Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Brexit and Trump are fundamentally a failure of the political right

Of course globalisation and inequality are important in explaining the proximate causes of Brexit and Trump. But neither event is an aberration: a moment of madness in an otherwise sea of rationality and evidence based policy making. And after each of these events, you do not find those from the political right doing all they can to return to political sanity. History is often as much about those who let things pass as about those who made them happen.

Only one Conservative MP voted against triggering Article 50, even though probably a majority of Tory MPs support remaining in the EU. Forget having to respect the ‘will of the people’. These MPs were not just agreeing to leave the EU, they were also agreeing to a hard Brexit which meant leaving the Single Market and giving up any say in how we leave the EU. None of that was on the ballot paper in the referendum. If they had wanted to, they could have joined with Labour in voting for amendments that put some limits on the power of the executive. An executive that has openly speculated about going for the hardest Brexit possible. But almost all chose not to. It is also no accident that the only Conservative MP to stand up to the Brexit bandwagon and vote against triggering Article 50 was Ken Clarke, a Conservative of bygone days.

In the US, once Trump had been elected, the Republican party largely rallied round ‘their man’. This might be normal behaviour, but Trump was no normal candidate. If ever there was a man temperamentally ill-suited for the office and totally unprepared for it, this was Trump. Yet their attitude before the election and in his few weeks in power seems to be that as long as he passes substantial tax cuts for the rich and deregulates banks, they are prepared to keep their fingers crossed that he does not do anything stupid like start a war with Iran or China.

The acceptance of Trump and Brexit by the political right is not surprising because they have laid so much of the groundwork for these events. The reason why nearly all Republicans could never bring themselves to say to voters that Trump was too dangerous and that they should vote for Clinton was because of what that party had become over the last few decades. It has been the Republican party that has steadily abused the machinery of government to get their own way, whether it involves nominees to the supreme and other courts or refusing to extend the deficit limit (but only when a democrat is in the White House, of course). It is they that have started acting as a unified bloc in Congress, with the only aim of stopping a democratic president doing anything. Thus a health care regime original put together by Republican Mitt Romney became evil when Obama essentially adopted it. A party that had done nothing to limit the power of a propaganda machine that they helped create, a machine which would eventually become a cheerleader for the outsider the party did not want. A party that started post-truth or alternative facts by backing climate change deniers, among other things.

The drift of the Republican party from being liberal to illiberal, from being secular to Christian, from being environmentally aware to climate change deniers, from supporting minorities to attacking ‘welfare queens’, did not happen all at once but has been a steady process. Of course there were key moments in that process, such as Nixon’s ‘southern strategy’, Reagan’s adoption of tax cuts for the rich that would ‘pay for themselves’ and neoliberalism more generally, to the Tea Party most recently. But the process has been all one way with few attempts to stop it.

The same is true for the UK, except perhaps less obviously so because the UK media too often hype the rhetoric and not the consequences of actions. We typically think of Margaret Thatcher as representing a clear break from more traditional conservatism. But this is not the whole story. For a start, although Thatcher changed the way Prime Ministers started talking about the EU, Thatcher in office was no Eurosceptic, and helped create the single market and the expansion to the east. Second, Thatcher did not lead a party of Thatcherites. Her successor, John Major, was a compromise candidate between the Thatcherite and more traditionally conservative factions. Major was a committed European, who would never have offered the Eurosceptics a referendum even though they plagued his time as PM. I doubt very much that he would have been prepared to lead his party out of the EU, yet nowadays it goes almost unremarked that Theresa May would take the country on a course that she earlier said would do it harm, just for the sake of power and the party. May whose flagship policy is to undo the work of Thatcher and replace comprehensive schools with the 11+, and who admirers compare to Enoch Powell. Not to mention Boris Johnson, who so obviously led the Brexit campaign he didn’t believe in only so he could become PM. From a Prime Minister whose father owned a couple of grocery shops and became first a chemist and then a conviction politician, to another Bullingdon boy born to wealth who will say whatever gets him power. We have moved well beyond Thatcher.

