Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Brexit: a battle lost but who will fight the war?

The Brexit vote was, in economic terms, an act of self harm. You do not need to just ‘trust the experts’ on this: it is pretty close to common sense. As Rebecca Driver clearly explains, leaving the single market will make it much more difficult for (particularly small) firms to trade in Europe. As Europe is on our doorstep and geography matters, that cannot and will not be compensated for by trading more elsewhere. [1] Finally greater trade is associated, for clear reasons, with higher growth. Lower growth will impact unfavourably on every area in the UK, whether they voted Leave or Remain.

The harm done is not just economic. As Ben Chu writes, “The crude majoritarian politics of this referendum has seen half of the population (a generally poorer, less well-educated and elderly half) effectively strip major freedoms and even a cherished identity from the other half (a more prosperous and predominantly younger half)”. Before the referendum, I had conversations with people arguing that a Brexit vote would be more harmful than a Trump presidency, and this deep sense of anger, loss and despondency will not go away. We therefore need to understand why it happened.

In my last post I argued that Brexit was a protest vote against both the impact of globalisation and social liberalism. The two come together over immigration, and of course the one certainty of the Brexit debate was that free movement prevented controls on EU migration. Globalisation has benefited the majority in the UK, so those who had not benefited could not alone have won a Brexit vote. Equally social conservatives have lost battle after battle in the UK on specific social issues. Brexit was the perfect storm where these two groups came together, and combined they just managed to win.

Explanations do not imply inevitability, but instead tell us why the result could easily have been different. We need a sensible discussion about immigration, rather than assume it is always and everywhere a problem. However to follow the social conservative route and say concern over immigration is just xenophobia is not helpful. [2] We need to challenge the view the right wing press has patiently built up that immigration is responsible for declining public services and making it difficult to get housing. Too many people continue to discount the power and influence of the media: that is a mistake, as this research on Fox news shows. It is not difficult to get across the benefits of immigration, given how much the NHS and our construction sector depend on immigrants, but it is not something many of our leading politicians have done for some time.

More generally it is becoming increasingly clear how destructive the doctrine of neoliberalisation has been. Neoliberalism combines the encouragement of globalisation with demands for a much reduced role for the state. In the advanced economies the deindustrialisation implied by globalisation and the growth of China and elsewhere has been beneficial overall, but there are sections of society that have lost out, which invites a backlash. As Kevin O’Rourke shows, globalisation has often led to fierce resistance in the past. Dani Rodrik has demonstrated how state spending can protect, and has often in the past protected, the losers from trade. [3] (As an economist mights say, globalisation is a Kaldor/Hicks improvement, but in recent times the compensation part has been missing.) Brexit, like the financial crisis and perhaps also Donald Trump, are in this sense problems created not by globalisation alone but by neoliberalism.

For the UK it is worse than that. It is not just that austerity is the real cause of declining public services, and a failure to build houses is the cause of rising prices and rents. (See Chris Dillow or Mariana Mazzucato) It is that this government in particular has connived with the right wing press to transfer blame for an NHS in crisis and unaffordable housing from their own policies on to immigration. The Remain campaign was Cameron and Osborne, and neither were prepared to change their tune and start talking about how limiting immigration would mean there was even less money for public services. As I noted in the previous post, the NHS was an important concern for Leave voters, and they thought Brexit would make things better. Can you imagine a worse background for the EU referendum vote than a government that continually stressed the importance of limiting immigration, but failed to achieve those limits so spectacularly. [4]

This was not the only problem with the Remain campaign. In terms of getting the message across, Leave seemed to understand their target audience much better. (It is not my field, but this from Mark Hind makes sense.) To get the message across the Remain campaign relied on the institutions of the establishment: the Treasury, Bank of England, IMF etc. Fine for those for whom the establishment is respected, less so for those who regard it as remote and detached from their lives. Remain made very little use of academics, despite the fact that this group is trusted by the public. [5] Leave did seem to understand this, which is why they went to ridiculous extremes to discredit these experts. The broadcast media hardly ever noted the consensus among economists that Brexit would reduce everyone's standard of living, and instead did their ‘he says, she says’ thing. This media also failed to point out the lies Leave told, preferring ‘balance’ over truth.

