Caffeine: Better Living Through Chemistry

Should-Read: Simon Wren-Lewis: Beliefs about Brexit: "I want to... ask why public opinion seems oblivious to the failures of all those claims before the negotiations that ‘we hold all the cards’ compared to the reality that the UK has largely agreed to the terms set out by the EU...

...The view of the overwhelming majority of economists, and all the analysis from serious academics, the OBR, IMF, OECD, and now even the government, is that leaving the EU will involve significant economic costs. Yet despite all this the poll above shows as many people think we will be better off leaving as think we will be worse off. This is the kind of polling that should stop everyone in their tracks, much like the polls before the US election that said more people trusted Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. The result in this poll is all the more incredible because so far people are worse off as a result of Brexit....

I can think of two classes of explanation for this apparent paradox. The first is that people are fully aware of what experts and the government thinks, but ignore this.... If that is the line you want to take, then it has a clear implication. The implication is never hold a referendum on anything. It is not normally a good idea to take decisions where you ignore all expertise....

A second and much simpler explanation.... [How] do people who pay far less attention to economics and politics know this? How would they know this? They will know very little about it from reading the papers that campaigned so hard for Brexit in the first place.... This propaganda could be countered by informed and informing reporting by broadcasters. Unfortunately, with the exception of Sky News, the standard of reporting by broadcasters on Brexit has been very poor....

I missed the importance of the Irish border until September last year. I do not think I was unusual in this respect. I suspect I did so because I was influenced by the UK line that this issue was really a phase 2 problem, a line we heard over and over again on the MSM. What the MSM rarely did was ask what people in Irish Republic felt about the border, and hence why it got to be a first stage issue in the first place. Once I realised its importance, I could see that the Irish border issue would have a fundamental influence on any final deal.... But the BBC in particular seems unable to incorporate expert opinion, either directly or indirectly, into its coverage....

This is not the first time in recent memory that the media has failed to accurately report what was going on and what experts thought. Before the 2015 election the media accepted the idea that getting the budget deficit down was the most important goal of macroeconomic policy, and that the economic fundamentals were strong. Few experts would agree with the former, and the latter was simply false. What I call mediamacro swung the election for the Conservatives. The UK government wants a Brexit... not dictated by the referendum result but by the wishes of the Brexiters in the Conservative party. The only people who can stop this happening are other Conservative MPs, but many have said that these MPs will only be able to defy their government if public opinion swings against Brexit. But that is not going to happen.... People remain unaware of the overwhelming expert opinion that they will continue to become worse off after Brexit. That in turn represents another victory for right wing press propaganda, and another critical failure from most of our broadcast media...

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