This from Dani Rodrik, who is Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
There is less uncertainty about what is likely to happen next. The coup attempt will add potency to Erdoğan’s venom and fuel a wider witch-hunt against the Gülen movement. Thousands will be sacked from their positions in the military and elsewhere, detained, and prosecuted with little regard for the rule of law or the presumption of innocence. There are already alarming calls to bring back the death penalty for putschists, which recent experience shows is a very broad category for Erdoğan. Some of the mob violence against captured soldiers portends a Jacobinism that would jeopardize all remaining due-process protections in Turkey.
The coup attempt is bad news for the economy as well. Erdoğan’s recent, somewhat skin-deep reconciliation with Russia and Israel was likely motivated by a desire to restore flows of foreign capital and tourists. Such hopes are now unlikely to be realized. The failed coup reveals that the country’s political divisions run deeper than even the most pessimistic observers believed. This hardly makes for an attractive environment for investors or visitors.
One of the things that the Brexit catastrophe shows is that neoliberal economics is very bad for democracy. That’s because, for neoliberalism, inequality is a feature, not a bug. Some of us have been saying that for quite a while — and wondering why it has taken until 2016 for the penny to drop. But now it has. As Joe Stiglitz puts it:
Letting bygones be bygones is a basic principle in economics. On both sides of the English Channel, politics should now be directed at understanding how, in a democracy, the political establishment could have done so little to address the concerns of so many citizens. Every EU government must now regard improving ordinary citizens’ wellbeing as its primary goal. More neoliberal ideology won’t help. And we should stop confusing ends with means: for example, free trade, if well managed, might bring greater shared prosperity; but if it is not well managed, it will lower the living standards of many – possibly a majority – of citizens.
Which is why Obama’s proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal with the EU should now be rejected by the EU.
Magnificent essay by Fintan O’Toole:
In the days after the Brexit vote, a number of rueful commentators were drawn to WB Yeats’s lines from the apocalyptic poem The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”
But this is to miss the point of our particular political moment in the Anglophone world. It may be true that the best lack conviction, but the second part of Yeats’s comparison emphatically does not apply. The worst are not full of passionate intensity; they are, to borrow from a different Yeats poem, just a pretty bellows full of faux-angry wind. They have no serious intention – no plan and no means – of doing the things they say they will do.
Great stuff. Well worth reading in full. As is Kipling’s poem about phoney statesmen.
While the calling of the Referendum can be laid at the door of two people, Nigel Farage and David Cameron, the catastrophe of the Brexit majority is really the work of one man — Boris Johnson. The best articulation of this salutary truth that I’ve seen is Jonathan Freedland’s Guardian piece. It’s worth reading in full, but here’s the key bit:
This week’s antics of Gove and Johnson are a useful reminder. For the way one has treated the other is the way both have treated the country. Some may be tempted to turn Johnson into an object of sympathy – poor Boris, knifed by his pal – but he deserves none. In seven days he has been exposed as an egomaniac whose vanity and ambition was so great he was prepared to lead his country on a path he knew led to disaster, so long as it fed his own appetite for status.
He didn’t believe a word of his own rhetoric, we know that now. His face last Friday morning, ashen with the terror of victory, proved it. That hot mess of a column he served up on Monday confirmed it again: he was trying to back out of the very decision he’d persuaded the country to make. And let’s not be coy: persuade it, he did. Imagine the Leave campaign without him. Gove, Nigel Farage and Gisela Stuart: they couldn’t have done it without the star power of Boris.
He knew it was best for Britain to remain in the EU. But it served his ambition to argue otherwise. We just weren’t meant to fall for it. Once we had, he panicked, vanishing during a weekend of national crisis before hiding from parliament. He lit the spark then ran away – petrified at the blaze he started.
“Not so long ago, in an ill-advised flourish of complacency, liberal opinion suggested that nationalism, like religious fundamentalism, was on the wane. A nice idea. Although it is easy to read too much into the British vote (disconnection from the E.U. will be a lengthy process), there is little doubt that national amour propre, misty with old glories and smarting from old wounds, is back in vogue. It is conceivable that, by the summer of 2017, President Putin, of Russia, could be joined on the world stage by President Trump, of the United States, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of Great Britain, and President Marine Le Pen, of France. Applications for residence on the International Space Station, orbiting more than two hundred miles above Earth, are now closed.”
