Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016


Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Why did the UK become a failed state?


‘I should be the leader of a government of national unity’. ‘No you shouldn’t, someone else should’. I’m afraid if you were hoping I would write about this nonsense you will be disappointed. It seems to me right now nothing more than just another way for those who really dislike Corbyn to attack him and those who support Labour to attack everyone else. Rebel Tories will be hoping a crash out Brexit can be stopped another way, and if that fails or in the unlikely event that Johnson ignores parliament, who has the relatively unimportant job of leading a caretaker government will be decided days before it needs to be decided, and not before.

The discussion is one illustration that the UK has become a failed state, where a government about to do great harm to those it governs draws comfort from opposition parties arguing with each other. This post is about how a policy (crashing out of the EU) that will do nearly everyone harm and some great harm seems to have considerable, albeit still minority, support. I wrote in January about how the rest of the world thinks Brexit is utterly stupid, and leaving without any deal looks beyond stupid. When a country does something as idiotic as this, and it has popular support, there is something deeply wrong with that country.

Arguments that people really believe they will gain something worth the cost of the pain and suffering of crashing out merely shifts the question, because we will gain nothing that comes near compensating for the costs. Most supporters of Brexit cannot name an EU based law that has a significant negative impact on their lives, let alone a law that the UK opposed at the time, let alone compare that to the many EU laws that have brought benefits. Nationalism alone is not an answer: few think football fans would be better off if our teams stopped playing in the Champions League, or if our national teams could no longer buy overseas players.

What we have is an information failure, where warnings of the dire consequences of crashing out are not believed but fanciful stories that being outside the EU will allow us to improve ourselves are believed. It is no surprise that the government is furious about the leak of the Operation Yellowhammer (predicting immediate shortages of medicines, food and fuel after we crash out), but what is more surprising is that a third of the population believes politicians that say these worries, documented by the government's own civil service, are unfounded. Politicians that are normally quick to assert that the machinery of government is incapable of organising anything well on this occasion are pretending that same machinery can work wonders.

One of the lessons I learnt from working on the economic impact of a different kind of disaster is that consumer reaction can seriously magnify its impact. In this case as soon as stories of shortages occur people start ‘panic buying’ and those shortages are magnified tenfold or more. It is this reason that the leaked documents talk of dealing with law and order problems, including riots.

That no government minister will guarantee that no one will die as a result of crashing out is revealing. That the NHS is prevented from voicing its fears tells you even more. Yet many of those who believe it is right for us to crash out of the EU are also older and depend the most on the NHS. Again this makes no sense unless you see this as an information failure where these connections are just not being made.

The broadcast media is obsessed by recessions (and in particular the technical definition of a recession), but those freely predicting one should learn from what happened after the 2016 referendum. On that occasion many consumers responded to higher inflation cutting their real wages by saving less, and the same could happen again. We also saw in 2016 that predicting a recession that does not happen can distract from the real cost of Brexit. What we have seen instead since 2016 has been a steady gap emerging between UK growth and growth elsewhere, together with a collapse in investment. 

Too often short term shortages are presented in war like terms: we will get through it and it will be worth it once it is over. The truth is that by making trade with our biggest trading partner much more difficult will ensure that the UK grows more slowly. We will be permanently and substantially worse off as a result of crashing out. The bumpy road is going downhill. Those who tell you this is just another forecast do not know what they are talking about. One of the basic ideas in economics is that trade makes people better off, because if it didn’t why would people trade? Making it harder to trade with the EU means less trade with the EU. There are no sunlit uplands when it comes to crashing out of the EU, which is why of course other countries think we are utterly stupid to try. With less income comes less public services: a worse health service, higher taxes or both of these. There will be thousands of firms like this one, strangled not just by tariffs but the greater bureaucracy that comes with Brexit.

Leave politicians understand this, which is why they talk about all the marvelous trade deals we will get now that we are free from the EU. The reality is once again the opposite of this. The EU is in fact very good, and very experienced, at doing trade deals with other countries, and we will lose nearly all those when we crash out. Once that happens politicians will be desperate to do two things: sign a trade deal with the EU and with the US. Negotiations about a trade deal with the EU will not even start for some time, because the EU will insist on the backstop staying in place along with a level playing field in terms of competition, neither of which a Tory government will accept until they have to. The compromises that our current government thinks it can avoid by crashing out will be made at some point, and so all the pain of crashing out will be completely pointless.

