Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Brexit and Corbyn: how our media fails the people


For every academic economist that thought Brexit would benefit the economy, 22 thought the opposite. That is as near as unanimous as you are ever going to get among economists. It is certainly a consensus. The BBC failed to get that message across during the referendum campaign. Instead, because of their policy of balance, they gave people a completely different message.

How could they have acted differently given their balance policy? Easily - by simply quoting the 22 to 1 figure every time economic issues came up. I am told they did sometimes, but sometimes is just not good enough, just like telling the truth occasionally will not do. I cannot say for sure that the BBC’s policy and inaction swung the vote, but over 40% of voters continue to believe they will be better off after Brexit.

The Royal Economic Society wrote angry letters, but they were brushed aside. Since then the government has produced their own analysis of the consequences of Brexit, and it is very similar to what economists said before the vote. But you would not know that from the BBC’s commentary on Brexit. In their ‘one year to go’ coverage I saw lots of talking from politicians and members of the public, but nothing was said about the economic consequences of leaving. No experts anywhere in sight.

The Prime Minister was also touring the country for the cameras last week. She did interviews. I saw two, with the BBC and ITV. In both she talked about being able to spend more money because we wouldn’t have to pay “year in and year out” the “vast amounts” we currently pay into the EU. That is simply a lie and she knows it. The Chancellor looks to the OBR to tell him how much money he has to spend. You may not like that system, but it is how things work in the UK at the moment. The OBR believe the Chancellor will have around $15 billion a year less to spend as a result of Brexit (source, p249).

When a politician lies so openly and so obviously, it is any serious journalist’s duty to recognise that fact in some way. The easiest thing to do in this case is to say ‘but PM. the OBR says there will be no Brexit dividend, and in fact …”. But on both the occasions I saw the lie was allowed to pass. Henry Porter makes a similar observation. In what way are viewers who may be looking to broadcasters for reliable information on Brexit served by this indifference to truth. It is, quite simply, the media’s job to expose politicians when they lie.

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I have talked before about antisemitism in the Labour party. Contrary to what many members say, I think it is a particular problem for Labour members because of the Israel Palestine situation, and I also personally think implicitly arguing that Israel should not exist as a state is antisemitic.

But it is also true, unfortunately, that those who oppose Labour, or Labour as it now is, will use this problem as a means to attack Labour by exaggerating it. A classic example came in a poll that the Times commissioned from YouGov. Labour party members were asked which of these three statements most chimed with their view.
  1. It is a serious and genuine problem that the party leadership needs to take urgent action to address (19%)
  2. It is a genuine problem, but its extent is being deliberately exaggerated to damage Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle criticism of Israel (47%)
  3. It is not a serious problem at all, and is being hyped up to undermine Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. (30%)
The numbers in brackets are the percentage replies (the rest said Don’t Know). Journalists at the Times interpreted this as “Less than 1 in 5 Labour Party members believe antisemitism is a genuine problem that needs addressing”. Not 30%, which is worrying enough, but according to these journalists 80% of members do not think antisemitism within the Labour party is a serious problem.

Choosing to interpret the results in this way showed that reply (B) is in fact correct. The way the poll is phrased implies (B) is (A)+, not that (B) is different from (A), still less than choosing (B) implies you do not think antisemitism is a genuine and serious problem that needs tackling. On twitter I did come across some people who wanted to argue otherwise, and thereby exogenerate the Times journalists. One told me that answering (B) was malinging Jews. I was rather shocked by that, as I would have answered (B). The reality is that antisemitism in the Labour party is a genuine problem but it is being exaggerated to attack Corbyn. Labour party members should care about both and therefore answer (B).

That the right wing press plays fast and loose with polls and facts more generally is normal, unfortunately. What is much more worrying is when the BBC does the same. When a notorious right wing blogger broke the news that Corbyn had celebrated Passover seder at the invitation of his local Jewish organisation Jewdas, the BBC led with it as a major story. Other Jewish organisations suggested that by accepting this invitation Corbyn was not serious about dealing with antisemitism because, according to the BBC, “Jewdas has previously suggested anti-Semitism claims were right-wing smears.” That statement, unqualified, is at the top of the website’s story at 3pm yesterday. Much further down the story is a statement from Jewdas saying “Let's make something clear: we do NOT believe accusations of antisemitism in Labour and the left are nothing more than smears.” Here, from 2014, is its guide at how to avoid antisemitism, which presumably it would not have posted if it thought antisemitism claims were just right wing smears.

