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Weekend reading: General Winter

General Winter on the cover of a French periodical

Note: This is a rant this week. Feel free to skip down to the money and investing links if it’s not your bag. I will delete abusive comments.


“I thought then, for the first time, about the arrival of General Winter. If he had been here ten days ago, he would not have been much help to the Args, dug in on the heights with no chance of their High Command getting their air forces into the skies. But I think he would’ve finished us.”
Sandy Woodward, Admiral in the Falklands War

And so nationwide riots on the utterly predictable absence of Brexit on 31 October turned out to be another fantasy dreamed up by the nation’s Barry Blimps.

For which we should be grateful. But not surprised.

I think it’s becoming clear that many of those who voted Leave in 2016 don’t actually care much for Brexit. The polls show the country still fairly evenly split, true, but it defies credibility to imagine a million Leave supporters marching through London.

The EU was the sworn enemy of a minority of politicians, businessmen, and trade union leaders. For most of the rest of its British detractors it was a fantasy bogeyman – used by the tabloids to scare the credulous, but evaporating when exposed to the light.

With the exception of migration (which for the trillionth time we could have at least tightened using existing EU rules, without Brexit) few Leavers can point to any concrete downside caused by our membership.

It’s all about theoretical losses of sovereignty, or fears of a future super state.

You say tomato, I say turnip

How do we reconcile this practical disinterest with the anger that’s split the nation?

It’s clearly because even though many Leave voters don’t really care much about the EU, they understandably do care that their vote is apparently being denied.

Not enough to riot, thankfully, but enough to make their grown-up kids dread Christmas.

To help them get this angry, they’ve been aided and abetted by three years of pie-in-the-sky promises from Government, which gilt-edged the stretched version of reality peddled by the Leave campaign – and by a bucket load of dangerous posturing about ‘the enemies of the people’.

True, if you’ve spent more than five minutes following the saga you’ll know the real reason we’ve not Brexit-ed is because MPs have been trying to square Leave’s Pandora’s box of bogus promises with the realities of globalization, the Union, and the economy.

You’ll also know that as a result, both Remainer and Brexiteer MPs alike have voted down the various Withdrawal Bills.

But never the mind facts, eh? This is Brexit we’re talking about.

As for Remainers, we’re not just angry because we’re leaving this flawed but ultimately positive project.

We’re angry because Brexiteers’ means don’t justify the end – and because even now, nobody has been able to articulate why the end is worth it, anyway.

We’ve all taken our sides, and we’re more dug in and furious than before the Referendum ever happened.

Populism goes mass-market

I have a golden rule in life and as an investor: never presume things can’t get worse.

It’s very possible this General Election will double down on the division. You may be relieved to learn then that I don’t intend to follow the next six weeks of futility here on Monevator.1

I do get a few nice comments and emails saying our Brexit debate is better than elsewhere. A few Leavers have even generously said I’m more balanced than most of the opposition, which perhaps shows how bad things are.

But even if this was the right venue for relentless politics, my heart is not in it. Because this election seems doomed to achieve nothing except to make the environment more bitter.

Having alienated most of its thoughtful or at least moderate minds – some of whom resigned as MPs this week – the Conservative party under its professional blusterer-in-chief will stomp further to the right. A more right-wing Tory party will be a feature, not a bug.

Labour meanwhile is headed by one of the few people in Parliament who could make Boris Johnson look like a preferable Prime Minister.

Lastly, edging out towards the fringes as the main parties abandon the center, the Lib Dems, the SNP, and the Brexit fan club party are taking more extreme positions.

We saw the Rebel Alliance defeat a no-deal Brexit. Now we have the political equivalent of a Tatooine cantina vying for our votes – would-be MPs whose positions on Brexit are ever more alienating to the other side.

Division! Clear the lobbies!

While I think Johnson will probably get a small majority – leaving aside for now the Farage factor – I doubt he’ll get an obedient army of Brexit ultras under his command.

