EFT Chairman Patrick Minford has responded to concerns raised by the Royal Economic Society over the “considerable publicity” given by the BBC to our From Project Fear to Project Prosperity launch in August.
“In the last RES Newsletter (no.179, October 2017) the reasons are set out for the RES’ complaint to the BBC about its reporting of the views on the post-Brexit outlook by the 16-strong economist group, Economists for Free Trade, which I chair. The RES felt that the BBC should not report the group’s latest estimates of the effect of Brexit on trade in a straightforward manner but rather either ignore them or report them as being the views of ‘deniers’, ‘not in line with what economists in general think’, ‘mavericks’, ‘not subject experts’ or in some similar way. This complaint also extended to the treatment of the earlier views and estimates of our predecessor group during the Referendum when of course the BBC was by law enjoined to achieve ‘balance’ in the debate.
“Not surprisingly and quite rightly the BBC has rejected the RES complaints. I am grateful to the editor of this Letter for space in your columns to explain why I think this stance of the RES is wrong from the point of view of the pursuit of science, about which both the RES and I care. As we all know at any time in economics there is a majority view about various aspects of the subject. Let me focus on the open economy macro end of the subject, which includes trade, macroeconomics, general equilibrium, and the econometric and computer techniques we bring to bear on them. This is and has always been an area of considerable controversy in which the ‘majority view’ has changed quite regularly in the light of new arguments and evidence.
“Think back to the rational expectations revolution and New Keynesianism, the movement away from ‘reduced form’ to ‘structural’ models, the issues of integration and cointegration, and the development of computational techniques. There has been a lot of scientific change over the 41 years I have been a professor of applied economics; and at no time has the profession, to its credit, refused media or seminar space to those who were against the usually massive professional consensuses of the time. And this was true also of the derivative policy battles that took place. Even when Frank Hahn led the 364 economists in their famous letter, he never asked that the media should deny access to, or vilify, those few of us who actively disagreed…..”