Donald Trump supports Brexit because he knows the UK will be desperate to do a trade deal with the US when it leaves, and he knows people desperate to do a deal are vulnerable to exploitation. In this case no deal may well be better than a bad deal, but the government will sign it anyway because it will look good at the time, and the harm it does can be delayed or fudged. [1] This illustrates a basic political point. Countries are much stronger as part of a group than they are on their own. We have already seen how the EU has backed the Irish government in trying to keep to the Good Friday Agreement alive, and when the UK crashes out just watch the EU’s efforts to diminish the economic costs on the Irish economy.

What the EU cannot prevent is the creation of a hard border on mainland Ireland when we crash out. Pretending otherwise is another Brexit fantasy. That will see the end of the peace process that was so painstakingly won decades ago. Along with the kinds of terrorism we are already used to, we can add a revival of Irish terrorism. A belief that crashing out represents political gains at the expense of economic pain is nonsense, because the political costs of a No Deal Brexit are just as serious as the economic costs.

Are people really aware of this when the say they are in favour of crashing out? You either have to assume that a third of the population has gone mad, or instead see this as a fundamental failure of information. The UK is a failed state because the producers of information have made it fail. 

All the information on No Deal outlined above is readily available for anyone who wants to find it . But so is ‘information’ suggesting exactly the opposite: that all these warnings are Project Fear and our lives have been made much worse because of the EU. Only people like those who are reading this are likely to be able to sort out which are the more reliable sources. Many more people will not have the time or inclination to even look. They will rely on the mainstream media: newspapers and broadcasters.

Over half of newspapers read (hard copy or online) are pro-Brexit, and their combined print and online reach is huge, with a monthly reach of 29 million for the Sun. (Figures for daily newspapers based on circulation only are much smaller and more pro-Brexit.) But there is a key difference between the coverage of the pro and anti Brexit press. Just compare the coverage of the Sun or Mail on the Operation Yellowhammer leak with those in most other newspapers. Their headlines talks of the document being scaremongering, rather than focusing on the content of the leak itself. On Brexit at least half the press are acting at the moment as if under the control of the state, or you could equally say that the state is following a policy pushed by that section of the press.

This could be offset if the broadcast media was fact based, but normally it is not. Their model is not to tell the truth and expose lies, but instead to present balance, which in the case of Brexit involves balancing lies with truth. So those consuming Brexit propaganda from their newspapers will not find this corrected by the broadcast media.

Once you combine this with how important the media is in influencing opinion, then the key role of the media in explaining the information problem revealed by widespread support for crashing out is obvious. A large part of the consumers of information are reading propaganda which is not contradicted by broadcasters.

But there is another route where media coverage is important, and that is the media’s influence on party membership. Party membership is by definition partisan, and so will look at sources of information that are also partisan. The overlap of the Brexit press and the right wing press is very large. As a result, Conservative party members are likely to be even more influenced by the Brexit press. If I am right about the pivotal role played by the media, then we should expect the proportion of party members to be more in favour of crashing out than the population at large, as indeed they are.

The relationship between the press and politicians is not straightforward. Both are influenced by each other. The ring wing press was much more pro-Brexit than Conservative MPs as a whole, and through both routes (the population as a whole and through party members) this has influenced MPs. The 2016 referendum accelerated this process, as did the 2019 Tory leadership contest, because in both cases it strengthened the role of the Brexit media.

Ideas and policies normally come from politicians, and the partisan press will normally go with that. But occasionally ideas are initiated by the press, and politicians find it difficult not to run with them, as we have seen with Brexit. As the line newspapers take on major issues is normally decided by their owner, this is obviously undemocratic. But more generally it does not seem right that any major player involved in the means of information should turn their information provider into a propaganda vehicle. When that happens, you can end up with policies that suit the newspaper owner but for nearly everyone else are utterly stupid.