But even if he does, this season’s upcoming plot twist is premised on the idea that ‘sorting out Brexit’ will be the end of this farce.

In reality, the trade negotiations with the EU – technically termed ‘the hard part’ – will begin the day we leave. And even if we eventually bork out with a no-deal, once the lorry motorway car parks have been set-up and the Swiss have flown in emergency medical supplies we’ll soon be back to Brussels to start negotiating again anyway. Getting a deal with the EU is, well, non-negotiable.

Contrary to the Referendum marketing, our trade with Europe is of supreme importance. Some see BRINO2 as the endgame, given the desire of most MPs to avoid an economic hit.

Indeed as the years tick by, Brexit could seem an ever more Quixotic project with no upside and dwindling supporters as the older Leavers die and the younger ones start deleting their embarrassing pre-2020 social media accounts.

We might even end up back in the EU in a decade, only with all our special arrangements gone.

Remember, there is no upside to Brexit except maximizing technical sovereignty, which nobody will notice anyway, and, if you it appeals to you, potentially curbing migration, which the Government will probably try to offset with work visas and more ex-EU migration, for economic reasons.

Moderates won’t find emptied council houses for their kids. And racists won’t be relieved.

Meanwhile any sleight of hand Johnson and Javid do try to gee us up with by ending austerity could have done without Brexit – and with £100bn extra in the economy if growth hadn’t been flattened by years of Brexit buffoonery.

Lies, dammed lies, and Leaving

Much is said about how the millions of disenfranchised who voted Leave will feel betrayed if we don’t Brexit.

But what about if we Brexit and it achieves diddly-squat for them?

The harsh reality is most of these people were lost to politics before they were weaponized by Dominic Cummings’ data-targeting. You think the past three years has won them back?

They came in pissed off and that’s how they’ll stay, whatever happens from here.

Leave-supporters can bluster all the want, but Remainers have been right about nearly everything so far – except that immediate post-vote recession. We’ve had a slowdown, sure, but no recession.

But otherwise?

Leaving the EU turns out to be very hard, not very easy.

Far from superior trade deals on day one, we’re 1,226 days on from the EU Referendum and only about 8% of UK trade has even been ‘rolled over’ under existing EU trade terms.

There isn’t a grand emerging consensus that Brexit is an opportunity. There’s at best a grudging concession that we have to go through with it, a bit like a colonoscopy.

And the EU hasn’t fractured and bickered – it’s more united than ever.

We haven’t taken a new position on the global stage, except perhaps as the clown act.

The special Brexit Day fifty pence coins are being melted down but the ‘Get Ready For Brexit’ posters are still up, reminding us of £100m that we taxpayers will never see again – and that is only the thinnest end of the national waste of money, time, and effort.

Déjà vu (that’s French for Brexit)

Then again, we haven’t left yet, right?

That’s a fair retort, in that it’s at least true.

For those who don’t read the comments, this is what happens after every Brexit article here so far.

A fairly polite conversation takes place, in which initial claims of political infringement by the EU or an economic advantage from Brexit are efficiently taken apart. A stat will be thrown out stating that most Leave voters were motivated by sovereignty concerns, so why are we discussing the economy? Yet nobody will give good answers when probed about the actual impact of this perceived lack of sovereignty, or why Britain is especially affected. Eventually, Brexit supporters will say we don’t understand, it’s about migration, or ‘culture’ or ‘Englishness’. (It used to be I’d also get a few emails about Muslims, but at least that seems to have died down.)

Equally, I’m sure this rant feels like Groundhog Day to Leavers, too.

Perhaps it’s the one that will make you unsubscribe? A few always email me to say they’ve had enough, they’re off.

I don’t blame them – but I feel I can’t ignore the White Elephant in the room.

Around and around we go.

None of the above

Remember 2012, and the Olympics, and Britain on top of the world?