This is just another version of the (A) or (B) problem above. The BBC through their reporting are explicitly judging that an organisation of the left like Jewdas are not serious about the left’s antisemitism problem because they dare to say that the problem is also being exaggerated to attack Corbyn. Either that of the BBC decided it was more important to follow a story from a right wing blog than first check out the facts about a left wing Jewish organisation, and then ignore the facts anyway. I find it quite shocking that the BBC should do this.***
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Bias in the right wing press is obviously important: it gave us Brexit. The right wing press is almost always anti-Labour, and it is difficult to judge whether being even more anti-Corbyn makes that much difference. The exception is 1997, of course, and at least two studies (here and here) suggest that had a large positive effect on the Labour vote.

It is the broadcast media where I think we find specific bias against Corbyn. There are some who say that if you accuse the BBC as being biased against Corbyn you ‘have lost the political argument’. On the contrary to suggest this reflects the kind of false centrism that I complained of here. I am no Corbynista: I wanted Owen Smith to win the 2016 Labour leadership election. I doubt if a former chairman of the BBC Trust is a Corbynista either, but he talks about “extraordinary attacks” on Corbyn. Academic research suggests the BBC is biased against Corbyn, and how the bias can be subtle in a way other broadcasters are not.

I think Ivor Gabor gets it right here.The BBC does have a bias, and it is to the consensus or centre as it sees it. A key reference point to where the BBC sees the centre is Westminster. As many Labour MPs are unhappy about Corbyn’s leadership, that means Corbyn is outside the consensus and therefore subject to BBC bias against him. The cue for the BBC to ‘follow the story’ from press attacks against Corbyn is invariably whether attacks come in part from Labour MPs. The BBC did not follow the ‘Corbyn was a Czech spy’ nonsense, and Andrew Neil effectively demolished it here, but where Labour MPs did criticise Corbyn over the Salisbury attacks and antisemitism, the BBC has happily followed the story pursued by the right wing press. [1]

There clearly is a real story over antisemitism. But in the case of the BBC we do not have balance. At the time of the London mayoral elections the prime minister at the time falsely accused an innocent member of the public, who had visited No.10, as being involved with the Islamic State. It was part of a blatantly Islamophobic campaign again the eventual victor, Sadiq Khan. But you would not know that from the BBC’s coverage. There was no discussion of the Conservative Party's Islamophobia problem. [2]

In addition, when it comes to antisemitism, some of the most worrying developments must be what is currently going on in Hungary. There the government has set up George Soros as almost the country’s No.1 enemy, and it is no coincidence that Soros also happens to be a rich Jew. So when May’s ex-adviser in the Daily Telegraph described Soros as “a rich gambler … accused of meddling in nation’s affairs” who was part of a “secret plot” to thwart Brexit, that should have rung antisemitism alarm bells. It did in the Guardian and some other media outlets, but the BBC didn’t follow that story? Instead they covered the Telegraph story as the Telegraph did.

In the case of the Salisbury poisoning, Corbyn was more cautious in attributing blame to Putin than most of parliament. It was a tactical error in political terms. He would have done better to have followed parliament in accepting Putin’s guilt, and focused on why Putin felt emboldened to do such things: could it have anything to do with May’s reluctance to hold an inquiry into the Litvinenko killings, or the rather expensive tennis match between Conservative ministers and oligarchs linked to Putin. Because of his error and the anti-Corbyn bias in the media the story became him instead. But a minor tactical error in parliament does not seem to equate with lying about the Brexit dividend, which May gets away with completely. And it now transpires that Corbyn asked questions which the media failed to ask.

Just as it is obvious the BBC and to a lesser extent other broadcasters have a Corbyn problem, it is also obvious that this matters a lot. Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party, so criticism of Corbyn hurts Labour. As Justin Lewis argues here, the Labour surge in 2017 clearly shows what can happen when this bias is reduced because of election campaign rules. I have talked about how a media filter that slants the news against Labour normally applies, but this filter was removed during the final weeks of the election campaign. Who knows what the 2017 result would have been if this filter had been removed earlier. We have seen this filter in action over the last few weeks.