Stopping Brexit is only half the story, if we want the UK to stop being a failed state. We also need to tackle the causes of Brexit. Normally politicians dare not talk about reform of the media, because they fear the consequences. (Since Thatcher every leader of the Labour party except one has been unpopular with the public, and that one did a deal with Rupert Murdoch!) Corbyn’s Labour party has reform of the media as a key part of its manifesto. The proposals are modest, but by making the BBC more independent they may represent a start at ending the power of a large section of the press to misinform.


[1] The deal may not be signed by the US anyway, because Congress will require a backstop



52 comments:

  1. 1. We became failed state when we signed the Lisbon Treaty. This effectively removed from the UK the ability to act independently in its own interest. So need to ask why we signed that.

    2. The rest of the world may well prefer the UK in the EU. Makes it easier to deal with us. Doesn't necessarily make it the best solution for UK citizens.

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    1. Did you read the article above? Or any other analysis of Brexit not in the Daily Mail? The UK signed the Lisbon Treaty because it was objectively in the best interest of the UK to do so.

      As for your second point, who says the rest of the world prefers us in the EU? They think we're idiots for wanting to leave, that's not the same thing. We will be much easier to deal with outside the EU because we will be weak and easy to exploit.

      Consider changing your handle from Dipper to Dipshit.

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    2. You could equally argue that rh UK acted independently and in its own interests by pooling some sovereignty and joining the EU.

      We pool sovereignty all the time, at different levels where we deem the competence lies. Family, parish, town, county, country, supernational institutions.

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    3. Explain your thinking that other countries would rather negotiate with us in the EU rather than out? In trade negotiation terms we are much easier to negotiate with alone since we have far less leverage. Please clarify. As to your first point, can you point to any issues the UK government sought to enact but were prevented in doing so by the Lisbon Treaty? Please be specific. Otherwise, by your reckoning, every member state of the EU is a failed state. Such an absurd proposition renders the term meaningless. Please apply more rigorous logical reasoning.

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    4. Dipper, when you trade you negotiate terms of trade, such as quality/quantity of product. Even outside the EU you will have to comply with their standards. When I go to China my photo is automatically taken at immigration for their archives. My point: the EU is the UK's biggest trade partner. Be careful, please.

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    5. Hi, Unknown, I am an American, having lived 17 yrs in the EU, mostly Germany. I agree with you comments, as my father was a psychiatrist who drew the family into his work. Obviously political leaders are an issue. I find Corbin particularly inadequate because he is not protecting the unionized worker's job, which indicates a continuing relation with the EU on products so that the supply chain can be maintained.

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    6. "We became failed state when we signed the Lisbon Treaty."

      You don't know what a failed state is - and you wouldn't argue in good faith even if you did, Dipper.

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    7. Thanks for being an object lesson in precisely the behaviour the article was pointing out.

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    8. The rest of the world really in does not give a fuck what you English do. As Benjamin Benjamin Franklin wrote about a similar period of obtuse policy decisions, you are in the process of making a large Kingdom into a smaller Kingdom.

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    9. No we became a failed state when the majority of politicians of all parties began to put the interests of their parties above the interests of the state in just about every instance. It can be done some of the time but when it is done ALL of the time you are in a kakistocracy.

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    10. 1. Nonsense. UK had plenty of room to maneuver in many areas. More control over immigration than Brexiters are claiming (as has been demonstrated). Control over monetary policy. Not in Schengen. Foreign policy autonomy. Etc.

      2. Sure, makes the UK weaker outside the EU and easier to leverage.

      Is the UK a "failed state" or does it have a "failure of an elite"? The first is structural/institutional, the second a matter of people and coalitions.

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  2. Thank you for being for some years a helpful guide for me, watching from the US, but with ties to the UK.