Although the 2010 Conservatives posed as ‘not the nasty party’, in reality they took policy even further to the right than Thatcher had done. Cameron may have hugged a husky, but his policies told a different story, and he even appointed a climate change denier as Environment minister. The 2010 government embarked on needless austerity, taking resources from everyone and causing acute harm among the poor. It was a Conservative chancellor who encouraged viewing benefit claimants as lazy skivers. It was a Conservative minister and Brexit supporter that imposed a sanctions regime and other welfare reforms that caused suffering previous Conservative ministers would have thought shameful. They tried to deflect blame for all this by hyping the evils of immigration, setting targets they had no intention of keeping because it would cause too much damage to UK business to do so. But these targets were maintained to appease the hard right, embarrass Labour and deflect criticism of austerity. The effects of starving the NHS could be blamed on the health tourist. Imagine what more they would have done if they hadn’t been in coalition. And above all else (as far as Brexit was concerned) they continued to court newspaper owners despite their obvious hatred for the EU.

In the UK the demonisation of the immigrant was not just the work of the Tory tabloids, but also given the stamp of official approval by a Conservative government. Cameron couldn’t warn of the dangers of cutting back EU immigration during the referendum when a large cut in immigration was government policy. The scarring of whole parts of the country was something this increasingly right wing party had done nothing about. Both were critical in allowing Brexit.

We can say, in both the US and UK, that this is about neoliberalism, implying this has replaced the principles of traditional conservatism. However I suspect in many cases that creed is simply a cover to disguise a far simpler motive of protecting and increasing the wealth of the rich. What we have seen is the steady replacement of principles with policies solely designed to gain votes and power to achieve that end. The decline of principled politics and the rise of politics for the rich is not unique to the right, but it is much more obvious there. It was not the Democrats who gave Trump a path to power, and it was not Labour who offered a referendum, or are leading the UK out of the EU.

All this does not go unnoticed by the electorate. They become justifiably cynical about Washington or Westminster. This lays the groundwork for either outsiders who seem to have so much of their own wealth that they are incorruptible, or a protest vote led by a politician whose main virtue is that he makes people laugh. It leads to MPs so desperate for power that they would leave their liberal principles at home and support what is bound to lead to an isolated Britain at the coattails of Donald Trump. A country that seems to be effectively run by a group of 59 MPs whose hatred of Europe dominates all else. And Republicans who stand back while their President cosies up to Russia, threatens trade wars and undoes years of hard work by trying to enact what he described as a Muslim ban.

Of course politicians have always compromised principles to some extent to achieve power. But for the politicians on the right who let Brexit or Trump pass unchallenged, it is not clear what principles remain beyond their own career. Why this seems to have happened so completely on the right in the UK and US is not clear. Is it, as Roy Hattersley suggests, the availability of instant polls and focus groups which make it so easy just to follow popular opinion in order to get elected. Or is it the growing influence of money. Or perhaps even the gradual death of the empathy for others created by WWII. Whatever it is, it is about time we recognised and lamented the passing of conservative principles and their replacement with whatever policies they can get away with to make the rich richer and to keep power. Unfortunately we are all about to reap what this death has helped sow.


47 comments:

  1. All this presupposes that the Right have principles. They don't, other than to stay in power. They'll happily embrace any cause that sustains this. Invading the Falklands, selling council houses and the rest of the family silver at knock-down prices (aka vote-buying), denying climate change, blaming immigrants etc etc. None of this is because they believe in the cause. They do it because it's popular and it allows them to keep their well-paid jobs and their consultancies with the crony financial sector.

    The elephant in the room here of course is the electorate. Or at least the 'majority' (well, large number of voters) voting for Brexit and Trump. Muppets the lot of them.

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    1. Have you read what I wrote? The right 40 years ago is very different from the right today, on both sides of the pond. Why has it changed?

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  2. To label this as just the political right wing's issue is a massive error. The left wing are just as culpable in this, by not offering a sensible alternative, they have effectively allowed this to happen and then attacked everyone who isn't of their opinion with hate speech rather than engaging them in debate. I've seen comments such as: 'You support Trump? Then you're a sexist and a racist', 'You're voting Brexit, your a thick racist'. This in itself is just as fascist as anything I have ever seen in politics. The main issue I have is there is no competition in the UK now, there used to be a viable alternative, now the left have alienated the swing voters and will struggle to get back into power for a very long time, which will be bad for the whole of the UK.

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    1. I never said just. But for you to say 'just as culpable' I don't think helps anyone. It is like blaming the social worker rather than the parents who abuse their child. Too often the left blames its leaders, and no one blames the right.

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    2. I emphatically agree with you. HRC offered more of the same, while Sanders inspired millions with his vision of a more inclusive, transformed America.

      But the Democratic National Committee would rather have lost with HRC than won with Sanders.

      Which is precisely what happened.