The problems within the BBC and perhaps other broadcasters over Corbyn also apply to Brexit. (The problems at the BBC over Brexit seem worse than for other broadcasters such as Sky News. Chris Grey has an excellent account of how that can be.) At best, it may be that what the BBC considers as a consensus comes from Parliament, and both main parties support Brexit. As with Corbyn, this is the wrong reference point. Polls suggest that nearly half the country supports Corbyn’s Labour party, and a majority thinks Brexit is a mistake. The BBC needs to stick their heads out of the Westminster bubble and start focusing on the concerns of the country as a whole.
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One final personal point. This post is not about macroeconomics but media bias. Am I abusing the title of my blog? Only one of two will form the main party in the government after the next election. One of those parties has a sensible macroeconomic policy that I played a very minor role in helping to create, and the other has followed a policy that is refuted in first year economics textbooks and has as a result lost the average household resources worth £10,000. The same party seems to be controlled by politicians and others who would happily inflict even greater economic harm on the UK for the sake of their ideology. Economists are always criticised for not seeing the bigger picture. The bigger picture is if you want sensible economic policies you need to ask why extremely harmful policies have been implemented since 2010.

***Postscript (05/05/18) The BBC have admitted they made a mistake at the top of this report. (HT @patrickamon)
19 minu


[1] Corbyn supporters sometimes tell me that dissent within Labour justifies attempts to deselect MPs precisely because the media panalises dissent. I would prefer to keep dissenting MPs, and change how the media works.

[2] Another problem is that the BBC’s finances are too easily influenced by the government of the day, so it is inevitable that the BBC will be reluctant to pick fights with the government.


28 comments:

  1. On the personal point, you have no reason to be sensitive about abuse of this blog's or discipline drift. If economics is confined only to a hypothetical world where the realities of real policy making are ignored then it is of little purpose or interest. This is a large part of why too many students are put off economics even though it should be fascinating because of its importance to our lives. As you say "if you want sensible economic policies you need to ask why extremely harmful policies have been implemented since 2010" . It is refreshing to see an economist accept the risk of criticism, it is an increase in relevance not a loss of rigour.

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  2. Just one point: People in general are not saying there should not be a state of Israel. What they are opposed to is the encroachment of the settlements and the systematic degradation of the people of Gaza

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  3. Presumably a ratio of 22 to 1 economists supported the Treasury document “HM Treasury analysis: the immediate economic impact of leaving the EU”. We can now compare the GDP forecasts for 2016 Q3 to 2018 Q2 in Table 2C with actuality and we can see that those forecasts were complete and utter garbage.

    One might expect that such a gross public, demonstrable failure for any profession, which had aspirations to be considered scientific, would provoke a widespread examination and vigorous public debate. Instead economists such as this author have decided to ignore the problem and peddle forecasts for the long term effects of Brexit which are based on the same flawed assumptions. The predecessors of today’s economic forecasters when they threw chicken bones and looked at the alignment of the stars had enough self-awareness to inject their own commonsense into their forecasts. Today’s econometricians have no such cognizance. The BBC has treated economists with contempt for one simple reason they are contemptible.

    If Simon Wren Lewis wishes us to take economic forecasts seriously then he needs to answer these questions.

    Why were the Treasury short term forecasts so wrong?

    What changes have economists made to their models in light of this failure?

    Why, in light of this, should we now believe the long term forecasts on the effects of Brexit?

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    1. Brexiteers are correct when they say that the pre-Referendum Treasury forecasts about the performance of the UK economy proved to be invalid.

      Below is an excerpt from a Reuter's article dated 24 January 2018.

      " [ A top official from the Treasury] ... Tom Scholar told ... [MP's of the Treasury Committee] on Wednesday the forecasts were based on an assumption that Britain would immediately start the process of leaving the European Union, and they did not include any stimulus measures for the economy.
      In fact, Britain took nine months to launch the Brexit process and the Bank of England pumped in stimulus shortly after the vote. Last November [2017], the government announced measures which were also aimed at helping the economy.

      “The third (factor) I would say is that the global economy has recovered much more strongly ...than we expected at the time,” Scholar said.