    Your emphasis on the media, or the information ecology, seems right to me. What I miss is its intersection with psychology. What happens when the deeply inadequate body of information, pseudo-information, and disinformation meets human psychologies, individual and collective? When I dip into pro-Brexit material, I can feel the thrill of a psychological appeal, a promise of a newfound strength, and most of all every possible psychological gratification that is packed into the word "sovereignty": mastery, freedom, the throwing off of shackles. If Brexit taps a vast reservoir of psychological need, the next question would be, why does this need exist. What is it in their lives that makes these individuals and this collective vulnerable to such an appeal? Why would people need a massive release of what can sound like their ids, or like a regression, a return to childhood. Can one speak of collective regressions? In short: people have overwhelming psychological needs: to live meaningfully, which includes having status in one's world.

    As someone who himself lives a cosmopolitan life, I wonder whether the advanced economies have half unconsciously presented an image of the life worth living that seems to many to judge their lives as not worth living. One thing that strikes me about both UK and USA (where I also need some concept of adolescence to explain much political behavior): they seem to share a commitment that goes beyond other industrialized countries to money/social status as the measure of all things. So they debase people who lack it. Has this been their Faustian pact, to cheapen the measure of human worth? We don't seem to see ourselves as collectively building, in society, something valuable, a community or complex of communities (I spend half my time in Germany, where I see a commitment to an idea of community to be so much stronger than anything I see in the US).

    So: in your view, where does psychology meet the information pathology you describe?

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    1. You have made some wonderful observations that help focus my own concerns. I would add additional questions:
      - what do variations in schooling and community values contribute the perceptions/realities of people living "debased" lives?
      - what does globalism produce that also contributes to perceptions/realities of people living "debased" lives?
      - what does urbanization contribute.

      Many other specific questions need answered.

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    2. Great post Sir! A blend of hardship brought about from years of austerity and growing wealth disparity combined with the legacy of an imperial past has a lot to do with it. Throw in the insular mentality and years of Johnson style ant EU journalistic propaganda and we have the makings of it. Simple folks want simple solutions to complex problems and populist demagogues provide them in the form of blaming "the other". That's a common story, as old as civilisation.

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    3. This is an excellent comment. Remainers would do well to read and contemplate it. Leavers such as me should also consider it as it highlights an aspect of motivation that is by definition generally hidden from the individual.

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    4. I'd add that there is a clear point at which we became a failed state. That was the revelations of sexual exploitation, abuse, and rape of literally thousands of girls and young women in towns across England. This did not happen in private, it happened in public, in front of social workers and police, who saw this happening and saw nothing wrong.

      That, the point where agents of the state collectively thought child sexual exploitation on an industrial scale was valid activity, was the point where we became a failed state.

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    5. There's even a date when we became a failed state. 26th August 2014. Publication of the Jay Report.

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    6. Great post!
      May I jump in with a quick 2 cents?

      It's a big YES to your second paragraph. I think you've got that exactly right; the big capitalist economies have subverted years of positive social development by placing far too much emphasis on success and money as the signs of living a good life. You put it better, but yes!
      The emptiness which such goals leave in people's lives can be filled by all sorts of crazy ideas which seem like they will restore sanity and make the world make sense again. I think this leaves people suggestible to populist/right-wing politics.

      My take on the Brexit and Trump phenomena (which I think can be taken together as different expressions of the same malaise) is that we forget that most people aren't well educated cosmopolitan types; most people are quite poorly-educated, unsophisticated types who respond to the opinions of the media and their politicians, with feelings, not critical thought. On Facebook, a frightening number of my UK 'friends' never mention Brexit. Of those I have spoken to, apathy and 'being sick of it' and 'I just want it to be over' are common responses.
      Come on, guys! This is an existential threat to your livelihoods, quality of life and to the soul of the UK! But no, they don't seem to care.

      Social media bring a real-time, massively increased level of connection to the world and the effect of this is not to promote world peace and solve the crisis of global warming. Rather, it plays as all media, to the lowest common denominator, dumbing-down intercourse and opening people up to the emotion-driven effects of unregulated, unbalanced fake news. Both Trump and The Brexit Leavers have used this to their advantage, as have many groups who benefit from social destabilisation, xenophobia and the like. Who knows what effect the Russians and Cambridge Analytica really had?

