Saturday, 14 January 2017

Gove on the warpath against experts again

Yesterday I went to see my surgeon for a sign off meeting after my recent successful knee replacement operation. We discussed the operation for the other knee, but it occurred to me afterwards that I could have saved myself a lot of money. I was conscious during the operation and it involved a lot of sawing and hammering. Why not get a carpenter in to do the second op?

In his latest column for The Times Michael Gove takes it upon himself to write the speech the prime minister should give on Brexit next week. His basic premise is that 'All our policies from now on must reflect the common sense of the majority, not the preoccupations of the privileged.' Moreover, 'The public [52%] have told us what they want. We must get on with leaving the EU. Completely. In months not years.'

Apparently this will be possible if we ignore the attempts of experts to make things more complex than they really are. Above all, we don't need to hire more people with PPE degrees. (I admit that I am particularly guilty here having taught on such a degree until recently and serving as the external examiner for another one).

Gove doubts that 'negotiating a new trade deal is fiendishly difficult, will take ten years and require men of great experience to see things through.' Has Gove ever read the text of a trade deal or a US trade act? Has he followed the negotiations on the Uruguay Round or those on the Doha Round that didn't even come to a conclusion? Why did it take so long to agree a trade pact between the EU and Canada that is still not operational?

He also argues that doing a deal with the EU on trade would be easy because we have tariff free trade at the moment. He overlooks the fact that the most complex issues surround non-tariff trade barriers. See this helpful guide from the Institute for Government: Non-tariff trade barriers

Fraser Nelson in the Spectator has the lead story in this week's issue, 'The End of Experts': The End of Experts His a more measured piece with a narrower target, economists and political scientists, whom he accuses of a failure to predict. He does, of course, have a point because of the so-called 'Oedipus effect': making a social science prediction can affect the outcome.

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