left themselves so leaderless say in the in the cold war era. People take risks when they think they can.

It’s sort of like in academia where the rhetoric is most viscous where the stakes are lowest.

3 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 3:22 am

My rhetoric is very viscous. I’m fluid in English. 🙂

4 ChrisA June 29, 2016 at 3:52 am

Oops! I need an AI spell checker.

5 John June 29, 2016 at 9:44 am

Not to worry — I’m sure many hope their rhetoric is also viscous so it doesn’t simply run off the backs of their opponents papers.

6 Thiago Ribeiro June 29, 2016 at 5:58 am

“The UK would not have dared mess up the EU relationships or left themselves so leaderless say in the in the cold war era.”
Maybe, but what about the anti-EU instance pre-Major or the strikes and weak PM before Thatcher?

7 derek June 29, 2016 at 9:20 am

Probably because there was a reasonable suspicion that the Europeans were on the other side.

8 MikeDC June 29, 2016 at 10:08 am

Conversely, the EU and ruling elites probably wouldn’t have dared mess with massive transnational bureaucracy and open immigration of somewhat hostile peoples in the Cold War era.

9 JC June 29, 2016 at 10:27 am

“massive transnational bureaucracy” in EU is nothing but a urban myth, those who actually have strong relationship with EU institutions are pro Remain (business, farmers, finance sector)…

10 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 11:13 am

““massive transnational bureaucracy” in EU is nothing but a urban myth”

Of course an EU bureaucracy exists. It is transnational by definition. Is it “massive”?

Here I did a simple search of the EU Laws, Regulations, and Directives. It returned 891,546 results: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/search.html?qid=1467211890773&CASE_LAW_SUMMARY=false&DTS_DOM=ALL&excConsLeg=true&type=advanced&SUBDOM_INIT=ALL_ALL&DTS_SUBDOM=ALL_ALL

Official European Commission statistics report that about 55,000 people are employed by the EU: http://europa.eu/about-eu/facts-figures/administration/index_en.htm Lots of people point out that this is small compared to other governments of much smaller regions (e.g. the city of Birmingham employs 60,000 people, or so says the EC in their fact sheet). However, in my opinion this is a false comparison. Unlike a city, the EU is not providing a lot of direct services like teaching students, providing public housing, collecting garbage, etc.

I think the EU bureacracy is massive for an extra layer on top of all the national, regional, and local governments. This may be debatable, but it’s certainly not fair to call it an “urban legend”.

Of course people whose livelihood depends directly on EU business tended to support Remain. But that is out of special interest, not because they are knowledgeable and others are ignorant.

11 Chuck June 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Immigration started during the Cold War era. Look it up.

12 JWatts June 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

” The UK would not have dared mess up the EU relationships or left themselves so leaderless say in the in the cold war era. ”

France pulled out of NATO in 1966. But they weren’t leaderless during that time.

13 AndrewK June 29, 2016 at 2:43 am

Another thought is that the referendum itself was poorly designed.

In Australia, referendums are held to change the Constitution. A referendum only passes if it achieves a DOUBLE majority – a majority of Australian voters, and a majority of States. I assume this is to protect the people against large provincial interests overpowering other sub-jurisdictions of the country. The United Kingdom is not a strictly federal system like Australia and the US, but one would have thought they might have required a similar rule for whatever sub-jurisdictions they have.

14 ChrisA June 29, 2016 at 3:01 am

It could easily have gone the other way – Scotland could have kept the rest of the UK in the EU. That would be irony squared.

15 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 3:05 am

Requiring more than a simple majority for major changes is a good concept, but it only makes sense if there was an equally high bar for adopting the system in the first place.

In this case, Britain joined the EU without the public even getting a direct vote on it. (There was a referendum on the EEC, a very different question, way back in 1975). Allowing entry based on the decision of political leaders, but then placing additional barriers to leaving, would simply stack the deck in a particular direction.

16 Ricardo June 29, 2016 at 5:41 am

“Allowing entry based on the decision of political leaders, but then placing additional barriers to leaving, would simply stack the deck in a particular direction.”

The deck is stacked in the direction of policies favored by a majority of the country’s elected representatives, the same way it is for all sorts of other incredibly important, life-altering policy choices. The question of EU membership is one of only three policy questions in the history of the U.K. that has been subject to a direct popular vote.

17 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:43 am

The question of EU membership is one of only three policy questions in the history of the U.K. that has been subject to a direct popular vote.

Since the EU is a threat to the sovereignty of its member states, that’s perfectly appropriate.

While we’re at it, there are provisions for referenda in the French and Italian constitutions, so you’ll have to dream up another bit of pettifoggery if they vote to leave the EU.

18 ad June 29, 2016 at 1:46 pm

The question of EU membership is one of only three policy questions in the history of the U.K. that has been subject to a direct popular vote.

There have been three such votes in the last five years. One on changes to the voting system, one on the union between Scotland and the UK, and one on the EU. I’d hardly call that rare.

19 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:46 am

Requiring more than a simple majority for major changes is a good concept,

It’s only a good concept regarding political architecture and rules of competition and deliberation.

20 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 3:15 am

Using the nations of the UK would be untenable, since over 80% of the UK population is in England.

21 Lord June 29, 2016 at 10:31 am

For all the benefits of parliamentary government, majority rule makes it easy to get things done, .. and undone. When it is more difficult to get things done, it is also more difficult to undo them, which leads to less flexibility but greater stability. A greater majority means fewer parties though as it becomes too difficult to coordinate coalitions and weakens smaller ones more.

22 Agra Brum June 29, 2016 at 8:55 pm

The referendum was wholly a creature devised by the Conservative Party – which Cameron thought would give him control over Euro-skpetic back benchers. He could have designed it any way he wanted. In his arrogance, he did not stack the deck. He could have easily required a majority in each subdivision – Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England. Then, the vote of 52/48 could have been acknowledged as the protest vote that it was, but “Brexit” still would have failed.

23 Laurence COPELAND June 29, 2016 at 2:46 am

re weaknesses of the Parliamentary System, the House of Commons could, if it wanted, have specified a 60% or 75% threshold for the referendum vote. There is no tradition of such minimum thresholds in UK – but then referenda are a relatively new idea in UK anyway. I guess Cameron was just overconfident. I suspect it’s the way you get when you grow up with his privileges

24 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 3:07 am

But in either case, it was simply a decision of parliament (the referendum isn’t actually legally binding; parliament just decided to have a referendum and then implement whatever the public voted). So the point that sudden, major shifts can happen too easily in a parliamentary system doesn’t really change.

25 passingby June 29, 2016 at 7:04 am

Not true. The Scottish devolution referendum in 1979 not only had a minimum threshold, but one that applied — Scotland voted ‘Yes’ but turnout was too low to make it count.

26 Sam the Sham June 29, 2016 at 7:36 am

I would agree that this is an excellent opportunity to look at how to make functioning democracies. You can’t just slap the Democratic label on something and be done with it – Democratic Republic of the Congo and People’s Republic of China, sure, whatever.

*With such large scale decisions, the people MUST be involved. If it were left to Parliament only, Britain would never have left. And furthermore, I do think that more than a simple majority should be required for major decisions. (That being said, a simple majority of the people was not required to join in the first place, so I think this particular instance is fair). The requirements for a decision should be increased the larger the stakes and the longer the timeframe until a revote – for just a 4-year President, a simple majority is just fine.

*Already there are whines for a re-vote until “Britain gets it right”. That’s bogus. I do feel like a recall or revote should be allowed in extraordinary circumstances, like massive fraud or meteor strike wiping out France. Otherwise, re-voting should have a cooldown timer on it. If Brexit failed, and I’m in favor of Brexit, I would want a revote, but in ~5 years. And I think that all treaties and laws should have to be voted upon every 25 years, to validate their worth. Each generation can reaffirm their commitment to a cause or to a law, and would never feel trapped by it. I think that eliminating Article 50 from the Lisbon Treaty will justifiably make members of the EU feel trapped, even if they’re trapped in a good thing.