      My take on Brexit voters: We have the apathetic, some educated and some not, but all depressingly uncaring.
      We have the lower orders, a very large group influenced by the media and by feelings that things were better years ago, 'sovereignty' must be regained, immigrants are taking our jobs, etc.
      We have an unknown number of rich people who won't be affected materially but whose pension funds will get a boost from avoiding EU tax regulation. Bear in mind that the current pressure to leave the EU started as long ago as 2013 when David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister at the time, came under pressure for an EU referendum, after proposed EU tax laws that would affect the rich.
      Then, at the bottom of the pile, we have people who want to remain in the EU. To begin with, these were mostly forward-thinking, educated people and since the 2016 referendum, they have been joined by an increasing number of others who see how damaging to the UK Brexit really will be.
      Apparently, there are enough of these people to win a referendum to stay in the EU, if one were held now.
      However, for reasons I don't fully understand but which certainly have something to do with party politics and short-term gain, the Remain side do not have a strong political voice, a statesmanlike leader or an effective coalition to press their case.

      In short, the UK has been hit by a perfect storm of social, political, economic and psychological factors to bring about Brexit. We’re doomed!

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    7. This was very clearly understood by Dominic Cummings and exemplified by his 'Take Back control' slogan. Brexit became the solution to all ills both personal & societal!

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    8. People who voted for Brexit and Trump come from a range of economic backgrounds. Many are wealthy, and there's little correlation between people's level of wealth and having voted for Trump or Brexit.

      This piece on vox.com discusses the rise of authoritarianism in the US: https://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism It argues that a significant portion of the population have latent authoritarian tendencies which are triggered by fear and uncertainty. Some people feel that their way of life is under threat because of immigration, increased civil rights, and changes to the technological and industrial landscape. This triggering causes people to want strong, bold leadership while unleashing nationalist tendencies. I think something very similar is happening in the UK.

      Your comment about regression is interesting. Some commentators have pointed out that leavers often seem to have a strong sense of nostalgia for a time when things seemed more certain and their place in the world was assured. There's also a nostalgia for WWII, when Britain defied the Nazis and seemed to be able to overcome any obstacle simply through grit and will power, although the majority of leave voters were born after the war and have no personal experience of it.

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    9. Can't speak for Simon, but I'd see the psychological appeal as an implementation detail of the overall media pathology. Once any given tranche of "captured" partisan media has selected their stance, they will find a way to make it feel good to their listeners.

      If the red-top press had decided (by whatever means) that membership of the EU was something they wanted to promote, they'd have been banging on about solidarity or something equally feel-good. ("Those damn separatists are trying to take away your Algarve holidays!") So, from an economic or political perspective, there's no point even trying to model the psychology; it's safe to assume that unsophisticated readers will get manipulated.

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    10. This is my own reply to what I posted above. I do not mean to go "Unknown" or speak anonymously. My name is Francis Ingledew, from Teaneck, NJ, USA....

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  3. Simon, you have gone on and on about the media, and I don't disagree that the media have been irresponsible. But I think there is more to it than this, an your economics priors (rational choice) are getting in the way. Much of what you have written over the months is that "if people really knew how bad this is, then they wouldn't support Brexit." But this is problematic, as it presumes 1) people act on some basic material preferences alone, and 2) they can calculate "rationally." What about issues of priors, which require not just evidence, but experience, to dislodge? What about Dunning-Kruger? What about identity politics over material calculations (and the former are easier to calculate than the latter)?

    For months I've read comments BLT for the Guardian and other publications, and the Brexiters--assuming they are not bots or trolls--get schooled in the realities of likely Brexit suffering. They don't care. Either they don't register the arguments, or they shift to "sovereignty!" Give me liberty (from the EU) or give me death.

    Preferences, utility functions, whatever you want to call them are more nuanced, fluid, and contextual. This is something coming across in what I've been reading about Trump supporters. It is almost as if many of them don't have "interests"--they have fear, anger, uncertainty, and latch onto Trump either out of desperation (he'll get us out of our mess) or resentment (he won't do anything for us, but he'll stick it to the liberals who really don't try to understand how we live). Maybe many Brexiters are gripped by an existential crisis of shifting institutions and demographics that they don't understand in a "lived" manner--that no responsible journalism can really address.

