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History doesn't hold the answer

Vulnerable, isolated, running on fumes, and facing the worst winter since the 1970s. That's one US media organisation's depiction of “Brexit Britain”, which it concludes is fast becoming a dystopia, not a utopia.

You can see why they might take that view. Even business leaders, incensed that the government is blaming the whole sorry mess on the private sector’s “addiction” to cheap labour and lack of preparedness for the current supply challenges, are predicting that the problems causing empty fuel pumps and empty shelves will last two years and not the two months suggested by chancellor Rishi Sunak. And speaking of the 1970s, stagflation – that lethal and hard to cure combination of low-to-no growth and inflation – has been creeping back into economists’ vocabulary as a plausible risk triggered by the growing energy crisis (see Chris Dillow here).

Of course, whatever ails the UK, the US has its own plateful of big problems, and its own (1960s) throwbacks. Social media giant Facebook, according to the testimony of former employee Frances Haugen, has been behaving in the manner of tobacco companies who hid the dangers of smoking, and of car makers before seat belts became compulsory. She says the company knew its platforms were harmful to children but prioritised profits over user safety. She is not alone in calling for US lawmakers to curb the powerful big tech sector.

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