In a recent GMO commentary on Immigration and Brexit, founder Jeremy Grantham laid out precise reasons why Brexit was a mathematical certainty eventually.
Curiously, Grantham thinks Brexit was a bad idea.
On the second sentence, I disagree strongly.
The following snips, including bullet points are from Grantham. Subtitles are mine, not his.
Europe’s Impossible Refugee Math
The truth about immigration to the EU, in my view, is bitter. As covered in earlier quarterlies, I believe Africa and parts of the Near East are beginning to fail as civilized states.
They are failing under the pressure of populations that have multiplied by 5 to 10 times since I was born; climate for growing food that is deteriorating at an accelerating rate; degraded soils; insufficient unpolluted water; bad governance; and lack of infrastructure. Country after country is tilting into rolling failure.
This is producing in these failing states increasing numbers of desperate people, mainly young men, willing to risk money and their lives to attempt an entry into the EU.
For the best example of the non-compute intractability of this problem, consider Nigeria. It had 21 million people when I was born and now has 187 million. In a recent poll, 40% of Nigerians (75 million) said they would like to emigrate, mostly to the UK (population 64 million). Difficult. But the official UN estimate for Nigeria’s population in 2100 is over 800 million! (They still have a fertility rate of six children per woman.) Without discussing the likelihood of ever reaching 800 million, I suspect you will understand the problem at hand. Impossible.
I wrote two years ago that this immigration pressure would stress Europe and that the first victim would be Western Europe’s liberal traditions. Well, this is happening in real time as they say, far faster than I expected. It will only get worse as hundreds of thousands of refugees become millions.
The EU and Europe may support a few years of increasing numbers of these failing state refugees, but that is all. They will fairly quickly have to refuse to take even legitimately distressed refugees. The alternative – to take all comers – would likely be not just a failed EU, but a failing Europe.
Calling for an utterly unnecessary referendum by the Prime Minister for superficial and short-term political gain. He could have muddled through anyway. Referenda are dangerous. They allow for the true will of the people to be voiced, informed or ill-informed, manipulated or not. Dangerous. As Churchill said (now much quoted), “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” He might also have commented about the willful laziness of the one-third who never vote.
The UK press, the most egregiously editorialized in the developed world. The broad circulation papers goaded and badgered their readers toward Brexit.
As for the politicians, forget it. Whimsical theories, back-stabbing disloyalties, a glaring lack of planning and foresight. Above all, completely ignoring the precautionary principle, playing with fire like children. Now those Brexiters that haven’t run away can reap what they have sown, as unfortunately will the whole UK. If you will, the pack of dogs can now try to work out what to do with that darned car.
In absence of prior knowledge, I would suspect few would think the same person wrote both snips.
Given the math laid out in the first snip, and given the total stubbornness of chancellor Merkel, it was both a mathematical necessity and pragmatic result for the UK to leave the EU.
Politicians are Dangerous
Grantham’s statement that “Referenda are dangerous” is no different that saying “elections are dangerous“.
Since when are politicians guaranteed to be saviors?
A few dangerous leaders come to mind. George Bush and his ludicrous war in Iraq is a prime example. Lyndon B. Johnson and his idiotic war in Vietnam is another.
Questions for Grantham
Given a referendum on the idea of a war in Iraq, and a genuine estimate of its true cost, would US citizens have voted for war in Iraq?
Would the UK have voted to follow Bush in a “coalition of the willing”?
Would US citizens have voted to carpet bomb Vietnam?
Would European voters approved a pact with Erdogan to allow visa-free access to the rest of Europe to 80 million Turks?
Politicians are and their pet goals are far more dangerous than referendums. Chancellor Merkel and her inane, mathematically impossible, open arms welcome of refugees was the #1 Reason UK Voted Leave the EU.
Let’s not blame the voters or the referendum itself.