Good losers

“And always keep a-hold of nurse,
For fear of finding something worse.”

In my view these words of the Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc are likely to be a good predictor of the result of tomorrow’s referendum.

Added to that, it is always difficult to overthrow what Milton Friedman called “the tyranny of the status quo”.

But we will leave it to the master of political intrigue Machiavelli to explain the mechanism:

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

Of course it is not impossible to dethrone the status quo, just very very difficult.

And to have any chance of success the situation has to get so bad that almost anything looks preferable to the existing state of affairs.

Think FIFA or Pembrokeshire County Council.

When we rely on institutions to reform themselves, those in control have all the advantages because they can present information in a way that reflects well on themselves.

I daresay had the FBI not intervened Sepp Blatter would still be in his posh Swiss office telling us that FIFA was a beacon of honesty and integrity.

We can’t rely on the FBI but the Pembrokeshire electorate can serve the same purpose.

Part of the problem is that we humans are hard wired for risk-aversion.

Indeed, there are evolutionary advantages in being cautious.

I recently saw it put like this:

“A man who mistakes a bush for a lion may make an unnecessary, time-consuming detour.

A man who mistakes a lion for a bush is likely to end up as lunch.”

As I said previously, the best result in my opinion would be a narrow win for remain.

This is a variation on Pascal’s Wager because if the EU is all it’s cracked up to be we can all live the life of Riley for ever and a day.

However, if, as I expect, the whole project collapses in heap, we will have Brexit without the blame.

And you can bet your life that, if we vote for leave, every future economic difficulty will be laid at our door.

Looking at the world economy it seems to me that economic disaster is just around the corner.

It is true that the EU seems to have woken from its long sleep and the USA and UK are trundling along with growth rates of 2% or so.

But what should be remembered is that interest rates have been close to zero for several years; central banks have provided unprecedented monetary stimulus through trillions of Quantitative Easing (QE); and for the past twelve months we have had rock bottom oil prices.

Under these conditions, rather than bumping along the bottom, economic growth should be running out of control.

What this all means is that, if there is a downturn, the central banks have no shots left in their lockers.

We shall see, but being a pessimist (defined as an optimist with experience) I believe this could be a good referendum to lose.

PS. I have just got back from the pub (22.59) and I find this on the Daily Telegraph website .