*The EU has a fundamentally broken and undemocratic constitution. Britain’s or the US’s isn’t perfect either, but both are better by a long shot. If the only way to get the EU to seriously consider revising its constitution is to threaten its existence… well, then there is nothing stopping the EU from collapsing. Sorry. At least the US Constitution has an Amendment process, although I think our politics have gotten so toxic that amendments will never happen. Our Constitution needs to be able to adapt to the times, and I don’t think it CAN anymore. And I’d actually point to Amendment 12 as something that led to this faulty wiring. Assuming that’s true, even little things in an otherwise excellent Constitution can bring down otherwise robust republics, over time.

27 John June 29, 2016 at 9:50 am

“I think that all treaties and laws should have to be voted upon every 25 years, to validate their worth”

I agree but also suspect that 25 years is too long for much legislation — and I’d include some option forgeneral common law processes to revserse legislation though clearly getting that right is problematic.

28 JC June 29, 2016 at 10:38 am

I’m with Merkel. They should go ahead with Brexit, they will learn and push for a comeback because people will demand that and some leader, down the road, fighting for him own political interests (like Cameron did)will commit to a new referendum on EU membership during some general elections campaign, they must do it because Scotland will not calm down until they get their “European Union” passports.

UK must experience this.

29 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:55 am

I suspect it’s the way you get when you grow up with his privileges

He grew up in a moneyed family. Presumably the Eton connection opened some doors. What job did he ever receive because his relatives pulled strings for him?

30 Joe Torben June 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

What part of “Eton” doesn’t include “growing up with (…) privileges”?

31 Jackart June 29, 2016 at 2:54 am

The problem isn’t parliamentary democracy. Without the risible principle of letting self-selected selectorates of party members choose leaders, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Get rid of internal party “democracy” and the problem goes away on both sides of the pond.

32 Hding June 29, 2016 at 2:56 am

“Remain to win, by over 10 points.”

You do not know what you are talking about.

33 Maybe it's just me... June 29, 2016 at 6:05 am

People talk too much about the Mormons nowadays, but how much most of us really know about their theology? Sorry, but it is how I feel.

34 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 8:40 am

You have failed the non-ideological Turing Test.

35 Maybe it's just me... June 29, 2016 at 9:57 am

There is never money around to help people, but there is always money enough for wars and weapons. Sorry, but it’s how I feel.

36 IVV June 29, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Hey, you’re changing up your “Sorry” sentence! First no ellipsis, now a contraction half the time! Clever little bot.

37 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 3:20 am

I don’t see how your point applies to the American primary system, where anyone is able to vote in the primary simply by listing the appropriate party registration (at most–not even that in open primary states).

It is a significant issue in UK politics, though.

38 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:47 am

Who else do you fancy should pick party leaders? Foreign ambassadors?

39 Mark Thorson June 29, 2016 at 2:56 am

Let’s put it to a vote. Abolish money.

40 carlolspln June 29, 2016 at 2:57 am
41 Bill Sutton June 29, 2016 at 3:27 am

Ironically, until very recently, if the Prime Minister resigned the monarch – the Head of State – would take appropriate advice and appoint a new Prime Minister, all within a few days. That’s exactly what happened in May, 1940 when Chamberlain resigned and King Gorge VI, after a short period of consultation, appointed Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. It might not sound very democratic but it did avoid what we have today. Imagine what would have happened in 1940 if we’d had several months of a political/leadership vacuum in the middle of an existential crisis! (Yes, I know, bringing up both Winston Churchill and the Nazis in any argument is a bad idea, but I couldn’t resist it).

42 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:28 am

The Queen retains the authority to appoint a PM. They’re all royal appointments. It’s just the Conservative Party has a different method for selecting its leadership than was the case in 1940 or 1957.

The ‘leadership vacuum’ is a non-problem.

43 Rguest4T June 29, 2016 at 8:12 am

But hadn’t Chamberlain indicated Churchill to the King as the only name capable of uniting the country when he resigned? — evidently he could have been toppled by the Conservatives if they wanted it, like they did to Thatcher.

44 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 8:19 am

No, he preferred Lord Halifax.

45 Memnon June 29, 2016 at 3:38 am

Brexit might lead to a rise in status for chess masters, if Angela Eagle, current front-runner to replace Jeremy Corbyn, does a good job of it. “Eagle, who was the under-18s national chess champion, is now being positioned against Corbyn who once described his shadow cabinet appointments as a game of multi-dimensional chess. Her biggest political challenge yet will be whether the party leader who refused to play the game can still be outmanoeuvred.” http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/28/angela-eagle-is-an-early-favourite-to-challenge-jeremy-corbyn

46 Ray Lopez June 29, 2016 at 8:46 am

+1. Add Angela Eagle to the list of high IQ public figures who play chess, like our host TC.

47 TomG June 29, 2016 at 3:57 am

The biggest problem is the lack of economic growth for the solid, responsible, middle & lower middle class citizen workers. “Credentialed” elites are usually legally protected from competition, securing their economic advancement, yet calling for “free trade” competition for the much much poorer workers; such free trade net benefiting the elites far more than most workers.

Perhaps the need for conservative elites to reevaluate their semi-hypocritical support for free trade (competition between poor workers) has already been covered. But this is a winning issue in OECD democracies. So the party that wants to win will be adopting it.

It would be nice if high taxes and excess regulations were more identified as the causes of low growth, and were thus attacked and reduced, but this lesson seems much weaker, tho the excess number of EU regulations were certainly increasing the irritation of the voters against the EU.

48 jim jones June 29, 2016 at 4:00 am

My view is that the Internet has caused the legacy media to lose control of the narrative. People can now communicate directly with each other and see that they are not alone in their opinions.

49 anon June 29, 2016 at 7:28 am

Did you hear the one about people who believe they are being followed? In the past they were told that no one is being followed, to seek psychological help. Now they have connected. They know other people are being followed too. They no longer need help, they have a cause .. uncovering the conspiracy.

The internet is grand, but not without risk.

50 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 8:31 am

+1, very good comment.

51 Brian Donohue June 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Yeah, +1 anon.

52 dearieme June 29, 2016 at 4:47 am

” “36 per cent of eligible voters have been allowed to decide “without any appropriate checks and balances””. In the abstract, who could object to that? But it’s not in the abstract, of course, it’s a loser bleating about the result.

The Remain cause was so weak that even with inertia on its side, the whole Establishment backing Project Fear, and the handy assassination of an MP, the buggers still couldn’t win.

53 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 7:06 am

I’m sorry, what? – ‘the handy assassination of an MP’

Are you suggesting that the Remain voters were just too incompetent and unprepared to capitalize on their own Reichstag fire? Or is it the other way round – it was handy for a MP to be assassinated by someone so devoted to their belief that England for the English is the only way to preserve the Fatherland – oops, sorry about that, comes from living in Germany – ‘This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England’ from vermin that people will realize that no traitor to the UK is safe?

54 derek June 29, 2016 at 8:18 am

I suspect that the lack of response to the assassination has the remain side the most nervous. In every rule book being able to paint your opposition as radical and dangerous means certain victory. But it didn’t work. A woman, with children, Labour (Labour really cares about you unless you are white and female), the shooter spouting off the more rough leave side slogans.

Anyone who has hit the brakes in their car and nothing happened knows the feeling of panic and lots of control. Every lever, every tool, every argument, everything was and still is available, but it doesn’t work.

No matter the side one is on, it is unusual and very unsettling. None of this was supposed to happen.

Tyler is wrong about the stability of type of government. Centralized rigid control has always seemed stable until it collapses. Democracy is a tidy way of hanging without the corpses. Stability is the result of something, not something established. Cameron getting his teeth kicked in its a good thing, as well as Labour being forced to confront their disappearance. Parliamentary systems can reconstitute a government at any time, and a new one elected if required.

55 Adrian Turcu June 29, 2016 at 4:58 am

“36 per cent of eligible voters have been allowed to decide “without any appropriate checks and balances”
But isn’t that true of the accession process? Indeed, of most democratic decisions? How many people in the US voted for ACA?

56 A B June 29, 2016 at 6:19 am

That number is higher than any percentage of eligible voters who chose our President in the last 100 years, including Roosevelt vs Landon. That Martin Wolf threw in such a spurious statistic seems emotional.

57 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 6:47 am

The moderator endorses the emotion. It’s another example, in case we needed one, of how professional-managerial types react when they do not get what they want in public policy.

58 Alain June 29, 2016 at 10:29 am

Seems emotional?