      Britain’s economy has withstood the Brexit vote shock better than most private economists expected, but it has lagged behind growth rates achieved in other advanced economies."

      https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-treasury/uks-pre-referendum-brexit-forecasts-no-longer-valid-treasury-idUKKBN1FD2KG

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    2. These are valid points, and some of us have made them earlier. A few people before the referendum did say the right thing: the costs of a Brexit are uncertain would be difficult to quantify - but they are likely to be large and felt in the long term. The costs are most likely to be associated with reduced ability to influence decisions - both geopolitical and economic - that are made on the continent, and increased difficulties for traders if we were to leave the single market. New markets, if they could be found, would involve a considerable transition period."

      Most of this cannot be sensibly modelled.

      NK.

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    3. "Why were the Treasury short term forecasts so wrong?"

      As always, because they were conditional forecasts and changes were made in response to them. As always, you insist on saying that, because a doctor recommended you quit smoking or risk lung disease, and you quit smoking and did not get lung disease, that doctors were lying and need to stop telling everyone to quit smoking.

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    4. It's not as simple as saying the forecasts were wrong.

      Unconditional forecasts are almost always wrong - in the sense that they are not precisely accurate. As you know if you read this blog, the model produce a range of forecasts. How does the range of forecasts compare?

      Moreover the Bank of England cut interest rates after the Brexit vote to reduce the negative impact. How does that effect the predictions?

      Details... details... but that's what expertise is.

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    5. " you insist on saying that, because a doctor recommended you quit smoking or risk lung disease, and you quit smoking and did not get lung disease, that doctors were lying and need to stop telling everyone to quit smoking."

      Poor analogy. The doctor gave the patient "a week to live". Two years later the patient has a slight health problem but is showing signs of further recovery.

      Does anyone believe that the forecasts would have been correct if they had known in advance what the Government response would be and that the world economy would do? I don't. The forecasting process was fundamentally flawed. It correctly modelled the fall in Sterling, I am guessing that the sensitivity of trade and exports to the Exchange Rate was not properly considered. (Personally, I judged the forecasts to be wrong because of my knowledge of what happened previously when the UK left the ERM).

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    6. “It's not as simple as saying the forecasts were wrong.”

      Yes it is. That is how you judge forecasts. In this case, (for GDP and employment) the forecasts for 2016 Q3 to 2018 Q3 weren’t slightly wrong they were very grossly wrong. Read the report “HM Treasury analysis: the immediate economic impact of leaving the EU”and pay particular attention to Table 2C.

      Read the executive summary, there is nothing conditional or tentative about it.

      “A vote to leave would cause an immediate and profound economic shock creating instability and uncertainty which would be compounded by the complex and interdependent negotiations that would follow. The central conclusion of the analysis is that the effect of this profound shock would be to push the UK into recession and lead to a sharp rise in unemployment.”

      or

      “In conclusion, the analysis in this document shows that a vote to leave the EU would result in a marked deterioration in economic prosperity and security. This is based on a widely-accepted approach, and is supported by the effects of uncertainty already evident in financial markets and the real economy. A recession would be expected to follow even in the more cautious scenario with a significant risk that the outcome could be far worse.”

      It is all very well to say the forecasters couldn’t have predicted Government actions etc. If so, we must judge the longer term forecasts regarding Brexit on the same basis. The forecasters can’t predict what the Government and EU will do in future so they can’t give meaningful forecasts. We can rely even less on the opinions of economists since most of them supported the short term forecasts and they were wrong. Didn’t any of them do a few thought experiments? ... What if the Government decided to respond by a stimulus? ... What if the onset of onset of Article 50 were delayed. ....Would this result in a totally different outcome? How do economists justify their positions if they don’t do simple thought experiments like this. Why the groupthink?

      The Queen once asked why no one saw the credit crunch coming. Perhaps she should now ask why no one foresaw the economy would survive the immediate aftermath of a Leave Vote fairly intact.

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    7. "Moreover the Bank of England cut interest rates after the Brexit vote to reduce the negative impact. How does that effect the predictions?"

      We will never know because the 'Leave' side were denied the chance to propose more realistic assumptions for this exercise. I doubt though that it would have produced a complete reversal of outcomes.

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  4. All excellent points, and I fully agree B is the correct answer.

    That said, I will note that by mentioning the deselection specter, you're also contributing to the subtle malignment of Labour, given that there hasn't been any serious attempt to deselect anyone (quite unlike after Blair!) and that it's frequently cast in terms to make it look like a Stalinist purge instead of a democratic accountability process. In most conversations about this, it feels like projection on the part of MPs who want to be able to malign their leader in scandalous BBC headlines, while also remaining immune to any criticism from their members (many of whom put in enormous amounts of effort to keep their seats at the last election!).

