This is what Ruth Lea, a pro Brexit economist of some prior distinction, dubbed the apparent agreement of the overwhelming majority of economists, and the HMT/IMF/OECD/NIESR cabal, who happen to think that Brexit will be costly. This morning, on Twitter again, Ruth dubbed the IFS study that repeated the same message, ‘tired groupthink’.
If you think about it, this is a pretty strange argument. The majority think one thing; I, in the minority, think another. Therefore this shows that the majority must be prey to the intellectual frailties of peer-pressure and political influence, while I, with few analytical friends, retain a rare clarity about the truth.
How many other areas of life would this logic extend to? The debate about the benefits of the MMR vaccine combination? Climate change? The economic benefits of democracy?
Ponder a moment, and most of our conduct in life is our response to an interlocking series of consensuses. That tell us that the chance of a plane crashing is vanishingly small; that taxes and public services are good, democracy is good, the risks of crossing the road are acceptable; that car seatbelts help avoid death; that filling our face with cream buns is bad for us. I would like to see Ruth and the other Brexiteers who have flung the ‘groupthink’ label [Gerard Lyons, John Redwood…] write diaries for us, so we can see whether they apply consistently this theory of the wisdom of the minority. If they do, I feel sorry for them, for life under this regime must be extremely impractical and hazardous.
I’m curious too as to what the minority have about them that makes them less prone to losing their way like the rest of us? How do we tell that they are less ‘orchestrated’ or ‘tired’ or ‘groupthinking’? Knowing the answer to these things would no doubt help the rest of us fortify ourselves against losing our way next time.
I also wonder just how this political orchestration is meant to have come about? What would the BoE Governor, and his Monetary and Financial Policy Committees have to gain by agreeing to it? If there was an effort at improper orchestration, why did the one dissenting member of the FPC on the matter not refer to it? And how did the orchestration extend to the other independent research bodies? Or to the 288 of us who signed that letter? Was it so sophisticated that we are somehow unaware of it? Does this claim invoke a peculiar Brexiteer variety of the false-consciousness that the Marxians are fond of? If it does not, do the Brexiteer conspiracists not realise that for most economists, they have little to sell but their reputation for competence and integrity, and that the risk of being implicated in such an analytical heist would be financially disastrous?
[Added later, at suggestion of Sid Verma] I’d also add that on many matters, the overwhelming majority of anti-Brexit economists being slandered here disagree. As I pointed out in my Telegraph article, there are heated debates about methodology [heterodox or not], austerity [did the Coalition over do it or not?], monetary policy [are interest rates now too low or not, noting that both Sentance and Blanchflower signed our letter] and more. So, if this is groupthink, it’s like the intellectual equivalent of a neutron bomb, leaving the powers of independent thought over all other ideas strangely unimpaired.