Of course it is entirely emotional. The authoritarian liberals did not get their way and they are throwing a very loud, very public, temper tantrum.

59 Agra Brum June 29, 2016 at 8:58 pm

For the ACA, if looked at as the members of the House (at least a majority), Senate (at 60 votes, a supermajority) and Presidency, at 53% of the voting electorate a clear majority (or 365 electoral college supermajority), it had clear support.
Of course, the United States is a Republic.

60 Aidan June 29, 2016 at 5:00 am

What about “The EU is on its way to becoming something like the United States, and thereby better suited to the contemporary world. The UK were the single biggest break on that aim and now they will have a much more limited ability to block it”?

61 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 6:58 am

Nah, that goes against too many of the narratives Prof. Cowen has to keep juggling to ensure that the rich keep getting richer, for the benefit of the rest of us.

62 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 7:40 am

Not to mention going against reality. There was no chance of the EU becoming a single, federal nation in the foreseeable future. None of the member states are interested in a sacrifice of national identity and sovereignty to the extent required for that.

63 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 6:41 am

yet they are far less well equipped than is the UK to go it alone without the EU.

Rubbish. Switzerland and Norway do quite nicely, and the Netherlands is more populous. The problem would be the root canal of replacing the Euro with a revived Guilder, which would require a bank holiday and exchange controls for an interim period.

64 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 6:56 am

‘Switzerland and Norway do quite nicely’

Well, apart from not having any say in EU policy – or the contributions they must make to the EU – they must accept to retain access to the EU common market. That’s right, in British leave voter terms, the Swiss and Norwegians are mere vassals – or is that satrapies? – of Brussels. But you’re right – they do quite nicely accepting a number of things that the British leave voters rejected.

Though the Swiss keep having their problems with the euro, the Norwegians, as oil exporters, pretty much don’t care.

65 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:31 am

– they must accept to retain access to the EU common market.

You mean there will be a trade embargo on them if they don’t toe the line? Earth to prior_approval, the common external tariff averages 0.8%, i.e. diddly / squat. The U.S. and Canada manage to export to the EU.

66 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 7:41 am

A party to a mutual, voluntary trade agreement is not a “vassal”. Good grief.

67 Pshrnk June 29, 2016 at 9:46 am

+1

68 Ricardo June 29, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Yes, instead of being told what to do by EU bureaucrats in Brussels, Norway is instead… told what to do by “EFTA Surveillance Authority” bureaucrats who also just happen to be based in Brussels and who enforce and administer the EU’s single market rules and regulations.

69 Urso June 29, 2016 at 10:55 am

This weeklong temper tantrum has proven most entertaining.

70 Ricardo June 29, 2016 at 7:03 am

Also, Switzerland and Norway are both Schengen member countries. If countries want to exit the EU but remain in the Schengen zone and/or on the Euro, one wonders what the point is.

71 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:34 am

Ricardo, see that place in the Antipodes called ‘New Zealand’? It’s as affluent as Spain (with a better labor market), has a full portfolio of research universities, medical institutions, and domestic financial markets, and it has a population just north of 4 million with a core city of about 1.2 million. It’s not a member of the Schengen area. It does all right.

Prior_approval’s remarks all incorporate his revenge fantasies. None of this babble about ‘x has to do this if they want ‘access’ to the EU market’ makes any sense unless there is an administered trade embargo.

72 Ricardo June 29, 2016 at 11:15 am

New Zealand enjoys free labor mobility with Australia and duty free trade with Australia. Moreover, New Zealand’s deals with Australia seem to be evolving in the direction of a customs union and completely borderless travel with Australia. The Benelux Union and the Nordic Council predate the EU. Etc.

The bottom line is that small, rich countries almost uniformly find it to be in their national interest to sign deals giving them free movement of goods and labor with neighboring countries and none of the countries you have mentioned are exceptions to this tendency. An institution like the EU is a very formal, rules-based system for this sort of relationship but it is also likely to give small countries more say and influence over trade deals with the outside world and over the uniform standards the union follows. If small countries want out of these sorts of relationships and if the EU eventually collapses, so be it, but the likely outcome in the long-term after a period of uncertainty and turmoil in financial markets is something that looks like the EU, quacks like the EU but is called something different. This will in turn lead to another round of bitching and complaining by populists that they have been snookered and sold out once again by credentialed, globalized elites. And the cycle may continue.

73 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 3:12 pm

The common external tariff levied by the EU is variable but averages 0.8%. That’s close enough to ‘duty free’. New Zealand’s affluence has not been built on a remittance economy.

An institution like the EU is a very formal, rules-based system for this sort of relationship but it is also likely to give small countries more say and influence over trade deals

It allows an impregnable bureaucratic institution, the European Commission, to impose legislation on member states. It allowed one dumb politician, Angela Merkel, to generate a migration disaster for Europe’s small countries. Under it’s aegis, the Euro was instituted, a disaster for a number of countries.

74 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 3:13 pm

The bottom line is that small, rich countries almost uniformly find it to be in their national interest

Something which can be done with less fuss through bilateral agreement.

75 Ricardo June 29, 2016 at 10:21 pm

“The common external tariff levied by the EU is variable but averages 0.8%.”

You keep on citing this figure but the common market along with many other modern trade deals focus as much if not more on reducing non-tariff barriers which, by definition, are not accounted for in your 0.8% figure.

76 Art Deco June 30, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Somehow, some way, 1.7 tn Euros worth of imports make it past those non-tariff barriers and into the EU every year, or a sum equal to 11% of the EU’s nominal domestic product.

77 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 6:41 am

‘Thus we observe a near-complete paralysis of the British government, with even — especially — the opposition in complete disarray.’

What do you mean? The Liberal Democrats have laid out a clear pro-EU program for the next general election, and the SNP seems to be arraying itself (so to speak) quite well. Labour is a mess, but apparently the only time Labour is not a mess is when it is toeing a Tory-lite line.

‘More generally, might the Parliamentary system be worse than many people think? ‘

No more tears for the liberty that Parliament represents the next time you land at Heathrow?

78 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:36 am

The Liberal Democrats have laid out a clear pro-EU program

Antecendents of the Liberal Democratic Party last formed a ministry in 1918, so sounds like a plan.

79 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 8:21 am

Sombody not remembering which party allowed Cameron to become prime minister in the first place?

80 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

Somebody not remembering who was the junior partner who lost 90% of their seats last year?

81 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 7:45 am

All two of the Liberal Democrats have a clear plan? Great.

82 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 8:23 am

Well, fair enough – after allowing Cameron and the Tories to take power, they got wiped out at the polls the second time around.

And it is a fair point to ask why anyone should have anything to do with anyone that allowed Cameron to gain power, making the Liberal Democrats a bit suspect.

83 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 9:04 am

And it is a fair point to ask why anyone should have anything to do with anyone that allowed Cameron to gain power,

Well, enough British voters have been willing to have something to do with the Conservative Party that Cameron was handed a majority ministry last year. People who don’t live in Pauline Kael’s ‘special world’ know that.

84 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 6:43 am

Perhaps the law is so complicated, and politics now so dysfunctional, that contemporary governments just can’t handle crises any more.

You’ve confused Britain with Belgium. As for the Arab flash mobs, it’s not that they cannot handle it, it’s that they will not.

85 josh June 29, 2016 at 6:44 am

Is there any precedent in all of history that would make anyone suspect the EU was a good idea?

86 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 6:57 am

World War II?

87 Josh June 29, 2016 at 7:13 am

wwii was largely the blowback from an attempt to form a kind of European Union, wasn’t it?

In any case, that’s not positive precedent for a union as a way of preventing future wars. In fact, it seems downright absurd when you think about it. Wars are the result of conflicts between neighbors over control of disputed resources. A single government just puts more resources in common and this more in dispute. This will inevitably lead to more conflict unless ethnic and national identities are surprised via the classic totalitarian methods of mass population transfers and censorship of public expression. Even if you are okay with totalitarian means to some utopian end, is there any precedent in all of history that suggests that it will actually work?

88 Thiago Ribeiro June 29, 2016 at 7:31 am

I tried to surprise ethnic and national identities with flowers, but she wanted chocolates instead. True story.

89 Josh June 29, 2016 at 7:36 am

Damn you, autocorrect!

