Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ed West Just Straight Up Gets It

This Ed West column gets at something I've been hinting at in my writing about Britain's vote to exit from the EU.  The "leave" voters were, I believe, victims of a bait-and-switch.  What "leave" really means is that an off-the-rack, legally-mandated arrangement will be replaced with a bespoke, negotiated one.  And that, by itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, it just depends on what is negotiated.  You could theoretically reach an accommodation that is very close to the status quo.  Or you could negotiate something pretty different from the status quo, but still mutually satisfactory to Britain and the EU.  (By the way I keep saying "Britain" even though the U.K. also includes Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.  Sorry.)

So far so good.  But the "leave" campaign took advantage of the nebulous post-exit situation to make claims that will not actually be possible.  So for instance, it's perfectly possible that Britain will retain full access to the common market, in which case the economic consequences may indeed be tolerable (may even be negligible).  But that won't happen unless Britain retains labor mobility with the EU, which means the Polish workers that have so offended the "leave" voters are not going anywhere.  The "leave" campaign basically painted a picture by combining elements from various potential post-exit scenarios, each element being individually feasible, but uniting elements that are not feasible together.  As Ed West argues, an honest ballot would have involved some sort of nested decision-making, where a "leave" vote would have to be combined with preferences about the post-exit world.

Since that didn't happen, Britain may need to have another vote.  And note in this connection that when you do multi-step balloting, you can end up with different results depending on the order in which the options are selected.  Let's say Britain now votes whether to do a "full exit," seal its borders, and abandon access to the common market, or to accept labor mobility and retain economic access (à la Norway).  The result may well be the Norway option.  But then imagine that you reversed the order of the voting.  In that case, the Norway option might win the first round, and then (given the very limited upside for the "leave" voters at that point) "remain" might have won the second round.

Anyway I think this makes clear something I had been a little muddy about, which is how procedurally stupid the vote was in the first place, and how it facilitated rampant dishonesty on the part of the "leave" campaign by failing to clarify what was at stake.  A shitshow all around.


Anonymous Ed "Balls" West said...

Ed West, young man!

8:21 AM  

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