Brexit Was a Cry of Financial Pain and Not the Influence of the Old

Yves here. While the plural of anecdote is not data, I wonder whether readers in the UK will agree with this assessment. The Leave pitch that the UK would spend £350 million more a week on the NHS if it quit the EU, was widely seen as effective. That provides a bit of support for the idea that individual financial insecurity played a big role the vote.

This theory provides substantiation for the view that Thatcherism played a major role in the Brexit vote. Neoliberalism produces more inequality. More unequal societies are less happy ones, by virtue of having weaker social bonds and less security. Even if you are very well off and at no risk of starving, if you take significant economic losses, you can no longer mix with your former social circle. What they do on a routine basis will no longer be in your budget. Worse, you might have to take drastic steps like taking your kids out of pricey schools and moving into a smaller house.

And notice that this article claims that subjective feelings about one’s own situation was the big driver. That does not mean individuals who were unhappy were objectively not well off. As Scott said via e-mail, on a completely different topic, “I get regular emails from a bunch of guys who seem to genuinely feel that 50 year old  guys worth between $15 and $100 million are the most put upon demographic in the country, and that they’re under constant siege by the more numerous, fortunate, and darker-skinned among us.”

By Federica Liberini, Postdoctoral Researcher for the Chair of Public Economics, ETH Zürich, Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics, Warwick University, Eugenio Proto, Associate Professor, Warwick University, and Michela Redoano, Associate Professor in Economics, Warwick University. Originally published at VoxEU

There has been much debate on the determinants of the vote for Brexit. This column uses newly released data from the Understanding Society study to examine the characteristics of individuals who were for and against Brexit. Unhappiness contributed to the vote to leave the EU, but this was driven by feelings about individual financial situations rather than a general dissatisfaction with life. Brexit does not appear to have been caused by the old – only those under the age of 25 were substantially pro-Remain.

There is a very wide debate on the determinants of the vote by British citizens to leave the EU. In particular, the idea that this vote reflects discontent and disillusionment has been widely discussed in the UK and European media. Furthermore, large numbers of newspaper and TV journalists have suggested that the decision to leave the EU was forced on the country by special groups (particularly old voters swamping the views of the young, and discontented citizens swamping the views of others).

Accordingly, there is already a number of academic writings on the topic. Some have emphasised the concept of a divided nation (e.g. Dorling 2016). Hobolt and de Vries (2016) explore the scepticism towards EU values, and Ginsburgh et al. (2017) the probable cultural and economic repercussions of Brexit. The majority of the early empirical studies that investigate the explanation for the Brexit vote have pointed to economic forces and immigration-related factors (e.g. Clarke et al. 2017, Goodwin and Milazzo 2017), although interestingly Becker et al. (2017) argue that exposure to immigration was not particularly important but that economic forces and deprivation were powerful. Other contributions emphasise the effect of education – Hobolt (2016) showed that Brexit was favoured by the less-educated, the poorer and older voters, and those who expressed concerns about immigration and multi-culturalism. Along similar lines, Goodwin and Heath (2016) attributed Brexit more specifically to the ‘left behind’, as caused by poverty and a general lack of education and opportunities.

There is a literature within quantitative social science (including Di Tella and MacCulloch 2005, and Liberini et al. 2017a) that uses ‘happiness’ data to try to understand political decisions. Building on this literature, in a new paper we analyse the determinant of the answer “Leave the European Union” to the question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”, asked in the last wave of the Understanding Society data set between January and June 2016, and reporting information on approximately 8,000 citizens (Liberini et al. 2017b). Our analysis produces two results that currently may not be widely understood.

The Effects of Unhappy Feelings

First, there is evidence in our study that unhappy feelings contributed to Brexit.  However, the key channel of influence was not through general dissatisfaction with life; it was through a person’s narrow feelings about his or her own financial situation.

How can ‘discontent’ be incorporated into a statistical study? We focus especially on the following two questions that are asked of respondents in the Understanding Society survey.

The first question asked about overall life-satisfaction: “On a scale of 1 to 7 where 1 = ‘Completely Dissatisfied’ and 7 = ‘Completely Satisfied’, please tell me the number which you feel best describes how dissatisfied or satisfied you are with the following aspects of your current situation”.

The second question asked about people’s feelings about their financial situation: “How well would you say you yourself are managing financially these days? Coded from 1 (Living comfortably) to 5 (Finding it very difficult)”.