90 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 8:20 am

WWI was not about attempting to form something like the EU, and WWII was blowback from WWI.

‘In fact, it seems downright absurd when you think about it.’

Well, unless one has any familarity with European history – not to mention seeing how the Cold War turned out, without turning hot anywhere except in Yugoslavia (if one considers the Cold War to have ended when the Soviet Union did, or thereabouts).

91 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 9:05 am

Conceived of as a response to the 1st or the 2d World War, the EU was non sequitur.

92 Josh June 29, 2016 at 10:11 am

Wwi was about creating a new international order epitomized by the League of Nations and the bank of international settlements. the Cold War has millions of casualties, though how that is an argument for or against the e.u. I do not see.

93 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 11:04 am

The Cold War had few casualties. Social conflict in peripheral countries had many casualties. The Cold War provided frames of reference and external influences, but it did not generate the conflicts.

94 Josh June 29, 2016 at 11:09 am

Are we counting c.i.a. Black budget proxy wars?

95 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 3:07 pm

The only thing that might qualify would be the contra insurrection in Nicaragua. That was still derived from social and political conflict within Nicaragua. The CIA supplied the funds, disaffected peasants the troops, and various parties (disaffected Sandinistas, old National Guardsmen) the officer corps.

96 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly June 29, 2016 at 11:04 am

The Habsburg dynasty did alright for itself for awhile there.

97 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 6:45 am

and as Martin Wolf noted: “36 per cent of eligible voters have been allowed to decide “without any appropriate checks and balances””.

You lost. Suck it up.

98 Tarrou June 29, 2016 at 7:05 am

Economics misses the point. What we have seen here is the sting of the “racist” epithet dropping below the threshold for a majority of voting britons. For sixty years, it has been a silver bullet, but its effectiveness is flagging.

I, for one, hope that the use of this vile tactic to silence reasonable opposition on everything from immigration levels to tax rates will not create in its backlash a shelter for actually racist politics. But I’m not sanguine on the odds.

There is an old chinese tale of a general whose army was late to meet up with the emperor. He asked his second “what is the penalty for being late?” “Death, sir”. “And the penalty for treason?”. “Death”. And so began the rebellion. “What is the penalty for supporting a marginal tax cut?” “Racism, sir”………..

99 anon June 29, 2016 at 7:52 am

We have seen it in these pages at least, “if you call me a racist, that is a badge of honor in the fight against state socialism.”

Not really. The fight against state socialism can be framed in race neutral terms. Social dysfunction can be discussed in race neutral terms. So too crime and the underclass. But if you are going to the well on “inferiority” then you are actually a racist.

Sadly now though racism gets more cover, from people who while denying racism ultimately consider the movement their own, their side. If a “scientific” argument about racial inferiority seems to oppose the motives of the state, it is at least for the moment “good.”

100 derek June 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

No it can’t. Because the argument cannot be won on any other terms.

There are lots of really really unpleasant realities that challenge the basic beliefs of the globalist multiculturalists. The best way to prevent even a hint that they even exist is to scream racism at anyone who dares bring it up. It has been extraordinarily successful.

The people who used that as a lever of power are directly responsible for the rise of illiberal movements. Come the revolution they will be the first up against the wall.

More seriously, they have created a vacuum where there exists nothing except their delusional unicorns or the hard and nasty. Their effective opposition is no longer those who dive under the furniture at an accusation of racism, but a rather vigorous bunch whose livelihood and self respect grows rather than is threatened by being excluded from polite society.

101 anon June 29, 2016 at 9:21 am

What can’t? You think anti-socialism cannot be argued purely on efficiency? I’d think that is the strongest case. Without individual reward in a market setting, societies cease optimizing, they drift off into subsidy for lost visions of the past. They end up with Amtrak, not as a token effort, but as all Amtrak all the time.

102 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 11:08 am

Initially framing it in race-neutral terms doesn’t prevent an accusation of racism in response. It could go like:

That kind of society may have a disparate impact on some minority groups. You would be advocating for such a result, while being aware of that result. Perhaps this is because you don’t like those minority groups? Probably. Therefore your anti-socialism is racist, and you are a racist.

I’ve certainly witnessed such lines of argument with regards to welfare programs.

103 anon June 29, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Probably, but “ok fine, I’m a racist” isn’t the most constructive answer. Better to make the appeal to individual initiative or whatever.

104 Brian Donohue June 29, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell have effectively articulated why capitalism is better for minorities. History is littered with examples of anti-capitalist laws that target minorities as economic competitors, the history of the minimum wage movement in this country being a good example.

105 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 3:04 pm

When you say ‘capitalism’, I think you mean ‘free enterprise’. Separation of finance, management, and ownership and private capital can co-exist with corporatist and mercantilist systems.

106 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly June 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

The fight against state socialism can be framed in race neutral terms

Only to the extent the argument for state socialism is framed in race neutral terms.

107 anon June 29, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Given that state socialism has been tried around the world with every possible race on top, it probably is race neutral.

108 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly June 29, 2016 at 3:47 pm

It needn’t been cast in racial terms, but that doesn’t prevent it from being so.

109 Bill June 29, 2016 at 7:21 am

As the EU departs from England,

And boards its robbins blue helicopter,

It will be heard to say:

“You will not have the EU to kick around anymore.”

Free at last, Oh, Free at last.

110 Rich Berger June 29, 2016 at 7:29 am

“The suddenness of the Brexit problems could not happen easily in the United States, and along a number of fronts the American system of government is looking pretty good these days. For now.”

I am guessing Tyler has been traveling too much to observe the brazen disdain for the law and truth which has been the hallmark of the Obama regime. From the massive run up in spending with the failed stimulus to the imposition of Obamacare with its by any means necessary approach to its actual provisions, to his imperial immigration fiats, the law is what Obama says it is. The American system of law and limited government has been under attack for a hundred years, by progressives who want to finish the job off.

111 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 7:38 am

No Like David Brooks, he’s distracted by the pants creases.

112 Rich Berger June 29, 2016 at 7:49 am

I’d like to think you’re wrong and TC is far more perceptive than Brooks, but he has quoted Brooks approvingly on a number of occasions. There is a strong fellow-feeling among the members of the intellectual guild (especially if their writings appear in the NYT) and they share a worldview.

I invite TC to step outside that world and start reading other than the NYT, the WaPo and the Guardian.

113 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 8:01 am

He won’t. The Mercatus crew are manifestations of faculty culture at GMU. It’s a less antic place than the University of Missouri or Duke, but that’s about all you can say. An older generation of libertarians (Gottfried Dietze, Richard Epstein) were not such capons.

114 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 8:12 am

‘The Mercatus crew are manifestations of faculty culture at GMU.’

Econ dept faculty, along with the whole law and economics crew at GMU.

Leaving aside the fact that many Mercatus funded researchers (such clever wording there too) are not GMU faculty members to begin with.

115 prior_test3 June 29, 2016 at 8:13 am

Testing the latest iteration –

‘The Mercatus crew are manifestations of faculty culture at GMU.’

Econ dept faculty, along with the whole law and economics crew at GMU.

Leaving aside the fact that many Mercatus funded researchers (such clever wording there too) are not GMU faculty members to begin with.

116 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 8:15 am

Well, there does seem to be some lag in posting (compared to the normal process of merely having comments not appear, for example if certain terms are used) – sorry about the confusion.

117 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 8:17 am

Econ dept faculty, along with the whole law and economics crew at GMU.

They canned you 30 years ago and you’re too disoriented to make sense of much even if you were still employed there.

118 prior_test2 June 29, 2016 at 12:13 pm

‘They canned you 30 years ago’

Actually, I quit 24 years ago, to move to Germany – and kept up with various GMU friends (I was staff, never faculty for those interested) for the next couple of decades (several have died or retired in the past 5 years).

On the other hand, it isn’t as if a number of GMU ‘experts’ haven’t managed to insert themselves into public debate in a way that people use to cynically dismiss even in the last decade. Well, those who remained so out of touch they thought reason would triumph over PR. Check out MRU – a fine example of what just two GMU econ professors can do with youtube and a $4 app, and one I have mocked as a fantasy story since its original presentation to the public. It really isn’t that hard to keep up when one is fully familiar with how the GMU game is played – they really haven’t changed that much in the last couple of decades, after all.