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  3. Reagan never said his tax cuts would pay for themselves and as California governor and as president he was also willing to raise taxes. Bruce Bartlett published three papers on the history of the Laffer curve which you will find on the Web, Reagan did not say his tax cuts would be self-financing. This gets repeated by liberals who misquote him and conservatives who wrongly believe it to be true.

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    1. In which case I stand corrected. By Laffer was a member of Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board, and Reagan did cut taxes causing large deficits, when Republican's had previously been noted for fiscal probity.

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    2. The fact that Friedman chastises the authors of the 1981 bill for suggesting that their proposed tax cuts would be self-financing implies at least the currency of the idea as the policy was being formed. And that the zombie still exists nearly 40 years later suggests that it might have been in rude health at the time.
      “The Kemp-Roth Free Lunch”
      by Milton Friedman
      Newsweek, 7 August 1978, p. 59
      http://miltonfriedman.hoover.org/friedman_images/Collections/2016c21/NW_08_07_1978.pdf

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  4. The rightward move is easily explained, the rich and middle class who support the Tories want to increase their pay and wealth by cutting taxes and cutting regulation. Free market economics provides a convenient justification in the common interest. They take their gains for 30 years for granted and keep on going.

    Via the media, they created a monster? Yes, because they have to feign concern about poverty and fairness to get elected. If they want to keep things at home the same (or make them worse) then they must blame someone external. Then they can be the heroes who slay that monster. Hence Euroscepticism since Maastricht: it's a double whammy of Thatcherite objections to regulation (and a promise to protect Britain's business lobby against the lobbies of the other member states) and patriotism and national sovereignty to get working class votes. Add immigration after EU expansion and the monster grows because this scapegoat is irresistible.

    But please stop repeating this Clintonista talking point about Russia. If you do, you could at least have the courtesy to say why you would have tolerated Russian warplanes being shot down over Syria, a Russian ally, at the risk of killing all of us.

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  5. Between the greed and venality of the rich, the malign influence of the media and the manipulated masses there doesn't seem much hope does there?

    Also your characterization of Brexit and Trump as "failure" is hyperbole; many have argued that they are a poke in the eye of the establishment and, in that respect, are the very antithesis of what you are arguing: the unstoppable - and unstopped - rise of the right.

    Also you have to ask yourself why this has happened. As far as the UK is concerned Thatcher was, to some extent, a reaction against the Labour policies of the 1970s, widely regarded as a failure; they did not just spring out of tabloid manipulation and the unstated policy of enriching the rich even further. It seems to me that a great deal of your conclusions are effectively based on an assumption of voter stupidity rather than a halfway sensible reaction to circumstances and this may be far too facile.

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    1. If you read the post you see that I talk about 'protests votes' as an outcome of politics without principle. As I also try and argue in the post, Thatcher was principled in ways our current bunch are not. The first Bush was better than the second etc. It is the dynamic or trend that we should worry about. I just do not think Brexit or Trump would have been possible 30 years ago.

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    2. "I just do not think Brexit or Trump would have been possible 30 years ago."

      As both May and Trump are being roundly criticized for going about fulfilling their promises your comment may well be true - but not for the reason you suggest.

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  6. Absolutely agree. Problem for the Right in both US and UK is that they would not get elected if they accurately presented their product to the public (which is basically the agenda of a small group of powerful sponsors). Hence the need to constantly mislead the electorate ('the NHS is safe in our hands') and indulge in 'dog-whistle' campaigning aided by a friendly media. The Left have a different problem in that they are constantly panicked by polls which leads to generally disasterous attempts at triangulation. Neither side appears to think long term which means that the actual consequences of policies are never sufficiently thought through. Both sides are rather too keen on obtaining power at any cost. On the sidelines you have political commentators who treat politics as a soap opera and seem to be constantly surprised by the decisions of an increasingly disgruntled electorate.

    It is not surprising that Ken Clarke appears so befuddled by what his colleagues are doing. I guess 'having principles' is another way of saying 'understanding the long term consequences of your actions'. Also once upon a time there was this thing I believe called 'national interest' which was supposed to be foremost in the minds of MPs. Now days it would appear to be the 'will of the people' which is of course the 'will of the tabloids' in thinly-disguised form ('the people' are mostly readily ignored by politicians except during elections). Sadly the UK is going to have to reap the consequences from the failure of the political process - the US is already.