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  5. The BBC has performed badly again but I don't think either Russia or the antisemitism row will have hurt the Labour vote in the upcoming local elections; both issues are too messy for a clear message to have come out of them.

    But coverage of Brexit remains the problem, and the BBC might find that if the Tory Party begins to break apart on the issue in the next few months, then the Corporation could find its past coverage without a strong and stable backer.

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  6. "Economists are always criticised for not seeing the bigger picture. The bigger picture is if you want sensible economic policies you need to ask why extremely harmful policies have been implemented since 2010."

    Because economists had all the cards before 2008. Nobody in power questioned what they were doing - they were taken on their word - and they got what they wanted - ever freer trade, capital and labour flows (that is deregulation or light touch in the goods, capital and labour markets), an independent central bank that was not to get involved in quantitative decisions regarding credit allocation (why - because neo-classical theory says that any interference with the price mechanism - including the price of credit - is a bad thing and democratically elected governments cannot be trusted). We trusted the 'modern and sophisticated' models economists were using - as we also did those who said similar things in the financial sector who also had far too much faith in such contraptions. Well the results are in, and it is no surprise that there is a lot of cynicism - and the media, which was remarkably uncritical of the government during the Blair years (with the exception of its foreign policy and events surrounding the Iraq occupation) - is now much more sceptical. It merely reflects a feeling that neo-liberals and economists were in a close relationship with the New Labour government. It was the failure of these policies to deal with long-standing problems in Britain that culminated in the financial crash that ultimately brought in a Tory government, the austerity policies you lament, and finally Brexit. (Ironically they blamed globalisation - something they helped bring in.) I have a feeling that many in the media feel they allowed New Labour to get away with too much and were far too manipulated by their spin.

    NK.

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  7. Very interesting blog. The media bias is real and affects elections extremely unfairly. I am keen to learn about economics so your last paragraph was an important one for me. In what way was the other party's economic policy one that is refuted in first year economics text books. If you could list these points simply for a layman such as myself I would be grateful. Ron Lawley (this is my real name)

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  8. "I also personally think implicitly arguing that Israel should not exist as a state is antisemitic."

    As a Jew, I think the opposite. While I accept that it is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too late to go back and change things now, it was wrong to establish Israel in the first place, and I also think Zionism as a concept is anti-Semitic in tendency - or at least it gives in to anti-Semitic tendencies. Zionism implicitly accepts the anti-Semitic notion that Jews cannopt co-exist with gentiles, and so should be shuffled off elsewhere and out of the way of 'decent people' (usually very offensively defined as 'anyone who isn't Jewish'). I find that giving in to that hostility to be utterly offensive and wrong.

    While I accept that Israel HAS to remain after over 70 years of establishing itself, it desperately needs to reform and to stop allowing an Orthodox minority to exert a disproportionate influence on its policies.

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  9. Your comment "it is any serious journalist’s duty to recognise that fact in some way" in my view highlights the issue. The BBC has no real serious economic journalists anymore.

    When Robert Preston and Stephanie Flanders were at the BBC the analysis was educational but now it seems to me the BBC is just a money making machine trying to dumb everything down into entertainment. Hence the highly paid presenters and underpaid specialists.

    The BBC no longer contributes anything of value and has become a main stream entertainment company. Given its current path I feel it will be sold off and that will be good riddance to bad rubbish. I now resent the licence fee and see no reason for keeping the BBC public as it no longer serves the public but serves itself and the politicians.

    All the BBC's scientific output is all about entertainment. Scientific programs have very little content and any content is constantly repeated to fill out time. Programs focus on over the top graphics and music.

    I so long for programs that focus on education/facts/serious debate and not just entertainment.

    In some ways though the BBC's dumbing down has done me a favour as I now no longer religiously read the BBC content but now look elsewhere. Hence reading your great blog!

    MPC

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  10. All this analysis is reasonable, however it is also true - even accepting that media bias - that Corbyn and his inner circle, at the least, have not demonstrated any particular level of competence in pushing back. Consider the Jewdas 'affair'. To quote the Guardian:

    Asked if it was helpful for Corbyn to meet a group whose Twitter account called Israel “a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of”, Lansman said the comment was “certainly not helpful to Jeremy or the cause of opposing antisemitism in the Labour party”.

