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Richard Bentall #FBPE @RichardBentall
, 20 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
1. I have been struggling to understand Brexit for over 2 years, partly motivated by my palpable and unexpected grief at the referendum result, but partly because of my professional interest in human behaviour. So, FWIW, here goes.
2. It has become increasingly clear that Brexit has torn the country apart in a way which nobody anticipated. I do not see this healing for a generation. So why has this happened?…
3. First thing to note is that those leading Brexit have almost nothing in common with those who voted for it. Some leaders are utopian free market ideologists (Hannan), some nationalists (Farage), some members of Oxbridge establishment under threat (BJ):…
4. These three Brexit leadership factions have formed an unnatural alliance. My guess is that the Eton-Oxbridge conveyor belt to power may be destroyed by the consequences.
5. Amongst us 'plebs', on the other hand, the arguments and forces that have been propelling us towards Brexit are of two kinds: 1. Economics. 2. Psychology (which has had much less attention).
6. First economics. UK has poor productivity, poor wage growth and accumulating personal debt (which was maintaining growth but can't do so indefinitely).
7. Although GDP growth looked healthy, GDP per capita didn't - all the extra wealth is associated with increased population. We have been heading for the buffers and membership of EU has just made this less obvious.
8. Under these circumstances, the promise that Brexit would make us richer was appealing to people who felt left behind and did not understand the economic detail.
9. Unfortunately, Brexit has unmasked our economic malaise and there is now absolutely no doubt that Brexit will make matters even worse. There is no credible scenario in which it will make us richer. Remaineers keep saying this but nobody is listening (they won't until too late)
10. Because, in the end, psychology trumps economics. And the psychology of Brexit is about two types of people, one more tribalist (people from somewhere) and one more internationalist. Correlates well with education/graduate status.
11. It's worth saying that there are many virtues asociated with the tribalist position. It's about protecting kin, and so it is exacerbated (primed) by economic threat. That's why people in poorer regions have particularly negative attitudes towards migration.
12. But there's also a very important age distribution - older people are more tribalist, youngsters more internationalist. Is this a cohort effect (young will carry these attitudes into adulthood) or an age effect (they'll become more conservative)? I am betting the former.
13. Likely to be a cohort because many elder leavers are now expressing attitudes formed when they were young, and because attitudes are formed by experience in youth.
14. Especially important is that young people more likely to be educated, more likely to have travelled, more likely to have mixed with people of other cultures (may have done so in their own classrooms). We know exposure reduces negative attitudes to others.
15. All of this points to a coming crisis of national psychology, which will be fuelled by the coming economic crisis. Which way will things go?
16. When the economy goes south, anger will be intense. In a rational world we'd take it out on those who led us to this calamity. But this is not a particularly rational world.
17. Worse case scenario: economic hardships fuel further nationalism and xenophobia which is exploited by the likes of Farage and Banks. Oxbridge establishment destroyed; new nationalistic leaders take Britain down a very dark path. Cycle of violence and further economic distress
18. More optimistic scenario: demography favours the internationalist outlook. In the economic chaos, the political realignment that has been underway for some time but hidden comes to fruition. Influence of both main parties diminishes, Eton-Oxbridge establishment crushed.
19. Either way, Britain will be smaller (Scotland leaving now looks like a question of when, not if) and less powerful. But hopefully, after a period of turmoil, it can reinvent itself as a modest modern progressive European state. Much pain along the way.
20. Not sure if this is of interest to anyone. I'm old (61) and it is the young who will shape the future of this country. This Twitter essay is more an attempt to clarify my thinking than anything else.
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