All this implies that while the potential for a Brexit vote was always there, reflecting the perfect storm of anger against globalisation and social liberalism, it might not have been realised if the Remain campaign had been better, the Leave campaign had been honest and the broadcast media had not departed from its mission to educate and explain. The lies of the Leave camp are already apparent. The depreciation in sterling that immediately followed the vote is a cut in living standards for everyone in the UK with no lasting compensation. It is permanent unless the markets have got things spectacularly wrong. The economic downturn that is underway is as predicted. In both cases voters were told this was fear mongering by the Remain side: now those that promoted Leave are in the ludicrous situation of arguing that markets and firms have somehow been deceived by Project Fear.

In normal circumstances this would all be a cause for optimism. We do not need many voters to realise that they were conned by the Leave campaign before Leavers become a minority, or at least for the majority to favour a deal that can keep the UK in the single market with essentially free movement of labour. (There may have even been such a majority on the day of the vote.) To call this the denial stage in some ‘grieving process’ by Remain voters misunderstands the nature of the decision. Leaving is compatible with a whole range of alternative arrangements: some quite close to EU membership, some not. In that sense the vote only gave the green light to an ongoing struggle over what these arrangements will be. (For a discussion of the politics involved, see here but also here.) Thus those who say we should accept the verdict of the people are wrong, because a great deal is still to play for.

Yet circumstances are far from normal, and there seems little ground for optimism. Our new Prime Minister - who was as complicit in the sham targets for immigration as Cameron and Osborne - has appointed those who supported Leave to handle negotiations. She knows that the only way she can unite her party is to end free movement and therefore leave the single market.

Worse still, the government will do whatever it wants to do when it comes to the type of Brexit we have. Our official opposition will, if the polls are right, be the same opposition that was both ineffective and conflicted in the Brexit campaign, preoccupied as it will almost certainly be with cleansing the PLP rather than the details of trade arrangements. There is no alternative opposition with any strength. The SNP cannot speak for the rest of the UK, and anyway will be focused on trying (and probably failing) to drum up enough support for independence. As a result the 48% or more who did not want an end to the single market will not be able to do much about it. I fear that if you want a vision of what Britain after Brexit will become, you just need to look in the pages of the newspapers that were a vital part in bringing Brexit about.

[1] My impression was that discussion on broadcast news programmes, which is the main source many people have to unbiased news coverage, or even the debates never got to this point. We had someone from Remain saying trade with Europe would suffer, and someone from Leave saying we would be ‘free’ to trade with other countries. You do not need the Treasury’s gravity equations to make this simple point about geography and trade, but you need to go a little beyond soundbites.

[2] A similar point can be made about nationalism, which is hard to combat and may be a symptom rather than a cause.

[3] Rodrik, D. (1998), "Why do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?" Journal of Political Economy 106(5): 997-1032

[4] None of this was hard to see before the last general election. Those who in 2015 voted Conservative but also wanted to Remain need to ask why they took no notice of the warnings that some of us made. Those ‘business leaders’ who seemed to unanimously endorse Cameron need to ask, or be asked, why they were gambling with their company’s future in doing so.

[5] Part of the problem is that Leave voters tended not to trust anyone. This, by Jean Pisani-Ferry, is good on experts and trust.


  1. Did you see the BBC2 documentary on Brexit last night, it had some good interviews with the key players and I think it nailed it. Worth watching on iplayer if you missed it.

  2. I think it is time you read some very old economics on this issue - Angus Maddison, Gunnar Myrdal, Lewis and many others- perhaps even Marx. It is historically informed and is going to tell you a hell of lot more than the likes of Rodick. Brad de Long has also had some relevant recent posts explaining growth and decline from an historical, rather than a Romer-like point of view (in fact neo-classical theory has very little to say about why states decline).