Remember 2015, and fancy skyscrapers popping up across London? Remember start-ups founded by clever migrants who came to the UK for our global outlook? Remember how we got through the financial crisis without huge job losses and remember talk of building a Northern Powerhouse before every plan was washed away by Brexit? Remember the Polish builder who fixed your boiler? Remember when you couldn’t get a coffee south of Watford without a sneer and then for ten years it was all smiles from young Spaniards and Greeks? Remember how you could daydream about living in Rome or Barcelona or Berlin because it was your right, not a gamble? Remember when the UK was the fastest-growing economy in the G7? Remember when Cameron was a nice-ish Conservative leader, modernizing the UK’s natural party of government?

Remember when we increasingly believed we were more alike than different?

And Leavers ask us to worry about the betrayal of voters who came out once to protest.

Many of us already feel betrayed.

See you on the other side.

From Monevator

10-year retrospective: The bond apocalypse that wasn’t – Monevator

The annual allowance for pensions – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Why your house is an investment, and an asset, too – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!3

Typical UK home is just £800 pricier than a year ago, says the Nationwide – BBC

25,000 NS&I Premium Bond winners thought they’d won twice, until their cheques bounced – ThisIsMoney

Savers pulled an extra 21% out of their pension pots over the summer [Analysis]ThisIsMoney

Despite only 5% thinking Brexit will be a positive, Freelancers fear HMRC more [Search result]FT

Sustainable investing is becoming a big trend in the US – Morningstar

Products and services

Coventry Building Soc’s latest Poppy Bond pays 1.7%, plus 0.15% to the British Legion – ThisIsMoney

Tesco Clubcard Plus: is the new £8-a-month deal worth it? – Guardian

There’s just a month left to open an old-style Help To Buy ISA [It’s then good until 2029]ThisIsMoney

Ratesetter will pay you £100 [and me a cash bonus] if you invest £1,000 for a year – Ratesetter

Craft Gin Club launches mini-bond paying 8% – or 12% in gin [Risky!]Craft Gin Club

You could spend over £1,000 a year if you signed up for every TV streaming service – ThisIsMoney

Seeking ‘The Google Maps for Money’ – Andreessen Horowitz

Comment and opinion

Is £1m enough to retire on? [Search result]FT

Vanguard without Jack Bogle – Allan Roth

Five steps to financial freedom – The Evidence-based Investor

Why it’s hard to pick stocks – Oblivious Investor

Property ladders – Klement on Investing

Confluence – Indeedably

How to steel yourself to buy at all-time highs – MoneyWeek

Useless career advice – A Wealth of Common Sense

“Money Diaries: I’m 30, earn £270k and want to pay off my parent’s mortgage”ThisIsMoney

Big life transitions happen whether we want them to or not – Abnormal Returns

Living by selling down your capital might not be as easy as it sounds – Simple Living in Somerset

There’s no place like home (bias) [US but relevant]Elm Funds

Naughty corner: Active antics

Michael Mauboussin on some tough questions for active managers – Validea

Why it’s hard to tell if a fund manager has really beaten the market – MarketWatch

Superstar Investors [Research redux]Alpha Architect

Futures are pulling cryptocurrencies out of the dark – Yahoo Finance

Brexit / General Election

A list of political tools and websites [Google Doc]Election Handbook

When three party leaders recite the same populist message, alarm bells should be ringing – Marina Hyde

The housing crisis is at the heart of our national nervous breakdown – Guardian

Kindle book bargains

The Complete Guide to Property Investment by Rob Dix – £0.99 on Kindle

Way of the Wolf by Jordan Belfort [aka The Wolf of Wall Street] – £0.99 on Kindle

RESET: How to Restart Your Life and Get F.U. Money by David Sawyer – £0.99 on Kindle

Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

Not enough hours in the day? Finding more may not help – Guardian

The American system of tipping makes no sense – The Atlantic

How TikTok broke rap music – Wired

‘It seems so simple’: can I cut it at the World Stone Skimming Championships? – Guardian

Argos: The book of dreams [Interactive nostalgia]Book of Dreams

Dogs catch flying discs [Gallery]Guardian

And finally…

“The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.”
– Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday!

