Well, yes, quite so

The Brexit forecast was in a different category. It was like the “dodgy dossier” of the intelligence community on Saddam’s weapons arsenal. It was experts distorted by politics, consciously or unconsciously saying what they or their paymasters wanted to hear. It was “sexed-up” science.

The reasons given by economists for their Brexit forecast are feeble. It did not take account of “inherent momentum”, of international factors or of government remedial action. That is surely inadequate. The true reason is that Project Fear, the Treasury-orchestrated attempt to frighten voters into the remain camp, consumed the political and intellectual establishment. It blighted the judgment of social scientists. It not only failed in its purpose of instilling fear, it appeared to validate a bogus reason for voting Brexit – that all experts are mendacious toffs.

As some of us were saying at the time. Policy based evidence making.

37 comments on “Well, yes, quite so

  1. Not necessarily toffs, but the unaccountable elite.

    Most people should track down Michael Gove’s full quote because it was qualified with (to paraphrase) “people who have consistently been shown to be wrong”.

    And that’s the thing about experts. Being an expert means having expertise. Whether you’re a guy working a hot dog stand, or a dentist or a musician, it means you serve up well-cooked food, inject in the right place or play the right notes in the right order. The job of an economist is to predict outcomes and good paths. That’s what we pay them for. Your qualifications mean precisely shit if you can’t do the job.

    Whether there was a nefarious motive or just incompetence, they failed at their job. And just like a bloke who undercooks or overcooks frankfurters, they should be fired.

  2. “Policy based evidence making.”

    Yes, exactly. But if the UK economy takes a turn for the worse at any point in the Brexit process, the remoaners and remainiacs will be swift to blame Brexit and also to claim that they were right about its consequences.

  3. Thats the thing about the failure of the ‘experts’ – they aren’t experts in any sense thats testable. They’re experts, because they (and their friends) tell us they are experts. Its a circle jerk. If a pilot crashes his last 3 planes, no-one is going to regard him an expert. Ditto the surgeon whose patients keep dying. But an economist who told us we must join the euro? Does he still have a job? Probably, when a real world expert (an bridge designer say) who made that sort of error could be facing criminal charges.

  4. Theo – Indeed. Like “climate change”.

    The Brexit forecast was in a different category. It was like the “dodgy dossier” of the intelligence community on Saddam’s weapons arsenal. It was experts distorted by politics, consciously or unconsciously saying what they or their paymasters wanted to hear. It was “sexed-up” science.

    We’re living in a post-Truth era, and our betters have so little respect for us they don’t even feel the need to lie convincingly.

  5. Theophrastus: ‘But if the UK economy takes a turn for the worse at any point in the Brexit process, the remoaners and remainiacs will be swift to blame Brexit..’

    They aren’t waiting for that! Just see the collapse of the Mockney chef’s business empire..

  6. Hmm.
    May 2016, £1 = €1.32.
    Today, £1 = €1.16.
    Not taht the euro is the strongest currency around at the moment either.

    Of course, that’s evidence of disaster or of the cushioning of the blow in action. Which makes me wonder what blow we are supposed to be cushioning if not brexit.

    Or we’ll be told by the brillusionists that the earlier valuation was wrong, as is the current one. And in the next sentence, that markets are always right.

  7. “Experts” – But as the referendum neared and the vote was on a knife-edge, the warnings became more lurid. The UK would immediately start sliding into recession. House prices would crumble. Shares would crash.

    BiGgy – Hmm.
    May 2016, £1 = €1.32.
    Today, £1 = €1.16.

    And the FTSE 250 is at record highs.

    Yeah. Take THAT, Britain!

  8. JuliaM,

    I’d see that as a positive.

    I took a look in the window of the one in Oxford when I was passing and the menu was full of all that irritating “awright geezer, want some pukka pasta” bollocks. And at £14 for prawn pasta, there’s lots of cheaper places.

    I like the comment about imported ingredients. I thought Jamie Oliver was always advocating buying locally?

  9. “May 2016, £1 = €1.32. Today, £1 = €1.16.”

    Or: July 2013 £1 = €1.16. Today £1 = €1.16

    Such a wildly fluctuating currency!!

  10. “it appeared to validate a bogus reason for voting Brexit – that all experts are mendacious toffs.”

    Simon Jenkins hits the nail on the head here (although, as he personally had a clear view of hammer and nail before the referendum, I would hold hin in higher esteem if he had chosen to hit it then). The appalling establishment behaviour before and after the referendum has given real succour to anti-knowledge fruitcakes who who do spend their time buried in anti-expert conspiracy theories.

    Spurious allusions to the 1930s have abounded for about 6 months now. One that appears to fit though is the establishment default postion back then (zeitgeist?) for appeasement.

  11. Bloke in Germany

    Greece:Germany exchange rate in 2005 equals Greece:Germany exchange rate in 2017. Same for Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland. Result: internal devaluations and disaster.

    You boys on Frankfurt could give us a daily update on the Sterling exchange rates; it would only serve to reinforce my delight at the decisions taken by my countrymen.

  12. I’m not looking forward to the era of intra leg tail Brentry being the cure-all for our national problems.

  13. How could the country be worse for being run by people who live here, have to live in the conditions they make?
    People we can fire if they fuck it up, nah, men in Brussels would have run the place far better.

  14. Macroeconomics – Using numbers to explain why you were wrong last time, but will always be right in future.

    Microeconomics – Using words to explain why everyone was wrong last time and will always be wrong in future.