    More Bourdieu and cognitive psych, less rat choice, and maybe you'll expand what you see as the problem here. (Not that you've done a lousy job--just too monocausal.)

    Oh yeah, and there is a great paper using game theory to make sense of this, just waiting to be written. Reminds me of the mess that led Europe into WWI.

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    1. Bravo. Good insights. Although I suspect there is an intelligence deficit with some of those Brexiteer bot-types that don't engage with the details. They have been told something to believe and that the opposing arguments are lies. That's enough for them.

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    2. "get schooled in the realities of likely Brexit suffering" we've been 'schooled' in this since before the referendum, and we are still waiting for these 'lessons' to have some basis in any observed reality. Wages up. Record jobs.

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    3. 'Maybe many Brexiters are gripped by an existential crisis of shifting institutions and demographics that they don't understand in a "lived" manner--that no responsible journalism can really address.'

      I think this is a valid point. I voted to remain though with reservations - largely on issues absent from the public debate. But the focus on economic well being misses quite a bit.

      We are - apparently - one of the wealthiest countries and will remain so even in a no deal situation (though such is hardly the right approach). People make some decisions based on material well being but not all - and sometimes not the most important (to them).

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  4. Typo ?
    "Politicians that is normally quick"
    "Politicians that are normally quick"

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  5. Marvelous article. One question: if on Sept 5 there is a vote of no confidence, and if the PM calls for new elections, which of these 2 initiatives will carry the day? If the PM calls for new elections, will he be in power until election day?

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  6. I do think Simon that you are being somewhat paranoid about the media, and I speak here as a Remainer who writes for the Telegraph. By the way, Trump seems to think the same about the US media, who he persistently accuses of fake news. The truth is that newspapers are much more led by their readers than they lead them. They are mirrors of society. Readers on the whole buy and read them to confirm their views, not to have them challenged. It is interesting for instance that the BBC tends to get it in the neck from both ends of the debate. Remainers accuse it of being far too kind to the case for Brexit, while Leavers think of it as Remainer propaganda. On both sides of the debate, people are passionate, and often devoid of reason. This is not the fault of the media. These views are deeply held, and as you have seen, impervious to argument.

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  7. The Brexit folks, like the US Trumpistas, are trending toward autocracy. The first step in moving from democracy to autocracy is to trigger an economic collapse. One then blames the collapse on that country's populations' favorite scapegoat (say, immigrants). The last step is to convince enough people that only a strong leader, unburdened by bureaucratic and legal restraints can make that country great again that the new leader can seize and hold power.

    We've seen this both in current events and recent history. Look at Brazil, Greece, and Russia for current examples. Mr. Trump is leading the US down this path. Given the ever-dwindling resources of our planet, it's quite possible that democracy will be replaced by autocrats promising to make their respective countries great again by taking the resources of less powerful countries.

    Example: Imagine in a post-Brexit world that Trump demands that Britain "privatize" the NHS as part of an overall trade deal...

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  8. Too much common sense I fear in your article. Thank you for highlighting the pain to follow and more importantly the root cause of the immense problem. Democracies are dependent upon valid information: Now Brexit, next....who knows?

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  9. You in the UK have Brexit and now Boris Johnson. We have Donald Trump doing the same thing to us Yanks on a daily basis. All of it utterly idiotic and pointing at both sides of the pond having failed states.

    To top it off, all we can really do is hope that we learn something from it, because the people currently holding the real power in our countries - the extremely rich - don't give a rat's hind end about the rest of us, and aren't about to let go of their control until they are forced to.

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  10. Brexit seems a particular case of a global trend, or several simultaneous vectors, that show up the weaknesses of democracy and seem to undermine Western political philosophy and the very theory of the State. Perhaps this is all short term, a swing of the pendulum, but in the long term...