    Neo-liberalism does not necessarily always imply a small state. The Great Moderation consensus was that we should have free markets but a welfare safety net. It was a conclusion fully backed up by mainstream neo-classical economists. Essentially it s philosophy was economically laissez faire but socially liberal. It was the overwhelming consensus view of the 90s and 2000s establishment - just like Taylor rules as correct monetary policy practice. But this was not historically well-informed policy practice. The problem with the welfare safety net was that they are not substitutes for jobs and active engagement for a large proportion of the population in a country's productive capacity or its wealth creation. Its role as a means of limiting inequality is limited. Relying on education also has its limits.Furthermore we must begin to properly understand there is no equity-efficiency tradeoff. It must be scrapped from textbooks - or properly critically analysed - including how this idea came about. Key assumptions like that in neo-classical economics, even when qualified by the second welfare assumption, is very damaging when in the wrong political hands.


  3. There is persuasive evidence that people without mortgages overwhelmingly voted Brexit while those with mortgages voted Remain:

    Its my opinion that identity politics rather than economic arguments mattered to these council house tenants and mortgage free property owners because the ups and downs of the economy don't really affect them. If I am correct, Project Fear failed because not enough people regard a change in GDP as a change in their own standard of living.

  4. 'We need to challenge the view the right wing press has patiently built up that immigration is responsible for declining public services and making it difficult to get housing. Too many people continue to discount the power and influence of the media: that is a mistake, as this research on Fox news shows. It is not difficult to get across the benefits of immigration, given how much the NHS and our construction sector depend on immigrants, but it is not something many of our leading politicians have done for some time.'

    Oddly enough, that's exactly Corbyn's approach. He has robustly rejected all calls from the social conservatives in the party, preferring to patiently explain the benefits of immigration and the causes of low wages. Curious and curiouser......

  5. A Trump presidency (should it happen, I still think they'll find a way to keep him off the ballot)and Brexit are, of course, two-sides of the populist coin. They are more intimately related in their (rhetorical)rejection of globalization and neoliberalism than you might imagine. They both give voices to the hitherto marginal without proposing meaningful solutions, they merely play on the resentment of those left behind.

    P.S Why are you still having a go at Corbyn? He was effective during the Brexit campaign, indeed he may have been the only Labour politician to have been so, and there's no evidence purging the PLP will take precedence over trade negotiations other than a few Corbyn supporters (myself included) who favour re-selection for those on the extreme fringes of the party. Corbyn has already outlined his support for British membership of the EEA. It's a strategically sound position at this conjuncture.

  6. The "free to trade with other countries" line is accepted by many and so if you want to convince people (myself included) you need to do more than just say geography.

    The main reasons people believe this line:
    1) Agricultural protectionism inflates the price of food
    2) Protectionist interests prevent the EU from being as successful forging deals with the developing world
    3) The EU makes deals in its own interests and so does not try hard to include services in trade deals, something Switzerland has been very successful at.
    4) The scale of the EU (with 28 countries needing to agree) prevents the easy formation of trade deals.

    To convince many leave voters these arguments need to be properly engaged with rather than just rejected offhand

  7. There was also an important discussion to be had on the nature of "sovereignty", and the way in which ANY agreement implicitly reduces it, because you are now no longer free to do what you have just agreed not to do, by definition. That's what "agreement" means: you sacrifice some small element of freedom in exchange for some greater perceived benefit. But this clearly fundamental point was never touched on at any point.

    Most of the people I have spoken to who voted Leave referred to the "sovereignty" issue because that was the line being pushed hard by the media, but at no point did their understanding of the issue go beyond the banal and superficial. They didn't seem to understand that any form of cooperation, coordination, or shared standards and laws would automatically imply the surrendering of an element of sovereignty over those issues.

  8. In terms of the campaigns Leave employed a classic KISS (keep it simple stupid) strategy consisting of clear messages which resonated with their core audience. Remain in comparison was a shambles and most of their best PR material was not used. They also failed to present a positive case for remaining in the EU- though even if they had it would not have worked (more on this in a minute).

    The media (TV but particularly the press) also had powerful long term cumulative impacts in creating a very negative picture of the EU which was widely accepted by significant parts of the population.

    Crucially no major political party has argued consistently over the last three decades for the benefits of EU membership so these are relatively unknown. This meant that even if the Remain campaign had been better and more positive such messages would not have worked because audiences weren't familiar with them.