  1. I mean with these intros. I’ll still include some political links in their Brexit quarantine box. []
  2. Brexit In Name Only. []
  3. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 51 The Investor November 3, 2019, 8:40 am


    But as/when that happens, the cheap labour thing is an argument for remain as it is for leave, depending on who individually benefits.

    Well if we’re talking about individual benefits, perhaps, but the argument for the EU for me transcends this on some levels. (Obviously nobody would be for it if they didn’t think people in general individually benefited…)

    Related: Leavers/the Leave campaign talks about the money spent by richer countries on poorer ones in the EU like everyone has lost their head and are just transferring the money out of witlessness. “We’d keep it!” they cry. They don’t (or won’t) understand that the idea was to slowly make all of the EU richer — to bring it as much as possible up the same standard of living across the common market. Of course that would never happen entirely, you get big variations inside nation states (just look at the US, or even the UK) but that was part of the idea behind putting roads into former Soviet bloc countries and so on.

    Similarly, free movement is mainly about fairness within the single market (for example a country can’t create particularly favourable conditions for its companies, say by cutting minimum wages or environment safeguards, and then sell its product into Europe cheap without letting other European workers compete for those jobs). But again it also has the benefit that over time it should reduce inequalities.

    About 10 years ago I had big arguments with my then-girlfriend who was working in a former Soviet bloc country, when I said one day the impoverished town but pretty and mostly preserved village she was working in would one day be full of holiday homes owned by Brits and Germans. I didn’t understand that economy, she said, I didn’t realize how poor everyone was. But really, she didn’t understand economic development (to be fair she was quite a bit younger and still in her idealistic phase). That country’s quiet rural villages were this year touted in a big newspaper as “the New Tuscany.”

    A Leaver may come along to pretend they care about such country’s stock of rural housing and so on, but that’s nonsense. This is part of country’s coming up to speed. (See Italy and France, and the rejuvenation of their dilapidated old country houses by romantic-minded incomers.)

    Europe will gradually get richer everywhere like this (barring the robots/climate change). Not as fast as if it did big fiscal transfers directly, which could yet come, but steadily and over time.

    We’ll be able to see for ourselves, for a two week holiday, with some visa reciprocation scheme. 🙁

  • 52 The Investor November 3, 2019, 10:01 am

    @Eugene — I happen to agree that migration is the weakest spot in the Remain argument, and have written many times we should have had tighter controls (some of which we actually could have had, and chose not to implement).

    But I don’t think millions of homes would have been built on green belt land. There haven’t been more than 200K homes built in the UK a year for a sustained period for generations. Ever more people (and certainly most migrants) want (/have) to live in cities.

    I also believe if the population growth really got out of control the EU would look at it again, but anyway we were accepting as much non-EU inward migration as EU migration.

    If you’re going to put up straw men such as that I am criticizing Cummings for doing his job, we’re not going to have a useful discussion. (I can’t for much longer anyway, I’m just repeating myself. 🙂 )

    I am criticizing him for deliberating using ads that were either lies or sitting on the margins of the truth, I am criticizing numpties for voting Leave on the back of those dodgy ads, and I am criticizing smart Leavers for not caring about this sort of thing.

    We do agree that the Marshall Plan for jobs argument hasn’t got legs in winning votes from the average person. Another reason why I believe in representative democracy not referendums. Also the reality is the Referendum win revealed a lot of people are more insular (/lovers of country, if you prefer) than the dominant narrative allowed for.

    Indeed this is the biggest problem we have.

    Most (not all but look at the stats) younger, more well-educated people (i.e. the wealth creators and agenda setters of the future) are pro-Remain, pro-migration, pro-moving location for a better life/work, pro-integration, believe in science (e.g. global warming) and to some extent progressive politics (e.g. women in workplace).

