Must-Read: Paul Krugman: Brexit: The Morning After

Must-Read: I disagree with Paul Krugman: not “Brexit just brings to a head an abscess that would have burst fairly soon in any case…” but rather: Brexit evolves antibiotic-resistant bacteria and brings to a head an abscess that would probably have drained itself gradually–and could still have been treated…

Paul Krugman: Brexit: The Morning After: “A number of people deserve vast condemnation here, from David Cameron…

…who may go down in history as the man who risked wrecking Europe and his own nation for the sake of a momentary political advantage, to the seriously evil editors of Britain’s tabloids, who fed the public a steady diet of lies. That said, I’m finding myself less horrified by Brexit… than I myself expected. The economic consequences will be bad, but not, I’d argue, as bad as many are claiming…. Brexit will make Britain poorer. It’s hard to put a number on the trade effects of leaving the EU, but it will be substantial…. Assurance of market access has a big effect in encouraging long-term investments aimed at selling across borders; revoking that assurance will, over time, erode trade even if there isn’t any kind of trade war. And Britain will become less productive as a result.

But right now all the talk is about financial repercussions–plunging markets, recession in Britain and maybe around the world, and so on. I still don’t see it. It’s true that the pound has fallen by a lot compared with normal daily fluctuations. But for those of us who cut our teeth on emerging-market crises, the fall isn’t that big…. This is not a world-class shock. Furthermore, Britain is a nation that borrows in its own currency….

Now, it’s true that world stock markets are down; so are interest rates around the world, presumably reflecting fears of economic weakness that will force central banks to keep monetary policy very loose. Why these fears? One answer is that uncertainty might depress investment. We don’t know how the process of Brexit plays out, and I could see CEOs choosing to delay spending until matter clarify. A bigger issue might be fears of very bad political consequences, both in Europe and within the UK…. The European project… is in deep, deep trouble [with] Brexit… probably just the beginning…. Lots of people are now very pessimistic about Europe’s future, and I share their worries. But those worries wouldn’t have gone away even if Remain had won…. At the European level… I would argue that Brexit just brings to a head an abscess that would have burst fairly soon in any case. Where I think there has been real additional damage done, damage that wouldn’t have happened but for Cameron’s policy malfeasance, is within the UK itself…. So calm down about the short-run macroeconomics; grieve for Europe, but you should have been doing that already; worry about Britain.

June 24, 2016


Brad DeLong
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