    I talk about this in greater detail in this article in a recent collection on the media and the referendum - page 14.

  9. «Ben Chu writes, “The crude majoritarian politics of this referendum has seen half of the population (a generally poorer, less well-educated and elderly half) effectively strip major freedoms and even a cherished identity from the other half (a more prosperous and predominantly younger half)”.»

    Even as I am too 75% :-) in favour of "Remain", that is a disgusting type of argument.

    1. Agreed. Resentment of this kind of arrogance explains why many voted to Leave.

  10. «(As an economist mights say, globalisation is a Kaldor/Hicks improvement, but in recent times the compensation part has been missing.)»

    That «in recent times» seems amazingly optimistic to me. I can't think of a any period in the past 70 years in the UK in which «compensation» has been given in any significant amount. Not many people but some have been given minuscule unemployment and retraining handouts, but that is not «compensation» for the loss of not-so-well-paid jobs to globalization and immigration from low-pay countries.

    Oops! I can think of one (and only one) category of people who have been given generous «compensation» to maintain and improve their lifestyles despite international competition: the traders and executives and lawyers and accountants in the City of London, which being "national champions" have received large, continuous «compensation» from the BoE and the Treasury (with a colossal recent surge in welfare benefits directed at them) to ensure that they incomes stay "competitive" with those of their counterparts in Wall Street and other financial centers, even as they lose fantastic sums to reckless self-dealing.

    Apologies for not realizing that sooner :-).

  11. You may be underestimating the impact of a strong strand of British opinion - and, in particular, English opinion - which holds the view that increased pooling of sovereignty and a more integrated system of governance may suit the continentals - but not the English. Most of the continental European countries failed disastrously to maintain multi-party representative parliamentary democracies during the 1930s and 40s - while Britain did. Many struggled to do so subsequently or were prevented from re-establishing them until relatively recently. And even when they did the quality of locally produced governance is poor - and strictures and constraints imposed by Brussels are often welcomed by voters in many of the EU's member-states. But that is rarely the case in Britain. I have lost count of the number of times I heard the complaint about the European Commission: "We didn't vote them in; and we can't vote 'em out." (Celebrations in 2015 of the 70th anniversary of VE Day and of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta helped to reinforce this view.)

    You may also be overestimating the sense of loss (indeed bereavement) being experienced by those who voted to remain. Many of us who have been exposed directly to the antics of those who work in the EU’s institutions voted remain with considerable reluctance. And I have encountered quite a few people who while perhaps not having direct exposure to these antics were sufficiently aware of the arrogance and hubris of many of those who worked in the EU’s institutions – and of the highly inappropriate, if not downright harmful, policies they formulate and seek to implement. All of us chose to remain on the basis of it being the lesser of two evils – but not by much.

    Furthermore, I detect a sense that the perception of release from even limited governance by the EU’s institutions is more suited to the English temperament – irrespective of how this release will be manifested in practice. And I suspect that the outcome is more in tune with the political stances of both the PM and the leader of the opposition (for very different reasons) than they might care to admit. Paradoxically, I sense a nation more at ease with itself and feel more sanguine and confident about the future than I have felt for some time.

  12. I yesterday watched 'Britain's European Vote: The outcome and implications of the UK referendum on EU membership' with a panel of academics in Europe House, from Thursday 30 June on BBC Parliament.

    It was said that many who distrusted experts on the economy seem to have done so because of the failure to predict the 2008 crash; so if the economy suffers in the next few months and again when Article 50 is triggered, as was also put forward by one academic, economic expertise may well regain its lost popular territory.

    It also says a lot about May and her Powellised newspaper backers that Liam Fox is one of the three Brexiteers:

    "Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, has become the Conservative frontbencher with the highest expenses repayment after his appeal against a request to return £22,500 was rejected. In a blow to David Cameron, who has attempted to draw a line under the expenses scandal, Mr Fox’s lengthy battle to avoid repaying overclaims for mortgage interest was thrown out by the high court judge appointed to hear challenges against the audit of Commons allowances by Sir Thomas Legg. Mr Fox had increased the loan on his London second home in order to pay for decorating work and to fund his main constituency home, and breached the rules by claiming for the higher interest payments."