    Most (not all but look at the stats) older less well-educated people (i.e. in draw down mode, and they don’t generate as much of the country’s future wealth or set the agenda) are pro-Leave, pro-nationalism, pro-family, wanting to improve their local communities rather than move, are skeptical of science (e.g. global warming) and to some extent progressive politics (e.g. women in workplace).

    There’s a clear massive tension here as we all live on the same island. We’ve probably been drawing apart — via internal migration (to universities/London/cities) and assortative mating — for decades.

    [Edit: Better “more” rather than “most” in those last two points.]

    [Edit: Change

  • 53 Matthew November 3, 2019, 10:40 am

    To flip this the other way, migrants know they will be displacing the poorer workers, but decide to anyway (i can understand that if theyre poorer, they have no sympathy for us) – but then we’re expected to have sympathy for them? When you’re considering your own children sympathy for unkown competitors is limited.

    Essentially it is morally pressuring the poor to be the source of charity in globalisation

    Protectionism is of course bad for the overall economy (the economy which the poor have very little stake in and less to lose)

    Businesses happily shut down competition when it arises

    It’s not a direct transfer of cash, indeed, its more stealthy than that

  • 54 The Investor November 3, 2019, 10:57 am

    Guys, I haven’t got the time or the energy to refute Leave straw men again all day.

    People aren’t getting poorer because of EU migration. The UK got richer because of it (but arguably at the cost of social pressures such as housing and some communities feeling alienated.) All the studies but one showed this. That study showed one very small impact at the bottom.

    Wealth inequality hasn’t increased:


    I wrote a long list of reasons *proving* (yes, facts) my views on Brexit were actually mainstream, yes I still get called extreme.

    It’s so wearisome.

  • 55 Matthew November 3, 2019, 11:51 am

    Can we trust the integrity of these studies? Would a researcher get lynched by their peers/discredited into obscurity if they did suggest a larger impact? How can they compare the UK inside to outside?

    I agree as you say this has been building up for decades, it just came out when finally it felt acceptable for it to. A degree of self censorship is another why you don’t see so many vocal leave supporters, it’s not something to stick your neck out for or get sacked over, if we do remain then life goes on, the referendum was just a vague opportunity to take.

    It’d be interesting to know what proportion of leavers actually believed the 350m and that a deal would be easy?

    I agree we wouldnt build much in greenbelt – not building much on the greenbelt has increased the pressure exponentially. We can’t put a house for humans there incase we offend a rare species of doormouse!

    Although I must say the boomers had arrificially cheap housing from after ww2, and since then the housing market has simply reverted to how it used to be before that when families had to live with multiple generations together, millenials should compare theselves to the generation before that, not the boomers. Boomers had high inflation and high interest rates because of the money they had in their pockets due to artificially cheap housing, I don’t see how we could ever have rates like that again without government interference.

    Global warming is true, but we won’t become venus. It’s a buildings insurance problem, with some weather deaths and changing agriculture thrown in.

  • 56 ZXSpectrum48k November 3, 2019, 12:11 pm

    @Matthew: “Global warming is true, but we won’t become venus. It’s a buildings insurance problem, with some weather deaths and changing agriculture thrown in.”

    Are you serious? It’s a fundamental issue. Humanity is trying to win a war against the Second Law of Thermodynamics and over 13 billion years of evidence suggests the Second Law has won every single time. The best we can hope for is the Second Law accepts our unconditional surrender. All other options are considerably worse. I don’t think buildings insurance is really the key issue …

  • 57 The Investor November 3, 2019, 12:38 pm

    Can we trust the integrity of these studies?

    Yes, in the most part, when literally all the studies from both UK and overseas economists and economic bodies agree, we can trust the studies.

    Sorry, I haven’t got time for ‘don’t trust the experts’ theories on this blog. That’s true B-Leaver territory, as Nick Cohen argues today:

    Brexit supporters expect “the elite”, “the establishment”, “the Westminster bubble” to “rig the system” to stop them “taking our country back”. The enemy imposed metric measurements, drink-driving laws, immigrants and smoking bans and now it wants to stop Brexit. They take us for fools. They think we are stupid.