They aren’t exactly lazy – but they were bought decades ago, as I’m sure you would agree.

119 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Actually, I quit 24 years ago,

And you’ve spent a generation being steamed about it.

120 John L. June 29, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Is the Völkischer Beobachter still in business?

121 anon June 29, 2016 at 8:10 am

This argument would have more strength if it were set in the historical context, with the deep history of executive power and the courts.

Because whenever it as framed as something sudden, new, and Obama, it makes me think your depth of knowledge is that of a half-deaf old man subsisting on Fox News.

I’ll take Japanese Internment for $300, Alex.

122 derek June 29, 2016 at 9:09 am

Fox News. FOX NEWS? Wow you won that argument.

123 anon June 29, 2016 at 9:24 am

I think I did, if you could not focus attention for a few seconds on “the historical context, with the deep history of executive power and the courts” and “Japanese Internment.”

Good God, man. A President of the United States just ordered citizens to be put behind barbed wire, and Americans did it. Compared to that what exactly is some Obama rule that illegal mothers should stay with their children?

124 Rich Berger June 29, 2016 at 10:19 am

Thanks for making my point clearer. The man who put the Japanese in camps was the greatest progressive force for dissolution of the American experiment in limited government and freedom.

You should have reread my comment before making a fool of yourself.

125 anon June 29, 2016 at 10:42 am

Funny, I was going to go with Lincoln but I thought the more recent suspension of civil liberties would be more convincing. Anyway:

“Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do…Order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be free.”

But then perhaps you’ll call that Progressive too …

126 Thomas June 29, 2016 at 9:33 am

You racist. It’s 2016.

127 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 11:14 am

Yes, Obama is just the continuation of the trend. Partisans on both sides have been justifying the expansion of Executive Power when their guy has been in Office for a long time now.

However, I think that some on the Democratic side have become convinced that they will basically retain the Presidency eternally due to demographic changes, while Congress may remain in complete or partial Republican hands because of gerrymandering or the undemocratic selection of the Senate. This has made them even more open to the idea of achieving their desired policy ends through Executive action than they would normally be when their guy is in power. I believe this is a dangerous development.

128 anon June 29, 2016 at 12:29 pm

I think modern presidents are well-versed enough in history to know that what matters is what is acceptable in the times, and that while Presidents can get away with a bit more in wars, they don’t have free reign, and when peace returns, less so.

Nixon resigned because he overplayed his hand.

129 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 3:00 pm

No, Nixon resigned because he was due to be removed from office by Congress with the co-operation of a fat slice of the Republican caucus. Among the caucus leaders telling him to go in print were John Anderson, John Rhodes, and Barber Conable. The Senate Minority whip was already planning a Ford Administration on the QT.

Nixon was humiliated by the Democratic legal establishment, Democratic congressional committees, and the Washington Post. It would not happen today because the threshhold for abuse of power is a great deal higher and the media, the Democratic congressional caucus, and Eric Holder’s Department of Lawfare lack the integrity to hold their own accountable and, in fact, run interference for them..

130 John L. June 29, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Hahaha. Yeah, the “massive run up in spending” and the respect for American institutions (habeas corpus for example) is what sets Obama and George W. Bush apart…

131 Matthew Moore June 29, 2016 at 7:29 am

‘ against the EU of 1985, which among other things still had border checks, ‘

1) the EU did not exist in 1985. It was created from the EC in 1993 by the Maastricht Treaty.

2) thw UK was never member of the Schengen zone of borderless travel, and non-EU members were.

132 Marilyn Crawford June 29, 2016 at 8:01 am

Having lived in the UK in the ’90’s it was obvious that parliamentary systems are much less democratic than our US system. You simply cannot get your ‘hands’ on your representatives who do not represent the voter but the party. Labour has lost its reason for existing and has abandoned the working man in favor of the immigrant. You add millions of people to a county without adding to the infrastructure and people get fed up. I think you are correct that 2008 has really taken people’s trust away.

133 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 8:16 am
134 anon June 29, 2016 at 8:32 am

America has suffered a “revenge of the C students.” Don’t like an answer from the State Department or NASA? They probably got B’s, the insufferable snobs.

It really comes down to who you want to trust, the C students, or God help us, someone who got an A.

135 derek June 29, 2016 at 9:13 am

I trust someone who has the business end of a shotgun poked beneath their ear. Mine, as a matter of fact. Then I trust them that they will make a decision, a wise decision on my behalf.

If you trust that a high mark from a university has any connection to the wisdom and rightness of the decisions that person would make, you sir are a blithering idiot.

136 anon June 29, 2016 at 9:27 am

I say NASA, you say you will wave your shotgun. Good God, again.

137 Thomas June 29, 2016 at 9:36 am

Bitter clingers to guns and religion. Don’t they know Obama had an LSAT score that would have earned a white man a spot at a tier 2 school????

138 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 9:17 am

1. The ‘A’ students have reliably bad judgment on normative questions.

2. James Traub writes copy for a living. That’s been his job for 40 years. He has no expertise. He knows what the people on his rolodex tell him. There’s no indication that he has the tools for any kind of critical engagement with the subject matter (unlike, say, Megan McArdle).

3. What are the losses to Britain? Unless there’s an administered trade embargo, Britain gets hit with some unimportant tariffs. Some British expats on the continent may have trouble with immigration authorities. The welfare benefits from trade in labor are small and have unsightly distributional implications.

4. The smart money says James Traub hasn’t a clue about the numbers and is just striking the poses of his class.

139 anon June 29, 2016 at 9:29 am

I think you are attempting confusion with your 4 redirections.

The truth is, you are fronting for derek, and “my shotgun in your ear” level thinking.

140 Thomas June 29, 2016 at 9:38 am

“People with poor grades and standardized test scores don’t deserve a voice unless they are minorities.”

141 anon June 29, 2016 at 10:12 am

There is a difference between having a voice and setting a policy. Stupid people should have a voice, but that does not mean we should have stupid policy.

142 HL June 29, 2016 at 10:20 am

What’s the point of having a voice?

143 anon June 29, 2016 at 10:24 am

I am forthright about the opinions I have confidence in, but I am actually silent on many more where I don’t think I have talent or expertise. My “voice” is that the CDC should make appropriate, but not excess, preparation for flu pandemic. I trust them to figure that out. What do you do?

144 HL June 29, 2016 at 10:40 am

“We should have appropriate regulations, you guys know what you’re doing, have at it. Thanks for hearing me out!”

Oil Industry: “Yes sir, it has been a pleasure serving you.”

Banking Industry: “Sounds good, you don’t have to worry about a thing. We got this bro.”

Housing Industry: “Thank you for trusting us, you’re in good hands.”

Healthcare Industry: “We have your back common man, you’ll do just fine with what we have in mind.”

Education Industry: “The future are our children and with the new tools we’ve developed we’ll more prepared than ever. Thank you for enabling a greater future for all.”

Defense Industry: “We do this for you and appreciate the faith you put into us. Teamwork makes the dream work, always remember that buddy.”

145 anon June 29, 2016 at 10:43 am

So HL, you believe we can have no expertise without capture. That put’s us in a pretty good bind then doesn’t it?

Stupidity is the only protection?

146 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 10:53 am

I think you are attempting confusion with your 4 redirections.

No, you are confused. My points are not confusing.

147 HL June 29, 2016 at 10:55 am

Assuming one believes these priors (current experts are prone to capture and/or are not acting with the people’s benefit in mind) and in such a bind is it “stupid” to vote in a manner which nominally reduces the elites ability to do so?

148 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 10:58 am

The truth is, you are fronting for derek,

No clue who derek is, other than he’s a handle here, and no general sense of what he advocates.

You’re under the illusion that the Brexit vote concerned matters that can be resolved by expertise. They cannot. In any case, James Traub is not a carrier of expertise.

149 anon June 29, 2016 at 12:35 pm

I think the domain experts were right that there would be an economic cost to Brexit.

Did lay voters fully weight that expert opinion?

150 HL June 29, 2016 at 2:03 pm

The FTSE 100 has already recovered and the FTSE 250 is above February lows, so it has been as much of a shock to the market as the oil glut had been. The oil glut had markets globally panicked yet there’s no doubt it benefits consumers. What’s good for the stock market and the financiers aren’t necessarily what’s good for the average Briton.