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  7. 'What the vote revealed — and the winning margin was larger than in three of the past four US presidential elections — is a growing and dangerous divide between the political class, often a metropolitan elite, and a large number of people who feel left out of the economic prosperity centered on London and disenfranchised by “political correctness.” Among the latter, insecurity has been growing for years, the result in part of the impact of globalization on real wages and of high levels of immigration.'

    (Sir Mervyn King of Brexington, AUGUST 18, 2016).

    "As a passionate Remainer I’m trying to accept the result with good grace but it’s hard when it was brought about by a campaign eloquently described by Robert Harris as ‘the most depressing, divisive, duplicitous political event of my lifetime’: words which, incidentally, were written before the announcement of the murder of Jo Cox, the defacement of London’s Polish Social and Cultural Association, and the prominent appearance of a member of Combat 18 among those celebrating the result on the front page of the Sun."

    (Jonathan Coe, LRB, 14 July 2016)

    "Looking at newspaper consumption through the lens of reading time reveals a very different picture from that drawn by the traditional reporting measures — print readership and online visitor numbers — where the wide reach of online channels disguises the relatively shallow engagement they inspire. The stark difference in engagement is vividly illustrated by the fact that UK national newspaper brands engage each of their online visitors for an average of less than 30 seconds a day, but their print readers for an average of 40 minutes (see table 3)."

    (NEWSPAPER CONSUMPTION IN THE MOBILE AGE, Neil Thurman, February 2017).

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    1. I like the second two quotes, but I have a problem with the first. It is part of the story, but only part. As I've said before, it does not explain why those left behind would chose the remedy of the snake oil salesman.

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  8. I have long suspected that the new media environment and media channels massively favour a simple-minded (in every sense) message. Our world is complex, and real, rational solutions and policies cannot be tweeted, but the ill-informed and demagogic messaging is nicely in tune w the new formats, and as such has a massive advantage in communicating effectively.

    I am not sure how this can be overcome, short of a massive crisis, but crisis-driven policy is no way to run a government

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  9. "Brexit and Trump are fundamentally a failure of the political right"

    Since as yet there is no evidence either way, one could equally assert that "Brexit and Trump are fundamentally an achievement of the political right"

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    1. If you think Brexit may be OK you know no economics. If you think Trump may turn out OK then you know nothing about him or his circle of advisors,

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    2. That's the sort of reply that worries me about your sense of proportion on this issue. Are you really saying that the people you disagree with on the economic effects of Brexit - some of whom (not many I agree, but some) are professors of economics - "know nothing of economics". That's just a childish and hysterical response.

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    3. You are right, I should correct what I said. They either know nothing of economics or allow their politics to determine their understanding.

      I have read the stuff of economists that think Brexit will be OK and the quality of analysis is terrible - I can see that and I'm not an expert. When 90% of economists think Brexit will be bad, that is as close to a consensus as you will ever get. If you ignore that then I suggest you start campaigning for all teaching of economics in the UK to stop.

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  10. Professor Wren-Lewis, would you have supported the campaign for the UK to have adopted the Euro as its currency?

    I ask because at the time, I imagine, that most UK economists argued that it was a grave mistake for the UK to remain with the Pound.

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  11. I remember arguments that Thatcherism was eating away at the principles of Conservatism, replacing One Nation Toryism with something meaner and more fixated on economic competition; I've even seen it argued that Thatcher wasn't a Tory at all but a Whig. It seems a very long time ago. Thatcher's mental horizons were limited, her worldview was harsh and uncharitable, and some of her idees fixes were truly noxious, but for all that she was an intelligent and hard-working politician, who genuinely wanted to see Britain succeed and genuinely cared about whether it happened or not - hence her enthusiasm for the Single Market, of course. Comparing the present generation to hers, there's a dreadful frivolity about May, like Cameron before her (I'll pass over Johnson and Gove). In business it sometimes seems that senior managers justify their existence by driving through 'change', whatever the actual effect of any given change might be. I don't have any confidence that May actually cares - or thinks very deeply - about the effects of Brexit; she just wants to be able to put on her c.v. that she was the PM who drove it through.

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  12. "Brexit and Trump are fundamentally a failure of the political right"
    By which you mean New Labour and Rubinomics?
    And Reaganomics began with Carter.

    F-k the peasants, the peasants f-k you.

