hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Dismal Economist

Alphen, Netherlands. 11 November.  On this day of remembrance when a few miles from here many tens of thousands perished in the 1914-1918 war thoughts of country are particularly poignant, except that is for the few who regard ‘country’ as an anachronism.  On 25 October The Economist’s Daniel Knowles appeared on the BBC’s flagship political programme, The Daily Politics to argue that northern England cities be allowed to die.  Thankfully veteran Labour politician John Prescott was on hand to shred him.  Sadly, Mr Knowles typified everything that is now wrong with a once great newspaper; a detached from reality, ivory tower, elite other-worldliness in which analysis has been replaced with dogma verging on propaganda. 
Take propaganda.  This week The Economist suggested that if Scotland left the UK; “At a stroke, the kingdom would become one third smaller. Its influence in the world…greatly reduced”.  This is Scottish elite hubris.  Scotland might comprise 30% of Britain’s landmass but it has only 9% of the population, and whilst more than 60% of its economy is dependent on the British state its 2012 GDP at $216bn was less than 10% of Britain’s.
The Economist’s retreat from the real world of real people has been on-going for some time.  This week Joel Budd argues for Britain to stay in the EU and to open its doors to unfettered immigration.  That saddest thing about the piece is the use of blatant scaremongering and insults to cull proper debate.  Those of us with legitimate concerns about power, democracy and governance in the EU and the undoubted social and cultural impact of rapid hyper-immigration are accused of being “Little Englanders”.  Instead the entire piece relies on a series of prejudices that in the past would never have made it past the reality test for which The Economist was once renowned. 
The Economist also states, “Continental Europeans are coming around to the long-held British view that the EU should be smaller, less bureaucratic and lighter on business”.  If that were true and the EU could be pulled back from its super-state fantasy and replaced with a deeper single market that preserved state independence then it would have my full support.  However, living in Continental Europe and from my travels around Europe and to Brussels I see no evidence of elite Europeans “coming around” to the British way of thinking.  Quite the reverse.
Rather, I see a German-led Europe that in a desperate bid to save the single currency will soon launch a fresh wave of political integration.  Far from The Economist’s idea of a less regulated, more open Europe Europeans are about to be engulfed by a new wave of regulation.  This is because European integration IS regulation.  Indeed, for The Economist’s view to prevail the EU’s entire political culture would have to move decisively away from its statist origins and that is not going to happen.
However, it is immigration where The Economist reveals itself most unworldly.  Whilst I agree that Britain should always be open to the world’s talented the entire point about the EU is that Britain should only be open to Europe – both the talented and the not-so-talented.  Indeed, the essential point The Economist misses is that for the EU Britain can either be open to the world or the EU but not both.  Essentially, the EU remains a protectionist block designed to enable Germans to sell things to a closed market and prevent the excesses of globalisation ‘damaging’ what many European see as their cultural and social patrimony.
Last week The Economist even suggested that EU hyper-immigration was a good thing because “Britain gains from their skills without having to invest in schools”.  What about the one million unemployed British youth?  What such nonsense reveals is that for The Economist Britain’s social and cultural identity count for nothing.  Rather, any level of immigration should be allowed irrespective of the impact on national identity and social cohesion if it adds an extra quarter percentage point on GDP. 
The essential problem is that The Economist today combines two truly dismal perspectives.  First, the paper is a true scion of the ‘dismal science’ of economics which reduces everything to mammon and thus so often misses the very things that make society and strategy tick.  Second, The Economist has become locked into a London liberal elite bubble which sneers at the very idea of national identity and the loyalty which is today celebrated and commemorated.  The paper even goes as far as to call on Britain to “abandon its separatist dreams” as though the world’s 5th or 6th largest economy and 4th defence spender was already a mere province of the EU super-state. 
The Economist is championing an essential nonsense; that Britain can stay in the EU and be open to the world. 
I am a proud Briton and a proud, thinking European.  The Economist?  I wonder…  Expect more of this propaganda.
Julian Lindley-French

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