General dissatisfaction (first question) is predictive of a pro-Brexit position to a limited extent. We find that it was only the small number of completely dissatisfied citizens (that extreme answer is given by only 2% of the UK population) who wish disproportionately, in a statistically significant way, to leave the EU.

On the other hand, Figure 1 illustrates graphically a powerful pattern in the effects of respondents’ feelings about their finances (second question) on the leave vote. Unlike in the pattern for the life-satisfaction scores, here a steady increase in the coefficients is noticeable. Moving to the right across the chart, people feel steadily less happy with their financial situation, and then are progressively more likely to favour the Leave position.  The implied sizes are fairly substantial – for example, UK citizens who feel things are very difficult financially are approximately 13% points more likely to be in favour of leaving the EU than those who feel their finances are comfortable. Overall, our statistical analysis suggests that financial feelings are amongst the strongest correlates with citizens’ views on the desirability of Brexit.

Figure 1 The financial feelings profile of those wishing to leave the EU


Notes: as calculated from a Brexit equation, Column 2 of Table 3 in Liberini et al. (2017b). 95% CI shown. The vertical axis is a measure of the probability of wanting to leave the EU.

The Effect of Age

Despite what some commentators have suggested, based on our estimates Brexit was not caused by the old.  Looking at Figure 2 – featuring in the vertical axis a measure of support for Brexit – we note that the Understanding Society data set suggests that only the very youngest UK citizens (those under the age of 25) were substantially pro-Remain.  Between their late-20s and their 70s, people who live in the UK have almost indistinguishable views on the desirability of EU membership. Therefore, the data suggest that Brexit was not, in a general sense, caused by old people.

Figure 2 Age profile of those wishing to leave the EU


Notes: as calculated from a Brexit equation in Liberini et al. (2017b), Column 1 of Table 3. 95% CI shown.The effect of other individual characteristics

Some other patterns emerged. Consistent with the rest of the literature, we find a strong association between having high qualifications and favouring Remain. Having a university degree or equivalent made people more likely to vote Remain (by 16%). People with children are less likely to want to leave the EU (by 4%). There is also evidence of an ethnic influence – those who classify themselves in the survey as ‘white British’ are somewhat more likely to vote for Brexit (by 6%). Interestingly enough, being unemployed has only a small positive or no effect on the decision to leave. Being married has no significant effect.  Finally, and perhaps against some commentators’ intuitions, living in a rural area has no discernible consequences. There were also regional effects, and some evidence, in the run-up to the final few weeks before the vote, of a slightly rising tendency to favour Leave.

Main Conclusions

Two new findings emerge from our study.

  • First, unhappy feelings contributed to Brexit.  However, contrary to commonly heard views, the key channel of influence was not through general dissatisfaction with life;  it was through a person’s narrow feelings about his or her own financial situation.
  • Second, despite some commentators’ guesses, Brexit was not caused by old people.  Only the very young were substantially pro-Remain.

See original post for references

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  1. Clive

    I both like and loath anecdote as argument in equal measure.

    But 1) for me, voting Brexit was an attempt to deliver a Trump-vote like slap in the face to what I — rightly or wrongly — believe is an increasingly hardline neoliberal EU. Is that cutting off a nose to spite a face? Possibly. But again, showing how complex the decisioning is here, it probably won’t be me who bears the worst outcomes so it’s not going to be my face that’s spited as badly as others. And no, I can’t happily reconcile myself to that entirely but it does illustrate how there was no (echos of voting Trump) Lilly White stance available to voters given the choices on offer.

    2) for other Brexit voters who I have both asked and also trust their ability to respond honestly, there isn’t a single stand-out reason. Some are pretty blatantly racist or xenophobic. Some are like me and trying to signal malcontent with the neoliberal order. Some are nationalists without being racist. Some think the EU is corrupt (not without some evidence to support this, but not conclusive and not necessarily any worse than our spectacularly corrupt U.K. politics). The biggest single response was for those who couldn’t identify a specific logical argument behind their Brexit vote, but were just going on gut instinct.

    Oh, and in the event that any reader derides gut instinct, my mother lived her life almost entirely on that basis (plus tarot card reading) and achieved a good measure of happiness, major success in terms of eccomomic and class advancement given where her starting point was and didn’t do a bad job on us kids either. So knock this approach to decision making and life skills at your peril! It’s not my basis for arriving at conclusions but I will not quickly have a word said against it.