    (17 Mar 2010, Rosa Prince, The Telegraph)

    Yes, that Telegraph that backed Brexit.

  13. «Oops! I can think of one (and only one) category of people who have been given generous «compensation» to maintain and improve their lifestyles despite international competition:»

    OOPS again! There is another obvious category: the affluent property speculating "conservatory building classes" of southern England, which have been given government-sponsored massive yearly effort-free tax-free capital gains as «compensation» for reduced wage growth. Plus lower taxers enabled for example by lower spending on NHS staff thanks to lower wages for immigrants workers.

    OOPS OOPS again! There is another category again: employers, who have received «compensation» for greater exposure to international competition in the form of cheaper workers thanks to government-sponsored immigration from low-wage countries.

    City self-dealing spivs, "conservatory building classes", employers of low-cost immigrants: by amazing coincidence all the categories that I can think of that have had «compensation» for decades of neoliberal policies are tory-voting rentiers.

  14. It intrigues me that Labour is seen to have run an ineffective campaign against Brexit while the SNP is thought to have been successful. Yet the Ashdown poll conducted immediately after the referendum shows that 63% of Labour voters were Remain compared to 64% for the SNP. Is 1% such a profound difference?

    It’s true that most authorities with Labour MPs voted Leave but those are no longer the strongholds of a generation ago. FPTP hides the decline in Labour majorities during the New Labour years. There was a high turnout and many former Labour voters – who had either stopped voting or even turned to UKIP – voted Leave. Brexit is the price we are paying for the legacy of Tony Blair.

  15. The problem with the economies of the world are the assumptions made are nearly all wrong!your assumption that only people who voted out have changed their minds is also wrong,they maybe less or carpeted over but they're are some because,people not polls have actually told me! in fact many of the young who have asked me why i voted out when am not a racist and pro European go away think hard when i say to them would you volunteer to join such a EU Army,they say NO! a British one maybe but not a EU one! i say yes and therefore the only way they can get one is conscription and with the build up on the eastern front(Med & Ukraine etc) it might happen much quicker than you would expect!many quickly change there minds and regret voting to stay in!

  16. "The depreciation in sterling that immediately followed the vote is a cut in living standards for everyone in the UK with no lasting compensation. It is permanent unless the markets have got things spectacularly wrong."

    Why would it be permanent? If the price of anything goes up then the quantity demanded goes down, and if any of the *multiple suppliers* (including domestic firms) goes for a volume push at a constant Sterling price then they will take trade away from the price pushing competitor.

    In a world short of demand, it is the supplier that has to handle the price differential. "Markets" aka speculators can influence things in the short term.

  17. I'm from Canada, and I am very surprised that the history of the Quebec referendum of 1995 on sovereignty, and its aftermath, was ignored by all actors in the Brexit referendum. In 1995, by a razor thin margin, Quebec voted to remain in Canada. The closeness of the vote led to the government of Canada enacting the "clarity act", which in chief, asked that referendum questions on separation of a Province from Canada be clearly worded, and that a clear majority be gained in the referendum before parliamentary negotiations on its outcome could commence (holding up parliamentary supremacy). The exact margin of "clear majority" is not specified in the law: but the idea here is crystal clear: it's something more that 50%, and that all parties ought to understand that before the plebiscite.

    The British referendum on Brexit would have surely failed the Canadian legal test of "a clear majority".

    There ought to have been a battle fought in Westminster over the referendum. There was no reason for the opposition parties to accept the legitimacy of the referendum, absent a "clear majority", and they should have made that point before during and even after the vote. There was no reason to accept the Cameron government's ahistorical process for this referendum. The entire shambles should have resulted in a question of confidence in the current British government.

    Frankly, I'd say the remainers, by ignoring even recent political history, have shown themselves to be as parochial as any Quebec sovereignist. The British absolutely deserve the Brexit you have got.

