I have cut and pasted the blog below, headed Mainly Macro, as it says what I want to say about Brexit but much better than I possibly could. It is written by Simon Wren-Lewis, an economics professor at Oxford.
If the UK does leave the EU, it will in significant part be due to decades of anti-EU propaganda in the 70% of the press owned by five tax-cheating billionaire press-barons.
Rupert Murdoch, the most powerful of the press-barons, has been candid as to why he wants a Brexit. The journalist Anthony Hilton once asked him why he was so opposed to the European Union. Murdoch’s reply was: -“That’s easy. When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”
Murdoch is used to getting his way in the UK, ever since he struck a deal with Margaret Thatcher in 1981. Later he struck another one with Tony Blair in 1995. He has backed the winner of every General Election since that deal with Thatcher. In 2015, he backed the SNP in Scotland and the Tories elsewhere.
In his last paragraph Wren-Lewis says "I hope one result of this referendum will be that otherwise sensible people will stop saying that our tabloid press is not that much of a problem. It might not be if our broadcast media were brave enough to report facts, but instead it is obsessed with balance, as well as being heavily influenced by what some tabloids say." I completely agree, except I would not exonerate the broadsheets which can be just as bad as the tabloids. The BBC, certainly, too often allows itself to be bullied by the press.
If the UK votes to leave the EU, Murdoch and his close allies Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, will be ecstatic. It will be a very dark day for democracy in our country.
Posted: 16 Jun 2016 01:21 AM PDT
Among everyone and everything I read at the moment there is a mixture of disbelief and despair over the now distinct possibility that the UK will vote for Brexit. Obviously that is partly because I tend to read other economists, and as Chris Giles noteseconomists are virtually united in believing Brexit will be bad for the economy. (If you cannot access the FT, read Paul Johnson.) But it is also because there is a cleareducational divide in support for Brexit, and I suspect most of what I read comes from one side of that divide. The only other event that I can imagine causing an equal degree of unanimous disbelief and despair would be if Trump looked like becoming President.
There is disbelief because it makes no sense. Of course there is a minority who hate the idea of sharing sovereignty, and another minority that really hate immigrants. But these two groups combined would not be enough to win a referendum. Instead we have a much larger group that are concerned about immigration, but their concern appears to be not worth very much to them. This was something I notedsome time ago, but it seems to be a robust result: in a recent ComRes poll68% say they would not be happy to lose any income to secure less immigration (perhaps because they believe less immigration will raise their income).
It makes no sense because economists are as sure as they ever are that people will on average be worse off with Brexit. But a large sectionof the population have either not got the memo or have ignored it. This will be an important point when it comes to what happens after Brexit: for many Brexit will have been a vote to control immigration, but only because a lot of those same people think that immigration can be controlled without making them worse off. In other words it will not be a clear mandate for voting against a Norway/Switzerland option, because anything else will make people worse off (as most MPs know).
There is despair because economists and others who think Brexit will make people worse off have no way of getting their message across to those that really need that information. I know Gove has said he is fed up with experts, but I’m not convinced most people are (for reasons given hereand reiterated here). But writing articles in the Guardian or letters to the Times will not get through to those we need to hear the message (see final chart here). It is why I wrote this. For academic economists I think it is part of a general problem that the media are losing interest in what we think, which is why I wrote thisfor the Royal Economic Society newsletter.
Whether we do or do not leave the EU, I hope one result of this referendum will be that otherwise sensible people will stop saying that our tabloid press is not that much of a problem. It might not be if our broadcast media were brave enough to report facts, but instead it is obsessed with balance, as well as being heavily influenced by what some tabloids say. How else can you account for 58% of people thinkingthat Turkey is likely to join the EU within ten years, which in reality is close to a zero probability event. Democracy can become dangerous when a few people have so much control over the means of information.