    To put it another way, this level of media management savvy is woeful. You would think that Milne, at least, would have some idea, but appears not.

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  11. The decline of the Times as a centrist newspaper of record is a sad development that parallels the BBC. They are more mannered than the rabid Tory tabloids, but the desire for a pro-May/anti-Corbyn slant on every major story is transparent (and I don't just use the names as convenient labels: the personalisation is of their own making).

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  12. Economics has arrived at the bottom of the proto-scientific shithole
    Comment on Simon Wren-Lewis on ‘Brexit and Corbyn: how our media fails the people’

    There is political economics and theoretical economics. The main differences are: (i) The goal of political economics is to successfully push an agenda, the goal of theoretical economics is to successfully explain how the actual economy works. (ii) In political economics anything goes; in theoretical economics, the scientific standards of material and formal consistency are observed.

    Economics claims to be a science but is NOT. Theoretical economics (= science) had been hijacked from the very beginning by political economists (= agenda pushers).

    The true economic theory tells one how the economic system works. The economist needs the true theory, i.e. the humanly best mental representation of reality: “In order to tell the politicians and practitioners something about causes and best means, the economist needs the true theory or else he has not much more to offer than educated common sense or his personal opinion.” (Stigum)

    Economists do not have the true theory but they have opinions for all seasons. Actually, economists have long ago given up science and turned to the shaping of public opinion.

    This, for example, are the latest posts of Simon Wren-Lewis.
    • Brexit and Corbyn: how our media fails the people,
    • The media and Attitudes to Austerity,
    • Is Trump about race and Brexit about culture?,
    • Jeremy Corbyn cannot end Brexit,
    • The Output Gap is no longer a sufficient statistic for inflationary pressure,
    • Beliefs about Brexit,
    • A road to right wing authoritarian government.

    Six of the seven posts are about how the corrupt UK media distort reality, only one post is about economics proper. It is a fair summary to say that Simon Wren-Lewis is primarily in the PR/propaganda/journalism business and only superficially engaged in science.

    Simon Wren-Lewis’ expertise consists of educated common sense and academic majority opinion but lacks sound scientific foundations because he has not realized that standard economics in its current incarnation as DSGE is proto-scientific garbage.

    The vast majority of economists has entirely lost any scientific instincts, which would tell them to keep science and politics strictly apart,#1 and has joined the crowd of clowns and useful idiots in the political Circus Maximus.

    Everyone can know from history that science cannot improve politics but that politics inescapably corrupts science, or as the great Schumpeter put it: “The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.” Much more so, if he has no ideals.

    Economics has been captured 200+ years ago by political agenda pushers and this is why it has become the most embarrassing failure in the history of modern science.

    Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

    #1 “A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued, and if so, in what cases and to how great a length, it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision.” (J. S. Mill)

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  13. If you know that the right wing press, and to a lesser extent the BBC because it often takes its lead from the national newspapers, will use every opportunity to criticise him, surely it shows very poor political judgement for Corbyn to so strongly associate himself with a fringe anti-capitalist and anti-Israeli group. Moreover the failure of the Labour Party to reform convoluted internal disciplinary procedures to address anti-Semiticism is another example of an own goal. Politics is a rough old business. As a fringe backbencher Corbyn was able to get away with saying and doing many ill judged things. As a party leader you do not have this luxury.


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    1. The real story, as some of the more pithy (and reasonable) commentators put it, was that Jeremy Corbyn has other left-wing, israel-critical friends. You may not have realised it, given the press ignored it, but this wasn't a public event; Corbyn attended a private festivity which was infiltrated by a political commentator to dredge dirt on him.

      One might have thought that political commentators infiltrating religious ceremonies for the purposes of alleging conspiracy and scandal would be a particularly problematic look in this case, but nobody else seems to think that's a relevant consideration.

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. "The BBC have admitted they made a mistake at the top of this report."

    Hah. Hardly. They're sticking to their usual tone of "The report might've ignored some so-called 'facts', but we feel it was emotively correct and in line with our existing biases." There is no attempt to publicise the error. There is no apology, just admission. No acknowledgement of the biased tone of their work.

    I'm not going to say that online news, twitter, and forums are the panacea because there is a fake news issue, but perhaps the mainstream media should look to it's own house for why so many people are looking to alternative sources. It is obvious they are just as committed to twisting facts to support narratives as everyone else.