    Yes, it’s anti-intellectualism and unscientific, but we can’t all think like (as a generalisation) most of us Naked Capitalism readers think. A lot of people’s brains are simply wired differently. Expecting everyone everywhere every time to succumb to the power of your logic is unrealistic. And, I think, where a lot of the Remain campaigning went wrong. It needed, if it was to carry the vote, an appeal to hearts as well as minds. It did a good job of the latter, but thought the former was ever so slightly contemptible.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, Clive.

      I have never voted in my life despite being eligible since 1988, no point voting socialist in true blue Buckinghamshire. I was tempted in the referendum to vote like you, but didn’t.

      You are right about where the Remain camp went wrong. Many of the people, firms, think tanks etc responsible for (the long road to) Brexit were and are in that camp, now morphing into the soft Brexit camp.

    2. vlade

      I would rarely disparage gut instinct, as, if nothing else, I believe that a decision is generally better than no decision (even though of course no decision is a decision too).

      I entirely agree on the hearts vs. minds Remain. That said, the problem of that is that nowadays it’s actually pretty hard to do for EU, unless you work on it hard. TBH, it woudl have been easier to work on hearts issue for EU for local politicians, using EU as a lever for more decentralization, than for central governemnts (which likely would have hated that). This (going regional) is for me about the only salvation EU can get in the end – maybe at a cost of more higher level centralization, but with much much stronger regions. I don’t see it happening though, as there aren’t enough politicians at that level with a real vision.

      Say a smart Catalan policy (in terms of getting some EU politicians on board, although not necessarily national ones) would have been to push that – very strong autonomous regions in EU devolving large issues (foreign policy, army) to a stronger EU. Again, can’t see that happening.

      1. Darn

        I would like to think the prospect of a renewed recession from Brexit could have been put in terms of hearts. “All those suffering ppl, give them a break”

    3. Eustache De Saint Pierre

      It is good to see a report that adds more nuance to what appears to be a general discontent. My Mother as with my deceased Father always voted Labour despite becoming increasingly disillusioned with the New version. Her reply to my question on why she had decided to vote for a Brexit, was also mainly based on a gut feeling reinforced by her experience of what she referred to as the community she had lived in for most of her life, as she put it, going gradually downbank.

      She was also influenced by her conversation with the extremely stressed headmistress to whose school she walks twice a day in delivering & collecting the youngest of her many Grandchildren. The teacher complained that due to the school having to work with twelve languages that they had increasingly come under huge pressure which had also led to many parents over the years moving away to areas where the immigration factor was less of an issue. My Mother has no racist bone in her body as is obvious to me from what I can recall of my early life living in temporary accommodation at a place called the Salisbury Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya & subsequently when we were moved to a proper house. I was adopted by the African staff, but only recently discovered that out of the around two hundred families living there, I & my sisters were the only children who were allowed to mix with the ” Natives “. She also refused to employ the obligatory ” Houseboy ” servant until she was six months pregnant & struggling with the heat. His name was Kamu who she eventually decided to keep on due to the easy relationship that developed & the fact that he told her that he needed the work.

      My young nephew who is doing pretty well for himself questioned her on the why of her vote, to which she replied that what he saw was his normal, but to her it was a much degraded version of the version she knew at his age. Of course the immigration issue is not all down to the EU & the rest of the mess is largely self inflicted, but she like almost everybody else is limited by the information presented to them, which I believe is the case of all the MSM to varying degrees – after all if it wasn’t there would be no need for places like this.

    4. CharlesV

      Clive, this is a great post and reflects the conversations I’ve had with many who voted leave.

      Hearts vs minds was a big thing and rather than denigrate those voting with their hearts the Remain side should have engaged on this level. In particular, I do wonder if the votes of the over 60s would be the same if they knew how much fuel they were going to poor on inter-generational conflict that we have raging.

      Problem is that the debate about where we go next is now being conducted in very emotional terms when what is needed is clear headed analysis and planning. I can’t see this changing unfortunately and I do think it reduces the options for the UK g’ment: just don’t see how they can conclude a deal which is both OK economically but satisfies the emotional needs of many in the leave camp.

    5. RabidGandhi

      Agreed, but it is crucial to note that remainers voted on their “gut instinct” as well– I would imagine in equal proportion to brexiteers. The bien pensant remain voters I met pre-referendum already knew on a gut level that Brexit was not to be favoured by their tribe, but rather by the rabble that opposed Blair and Cameron and who get their opinions from The Mail instead of from lofty sources like Sky News or the BBC. And where the tabloids were guilty of marking these class lines, Remain outlets like The Guardian were making the same delineations, but from the opposite side.