    From the point of view of taking care of one's children, or from an altruistic spirit hoping the long term best for humanity, there is much to be concerned about. In the US our founders tried to balance a limited public democracy with institutions peopled by (at the time) an educated class. It seems to me that the capture of the State by an oligarchic class is resurgent and under conditions wherein that oligarchic class's interests are very much at odds with studied and confirmed policies that are in the interest of the greater good. I cannot independently propose how to repair this situation, I don't know top of mind the inventory of all proposals for the reformation of government, and I cannot fully recall the things I have studied. We are all in a pickle. Posts such as this one do a great service to help us all assess what is going on with the particular issue; but it the basic functioning of the State is problematic, e.g. UK is a failed State, US is starting to look pretty shaky and many "states" around the world are in terrible disarray, then those of us with an interest in the future (either personal or altruistic) need to focus on diagnosis and reformation of the machinery of government. What shall be done?

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  11. We are in full Mainly Brexit mode here.

    The argument seems to be that because the UK Government is about to do something damaging to the citizenry of the UK we must be living in a failed state. The problem with this argument is the UK Government has done great damage to it's population many times. Consider the 1981 recession and the unnecessary destruction of great swathes of the UK manufacturing sector. Consider the abandonment by both political parties of a commitment to full employment. The number of stunted and wasted lives this decision has caused is staggering. Consider the lost output caused by running the economy on low growth for decades. Consider the loss of life in ill considered military endeavors. Somehow the Blogger here considers Brexit different to these other cases. Why?

    The Blogger seems to consider the 2016 referendum result the cause of the current poor state of the UK economy. The UK chancellor could have delivered a sustained fiscal stimulus after 2016 to offset the uncertainty and lack of investment. Instead of a fiscal stimulus we have had continued austerity since 2016. Just standard poor policy from the UK treasury.

    Panic can never be priced in. You have to spend your way out of a Panic. Brexit will not determine the long term future of the UK economy. The greatest determinant will be the economic policy emanating from the UK treasury.

    We do not have a failed state we have a hung parliament. The solution for that is an election. Governments make bad decisions. Representative parliamentary government is terrible, but all the other systems are worse. I'm sure the Chinese Communist Party is full of talented and hard working technocrats. The people of Hong Kong would prefer to vote someone in to make their own mistakes.

    My suggestion to the Blogger is to take a week off Brexit and consider the economy of Zimbabwe. I would like the Bloggers top ten recommendations on actions that Mthuli Ncube can take to ease the hardship of his people. What role should the UK government be taking to help Zim, to make up for the terrible errors of the colonial years?

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  12. When future historians write about this decade you'll be their Cassandra.

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  13. Look at the history of the UK. 100 years ago a mighty empire, it had to see its might crumble piece by piece. And then to become one of many members of a hypernational union. This was just too much too fast. The UK is not alone in this situation but by far the most affected. Imagine Russia joining the EU. The UK has to come to terms with its past before it is able to see clearly. By the way, UK probably means England.

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  14. The citizen in ignorance is the citizen oppressed

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  15. Crikey! The UK will end up like that other failed state, Switzerland.
    You can check out the terror of the 'hard border' between France and Switzerland on Streetview (e.g. Rue d'Allschwil / Gabenring in Basel) - imagine something like that between Ireland and UK!!

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  16. Good, Simon!
    Again, I find your analysis spot on.
    Yesterday's blog post makes me feel that a no-deal 'crashing out' is the most likely outcome for the UK. This is for all the reasons you gave and because BJ had his requests/demands in the letter to Tusk immediately refused.
    The Remain camp is hopelessly split by partisan bullshit and as you say, there's no media voice explaining that Brexit is in fact bollocks.
    I'm afraid we're doomed and the UK has really gone mad. Forget the Blitz spirit, there's no force that will pull us all together. The UK has changed into one of those countries you were glad you weren't in, where common sense and doing the best for one's country have been trumped by populism and vested interests.
    *deep sigh*

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  17. well, like always, U. K. only wants the goodies and not the obligations in any deals; no one wants a partner like that

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  18. ,"Leave politicians understand this"
    If they understand that Brexit will lead to a smaller economy, higher taxes etc why do they want to go ahead?

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  19. Thanks for this. I think, however, you underplay the role of the press, and, significantly, it proprietors. The Barclays and Murdoch are not innocent. You need only look at Nazi Germany and elsewhere to guage the significance of print and other media in shaping opinion. If you then consider the kind of language used by, for instance, the Mail ('Enemies of the People') as well as by Johnson ('collaboration') you have to be very frightened by what might be going on.

