Saturday, July 02, 2016

Brexit - correlation is not causality

Listening to some interviews on the side of the Leave campaign, I hear some folk lament the 'good old days', you know, the days when you knew your neighbours etc. I've been focused more on the transactional aspects of Brexit but it sounds like the cultural aspect played a significant role in people's decisions. But there's a problem of attribution here. The sudden rise in immigration has been a cultural game changer in many areas but the rising trend of individualism was present regardless, and the good old days will not be coming back irrespective of our immigration policy. These trends are happening globally and are unavoidable. Similarly, the decline of the nuclear family, the rise in government paternalism, etc, these are all issues outside of Brexit.

I do buy a lot of the points the Leave campaign are selling, but my argument is that there is an element of bias in overweighting the emotionally evoking, visible negatives versus the invisible positives (e.g. benefits of free trade, principles of toleration and inclusiveness, encouraging foreign investment, wealth in terms of GDP, capital markets, housing wealth, job prospects, lower prices due to terms of trade, lower inflation and on and on and on).

In addition, when it comes to decisions of importance, I'm an advocate of minds ruling hearts, of rationality having the final say over emotions. The problem here is that emotions always come first, with self-justifying reasons following hot on the trail.

I do find all of this all terribly interesting. It is giving me a chance to apply some Stoicism and positive thinking, challenging the reactionary part of my brain that screams we are 'going to hell in a handbasket. It's also a bit of a spur to form a coherent view on some of the topics of the day instead of just spouting the received wisdom from the various camps I have a foot in.

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