  15. And that 1.32 figure is the top of a pre-referendum spike where all the markets bet on a Remainers win.

    In mid-June it was 1.25; in mid December 1.19 or 1.20. Again, bodies in the streets time.

  16. From the article:

    It blighted the judgment of social scientists.

    Bless him. He labours under the illusion that social scientists have judgement. He believes the ‘scientist’ bit of “social scientist” exists.

  17. Michael Gove: “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong”

    The majority of the British voters appear to have listened to the whole sentence. Faisal Islam ( Sky News ) switched off his hearing after the word ‘experts’.

    He’s a top man that Gove – I remember A Stab In The Dark, and him suggesting to a studio audience that none of them would sleep with him for free but quite a few would for £1m. One of the women indicated that she might be interested for free, which led to blushes and the camera cut away.

  18. Look, it was settled economic science. 97% of economic scientists agreed. The consensus was clear. Brexit would make out hair fall out and our todgers shrink.

  19. Bongo

    Thank you. He didn’t say we were sick experts; he said we were sick of experts saying they kow best and being consistently wrong.

    I’m sick of expets – not least a certain blogging barrister – consistently mis-repeating and twisting his words.

  20. @BiG
    You don’t understand markets, do you?
    Markets don’t like uncertainty & the current £ price reflects uncertainty.Or as the old geezers on the floor of the LSE used to say “More sellers than buyers, mate”
    So what you’re looking at is all the market players trying to discount various possible futures. No Brexit. A fucked up Brexit. A gloriously successful Brexit.
    What the price is not doing is passing an opinion on Brexit. It’ll do that when which Brexit, if any, crystallises.

  21. “experts distorted by politics”

    At what point I wonder does an expert distorted by politics forfeit the camouflage of “expert” and revert to the identity of “a well-informed partisan”?

  22. At what point I wonder does an expert distorted by politics forfeit the camouflage of “expert” and revert to the identity of “a well-informed partisan”?

    When he expresses an opinion the Left disagrees with. Even then they deny the “well-informed” part. As he fills his car with petrol he is also in the pay of “Big Oil”.

  23. “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable” – Ezra Solomon

  24. BiG
    A word in your shell-like, dear boy: you are making yourself look a little silly with some of your anti-Brexit quips. By all means chip in to prevent the comments here becoming an echo-chamber, but try to say something substantive. Happy New Year.

  25. If we’re looking at currencies over historical periods:

    1800: £1 = US$5
    1940: £1 = US$4.03
    1960: £1 = US$2.67
    1985: £1 = US$1.03
    2006: £1 = US$2

    1900: £1 = 24 CHF
    1960: £1 = 12 CHF
    2016: £1 = 1.25 CHF

    In the 1950s £1 bought 12 Deutsche Mark, but this was a newly created currency and which was roughly several billion of the pre-war Mark. Only the GBP, USD, CAD, CHF and Scandinavian currencies have remained within an order of magnitude of their value over the centuries

  26. At what point I wonder does an expert distorted by politics forfeit the camouflage of “expert” and revert to the identity of “a well-informed partisan”?

    A quick look at Paul Krugman’s career will probably provide the answer, although one should (for honesty’s sake) substitute “intellectually dishonest” for “well-informed” .

    One should also recognized that for many “experts”, there are really only two alternatives available for employment… Government and academia. When one is set on idea the other finds acceptable, critical thinking tends to leave the room. That has more with greed and cowardice than it does with mendacity.

  27. @ BIG,

    And don’t forget we have an expert called Carney who lowered rates for no good reason but which will depreciate the currency through inflation, and a “expert” chancellor who thinks its ok to spend or give money you don’t have thereby lowering the value of said currency further.

    With the shower of “experts” under the leadership of “expert” May we have in government, £ is doing quite well considering.

    As for markets, they are indeed always right. Free markets that is. I wouldn’t say the currency market is really one of those.

  28. Reading the article at the Graun, I see that Poll (we should all pay more tax!) is against inheritance tax.

    Not connected with her bumping up against reality in the form of Italian property tax.

    Oh no.

    Not at all.

  29. @BiG

    Many “experts” iirc inc IMF had been saying for over a year before June 24 2016 that GBP was ~10% overvalued.

    It was 3C here (Lat. 56N) on Monday afternoon, 11C yesterday afternoon and 14C this afternoon. Is that evidence of the “rapid Global Warming” the experts & MSM bombard us with?

  30. @ John
    In reality, only the CHF has retained its value to within an order of magnitude. The £ has lost over 98% of its value in purchasing power terms since1914 (source Bank of England research paper).
    It is true that most other currencies have done even worse.

  31. “the Social Science … which finds the secret of this Universe in supply and demand and reduces the duty of human governors to that of letting men alone … is a dreary, desolate, and indeed quite abject and distressing one; what we might call … the dismal science” – Thomas Carlyle, 1849

  32. @John, “Only the GBP, USD, CAD, CHF and Scandinavian currencies have remained within an order of magnitude of their value over the centuries.”

    Uh, no.

    Gold prices per oz:
    1800 £4.26 $19.39
    1940 £8.40 $35.00
    1960 £12.99 $36.50
    1985 £268 $327.00
    2006 £311 $635.00
    2017 £953 $1171.00

    Nope looks like two orders of magnitude to me. And most of it since 1960.

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