In regards to the currency devaluation it is exactly that which other countries in the EU would love to do and that other countries do all the time depending on their current situation and goals. Having the ability to do that is priceless.

Mark Blyth has some good observations regarding this and the circumstances of the Euro.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGvZil0qWPg

151 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

I think the domain experts were right that there would be an economic cost to Brexit.

Four days of stock market flux? Unimportant present-tense welfare losses from less immigration? The ‘domain experts’ cannot tell you what it’s worth to you nor compile a coherent argument as to what it should be worth.

152 prognostication June 29, 2016 at 4:33 pm

GBP is at $1.34 and several firms have announced intentions to pull non-trivial numbers of white-collar jobs out of London while several others have said they are considering doing so. Let’s not put all of our eggs in the FTSE basket, eh?

153 HL June 29, 2016 at 9:43 am

Time to have a national discourse on grade inflation.

154 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 11:32 am

If I have better grades and standardized test scores and/or IQ than you, are you going to trust my intelligence and wisdom, and adopt my expert views on the world?

155 anon June 29, 2016 at 12:33 pm

I do that every time I go to the doctor, possibly even trusting doctors with lower IQ (but more in-domain education and experience).

156 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Your doctor cannot tell you authoritatively what you should think of your neighbors or of the Mayor of Syracuse.

157 anon June 29, 2016 at 6:05 pm

“Domain expertise” is what you look for.

158 louis June 29, 2016 at 9:50 am

There was a post not long ago on words that tip you off to stop reading.
The post-brexit discussion has added “elitist” “arrogant” and “condescending” to my list.
I can’t give time to an argument that boils down to “I hate when you tell me what’s good for me”.

159 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 10:56 am

James Traub is irritated that the public is not deferential to their social betters and thinks they shouldn’t have options in this regard. He’s not telling me what’s good for me because he does not know, in my case or in anyone else’s. He’s telling me what the attitudes are in his social circle, and what the excuses are.

160 louis June 30, 2016 at 7:57 am

Wasn’t talking about this specific article.

161 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 11:29 am

Why should anyone else feel it is their duty to tell me what is good for me, or to enforce what is good for me over my objections?

“What is good for me” depends very much on your normative perspective on the world. If you believe in eternal life and Heaven, and that the only path there is through Jesus, you might be willing to inflict many unpleasant things on me in this world in the hopes of convincing me to achieve eternal salvation. And, taking the truth of that normative backdrop for granted, you would be making the right utilitarian choice.

162 anon June 29, 2016 at 12:41 pm

We both probably think Hugo Chavez dragged Venezuela into ruin. I would call it stupid policy … and you would call it a different normative perspective on the world?

163 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 12:51 pm

He likely thought he was doing good. Many of his supporters may have preferred a world where everyone was poorer, but the rich especially so, such that they were more equal in their poverty. Some likely still believe the current situation is a necessary precursor to their Utopia, and that everyone else will be thankful when that Utopia finally arrives.

Under its normative framework, I suspect ISIS thinks it is demonstrating and performing The Good on a daily basis.

164 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Basically, I think that if you know what someone considers to be in their own interest and to be The Good Life, you can criticize whether their approach will achieve that end. But absent that knowledge and purpose, I don’t think anyone can usefully say what is good for someone else.

165 anon June 29, 2016 at 1:07 pm

What I’m getting at is that there is something more fundamental than different goals. If you think you are building a paradise and you have to start rationing toilet paper, it’s time to step back. Maybe even talk to experts in developmental economics. Because if you continue on in the face of failure, you aren’t just being socialist, you are being stupid.

166 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Sure, that is what I mean by ” I think that if you know what someone considers to be in their own interest and to be The Good Life, you can criticize whether their approach will achieve that end.”

if you know that someone is trying to create a socialist paradise, and you know precisely what that entails, then I think you can usefully criticize whether their proposed means will achieve that end.

But most arguments about policy do not take that intermediate step. They are often disputes about goals where a given policy is supported or opposed, and its efficacy believed in or questioned, based on the goals of the disputants.

167 Art Deco June 29, 2016 at 2:51 pm

We both probably think Hugo Chavez dragged Venezuela into ruin. I would call it stupid policy … and you would call it a different normative perspective on the world?

You fancy they’ll be food riots in London ‘ere too many years?

168 Thomas June 29, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Anon, ypu pretend to be open minded but if someone mentions that the third world immigrants are likely to be a net drain on the economy, you can’t compute, and out comes ‘racist’. You and your ilk do this while simultaneously being xenophobic against your lower class countrymen (except minorities). Everyone knows that deadweight loss means world GDP would be higher absent borders, if all else were equal. In reality, lower class Britons don’t (and shouldn’t) trust that they will capture some of this value. They are privileged to be born in the first world, and Peter Singer is still rich…

You really must know all of this, and in fact, your ilk constantly bemoan the failure of the US economy to share the increase in productivity. In reality, support for mass immigration is either based on economics (by those who will capture the value), xenophobia aginst lower class countrymen, and the fetishism of minorities. After all, which is a better signal, a grilled hamburger or authentic Kenyan food?

169 anon June 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Thomas, that fantasy has little to do with me.

I mean seriously, an “ilk” is involved?

170 Thomas June 29, 2016 at 6:11 pm

“LOL U SAID ILK”

Good argument, you regressive moron.

171 louis June 30, 2016 at 8:12 am

Political discussion is often about deciding which choices are right for the political community. Is our nation better off staying in the EU, or severing ties? Should we raise marginal income tax rates or lower them? Should we tax carbon emissions, regulate power plant construction, or do nothing?
You can argue the merits of either side, but getting piqued and picking a side because the other side is more informed or rubs you the wrong way. Not the same as objecting to paternalism about individual choices, which you seem to object to.

172 Brian Donohue June 29, 2016 at 8:50 am

#4. Yeah. I like the US system better than parliamentary systems.

173 anon June 29, 2016 at 10:13 am

It is a funny time to like it, when it is arguably producing the worst outcomes since Nixon.

174 Brian Donohue June 29, 2016 at 11:12 am

I am more concerned with the outcome for the nation and its people than I am for the government.

These two things are often conflated, and not just by statists.

The US of A is doing ok in 2016, quite a bit better than in 1974, thank you. Not necessarily a lot of thanks for this go to any politician.

175 sam the sham June 29, 2016 at 12:27 pm

The US system is ignoring some massive efficiency gains by using the pluralityvoting system. Any ranked choice voting system would work better, capture more info, and create consensus rather than winner-take-all tribalism. That is my biggest grief with the electoral college- kansas should produce some blue votes, and California some Red.

With pres elections, the 12th amendment was a mistake, turning it to winner take all. If nothing else, there is room for improvement and it’s so close and yet so far away.

Also, Brexit was the majority winner, condorcet winner- that’s better than what the Federal US generally sees.

176 Edward Burke June 29, 2016 at 8:57 am

As to #1, TC: why do you see no prospect of a “Beneluxit”? If the Dutch are even contemplating leaving the EU, they might find common cause with the their neighbors in Luxembourg, and surely they could find common cause with their Flemish neighbors, and the Flemings’ co-nationals, the Walloons, might be glad to see or let them go (Wallonia/Namur could become a new department of France, a sub-department of the Ardennes, and if Luxembourg did not want to join their Dutch and Flemish neighbors, they could become a sub-department of the Meuse or one of the Saarland).

In my copious spare time I even thought of a cure for the UK mess, which I am sure will equally go unheeded. The English need now to get behind Scottish independence efforts and help the Scots maintain their coveted EU membership, ditto the Welsh and the Northern Irish. Once the EU welcomes the Scots as an independent member, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can apply to become departments of Greater Scotland: presto-change! A reconstituted Scotland takes the UK’s place in the EU, everyone remains a happy European.

177 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

Wales is not really interested in independence. Also, they voted to leave the EU.

178 Edward Burke June 29, 2016 at 9:22 am

A. Granted, so the Welsh would be as pleased to be an appendix to Scotland as to England, surely.
B. With all the tumult this side of 23 June, I’ve no idea how many Welsh would change their minds over whatever votes they cast. (Plus, with all the English settled in eastern Wales, I don’t know too well the Brexit vote split within Wales between Plaid Cymru types and English border types.)