    And yet their actions show that cynics who doubt everything trust Nigel Farage, even though he takes them for absolute idiots.

    Matthew, I believe on balance you’re discussing in good faith but it’s exhausting replying to all the same stuff as last week, about facts, with little progress made. Doubly so as like every week Remainers have peeled away from commenting on the main and it’s just me fielding the inaccuracies.

    I believe you’ve had your fair say for this weekend. Tempted to close comments as I had to for same reason last weekend, but it’s only Sunday. So please be aware I’ll probably be deleting further comments from you — I’m afraid your ‘don’t give me evidence, we can’t trust it’ line has tipped me over the edge. This may be harsh, but my blog and my discussion rules. Nothing personal, have a great weekend.

  • 58 Matthew November 3, 2019, 12:43 pm

    @zx spectrum – heres one reference, I could find more, that Earth is simply too far from the sun for our seas to boil like venus did (water vapour being a far more potent greenhouse gas), even if you put all the carbin in Earth’s crust into the atmosphere


    People assume that global warming means runaway greenhouse effect – not necessarily
    It means change, economically, and we have to weigh it up against the cost of action

  • 59 The Investor November 3, 2019, 1:04 pm

    @zx spectrum – heres one reference, I could find more, that Earth is simply too far from the sun for our seas to boil like venus did (water vapour being a far more potent greenhouse gas), even if you put all the carbin in Earth’s crust into the atmosphere

    So the gap between ‘really big problem’ and ‘buildings insurance issue’ is bridged by citing evidence that we won’t become a barren rock like Venus.

    I was wondering if I’d over-reacted a few minutes ago, but I’ve not. Unfortunately you’re mixing some good points with some silly Internet debating points and I’ve not got the time for it (or platforming ‘we can’t trust facts!’) on my blog. Further stuff from you deleted this weekend Matthew.

    Thanks for taking the time/interest with (most of!) the comments you’ve made though, and have a good weekend. 🙂

  • 60 JimJim November 3, 2019, 1:16 pm

    @ Matthew, you could be right you could be wrong… BUT. can you afford to be wrong? I can’t just take your estimate of it in front of a sea of experts telling me that you are. I could devote my life to climate science and find out, but wait, lots of people are doing this for me, it would be rude and ignorant of me to ignore them wouldn’t it?
    (sorry to mis-quote the PIL lyric BTW)

  • 61 The Investor November 3, 2019, 1:32 pm


    It didn’t. The academic studies showed that. The Gino coefficient history quoted up the thread show that. Record employment is also suggestive.

  • 62 The Investor November 3, 2019, 1:40 pm

    P.S. Hit send too soon. As we’ve discussed before, but Leavers don’t listen so I’m not sure what the point is, immigration creates demand as well as supply, hence additional need/jobs etc.

    Please take your “I don’t listen to corrupt leading global academics and economists not all data because it’s a conspiracy” to the DM or Telegraph. Much obliged.

  • 63 Vanguardfan November 3, 2019, 1:47 pm

    @TI. Many thanks for your patience, restraint and relentlessly reasonable engagement with non-arguments/gas-lighting.
    Personally if someone called me an extremist (twice!) for putting forward a well argued, perfectly mainstream point of view on my own website I would not be tolerating their presence.

  • 64 Pinkney November 3, 2019, 2:24 pm

    Loved the rant it’s nice to see some intelligent debate which has become almost dangerous for an individual to do. We live in interesting times which I must say have become rather worrying in nature. In my opinion once a nation is seen as unwelcoming to certain people then the outcome for people living in that nation will in the long term be unpleasant for all those who don’t fit the narrative being pumped out.

  • 65 The Investor November 3, 2019, 3:40 pm

    Thank you @Vanguardfan. It is a pretty forlorn task; as hokey and factually incorrect ‘common sense’ is preferred to facts and data you often can’t really engage to any great purpose with some. And if you do another fairy story pops up.