    1. I was unaware of the Quebec parallel - thanks for the insight. That said, even without that insight, I thought early on that there ought to be some minimum limits put on how many vote and by what majority Leave would need to win to cause Brexit. For such a major decision, it's astonishing there weren't.

  18. I'm genuinely very interested in how Japan seems to be a very affluent country and has low income inequality and a shrinking population and doesn't have much immigration.

  19. I would like that you make a reflection of BREXIT and Fractals.

    We have BREXITS (Fractals) all around.

    Why people pay attention to certain Fractals parts of the Fractal (BREXIT is part of Fractal which has got lower and higher levels depending on the scale you look)?

    Could it be that is related with the fact that is related with "inflaction of meanings" (I learned this expression from Riccardo Manzotti)?
    Could it be that BREXIT is just another evidence that we stop to be able to communicate because we have different meanings (this one is more related with "evidencing Fractals" and not related with "inflaction of meanings")?

    I really would like to know your view and the view of the persons who comment on your blog because I see their comments very intelligent as well.

    Have all a beautiful day!

  20. My own wishful thinking for the outcome of this is that May keeps as much of our relationship with the EU intact as possible. Some legal experts have argued that a second referendum will be necessary in any case. This should not happen immediately - it would be viewed far too cynically by the electorate, even by those who favoured remain. By the time we do get one, however, I hope the remain campaign and its 'experts' have learned something. The BBC documentary pointed a particular scepticism by the public to Treasury Model forecasts of 4000 pounds per year per household being lost. The dismissal of this forecast actually reflects the intelligence of the general public. Many educated people would share the scepticism that modelling is the means by which you analyse the economic implications of Brexit. It reminds me of a 90 per cent figure made by mainstream economist Kenneth Rogoff which was said to be the debt/GNP threshold that crisis hit.

    A more intelligent, calm, persuasive, and less patronising case has to be made by the establishment to the general public. This was essentially the conclusion of the BBC documentary. Arguments need to be made like in an increasingly multi-polar world, the EU is a guarantee, together with the US alliance, of our security, including our economic security.


  21. This soul-searching is all well and good but, to my mind, the more interesting question is why intelligent people such as yourself are so emotionally attached to a deeply dysfunctional bureaucracy that is visibly tearing apart and which has created widespread suffering through imposing policies that have led to mass-unemployment and which is prefers to enact the wishes of lobbyists and large corporations rather than the populace as a whole? Indeed, hasn't Juncker said words to the effect that the populace can safely be ignored?

  22. There's a small typo in Jean Pisani-Ferry's name, in footnote 4.

  23. Dear Simon,
    Welcome to the pessimism club, if welcome is the right word. Like you I see no hope at all of avoiding hard brexit. We get to live in the society we create. May will throw the country to the wolves so long as she can get re-elected. Given the propensity of the public to mis-identify culprits and willfully misunderstand facts, then this will be a success. The fact that it will further feed the monster of popular discontent is a side effect. Eventually it will explode, bored farmers get injured frequently because they put their hands inside running machines; in general people underestimate risk.

    This is not limited to the UK, in fact, we may actually be living through a golden age of reason. When one looks the US or in a very different way Scotland, we see a divided public. We see embrace of majoritarianism, being right means 50 % plus one vote. The public will must be heard. The same disease now infects England. Majoritarianism was always feared since it is incompatible with civil society. I see echoes of it in the Labour party and the endless repetition of "mandate" and the referendum result must be respected (I agree the result was against one thing not for something else). As if that one election binds us all to bow our heads forever to he who shouts loudest or get 1 more vote. That winning vote makes something right even when its wrong. (Climate change cannot be voted away for example)

    Where we disagree is I think you remain too focussed on the UK and its media. The problem occurs in all pretty much all what used to be known as Western democracies.

    My vision of the future is more international; I see us becoming Egypt or Russia.
    Look at the all the people on the populist left and right that 'praise' Putin, a man who murders journalists, bombs hospitals, jails opponents and invades countries.

