Tag: politics (page 1 of 16)

No benefits to post-Brexit deregulation

Coupled with the pandemic and the energy crisis, Brexit is absolutely destroying the UK at the moment. If you haven’t watched The Brexit Effect made by the Financial Times, then you really, really should.

This article in the New Statesman argues that the deregulation touted as a huge benefit of Brexit isn’t wanted or needed by most UK businesses. It’s the red tape added by being outside the EU single market that’s the problem.

Most businesses have no interest or understanding of the government’s plans for post-Brexit deregulation. And a majority of companies could not name a single EU law that they would change or remove to become more profitable, according to findings shared exclusively with the New Statesman by the British Chambers of Commerce.


In a new survey of 938 businesses, made up largely of SMEs (and therefore representative of the UK economy), just 14 per cent specified an EU regulation they would remove; 58 per cent of firms had no preference over the amendment or removal of any EU regulation. Half said that deregulation is either a low priority or not a priority at all.

Source: Exclusive: Most UK businesses see no benefit in post-Brexit deregulation | New Statesman

French views of Brexit

It’s always interesting reading articles from foreign newspapers about the state of the UK. I wish it were true that conversations about Brexit and the damage it’s done were on the table. But I just don’t see it.

Brexit is once again at the heart of the British debate. Experts and the media are openly criticizing its negative effects on the UK economy. On the BBC’s flagship politics show Question Time and on the popular LBC talk radio station, the audience is increasingly critical of the UK’s divorce from the European Union. According to a poll by the YouGov institute published on November 17, 56% of respondents believe that the country “was wrong to leave the EU” on December 31, 2020.


The presentation of an austerity budget by new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government on November 17 in an attempt to restore the country’s financial credibility (after the disastrous episode of the Liz Truss “mini-budget”) has loosened tongues. On this occasion, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated that British living standards would plummet by 7% over the next two years. This independent government body said that Brexit “has had a significant negative impact” on British foreign trade, with the decline amounting to 15% over the long term.

Source: Amid an economic and social crisis, anti-Brexit sentiment is growing in the UK

A philosophical approach to performative language

I don’t know anything about Ariel Pontes, the author of this article, other than seeing that they’re a member of the Effective Altruism community. (Which is a small red flag in and of itself, as it tends to be full of hyper-rationalist solutionist dudes.)

However, what I appreciate about this loooooong article is that Pontes applies philosophical concepts I’ve come across before to talk about the different roles language can play across the political divide.

People are not just tricked into believing falsities anymore, they no longer care about what’s true or false as long as it supports their narratives and hashtags. But can we draw a sharp boundary between smart, rational, objective people, and crazy, fact-denying post-truthers? Or do we all use non-factual language to some extent? What are we really doing when we say things like “meat is murder” or “all lives matter”?


Most people would probably agree, if asked, that humans are prone to black-and-white thinking, and that this is bad. But few of us actually make as constant conscious effort to avoid this tendency of ours in our daily lives. Our tribal brains are quick to label people as belonging either to our team of that of the enemy, for example, and it’s hard to accept that there are many possibilities in between.


Once we start seeing language as a tool used to play different games, it becomes natural to ask: what types of games are people playing out there? In his lecture series posthumously published as How To Do Things With Words, J. L. Austin introduces the concept of a “performative utterance” or “speech act”, a sentence that does not describe or “constate” any fact, but performs an action.


In his lectures about performative utterances, Austin introduces what he calls the descriptive fallacy. This fallacy is committed when somebody interprets a performative utterance as merely descriptive, subsequently dismissing it as false or nonsense when in fact it has a very important role, it’s just that this role is not simply stating facts. If somebody goes on vacation after a stressful period at work and, as they finally lie on their beach chair in their favorite resort with their favorite cocktail in their hands, they say “life is good”, it would be absurd to say “this statement is meaningless because it cannot be empirically verified”. Clearly it is an expression of a state of mind that doesn’t really have a factual dimension at all.

What’s important to emphasize here, however, is that those who attack speech acts as false or meaningless are as guilty as the descriptive fallacy as those who defend their performative utterances on factual grounds, which is regrettably common. People are not usually aware that, besides labelling a statement as “true” or “false”, they can also label it as “purely performative, lacking factual content”. The performative nature of language is not something people are explicitly aware of in general. As a consequence, when a statement is phrased as factual but is confusing and hard to grasp as factually true, our intuitive reaction is to label it as false. On the other hand, if a statement becomes part of our identity as consequence of being used as the slogan of a movement we strongly support, we feel tempted to defend it as factually true even though it might be quite plainly false or factually meaningless.


Language is complex. A statement can always be interpreted in many ways. In the age of social media, where a tweet can be read by millions of people, it is always possible that somebody will read a malicious insinuation into an genuinely well intended comment. Because of this, it is often helpful to say what you don’t mean. Of course, no matter how much effort we make, somebody might always attack us. This is a reality we have to simply come to terms with. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Source: Performative language. How philosophy of language can help us… | Ariel Pontes