The PMI (purchasing manager index) is not an economic outcome, but a forward-looking indicator of economic sentiment. Still, today’s figures* from the UK and the Euro Area are the first indication that predictions that the June 23 Brexit outcome will have serious short-run costs for Britain, but not so much for the Euro Area, are likely to be borne out.
Much attention has been given to the fact that Melania Trump, or her handlers, couldn’t come up with an original speech for her to endorse her husband at the Republicans’ nominating convention. Instead she/they lifted shamelessly from a speech given on the same occasion, at the Democrat convention, by Michelle Obama eight years ago. The unfortunate Mrs. Trump has come in for a great deal of ridicule. A plagiarism blame game has ensued.
But this all seems to miss the point. Lazy plagiarism is embarrassing, whoever was responsible. But the real problem is the content of the hackneyed, recycled phrases, and in particular:
Because we want our children <MO: all the children> in this nation to know that the only limit to <MO: the height of > your achievements is the strength <MO: reach> of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
No children, least of all in the US should “know” this, because it is Disneyesque pap, at odds with what we know about socio-economic outcomes in our societies, and the US in particular. The happenstance of birth dictates outcomes later in life to a very considerable extent in all modern societies. It does so to a markedly greater extent in the US than in other countries. And the extent to which such “socio-economic determinism” is decisive appears to have increased markedly in recent years.
I recall many years ago discussing an industrial conflict with someone who is now a senior trade union leader. Sure I can get our people “up a palm tree”, he said. But then I have to know how to get them back down again afterwards. This common sense advice was not taken by the Brexiteers. They and their media friends whipped up British citizens into an apoplexy over the EU and immigration, suggesting that if they vote Leave all the things they dislike about the EU (and maybe about modern life more generally) will disappear, while all they like can be retained. And they won a small but clear majority in the referendum.
It is exhilarating to win: to sit up in the palm tree, survey the turmoil below and feel a sense of empowerment. After a while though, a palm tree is in uncomfortable place. It’s easy to poke holes in the status quo. It’s easy to promise people the moon (assuming one has the requisite pragmatic attitude to telling the truth). But now the Leave camp must lead both its supporters and the British people as a whole down from the palm tree. The problem is there is no ladder. More fundamentally there is no clarity whether to go North, South, East or West of the tree.
So far all the Bexiteers have managed to do is to own up that many promises will remain unfilled. But that will have to change soon. [Read more…]