Category Archives: Economics


James Bennett proposes a CANZUK union to replace the UK’s membership in the EU.

Meanwhile, it looks as though the permission of the Scottish Parliament and Ulster may be required to leave:

We asked Sir David whether he thought the Scottish Parliament would have to give its consent to measures extinguishing the application of EU law in Scotland. He noted that such measures would entail amendment of section 29 of the Scotland Act 1998, which binds the Scottish Parliament to act in a manner compatible with EU law, and he therefore believed that the Scottish Parliament’s consent would be required.83 He could envisage certain political advantages being drawn from not giving consent.

We note that the European Communities Act is also entrenched in the devolution settlements of Wales and Northern Ireland. Though we have taken no evidence on this specific point, we have no reason to believe that the requirement for legislative consent for its repeal would not apply to all the devolved nations.

Stay tuned.

[Update a while later]

“Citizens of the World?” Nice thought, but don’t hold your breath:

The inability of those elites to grapple with the rich world’s populist moment was in full display on social media last night. Journalists and academics seemed to feel that they had not made it sufficiently clear that people who oppose open borders are a bunch of racist rubes who couldn’t count to 20 with their shoes on, and hence will believe any daft thing they’re told. Given how badly this strategy had just failed, this seemed a strange time to be doubling down. But perhaps, like the fellow I once saw lose a packet by betting on 17 for 20 straight turns of the roulette wheel, they reasoned that the recent loss actually makes a subsequent victory more likely, since the number has to come up sometime.

Or perhaps they were just unable to grasp what I noted in a column last week: that nationalism and place still matter, and that elites forget this at their peril. A lot people do not view their country the way some elites do: as though the nation were something like a rental apartment — a nice place to live, but if there are problems, or you just fancy a change, you’ll happily swap it for a new one.

[Update a few minutes later]

Brexit’s complicated aftermath:

For a long time, Britons who wanted their country to leave the European Union were regarded almost as mentally ill by those who wanted it to stay. The leavers didn’t have an opinion; they had a pathology. Since one doesn’t argue with pathology, it wasn’t necessary for the remainers to answer the leavers with more than sneers and derision.

Even after the vote, the attitude persists. Those who voted to leave are described as, ipso facto, small-minded, xenophobic, and fearful of the future. Those who voted to stay are described as, ipso facto, open-minded, cosmopolitan, and forward-looking. The BBC itself suggested as much on its website. In short, the desire to leave was a return to the insularity that resulted in the famous—though apocryphal—newspaper headline: fog in the channel: continent cut off.

And then there’s this:

One possible reason for the success of the Brexit campaign was President Obama’s ill-conceived intervention, when he threatened that if Britain voted to leave the Union, it would have to go to the “back of the queue” as far as any trade agreements are concerned. This sounded like bullying, and was not well-received by much of the British population, which had already been subjected to quite a lot of such bullying from others. If I were an American, I shouldn’t have been pleased with it either, for Obama spoke not as a president with a few months left in office, but as a president-for-life, or at least one with the right to decide his successor’s policy.

Yes, the arrogance would have been stunning, if it hadn’t been typical. And on that last Nigel Farage agrees:

Obama certainly has that reverse Midas touch. Recall his efforts to secure the Olympics for Chicago that ended in embarrassing failure.

After nearly eight years in the White House, President Obama can’t understand that the influence he has as president is a precious resource not to be wasted unless he is sure that he can make a difference. That includes efforts to influence domestic as well as foreign policy.

Have any of his ham-handed attempts to influence events overseas not backfired on him? I can’t think of any.

[Sunday-morning update]

Walter Russell Mead: The problem with Brexit is the “leaders,” not the voters.

And Roger Kimball says it’s not an exit, but an entrance.

Meanwhile, Richard Fernandez has a tart rejoinder to whinging from the children:

Essentially people much older than you gave you what you now take for granted. They won World War 2, fueled the great boom, walked through the valley of the shadow of nuclear death — and had you.

You didn’t make the present, nor as you now complain, are you making the future. No children, no national defense, no love of God or country.

But that’s just it. You’ve brainwashed yourselves into thinking someone else: the old, the older, the government, the dead would always do things for you.

If you learn anything from Brexit, learn that nobody got anywhere expecting someone to do things for him.

Time to grow up.

The Washington Delusion

Ben Domonech responds to Jonathan Rouch’s lunatic dispatch from inside the cocooned Beltway:

Square Rauch’s frame with the Benjy Sarlin report this week on the people who elected Trump, which is also quoted below. You can’t, because the latter offers actual data to show why people supported Trump, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because they’re angry about the lack of earmarks. It’s not that people believe their leadership class is corrupt – it’s that they know they’re stupid. It’s not that people are angry because a parking garage didn’t get built, it’s that they’re angry because the FBI can’t keep track of a terrorist’s wife.

Sarlin’s piece illustrates, in clear data-driven reporting, the real basis for the breakdown of our Cold War era political reality: an utter collapse in the belief that our elites, elected or otherwise, have the capacity to represent. They no longer believe our elites will ever look out for the interests of an anxious people. The “he can’t be bought” frame for Trump’s rise is best understood as code for “he’ll look out for me, not [pick your group]”.