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  20. I am a swedish journalist, reading this from a somewhat different perspective. There is no Swedish equivalent to the Sun and that sort of "politizised" press. What Boris Johnson used to write in his columns would simply never be tolerated by any Swedish paper. (And we have totally free press - so honestly - I dont know how you will change that through a new law... ) But saying that, I still recognise this phenomena of uninformed citizens. Of citizens having certain values but voting for a party representing other values. On crucial ideological issues like taxes, welfare, social spending. And (I feel shame to admit) most journalists dont seem to understand politics. They dont seem to understand that politics is all about priorities and choises. So citizens dont learn how parties prioritise, why and who's to gain from their policies. Thank you for a very interesting piece.

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  21. Chris Patten seems to be in agreement anyway (ICYMI)...

    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/britain-brexit-failed-state-by-chris-patten-2019-08

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  22. Well at least you're approving the comments again.

    Like with your post "Brexit makes economics of Scottish independence more attractive" you are trying to raise the political temperature. That is irresponsible. Leaving a free trade area doesn't make the UK a failed state; the government is still in charge of the country, we're not Afghanistan. It is also insulting to Leavers (I voted Remain, and yes, I think no-deal could be dire without preparation and could cause a recession).

    No, Scots shouldn't be encouraged to believe there's similarity here (a tiny share of UK GDP goes to the EU budget, whereas 8-10% of Scottish GDP comes FROM net fiscal transfer from the UK).

    No, a "hard" border doesn't threaten the GFA, which allows it, and the GFA remains in force til the 2 governments decide otherwise. If the DUP can share power with Sinn Féin, a party controlled by the IRA which has disarmed but has millions accumulated from crime to rearm if it likes, then, well, nationalists can accept a 2% chance of a border check!

    It seems like we must all design our worldview to support the mainstream economists' free trade doctrine at ALL costs. Ecnouraging the breakup of Britain and dissident republican recruitment in NI are apparently fine. And yet free trade with the United States is not. What colour is the sky in the world of the English liberals?

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  23. "‘No deal’ predictions in the Sunday Times today repeat most of the well-known disaster scenarios from last September’s similar leak. We never see the full documents. No-one ever explains why the French, Belgians or Dutch are supposed to delay their own exports to the UK nor why French ports’ expectations of readiness are not believed. Nor is there any mention of HMRC promises to avoid any inbound delays at UK ports. Why should a putative 85% of UK hauliers be unprepared when French customs have been handing out leaflets to drivers for weeks. The Sunday Times front page claimed that these are reasonable rather than worst case assumptions, but the inside pages make it clear that many are indeed worst-case assumptions."

    (From Briefings for Brexit)

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  24. From America....if Trump is for it there is no further discussion necessary. Don't do it! After losing more $$ in a 10 year period than any other American and filed for bankruptcy six times he is now engaged in bankrupting the US (morally and economically). His trade wars indicate he will not be content until he has bankrupted the planet (economically and climatically). The UK should listen to Trump and do the opposite. We do not want our best friends bankrupted. And in the next election we'll fix our own problems.

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  25. “Most supporters of Brexit cannot name an EU based law that has a significant negative impact on their lives.”

    I can and so can any older male who has bought an annuity recently. The EU now insists that annuities rates are not allowed to take account of the fact that men die at a younger age on average than women. I have seen estimates that men have had their income reduced by 6% as a consequence. This at a time when, in any case, annuities have suffered significantly from the effects of the Great Financial Crisis.

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  26. “Stopping Brexit is only half the story, if we want the UK to stop being a failed state. We also need to tackle the causes of Brexit. Normally politicians dare not talk about reform of the media, because they fear the consequences.”

    So there we have it. Remainers talk about remaining in the EU and reforming it from within. They talk about the dispossessed and powerless in this country who allegedly voted Leave out of frustration. But their response would be to exercise control of the media in order to convince everyone that there was never a problem and everything is wonderful.

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  27. "Why did the UK become a failed state?"

    Because we were denied the opportunity to vote in a Referendum on the acceptance or otherwise of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

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