    In our future we will have no opponents, only traitors or evil doers. Where economic failure is evident but blamed on outsiders, where the drum of nationalism stirs and hardens hearts. Where a hint of violence is used to curb debate or even better self-censor. Where those like you and me, the comfortable educated elite connive with the strong man or at least shut up because the alternative a bloody revolution will destroy everything left we value or we are afraid of the strong man's helpers.
    We are probably closer to this world than my lifespan, I had hoped not to live to see this but I now think I will.

  24. «It is not difficult to get across the benefits of immigration, given how much the NHS and our construction sector depend on immigrants,»

    So that's largely about low-income jobs, and in prosperous, densely populated southern England, so it is rather "benefits of immigration from low-wage countries to southern England" rather than «benefits of immigration» as such.

    Also, what the EU gives is not the «benefits of immigration», but the benefits of free movement, both in and out, and a lot of affluent UK citizens have taken advantage of that; plus half or over of the immigration from low wage countries to southern England has happened from outside the EU, thanks to a points system targeted at supplying upper-middle and upper class voters in southern England with cheaper and more docile hired help.

    Anyhow, as to the "benefits of immigration from low-wage countries to southern England" as to cutting the wage costs of NHS and construction, are those benefits accruing to the «generally poorer, less well-educated» or to the «more prosperous»? :-)

    1. My daughter is a Medical Registrar, more usually called the MedReg, whose job includes training junior doctors, treating her own patients, and leading the resuscitation team. I consulted her about your query, and, once she'd stopped laughing -it's called gallows humour- she noted that the NHS cannot survive without immigrants doing jobs across the spectrum of hospital life.

      Modern medicine is a team effort; the crash team is a very obvious example of this, and I can assure you that my daughter does not delay her instructions to her team by checking to see whether the patient is 'more prosperous'. Even if she wanted to, and she doesn't, they have 4 minutes to establish oxygenated blood supply to the brain because without it irreversible brain damage sets in, and try and identify and fix whatever caused the cardio-pulmonary arrest in the first place.

      From the patient's perspective, I have a personal debt of gratitude to an Eastern European burns surgeon at the Royal London, who pulled me out from under the wheels of the proverbial ten ton truck. I do not understand why you assume that surgeons are 'docile hired help'; this is not a surgeon's mindset. They don't do docile; I can only assume you've never met one.

      My Daughter trained at the Medical School in Newcastle, which provided her not only with her degrees, but also expertise in illnesses rarely seen outside areas of that kind of social deprivation. It means she's got a far better shot at recognising rarities as she traipses to a new Hospital each year.

      And finally, in the City of London those allegedly poorly paid construction workers: they are, or more precisely were, well paid; I live in the City of London where building work has come more or less to a juddering halt following Brexit; I predicted that as being blindingly obvious long before the vote, though no one listened.

  25. The debate hides the underlying philosophy. It’s pretty clear that SWL et al are spinning a line because they believe something that they don’t think it is prudent to share. In discussion with political theorists and philosophers its pretty clear there is an underlying assumption that they share but don’t actually want to highlight.

    AFAICT that boils down to what can only be described as a sense of extreme individualism. That an individual has the right to do what they want and should have the means to do it. Which is pretty much the same underlying philosophy as those who support the ‘flat world’ view of global capitalism.

    The difference is that the global capitalists realise that for an individual to be able to do as they please they have to be able to suppress anybody who gets in their way.

    The international socialists refuse to acknowledge the fallacy of composition. In reality individuals can only do what they want to do as long as it doesn’t stop somebody else doing the same. Once you get to those conflict zones, you have to have a social method of negotiating the conflict of desires.

    The essence of the basic income ideas is the same globalisation idea, which is to take those at the bottom end of the income distribution and essentially pay them off. Then forget about them.

    It’s all really about a individualist networked upper middle class creating an aristocratic lifestyle for themselves.

  26. This is an excellent Blog which I have just discovered. Simon Wren Lewis (SWL) has got his assessments spot on. The other good thing is the absence of trolls amongst the commentators.


Unfortunately because of spam with embedded links (which then flag up warnings about the whole site on some browsers), I have to personally moderate all comments. As a result, your comment may not appear for some time. In addition, I cannot publish comments with links to websites because it takes too much time to check whether these sites are legitimate.