January 06, 2017

Economists v Michael Fish

Economists are admitting that their forecasts about the economic effect of a Brexit vote were wrong. They are comparing this to Michael Fish's famous mistake about a hurricane.

That's vivid but wrong. Michael Fish forecast that an exceptional event was not going to happen. Economists forecast that it would.

Some of their forecasts were obvious nonsense at the time. We heard that a Brexit vote would damage the world economy. Not just the UK economy, but the world economy. What serious analyst could imagine that for a moment? Even George Osborne, who lied, lied and lied again, didn't push that button.

The economists' predictions weren't evenly spread around the actual outcome. We didn't see a spread of forecasts, some lower, some higher.

Seemingly as one, they forecast dire economic results from a mere Brexit vote. This is bad news for governments and for the rest of us. If government can't rely on the economics trade (surely it no longer qualifies as a profession) to get forecasts roughly right, they are flying blind. Mrs Thatcher took that in her stride. But it's doubtless adding to the dithery panic in No. 10 now.

In any case, the economists' Brexit big guns were firing at the wrong target. It wasn't an economic vote at all. Brexit was about sovereignty and democracy.

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