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Saturday, 2 December 2017

Spectacular Naivete

Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks slowly and clearly. He has a reputation for expressing clear ideas, some of which are out of kilter with contemporary fashion; notably his strictly orthodox Roman Catholic attitudes to homosexuality and the procreation of children. Yesterday lunchtime he excelled himself in a discussion of the Commons committee report on the Brexit situation on the BBC2 show, the daily politics.

He displayed an astonishing degree of ignorance about the realities of contemporary human aspiration and about the nature of world trade. In his view, the mass of the British people want cheap food and cheap clothes; therefore the UK should open its borders to imports from the countries that can supply the cheapest food and the cheapest clothes.

He did not mention the need to have countervailing exports of British goods and services to other countries, with which to earn the foreign exchange to buy the cheap imports. he did not seem to have any awareness that the countries - like Bangladesh - that are home to the cheapest clothes manufacture have the least capability to pay for the high-tech exports on which the future of the UK depends.

It is a recurrent theme of this blog that the most advanced country, the USA, will never grant to Britain [or to the EU] truly most-favoured access to their domestic market, because they are anxious to nurture their advanced economic sectors: which is best done by enabling their innovating firms to make big enough profits continue with the research and development programmes. Even before Trump, and certainly after Trump, they will be unashamed to prefer US technology, entertainment, financial services and other highly profitable areas of activity. It is part of the American culture to preserve, protect and defend their own firms and their intellectual property.

As the world's second economy, China is notoriously prone to require firms trading into China to share their intellectual assets with Chinese 'partners'. Japan has been closely chauvinistic throughout its modern economic history, and India is developing on similar lines.

Thus, if Brexit Britain went down the route prescribed by Mr Mogg there would be a monumental and rapidly expanding balance-of-payments deficit.

Even more significant, however, is the implicit ignorance shown by Mogg about the pattern of consumer aspirations that has developed all over the world. Yes, the class of hereditary paupers that was created by the Thatcher regime [and subsequently consolidated as part-salaried welfare dependants producing low levels of output per head under Blair, Brown and Cameron-Clegg-May] does want cheap food and clothing. But they also want smart phones, computer games, access to popular music and sports coverage. A major reason why they want cheap food is to have enough money [and access to credit] to buy the high-end products and services that are most fashionable. Such a living standard is accessible to the poorer members of an advanced-economy common market: it is not available on WTO terms to a rapidly-declining economy that is denied access for its exports to the richest countries in the world.

Mogg has revealed to me the extent to which the extreme Brexiteers live in cloud cuckooland.

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