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    1. If Reaganomics began with Carter then we could say Thatcherism began with Callaghan. There is a prehistory of Reaganomics and Thatcherism

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  13. I do accept a lot of this, but I would also include economics as a major culprit. Principles rely on strong institutions (social norms) to reproduce them. Economics has totally failed to recognise the importance of any institution except the market. Moreover they have totally failed to study or understand real markets that require thinks like trust to run, but have lived in fantasy mathematical markets which as Alan Kirman most recently showed, economist's never even managed to mathematically create from methodological individualism. Furthermore they provided intellectual cover of the parasitical social norms of the self seeking behaviour you describe. It may now be too late for economics to change and start helping to understand and build fairer more sustainable economic institutions. But if we are going to build bridges not walls, this must be necessary.

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    1. Could the right in the UK not equally argue that Keynesian economics gave the left cover to generate social breakdown and chaos of the 1970s?

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  14. I would agree with the title if Clintonism & Blairism were included in the 'political right group'. The Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK are being let off lightly in this article.Both have aided the Right's policies of getting the rich richer.They were in power long enough to redistribute wealth more but chose not to do so. Both gave rights to Corporates at the expense of people.

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    1. Well, you and I could argue about the merits and weaknesses of "Clintonism" (I'm American, so I'm not prepared to say much about Blair except that I won't soon forgive him for helping Bush the Younger mislead us into the second Iraq War). But I agree completely that the Republican Party -- not the Democrats -- has brought us to this Trumpian vortex. Truth be told, I don't have much patience for people who claim that there's not much difference between the two parties -- esp when those people are white and male, and/or too young to remember the last few decades of the 20th century. For me, it boils down to this: Democrats have been trying to govern while Republicans have been trying (successfully, in most cases) to block whatever the Democrats have tried to accomplish while (or by?) undermining people's belief in government. They've succeeded by catering to religious fundamentalism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia -- and by operating like a parliamentary party while taking full advantage of the anti-democratic aspects of our unwieldy, distinctly non-parliamentary system. Party over country, and wealth uber alles. And for the most part our mainstream media has covered all of this very poorly.

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  15. "If you think Brexit may be OK you know no economics."

    It speaks volumes that you think Brexit is solely or even mainly about economics.

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  16. Or is it related to both US and UK have a two party political system?

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  17. Very interesting review.
    I don't know how this might fit in macro economics, but in 40 years of management consulting, I can to focus on influencing the decisions everyone makes everyday.
    One flippant comment I used to make was: there used to be ten commandments, now there are just two, do whatever it takes, and don't get caught.
    Competition and competitiveness have increased markedly in the period from the seventies, in every sphere, business, sports, arts, media, education, politics, even academia.
    When winning matters so much (the effect of bigger rewards), all other considerations, and constraints, are down prioritised, and eventually fall by the wayside, including much that is important, like the rule of law, care for others, the environment, empathy, mutuality, etc. ad nauseam.
    Ordinary people, in contexts or systems that emphasise competing and winning and success, whether in sport, business, or politics, will now make decisions, that they would not in more gentle situations (at home, day), decisions that they might reasonably disapprove of when taken by other people in their similar situations, like their competitors, or sporting heroes, or politicians. Decisions that even our most recent ancestors would find appalling.
    When is it all right to cut corners, if it means winning? ...As long as you don't get caught.
    As you rightly say, this has been a long process over many years. Nor is the process necessarily complete. It would not be wise to expect some natural rebound from experience of the results of Trump and Brexit. More likely there will be a doubling down on the same bets, by everyone from politicians to benefits claimants.
    Making any substantive change of direction will likely require leadership of the like seldom seen before and on a scale never seen before. Globalisation has taken these corrupted values around the world, and woven webs that are unimaginably difficult to deconstruct.
    All we can do, all we must do, necessary but not sufficient, is to not let any of these decisions, by whomever, wherever, pass without comment or criticism, wherever we find it.

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    1. And a key culprit for this is economics providing an intellectual justification. It is a currupting influence and needs reform so it recognises the power of social norms or institutions in supporting/creating values.

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  18. Good post with virtually all of which I agree. But surely there's another element to the story: the decline of the political left which, in turn, is associated with the decline in labour union membership. This is especially true of the US but also in Canada.
    Political parties of the left virtually vacated that side of the political spectrum following the economic upheavals of the '70's leaving the field wide open for a 'populist' uprising.

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  19. You know very well there's no such thing as hard/soft/flaccid Brexit. Soft Brexit isn't Brexit, it's a proxy war to keep things the same.

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  20. Simon, I don't know what you've been eating for breakfast, but your last few posts have been joys to read. Thank you.