    It’s also hard to tell if people are engaging with positive intentions sometimes, but I think you have to at least start thinking we are all looking for answers.

    I can’t stand the thought of a waverer reading something factually wrong on my own website that might sound logical (eg the economic stuff above) and thus it contributing to the problem.

    But overall I’m glad we have the discussions now and then. While I’ve learned little to nothing in terms of facts from hardcore Brexiteers in these discussions, the more articulate Leavers have helped me understand the result context better, the motivations (however wrong headed I think their conclusion is) and also the chronic difference in core stance between the archetypal Remain vs Leave voter.

    So that’s been helpful and constructive, and moved my thinking on vs three years ago, for which I’m grateful.

    Not totally futile then!

  • 66 The Investor November 3, 2019, 3:54 pm


    I don’t need to defend my argument due to, you know, the data proving it. But even in its own terms your theory doesn’t stand up.

    For example, economic growth and rising populations are strongly correlated. That is one reason why developing world countries are able to apply superior productivity to growing populations to grow faster than us. Compare for example China’s rose over the past 20 years with the slower growth future predicted on account of its one child policy in the past.

    According to your theory, growing populations should be bad for news for such countries as new kids grow up to compete down wages. But this doesn’t happen as shown by the history of the past several thousand years.

    And yes, it is fine per capita, too. The average Chinese citizen went from famine plagued peasant to secure, with tens/hundreds of millions becoming middle class.

    Before you bring out your new straw men — of course population growth is not the complete picture. Of course it is not enough in isolation (eg parts of Africa over past decades). And no it might not be good for other things such as housing access or the environment.

    I am just pointing out that your common sense man in the pub argument is not just refuted by all the data (but one single study, that showed a very small impact at the bottom) but also as a data-ignoring theory.

    Finally you can take your ‘EU purse strings’ rubbish to the Daily Mail comment section. Thanks.

    [Edit: Deleted my exasperated opening sentence. Not helpful.]

  • 67 JimJim November 3, 2019, 4:34 pm
  • 68 David November 3, 2019, 4:43 pm

    You can’t really blame people for being suspicious about studies. We get lied to all the time by politicians, employers, and big companies. Big pharma for example is commonly believed to pay a lot of money to get the study results they need so they can launch their drugs onto the market. And a bit closer to home, you regularly write posts on this website debunking the latest “evidence” of why passive working is flawed and doomed to failure, with the analysis behind the story of course funded by the active management industry. Lies, damned lies and statistics, as you alluded to in your intro.
    Rightly or wrongly, that’s why Michael Gove stuck a chord with a lot of voters when he said that people have had enough of experts.
    And I think this is why saying that you have the facts that prove you’re right doesn’t really help much. Partly because people have their own evidence that they can see in their own neighbourhood with their own eyes, which doesn’t match up with the academic studies (immigrants working below minimum wage, etc). And partly because you can’t persuade people out of an emotionally driven point of view with facts, as it was never based on facts in the first place.

  • 69 ZXSpectrum48k November 3, 2019, 6:00 pm

    @David. I do blame people for being suspicious of studies. It’s intellectually weak. Sorry but I want the supremacy of empirical data, scientific method, mathematical models and logic. Yes, Gove may have struck a chord for some when he said “we’ve had enough of experts”. It doesn’t follow, however, that people’s own personal views, despite their total and utter ignorance on varied subjects, are deserving of equal weight to that of experts. That somehow everything is just subjective. That there are no facts.

    Yes, sometimes experts get it wrong but the alternative to believing in the scientific approach is terrifying. What next? We deny quantum field theory and general relativity and decide instead that universe was created in seven days by some bloke with a nice beard? That path that just leads to superstition and religious nonsense.

