Sunday, June 26, 2016

Five things that Official Europe should learn from Brexit

1. Boycott Davos next year. Of course Davos has no decision-making power, but that's the problem. It ends up looking like a closed loop of self-congratulatory platitudes about the global economy, and where any problems are acknowledged, it's all in terms of finding things to do for people in the room. And the universal blather dilutes anything important: was IMF chief Christine Lagarde more concerned when she used Davos to express Brexit worries, or demanding "an Internet of women?"

2. Completely revamp the actual global policy meetings such as G7 and G20. These have become so pre-packaged, with such faux-informality (e.g. the no ties trend), and such Sir Humphrey-for-the-21st century statements that are all about ticking the box ("yes, we mentioned that"), it's meaningless. When George Osborne came back from a Shanghai G20 meeting waving proudly the meeting's concern about Brexit, Nigel Farage simply dismissed it as "mates helping each other out." Did the public see anything that would have advised them otherwise?

3. Drop the maxim that "if you're explaining, you're losing." Maybe that had some content once. But a Yes/No existential question referendum was going to need some explaining around certain issues. Which brings us to ...

4. Find a new discourse on immigration. The "Yes we gain in general but some people lose" formulation is broken. The failure to spell out basic considerations until it was too late was an astounding feature of the referendum debate: European Union freedom of movement is reciprocal; if the immigrants weren't in the poorer working class towns, those towns would be even poorer; and terminology like "expat" and "overseas pensioner" ended up diluting an understanding of the mutuality of migration. One other thing: points-based immigration systems require a considerable amount of planning and enforcement to implement, and they may not be sustainable anyway as sending countries focus more and more on their brain-drain effects.

5. Throw your copies of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century in the rubbish bin. Whatever its analytical merit, politically the debate around the book became an exercise in Bobo Envy, permitting the upper middle class to convince themselves that the real problem was a few thousand people headed to financial world domination through Marxian capital accumulation. The Brexit voter demographics are all about education levels, disposable incomes at lower ranges, and identity -- none of which are informed by Piketty's theory of wealth dynamics. 

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