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    1. Of course the right now have no principles beyond their own careers. But they will be able to get away with whatever they like until:
      People are educated as to where money comes from.

      The electorate are told there is no money (and that Quantitative Easing for the banks is somehow special and essential and not real money – that's why it's QE - it's not money).
      So having been lied to that there is no money they not unnaturally opt to keep what money there is, at home.
      The population increases yet public investment goes down. There is no money – well we cannot afford all these immigrants.
      I'm unclear whether we are being lied to on purpose or whether it comes under general received wisdom but lied to we are. Until that stops no progress will be made.
      Labour either doesn't know where money comes from, or, worse, doesn't care.
      We'll only get rid of all these careerist, craven, money obsessed Tories when we can tell them where money comes from – only then can we tell them where to go.

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  21. I second that last comment. Well done, Simon, and keep going.

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  22. I can't say I disagree with the substance of your post or with the things you accuse the Right of, Simon. As far as it goes, yours is a fair, reasonable assessment.

    Where I see a problem is that you don't go far enough. The Right has no monopoly on failure. The Left excels in that, too, but you don't say a word about it (other than "a protest vote led by a politician whose main virtue is that he makes people laugh").

    Just these days Chris Dillow was writing about the Labour Party:

    http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2017/02/healing-labours-class-divide.html

    I'm sure that won't surprise you.

    What might surprise you (or Dillow) is that weird people are attempting to fill that chasm

    http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2017/01/i-know-keynesian-when-i-hear-one.html

    And that's no laughing matter.

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    1. Lots of people have said similar things to me. I did think about this, because there is a great deal that can be said. I didn't do that hear for 2 reasons. First, the post was already long. Second, economists are trained to strip problems down to their essentials. And I think this problem essential comes from the right.

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  23. Reagan: Cut taxes, increase defense spending, and balance the budget. George H.W. Bush referred to this as 'voodoo economics,' but the GOP bought it.

    As pointed out in the OP, it has been a ratcheting up of half-truths, misdirections, and outright lies ever since. I used to look at individual republicans and ask myself the question: Ignorant, stupid, insane or just plain evil?

    Individuals still vary, but the party is, and has been for some time, just plain evil.

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  24. Dear Simon, this post is the very reason why, although I consider myself to belong to the Right, I passionately follow your blog. Thank you and always a pleasure to read.

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  25. Professor Wren-Lewis:
    I am. Ph.D. Economist (1981) with micro focus, but have been studying with primary focus on Open Economy Macro (you and Paul Krugman, Joseph Stieglitz).
    Regarding the Advances of the extreme right, whose focus has been enriching the already very rich, have you examined "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer. That in conjunction with Krugman's insight in "Conscience of a Liberal" (among many of his other writings) reveal the culprits, attempting to resurrect what Krugman has labeled the Gilded Age (1900s before FDR became president.

    Enjoy reading your perspective from across the pond and it's close correlation with events in the US.

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  26. This discussion of the corruption of the Republicans is not pay-wall protected, and it is very good:

    https://theintercept.com/2016/07/18/the-long-sad-corrupted-devolution-of-the-gop-from-eisenhower-to-donald-trump/

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  27. In the 1960s and 1970s the Conservative Party was strongly influenced by the Confederation of British Industry, which was an influential organisation of large British employers. The CBI is rarely heard of these days. There are fewer of the traditional industries. Many large employers are multi-national companies, who try to influence government policy but, if they don't manage to get the policies they want, move to another country.

    The CBI of the 1960s or 1970s would not have stood for any Conservative Party policy that weakened the UK economy. There is no employers' organisation of this type today. There is no employers' organisation that will stand and fight economically damaging policies because employers can just as easily move somewhere else.

    The fact that the Conservative Party (and Conservative Party supporting newspapers such as the Daily Mail) have changed from being hysterically critical of critics of Europe at the 1983 election to hysterically critical of Europe today deserves an explanation. The lack of a class of large British employers (and the weakness of organisations such as the CBI) would appear to be part of the explanation. (Businesses are either large international ones, or small/medium UK ones.)

    Guano

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  28. "These MPs were not just agreeing to leave the EU, they were also agreeing to a hard Brexit which meant leaving the Single Market and giving up any say in how we leave the EU. None of that was on the ballot paper in the referendum."

    Staying in the EU because the MP's don't like the terms wasn't on the paper either. The reality is that hard or soft is in the hands of the EU as much as the UK.

    Hard brexit was more "on the paper" than no-exit was.

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