The Divisive Vote Over Brexit

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Andrew Watt has written a passionate critique of my support for Brexit (“Progressive economists should support Remain not Brexit – a response to Steve Keen”), and it highlights a key feature of this peculiar referendum: people who normally find themselves on the same side in most economic and political debates have been divided by this referendum.

Andrew comments that he broadly agrees with my economic analysis on most issues, but vehemently opposes me here. Likewise, good friends like the heterodox economist Geoffrey Hogdgson; Ann Pettifor, who led the successful Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel the debt of the world’s poorest nations; and Yanis Varoufakis, who knows a thing or two about the EU, all strongly support Remain.

But many other economic colleagues, such as Richard Werner, support Brexit as I do. Richard states his position this way:

The economics is clear: there is no need to be a member of the EU to thrive economically, and exiting does not have to impact UK economic growth at all. The UK can remain in the European Economic Area, as Norway has done, or simply agree on a trade deal, as Switzerland did, and enjoy free trade – the main intention of European agreements in the eyes of the public.

The politics is also clear: the European superstate that has already been formed is not democratic. The so-called ‘European Parliament’, unique among parliaments, cannot propose any legislation at all – laws are all formulated and proposed by the unelected European Commission! As a Russian observer has commented, the European Parliament is a rubber-stamping sham, just like the Soviet parliament during the days of the Soviet Union, while the unelected government is the European Commission – the Politibureau replete with its Commissars. (Richard Werner, “EU Basics – Your Guide to the UK Referendum on EU Membership”)

How can one issue divide people who are in agreement on so many others? Partly it’s because of the politically ugly fellow travellers one finds oneself with: the UKIPs and the Britain Firsts that put forward racist, anti-immigration arguments for Brexit. Better vote Remain than find yourself with such bedfellows—and there’s the concern that winning the Brexit vote might strengthen their hands in domestic politics as well.

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About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.
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9 Responses to The Divisive Vote Over Brexit

  1. twowithinthreethatisone says:

    You’re right, Leave is the discerning vote even if it momentarily strengthens UKIP etc. Reference my latest post on the prior thread regarding the general intellectual environment before a paradigm change.

    And you naive? The progressives who support Remain are not only naive they are blind as well. No ideology or institution which has come to power in a world obsessed and based on power gives it up unless they either come to know an even deeper concept that surpasses and yet incorporates and encompasses power, or are herded in the direction of same by a grassroots movement that awakens individuals and the business community to their true self interests, and promulgates direct policies that will end their coercive threat of unemployment over the individual like a Sword of Damocles.

  2. Bhaskara II says:

    Great article professor Keen! Very clear.

    I spoke to an Italian small business man abroad. I asked him which will be better for Italy in the future; the Euro or the Lira (Lire)? After a little clarifying across languages, he said the Lira. I think he then said, with the the Euro there is no money and with the Lira we were rich.

    Of course, it is not only about money, but representation!

    It sounds like you have realized some of the public has a misconception and the course might change. That seems to lead to some speculative opportunities according to Soros’ theory. It seems, Soros* still is still talking about the great idea of the European Union. Even though, he mentions his speculation of where the sterling might move.

    On the more crass educational side of things that I might easily effect:

    What are some good speculative trades for the Brexit vote?

    I have “put” paper trades down yesterday. I wonder, are there are other better ones? Or, safer bets. (I should go trim some hedges in a few days, or call it loss.)

    * My talking about Soros is not necessarily making a good encompassing reference. But, his economics is dynamic and some what empirical.

  3. Bhaskara II says:

    So, there was my sample of one Italian’s opinion.

  4. Pingback: Brexit: Opinions of its effects from Leavers and Remain | Place du Luxembourg

  5. Bhaskara II says:

    nntaleb tweets long on pounds:

    “NassimNicholasTaleb Verified account ?@nntaleb

    BTW I am long some GBP so I can talk about markets tonite to satistfy #Skininthegame @will_moriarty”

    Fellow tweeters are long FTSE stock index and an other has a straddle on Brit. assets:

  6. koonyeow says:


    As always, you’ve backed your argument with observables rather than ideologies.

  7. Interesting to see all the ageism in the media and among (many ill informed) younger people. Far from the days of the wiser elders. Probably rooted in some unconscious fear of death, according to Terror Management Theory

  8. twowithinthreethatisone says:

    Grace as in abundance is the conscious philosophical concept that runs through, and needs to be more consciously integrated and consolidated within the various economic and monetary reform movements. For instance:

    What is “a modern debt jubilee”? (Steve Keen)

    It’s Grace as in forgiveness of Debt.

    What is Banking in the public interest? (Ellen Brown)

    It is the financial structural equivalent of the omni-presence of God/Self Awareness/Consciousness/psychological state of Grace/Flow. It is the financial systemic expression of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Book title Wherever You Go, There You Are when describing consciousness. Also, as the psychological state of Grace/Flow is the complete integration of Space, Time and Self Awareness, so the keystone business model of Banking/Finance that was truly in the individual’s interests is the integration of a caring, supportive and gracious attitude toward the individual and individual commercial interests as opposed to the dominating and manipulative force it has become.

    What is Sovereign Control of the Money System? (Positive Money and MMT)

    It is recognition that hierarchy is necessary with forces as powerful as money, and if they are aware enough, that such hierarchy is, of necessity, a sovereignty that is utterly ethical, undoubtedly in ethical control, unbiased, objective and completely democratic in its graciously gifting distributions to the individual and commercial interests and so is a true Sovereign Grace as in the old expression “Your Sovereign Grace”.

    What is true freedom for the individual and graceful and continuous free flowingness for the economic system that is also aligned with our awareness of the Laws of Thermo-dynamics? (Wisdomics/Gracenomics)

    In a money and debt based system, secure, continuous and satisfactorily adequate purchasing power is freedom. A universal dividend to every adult 18 years of age and older that itself approaches a middle class level of income is the gracious as in gifting expression of that freedom for the individual.

    In a modern technologically advanced capital intensive profit making economic system that is in an inherently disequilibrated state due to the ever increasing costs of depreciation of that ever increasing capital, and that is also now faced with rapid erosion of aggregate individual purchasing power due to innovation and artificial intelligence, a means of eliminating that inherent cost inflation so as to enable not just a momentary equilibrium, but a continuous and free flowing one….is necessary.

    As a true equilibrium and/or flow is thermo-dynamically impossible in the temporal world we live in without an outside force and/or policy to enable and maintain it, and as a momentary enablement is not a flow and certainly also isn’t the maintenance of one, a policy of cost reduction at the end of the economic process at retail sale where all costs for any item or service is terminally summed and hence afterward no economic agent can be harmed because production has become consumption…..must be implemented.

    Furthermore, in order for the system to be continuously free flowing despite the laws of thermo-dynamics, a significantly price deflationary reduction in retail price must be the case….and this is accomplished by reciprocal Grace as in Gifting by the merchant to the consumer…and then by the monetary authority back to the merchant for all of his discounts so that he can be whole on his margins of profit and overhead payments.

    These policies are the concept of Grace expressed in the organic affairs of the economic and monetary systems, and the integrated completion of the expressions of the other aspects of Grace shown in the other reform movements above.

    Even though haltingly and still largely unconsciously the philosophical concept of Grace, in everyone of its relevant aspects, is the new
    Copernican evolutionary paradigm that a fragmented economics requires for its transition from the mindsets of austerity and scarcity to freedom, free flowingness and abundance.

  9. Pingback: Inequality, Debt and Credit Stagnation – Steve Keen's Debtwatch

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