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  16. What is the 22:1 based upon? Is that "all" the academic economists or a sample? Anyone who tells you they know what the situation will be in, say, forty years time is not really being truthful; the fact is that no one knows where we will be in forty years time. I am not saying you are wrong but the job of the BBC to fairly present this issue is more difficult and more nuanced than you imply. Both Remainers and Leavers are both essentially making prophecies about the future and balancing different prophecies is not easy and, however much you argue, this is what is happening.

    As far as what TM has said I don't deny what you have said but there is another version. May could have concluded that to speak the "truth" in your terms might be right but it might also be inflammatory and indeed throwing some doubt on the fidelity of the government in pursuing Brexit. At the end of the day we have decided to quit the EU and to proceed down a path which is probably quite inflammatory is hardly sensible politics. I am not excusing TM; I am simply making the argument that there is a judicious aspect to all of this against the back ground of a decision already taken; TM's attitude may not be the most truthful; it might however be the most judicious.

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  17. Re the comments about the BBC.

    I find the BBC sports coverage is very good. Results are reported accurately. There is a very large and well funded team of sports reporters and commentators. Whatever happens with the Political and Economics coverage please leave the sports coverage as it is. Thanks.

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  18. With UK newspapers publishing online as well as on paper, we are surely getting to the stage where a more accurate measure of their political influence is the number of minutes per day people spend reading, say, the Daily Mail's words on a screen or on paper. (Although, apparently the online Daily Mail is a very different animal from the newsprint edition.)
    See link:
    https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2017/december/time-spent-reading-newspapers

    The rise of the internet has now made it much easier to find home-made blogs expressing views which differ from those widely disseminated by the UK's many right-wing newspapers.

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  19. Sorry for posting slightly off topic. On Friday I visited a Wetherspoon pub for the first time. The Wetherspoon company produce a free magazine for customers and the Spring edition was placed on some tables. Presumably this was once meant to be a source of service related information for its customers. I do not know what the mag's status is with respect to VAT and Inland Revenue. Ten pages of its about 45 (I forgot to count, apologies), carry full page, uninterrupted by either adverts or other Wetherspoon related information, pro-Brexit articles by different authors. No anti-Brexit opinion is provided, and the pieces are not of the balanced form. I captured the pages on my phone, and considerable thought has gone into how text is presented: font, colour and layout; particularly in contrast to other pages in the mag. I know from friends that Weatherspoon is a pub chain that's very popular with white working class and the retired (it does good discounts for the over 65's). I find this use of business resources an abuse of company assets and a threat to our democracy, which is why I mention it here.

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  20. Clearly pro EU supporters keep going on about Brexit as though they actually know what they are talking about when clearly they don't. You can't predict the future so until you know the terms that we leave the EU , you can't assess anything.

    The EU is another Neo-Liberal bastion that if you support Europe you support this bankrupt form of economics. So why don't those that support it say so and explain how they see the future within the constraints of this idiiotic economic system.

    The current war mongering between May and Trump is also a neat diversion away from the economic catastrophe has been created by these self same deluded politicians.

    If Europe was so successful then the rise of fascism would not have happened, people would be content instead of looking other victims to blame for what they presume to be a problem. Europe is slowly returning back to the same state as it did before the last war for the very same reasons, and stupid politicians ignore it as though it will miraculously go away, whilst fomenting hate against Russia hoping that concentrate minds; avoiding what is happening on their own doorstep.

    Europe is disaster waiting to happen and some just keep harping on about whether we will be able to cope outside it, forgetting that we did so for more than a thousand years before it. Don't mention peace because the lunatic fringe in Europe have been goading Russia at the behest of their American friends for over 4 years now.

    "Vladimir Putin.

    Washington's role in Ukraine is different only in its implications for the rest of us. For the first time since the Reagan years, the US is threatening to take the world to war. With eastern Europe and the Balkans now military outposts of Nato, the last "buffer state" bordering Russia – Ukraine – is being torn apart by fascist forces unleashed by the US and the EU. We in the west are now backing neo-Nazis in a country where Ukrainian Nazis backed Hitler".

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/13/ukraine-us-war-russia-john-pilger

    Europe doesn't worry about the rise of fascism along with our brain dead government, but we should.


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