  • 70 The Investor November 3, 2019, 6:46 pm

    @Eugene — Here’s another way you could have written your reply that would have been less frustrating:

    Right, well I’ve had a Google and turns out the ‘practical Leaver in the golf club’ theory about rising populations being bad for the economy was wrong. I did find one study from the University of Sheffield that questioned the link in the UK recently. Of course even it said:

    The fact that populations and economic output tend to grow in tandem, albeit at different rates, has been well-documented.

    So I now understand why Remainers repeatedly argue that migration was good for the UK economy.

    I’ve learned something today! 🙂

    I do note however that the study says that the relationship in the UK specifically appears to have broken down in recent years. True, the study does acknowledge the fact that having the biggest global recession since World War 2 severely hitting the UK (due to its financial sector etc) right in the middle of the period may well have something to do with it.

    It does note though that the relationship appeared to be breaking down just before the recession, albeit only over a time span of a few short years. And it also adds: “It is possible that the recovery would have been even slower without the very strong population growth being experienced.”

    On balance I feel this study — whilst contradicting my Leaver point of view within the first few sentences — does some provide some evidence that the very high immigration of the early 2000s did not immediately translate into higher GDP growth, albeit the study itself says they don’t move directly in lockstep.

    Logically, it might be expected that there would be some ‘speed bumps’ from temporarily very high immigration, so perhaps that explains the lack of an immediate GDP response in this particular data. But on balance, I still feel it’s worthy of consideration

    Of course, many Leavers don’t like immigration because they don’t want foreign people making the UK feel less like “their” UK (despite the fact that in many areas where the Leave vote is very high, such as parts of the North of England, inward migration is very low).

    As you’ve said before @TI you can’t argue with people’s personal taste. Perhaps people should just be candid about it rather than setting up a series of bogus straw men.

    Well that’s me done, I’ve said enough. I’m off to read some more data and learn about things rather than just peddle what I thought was common sense. Cheers for the discussion.

    But you didn’t.

    Please feel free to explain your theories to the rest of the entire Internet, in many parts of which you’ll find a ready and supportive audience.

    @David — People can say “I have my prejudices, just like you do, and I want my country my way regardless of what the data says and even if it costs us/me.”

    I’m not aware that I’ve ever said that wasn’t a legitimate view, if expressed that way, even if I have different tastes.

    Saying “all the world’s academics are wrong and/or in on a conspiracy” or even “facts are hard, everything is shades of grey it turns out, I’d rather believe people like Eugene who tell me exactly what I want to hear that plays to my preconceptions” on the other hand is not a view worthy of respect.

    Then again, if you’re telling me that many (not all, perhaps not even most, but clearly from all evidence a lot) of Leave voters were too ill-educated / misinformed / stupid / short of time / motivated by prejudice to give a sensible view on Brexit then I don’t disagree.

    The only thing stupider then some of the arguments we still hear for Leave was the decision to ask people who either couldn’t or wouldn’t analyze this very complex situation to tell us what we should do via a Referendum.

    Which shows you that an Oxbridge education isn’t everything. You can still make idiotic misjudgements. Perhaps that’s where we can agree.

  • 71 The Investor November 3, 2019, 7:25 pm

    p.s. Eugene followed his hyperlink to the Sheffield study with the line…

    If Brits want rising living standards we’ve got to stop using massive low skill immigration to boost the economy…

    …implying that this is what the study said.

    It didn’t say this. And in fact in an awkward note for fans of Leave For The Good Of The Economy! theorists, the study’s concluding points included the line:

    It is not clear that the UK can develop a growth model in the foreseeable future which functions without strong population growth.

    If a future Conservative government were more successful in curbing immigration, and therefore population growth, an alternative economic strategy supporting capital-intense industries may be required.

    I’m closing the comments here. I’ve battled multi-shape-shifting trolls on the Internet since the early 1990s, and there comes a time when you have to stop giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’re discussing in good faith.

    Cheers for 96% of the comments, including most of the Leave-minded ones.

    See you [on this subject] in six weeks. (Can’t wait! Ahem. 🙂 )