Anthony Lane, writing in the current issue of the New Yorker.
The Economist nails it:
No-one seems capable of stepping forward and offering reassurance. The Leavers, who disagreed on what Brexit should look like, do not think it is their responsibility to set out a path. They reckon that falls to Number 10 (where they have appeared in public, it has mostly been to discard the very pledges on which they won the referendum). Number 10, however, seems to have done little planning for this eventuality. It seems transfixed by the unfolding chaos; reluctant to formulate answers to the Brexiteers’ unanswered questions. As Mr Cameron reportedly told aides on June 24th when explaining his decision to resign: “Why should I do all the hard shit?”
This could go on for a while. The Conservative leadership contest will last until at least early October, perhaps longer. It may be almost as long until Labour has a new chief, and even then he or she may be a caretaker. The new prime minister could call a general election. It might be over half a year until Britain has a leader capable of addressing the myriad crises now engulfing it.
The country does not have that kind of time. Despite arguments for patience from continental Anglophiles, including Angela Merkel, the insistence that Britain immediately invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, launching exit negotiations and that can last no longer than two years, is hardening. Soon it may be a consensus. Britain could be thrust into talks under a lame-duck leader with no clear notion of what Brexit should look like or mandate to negotiate. All against a background of intensifying economic turmoil and increasingly ugly divides on Britain’s streets. The country is sailing into a storm. And no-one is at the wheel.
This makes the ERM fiasco look like a village fête.
I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?
Rudyard Kipling, A Dead Statesman.
(courtesy of Nick Cohen)
From the Economist‘s Bagehot column:
The prime minister’s gamble was underwritten by the assurance that he could handle it, that his powers of persuasion and credibility (which, to be fair, are considerable) would save the day. In the months and years after his 2013 speech, he wasted opportunity after opportunity to roll the pitch for the referendum; to build, over time, a durable case to stay in the EU. Under-advised and overconfident, he turned the renegotiation from an asset to a stick with which Brexiteers could beat him. His referendum campaign, for all its flashes of skill and conviction, was too little, too late. The whole exercise was a spectacularly foolhardy act of overreach. The unanticipated outcome will be a Britain poorer, more isolated, less influential and more divided.
A time will come for reflection on the good in Mr Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party and his premiership, on his fundamentally correct vision for a one-nation Tory party in possession of the centre ground. But it will surely be dwarfed by this giant, nation-changing misstep, one guaranteed to scar the country for decades and diminish his place in the history books. He leaves office in ignominy.
And this from Krugman:
Well, that was pretty awesome – and I mean that in the worst way. A number of people deserve vast condemnation here, from David Cameron, who may go down in history as the man who risked wrecking Europe and his own nation for the sake of a momentary political advantage, to the seriously evil editors of Britain’s tabloids, who fed the public a steady diet of lies.
That said, I’m finding myself less horrified by Brexit than one might have expected – in fact, less than I myself expected. The economic consequences will be bad, but not, I’d argue, as bad as many are claiming. The political consequences might be much more dire; but many of the bad things I fear would probably have happened even if Remain had won.
What is wrong with these people? I don’t know Michael Gove, but when he was Education Secretary and we were campaigning for a change in the GCSE ICT curriculum he was courteous and appeared rational, or at any rate cerebral. But according to this report he has today been comparing the economists who think that leaving the EU would be a mistake for Britain to the Nazi-recruited scientists who challenged Einstein’s theory of relativity.
The Justice Secretary made the historical comparison to Einstein after being asked why voters should not listen to the economic organisations warning about the impact of an Out vote.
“I think the key thing here is to interrogate the assumptions that are made and to ask if these arguments are good,” Mr Gove said during an interview with LBC Radio.
“We have to be careful about historical comparisons, but Albert Einstein during the 1930s was denounced by the German authorities for being wrong and his theories were denounced and one of the reasons of course he was denounced was because he was Jewish. They got 100 German scientists in the pay of the government to say that he was wrong and Einstein said ‘Look, if I was wrong, one would have been enough.’”
Hmmm… Time for a lie-down in a darkened room, methinks.