This is not about ideology. If people trusted elites and institutions they defend to look out for them, in a non-ideological sense, the breakdown of our systems would have been mitigated or confined. The fact that it is so sweeping is due to a generation of elites who didn’t do their jobs well, or pretended things weren’t their job for too long.

We have breakdown, chaos, and upheaval in our politics today not because the people are “insane”, as Rauch writes, but because they are sane. They know the leadership class which held power for the past generation has not looked out for them.

We should never refer to them as “elites” without the scare quotes: There is nothing “elite” about them, in terms of intelligence, probity or even basic competence. Sadly, Trump would be no better, but he is what their arrogant fecklessness has delivered.


The British elites cannot continue to ignore the masses:

Somehow, over the last half-century, Western elites managed to convince themselves that nationalism was not real. Perhaps it had been real in the past, like cholera and telegraph machines, but now that we were smarter and more modern, it would be forgotten in the due course of time as better ideas supplanted it.

That now seems hopelessly naive. People do care more about people who are like them — who speak their language, eat their food, share their customs and values. And when elites try to ignore those sentiments — or banish them by declaring that they are simply racist — this doesn’t make the sentiments go away. It makes the non-elites suspect the elites of disloyalty. For though elites may find something vaguely horrifying about saying that you care more about people who are like you than you do about people who are culturally or geographically further away, the rest of the population is outraged by the never-stated corollary: that the elites running things feel no greater moral obligation to their fellow countrymen than they do to some random stranger in another country. And perhaps we can argue that this is the morally correct way to feel — but if it is truly the case, you can see why ordinary folks would be suspicious about allowing the elites to continue to exercise great power over their lives.

It’s therefore not entirely surprising that people are reacting strongly against the EU, the epitome of an elite institution: a technocratic bureaucracy designed to remove many questions from the democratic control of voters in the constituent countries. Elites can earnestly explain that a British exit will be very costly to Britain (true), that many of the promises made on Brexit’s behalf are patently ridiculous (also true), that leaving will create all sorts of security problems and also cost the masses many things they like, such as breezing through passport control en route to their cheap continental holidays. Elites can even be right about all of those things. They still shouldn’t be too shocked when ordinary people respond just as Republican primary voters did to their own establishment last spring: “But you see, I don’t trust you anymore.”

Brexit is Britain’s Trump, but it’s a much healthier response to the “elites” (they’re not particularly elite in matters of knowledge or competence) than ours has been.

The Obama Space Doctrine

Congress recognizes that it’s coming to an end:

Although the House language must still go to conference with the Senate, it seems unlikely anyone in that body will fight too hard to save the asteroid mission, Capitol Hill sources told Ars. Even if the administration vetoes the bill, it doesn’t really matter to Congress, because key members of Obama’s leadership team, including NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, will probably be gone next year. This year’s legislation effectively lays down a marker for negotiations with the new occupant of the White House in 2017.

The key legislators behind the new exploration approach for NASA, California Democrat Mike Honda and Oklahoma Republican Jim Bridenstine, at first blush seem an unlikely pair. Honda consistently ranks among the most liberal House members and Bridenstine among the most conservative. But with this new legislation, they have come together out of a desire for NASA to reconsider the Moon as a pragmatic interim destination before going to Mars.

“There is no better proving ground than the Moon for NASA to test the technologies and techniques needed to successfully meet the goal of sending humans to Mars by the mid 2030s,” Honda told Ars. “I am proud to lead the Congressional effort to ensure that NASA develops a plan to fully take advantage of potential partnerships with commercial industry, academia, and international space agencies to send affordable missions to explore and characterize the lunar surface.”

Loren Grush similarly writes that abandoning the moon was a mistake. I think she misses a key point here, though:

…perhaps the biggest strength of a Moon colony is how quickly NASA could pull it off. Studies have suggested that a crewed mission to the lunar surface could be done with existing rockets, such as the Falcon 9 or the Atlas and Delta rockets from United Launch Alliance, at a relatively low cost.

This is true of Mars, as well, at least if we consider Falcon Heavy. In fact, it’s the only affordable way to do it, given that Congress isn’t going to raise NASA’s budget to fund Mars hardware in the face of the continuation of the unneeded SLS.

Finally, Keith Cowing notes that the Planetary Society has an ulterior motive in continuing to support ARM:

The real reason why the Planetary Society supports ARM is that it delays sending humans to Mars. One look at their Humans Orbiting Mars report and you’ll see that they want to take longer to get to Mars and only play around on Phobos when they get there. Their own staff overtly state their reluctance to send humans to the surface.

Friedman’s statement that ARM cancellation would mean that “there will be no human space exploration earlier than 2030” demonstrates a certain level of cluelessness on his part. I guess he missed all of that SLS/Orion-based Deep Space Habitat goodness that was all over the news a month ago.

Lou Friedman wants us all to think that dire consequences will result if ARM is cancelled. I’d suggest the opposite: by focusing NASA’s limited resources on the things that actually get humans to Mars sooner – we will actually get humans to Mars – sooner.

I don’t care about Mars, but people who do should be loudly opposing SLS.