179 dan1111 June 29, 2016 at 9:46 am

“The Welsh would be as pleased to be an appendix to Scotland as to England, surely”

No way. This would be a bad economic deal for them. Wales gets tons of money from England, and they would not get the same from Scotland (who has a much smaller population base and would be struggling to establish itself after independence). Plus the geographic proximity to England is a non-trivial factor.

“I don’t know too well the Brexit vote split within Wales between Plaid Cymru types and English border types.”

It was not a result driven by English transplants. Most areas of Wales voted leave, including some areas with very few non-Welsh people. Cardiff, which has a fairly large population of English, was one of the few places that voted remain. A lot of Wales is poor and post-industrial, similar to English regions that also voted leave.

180 Pshrnk June 29, 2016 at 11:03 am

Once Catalonia leaves, Spain should re-take the Netherlands.

181 John June 29, 2016 at 9:41 am

I wonder if anyone has condister viewing the EU, Brexit and any potential disuion through the lens of a corporate spin-off/breaking up a conglomerate.

Seems the current view is that any such breakup/disvestiture is value reducing but is that really the case?

182 enoriverbend June 29, 2016 at 2:05 pm

“Seems the current view is that any such breakup/disvestiture is value reducing but is that really the case?”

Not at all.

Big conglomerates are often assembled over time without much regard to whether or how the pieces fit together, and without considering whether expertise in running business A is automatically relevant when running business B. That’s why there is such a thing as the conglomerate discount. Also, the home office sorts may not be all that good at capital allocation.

And the home office sorts may end up largely acting according to how much personal power they can aggrandize, rather than allowing the individual business units as much discretion as they can.

Clearly none of this can be said to be an analogy for the EU bureaucracy.

183 8 June 29, 2016 at 9:44 am

The people who thought the EU was guaranteed to succeed, who think the euro will survive, who think jihad can be managed internally amid high rates of Muslim migration, who think central bankers have a handle on the financial markets, overlap heavily with people who believe a man, who is genetically a man, can become a woman. The elite today are more out of touch from reality than the French aristocracy was before the Revolution, and yet we are in the midst of an Information Revolution.

184 Urso June 29, 2016 at 10:59 am

#3 is a great point, but you need to take it further. It’s not just the governments that have lost authority in the minds of the common folks, it’s the entirety of the technocracy. Prof. Cowen seems willing to draw any conclusion whatsoever from Brexit except that nobody is listening to people like him anymore, because those people have proven that they’re not worth listening to. Which is of course the only lesson worth learning.

185 anon June 29, 2016 at 1:02 pm

The Death Of Expertise has been reported off and on for a few years now.

http://thefederalist.com/2014/01/17/the-death-of-expertise/

More recently on Brexit, Justin Fox asked Do the Experts Know Anything?

http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-24/brexit-results-are-yet-another-blow-to-experts

Like Nichols, I blame the internet, and comment threads such as these, where fringe (nay, dumb) ideas find groups to support them. Why trust an expert when three aliases can agree with you before breakfast?

186 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Why trust an expert when the issues are deeply intertwined with normative questions, and where the subject matter lacks expert consensus, or where the consensus fails to reliably predict outcomes?

I think people still trust engineers to properly design safe bridges. But their trust in the experts to deliver reliable, unbiased opinions on political, economic, and social questions has gone downhill.

187 anon June 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Most discussion is not at a high level, which expert to trust, or how various experts should interact. It is more often expertise against anti-expertise, and knowledge in opposition to made-up anti-knowledge.

Evolution was the wedge issue in America. It spawned an industry of non-science. When one creation theory was knocked down, another was created. It continues to this day, now with a second place google rank on “is evolution real?” http://www.icr.org/ (“Listen to our podcast!”)

Note that pattern and then compare to the anti-experts on vaccines, and GMOs, and yes, climate change. There is a meta-process here. Knowledge doesn’t matter because anti-knowledge is part of the game, readily accepted.

188 Urso June 29, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Poor comparisons. The efficacy of vaccinations, and their relation to autism, is a testable and [dis]provable hypothesis. A self-proclaimed political expert saying “I think Brexit is a bad idea and so should you!” is neither.

189 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 3:01 pm

I think a skeptical habit of mind is the proper way to approach those topics, and just about any other. This should include being skeptical of experts, particularly with regards to whether they have financial, political, or ideological motives for their views, and on whether the state of their discipline is such that certainty or near-certainty on a given topic is genuinely attainable.

When we reach economic experts, I think the space for legitimate skepticism is quite large. In antitrust litigation (and I assume a lot of other litigation, but I don’t have much experience or knowledge there), a “battle of the experts” between economic experts is standard. Amazingly, the plaintiffs and defendants are each able to produce highly-credentialed, intelligent experts who take highly divergent views on both theoretical economic matters and on the facts of that particular case. I do not think this is so far removed from the general state of economic expertise when injected into most public policy discussions.

190 Thomas June 29, 2016 at 4:39 pm

To the extent that philosophers can be rich, they are. To the extent Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi are guarded by guns, they are. To the extent Mark Zuckerberg can build walls to keep people out of his property, he does. Even if charity, gun control, and open borders are the optimal policies, the common people correctly perceive that the vocal and powerful supporters of these policies do not prefer them for themselves.

191 anon June 29, 2016 at 5:51 pm

I was purposefully narrow, as were careful economic commentators. They didn’t say “this is best.” They said “this will have big economic consequences.”

The rational thing to do would be to balance those economic consequences against whatever else good you think will come of it. But to throw it out and say “nah, experts” is indeed idiotic.

So what is your rational cost benefit analysis here?

192 Thomas June 29, 2016 at 6:21 pm

In no way have the remain folks, including yourself beeen narrow in any sense. In fact, what you and your *ilk* have been arguing is that people who voted for or supported leave must be uneducated, racist, xenophobic morons. I’ll use your cost-benefit framework: the experts are demonstrably self-interested hypocrites and liars, so their concerns about minor economic impact should be discounted. Weigh the possibly true claims of minor economic impact against the possibly true claims about the benefit of border and regulatory control. Outcome: the British have determined it. My position is much less “nah, experts”, than yours is “yes, experts”. But, your position is simply signalling. I understand the “remain” political universe and they do not universally support experts, such as those in business. In fact, “remain” in a different domain makes the same ‘self-interested expert’ argument I make here, hence the expert argument is false.

193 Urso June 29, 2016 at 6:22 pm

I didn’t make a cost-benefit analysis, as I’m not a UK voter, and I don’t really have an opinion on whether Brexit is good bad or indifferent. You apparently do, so I’d be interested in hearing your own rational cost-benefit analysis on this issue. Or is it just “the economic experts have spoken,” like some Mercatian version of a Biblical literalist? Is accepting the experts uncritically more rational than tossing them aside entirely? If so, why?

194 anon June 29, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Thomas, You are getting your “ilk” wrong. First and foremost I didn’t consider Brexit my problem. As I said then, California is a long ways away. When it did happen, I was mildly supportive. I have vague feelings of mistrust about the EU bureaucracy. But since then I have been somewhat rapidly adjusting my opinion.

Because if this is a case where experts warned, correctly, and were not heeded, that should be a teaching moment. Including for me.

Urso, your retreat is noted.

195 Urso June 29, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Retreat from what? I defy you to point to anywhere where I’ve expressed a substantive opinion on Brexit (hint: you won’t).

Back on topic, I eagerly await your defense of the “Paul Krugman said it. I believe it. That settles it.” approach to political science.

196 anon June 29, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Neil deGrasse Tyson is tweeting on a related theme today:

“Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence”

I believe in democracy, but I think we need to improve our democratic culture a bit, to make it more rational, more based on evidence (and not anti-evidence which everyone understands was invented for the occasion).

197 Urso June 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Precisely the kind of dismissive, authoritarian statement that proves my point. “Weight of the evidence” – what evidence? Have there been controlled, randomized trials of Brexits?

198 HL June 29, 2016 at 2:39 pm

The pee level of Brexit correlates with lager consumption on a week day afternoon.

199 Turkey Vulture June 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

What’s the rational course of action in a meaningless, absurd world?

200 HL June 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Something to do with maximizing GDP I believe.

201 anon June 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Dudes, you are arguing genetically against reason.

202 anon June 29, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Oops, that said generically until my tablet switched it.

203 HL June 29, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Because it doesn’t mean anything, it is vacuous and banal.

204 Urso June 29, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Right – saying “make the most reasonable decision” is almost literally meaningless. Especially since, in context, what he’s really saying is, make the decision Neill DeGrasse Tyson agrees with. I would happily defer to Dr. Tyson on, for instance, questions involving calculating the eccentricity of a comet’s orbit. Not really sure that particular sphere of knowledge is generalizable to questions of international political structure.

205 HL June 29, 2016 at 6:52 pm

As a contrarian I’m for the virtual country of #Fredonia, a country completely based on irrationality and bemusement.

206 anon June 29, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Hey. It’s me. I’m standing on the high ground over here. You can probably see it.

Reason is better than unbridled emotion.

So easy to say, that is if you have not abandoned the high ground to make some piddly little point of the moment.

207 GoneWithTheWind June 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

” There is talk of “Nexit” for the Netherlands, yet they are far less well equipped than is the UK to go it alone without the EU.”

This is simply not true and makes no sense. Didn’t the Netherlands “go it alone” before the EU? The EU benefited some people and some groups and harmed others. If you favor the EU you smugly point to those who benefited from it and feel that your argument is proven. After the EU each and every country will still trade and there will still be winners and losers. If the individual countries wanted to they could negotiate exactly the same agreements are perhaps even better agreements.

The EU became oppressive and the leaders became greedy and isolated. It didn’t have to go this way. If the leaders had been dedicated to improving the lives of all the citizens in all of the EU countries the EU would be a huge success instead of an albatross. They doomed themselves by their overreach.

208 Ricardo June 29, 2016 at 12:04 pm

“Didn’t the Netherlands “go it alone” before the EU?”

The Netherlands was a member of the Benelux Union [originally called Benelux Economic Union] starting in 1944. Right before that, it was occupied by You Know Who.

209 Daniel Weber June 29, 2016 at 1:26 pm

The Netherlands was one of the 6 founders of the EEC, which gave way to the EU. I’m skeptical they really want out, but if they do, the EU is in trouble.

210 Chris Fauske June 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

Re lesson four: The Brexit experience might well turn out to demonstrate the strengths of the European parliamentary system. The failure here, if any, was in arranging a straight up-down / in-out / yes-no. Binary choices rarely allow for nuance. Parliament will now have to work out how to make popular will work as well as possible. Frankly, this shading of the binary is likely to be better done by a sovereign parliament than by the tri-partite U.S. system. [This comment, of course, assumes the vote was representative of the popular will. There is increasing evidence that a good number of Leave voters expected Remain to win, and wanted it to, but were voting leave for domestic political reasons–to send a message to Westminster rather than to Brussels.]

211 FE June 29, 2016 at 11:41 am

3, 3, 3! “Trust us on these bailouts.” The best case that could have been made against the bailouts was that they would warp politics in regrettable ways.

212 eMarkM June 29, 2016 at 11:46 am

Risen in status: Martin Gurri. Brexit fits “Revolt of the Public” hand-in-glove.

https://thefifthwave.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/brief-reflections-on-the-brexit-vote/

213 Edgar June 29, 2016 at 11:47 am

“might the Parliamentary system be worse than many people think?”

There is the UK Parliament and there is the EU Parliament. Are two parliaments better than one? Or should the EU adopt a Presidential system? How would the US fare if it were a member of the EU? Or should UK reject the Brexit vote and hope it can see improvement within the EU Parliament?

6% of UK businesses export to the EU and she is heavily dependent on trade outside the EU. The EU’s record on trade agreements does not inspire confidence. Look at the map: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2012/june/tradoc_149622.png

214 Edgar June 29, 2016 at 11:55 am
215 Edgar June 29, 2016 at 12:10 pm
216 Daniel Weber June 29, 2016 at 1:24 pm

What are the numbers when you weight for relative importance to the UK export markets?

217 Edgar June 29, 2016 at 6:05 pm

“Exports of goods to EU countries increased by £0.9 billion between March 2016 and April 2016. There was a £0.3 billion increase in exports of oil and a £0.2 billion increase in chemicals. Imports of goods from EU countries increased by £1.0 billion, to a monthly record of £20.1 billion over the same period. There was a £0.5 billion increase in imports of chemicals and a £0.2 billion increase in machinery; offset by a £0.1 billion fall in aircraft. These movements resulted in widening of the trade in goods deficit with EU countries by £0.1 billion, to a monthly deficit of £7.9 billion in April 2016.

Between March 2016 and April 2016, exports of goods to countries outside the EU increased by £1.3 billion to a record £14.0 billion. There were £0.3 billion increases in exports of both chemicals and machinery and a £0.2 billion increase in both cars and unspecified goods*; beverages and aircraft both increased by £0.1 billion. Imports from countries outside the EU increased by £1.0 billion; chemicals, ships and machinery all increased by £0.2 billion and there were £0.1 billion increases in clothing, aircraft, precious stones and non ferrous metals. These movements resulted in a £0.3 billion narrowing of the deficit with non-EU countries to £2.6 billion.”

https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/balanceofpayments/bulletins/uktrade/apr2016#summary-of-latest-uk-trade-statistics

218 jon livesey June 29, 2016 at 12:13 pm

“and as Martin Wolf noted: “36 per cent of eligible voters have been allowed to decide “without any appropriate checks and balances””. ”

Which is, of course, total nonsense. The referendum was advisory. It is still Parliament that decides what to do. How better “checks and balances can you get?

Now Parliament will almost certainly decide to go through with Article 50. But that is politics, not 36% of the voters “deciding”. They will go through with article 50, because otherwise they will continue to lose voters to the UKIP – the reason the referendum happened in the first place. Can you think of a check or balance that can prevent voters from transferring their loyalty to another party? Should there be one?

Parliamentary Government is terrible. It’s just better than all the other systems.

219 ad June 29, 2016 at 1:53 pm

The suddenness of the Brexit problems could not happen easily in the United States

If Britain had the Presidential system of government, it would have a President who was expected to immediately enact a hideously complicated policy decision to which everyone knew he was fundamentally opposed.

Is that really better than taking time to find someone who isn’t a sworn enemy of the very act he is expected to accomplish?

220 Name Withheld June 29, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Wolf noted: “36 per cent of eligible voters have been allowed to decide “without any appropriate checks and balances”

Wolf is being manipulative here, he makes it seem like 64% would be against it, surly not true.
1) Most of the people who didn’t vote would be very close to the people who voted. (Statistical Extrapolation).
2) The UK had it’s biggest turnout since 1992.
3) Only in dictatorships do 100% of the people vote.
4) Using his logic I find, only 33.4% of people voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, does that make that vote not count?
5) His math is wrong, it was 37.45 percent, not 36% voting to leave.

221 CMc June 30, 2016 at 3:11 am

You think that sentence is manipulative? I didn’t read it as seeming like 64% would be against it. Without any further investigation, we already know there is at least one difference between those groups – one group voted and the other didn’t. Many businesses run surveys, or provide anonymous feedback boxes and the like. It is well established that the feedback is not representative of the customer base as a whole, as those with negative experience are more likely to complain than those who are happy with the status quo are too say ‘keep up the good work’.

As for only dictatorships producing 100% turnout – not true, voting is compulsory in Australia at the federal level (while not 100% turn out, it is still very high).

I don’t have a dog in this race as I’m not a citizen of an EU member or Britain. I do feel for the Scotts, having had a high turnout and a clear majority in the opposite direction.

222 a6z July 1, 2016 at 2:43 pm

“The comparative advantage of the largest nations is greater than before. ”

Are we talking about military competition here? Because the military comparative advantage of the EU (not here discussing NATO) is dubious.

And if not, then in what does the comparative advantage of a nation consist? How is it measured? What data tell us it is larger than before (when, exactly)?

223 Rasheed July 2, 2016 at 11:02 am

It will be interesting to see how things pan out, but after Brexit, we all are in doubts and confusions over how things will work out, so that’s why we got to be very careful. I always work things easily through help of my broker OctaFX, as they are regulated plus a true ECN broker, so that’s why working with them is so pleasing and beneficial as well, I can work without worry or tension at all, so that puts me in good shape.

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