      Again, this brings up the problem of submitting complicated issues to thumbs up/thumbs down referenda. Are we really to think that the 48% had a full grasp of the minutiae of post-brexit border and trade arrangements, as opposed to their agnotological opponents? A small handful most likely did, but I would posit the vast majority voted based on the same rationale as the Leave crowd: understanding the economic/cultural divide created since Thatcher and voting together with the tribe on their side of the divide.

    6. a different chris

      >Some think the EU is corrupt (not without some evidence to support this, but not conclusive and not necessarily any worse than our spectacularly corrupt U.K. politics).

      Yeah my take on the whole thing was based on that. I would have voted for Brexit under the “well they both suck, and I have two choices” which were:
      1) Hope to reform the not-quite-as-corrupt, but vast physically, culturally, multi-lingual, etc. EU (and fix Britain as a side result)
      2) Hope to reform the truly horrible, but local, toffs in London.

      I would have picked “2”, as the scope of #1 just boggles my mind. You try to bite off what you hope you can chew. Now note: I did know that Corbyn seemed to think that he could do, well I’m not sure what, but I do realize he knows a zillion times what I know about the situation, and Corbyn for whatever reason wanted “1”.

      But at the time of Brexit, we we being told that Corbyn was basically toast any day so who cared what he was saying, even if I could understand it. Meanwhile Schauble was running the big show. Ugh. So again I would have pulled lever 2.

      All this posted from my safe haven as an American living in America. Cue bitter laughter, as you can note this was before Trump/Clinton. And I thought Brexit was a horrific choice that I was glad to be removed from…

    7. Laughingsong

      “Some think the EU is corrupt (not without some evidence to support this, but not conclusive and not necessarily any worse than our spectacularly corrupt U.K. politics”

      I guess there’s satisfaction to having your corrupt politicians within easy pie-throwing distance.

      As far as the gut-tarot approach: why the {fambly blog} not? In my experience any approach has a significant crap-shoot component. You know, best-laid plans ganging agley and all that…..

    8. Jeff W

      I’ve never understood the derision of “gut instinct” (or, similarly, “intuition”). Just because people can’t articulate exactly why they are taking a certain action doesn’t mean there aren’t some good reasons for those actions—it may be that they just aren’t able to verbalize them or perhaps haven’t analyzed them. (Of course it doesn’t mean that there are good reasons, either.) Part of the reason we read blogs like this one (or, for that matter, any analysis or review) is that they say in words a lot of what we feel about whatever the topic is but can’t quite express.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    A friend of mine lives in a remote rural area in northern England and was so horrified and baffled by Brexit that he conducted his own informal polls (in local village pubs) as to why on earth all the small farmers in the area apparently voted for it despite the clear and unambiguous evidence that they had benefited from EU membership. His conclusions were…. neither he, nor the farmers seemed to know. Many openly admitted that they knew that outside the EU they could be truly shafted by a London government. It seemed to have been an act of disgruntlement – the main reason being ‘if that lot are in favour of it, there must be something wrong’.

    My own theory – which I think does not contradict the evidence in the article – is that it was class based, but not in an economic sense. I think that in many peoples minds people in favour of the EU were ‘that lot’. People who go on holiday to Tuscany, who eat quinoa and love Jamie Oliver. People who drive Mini Coopers and have posh accents and speak French and watch BBC2 and prefer rugby to football. People who seem to have lots of money without actually seeming to work, who get jobs in HR rather than making things. You know, ‘that lot’. And if ‘that lot’ were Remainers, then the only sensible thing was to be a Brexiter.

    1. Terry Flynn

      Talk about an area that pushes all my buttons! So I won’t rehash my stuff. I’ll merely state that my national survey results were not inconsistent with your view, but that certain regions expressed particularly strong preference for what they saw as the “hardest BREXIT option” on offer to them (FTA only) in the belief that the elites would suffer, that immigration would be halted (a belief not likely grounded in reality). There were things like the finding that the East Midlands was the only English counting region with a “net favourability rating” for immigration belied the name-calling that such UKIP-land was full of racists – as anyone who knows their history of Afro-Caribbean, Indian subcontinent and indeed the Polish immigration of the government in exile in WW2 – should know. The huge BREXIT vote (that part that was driven by individual preferences – up to around 30%, as other more macro studies had expected) was simply “what’s the biggest kick in the teeth we could give them? Yes we know the EU is a benefit but benefits have gone to London, whilst we wait a month for a GP appointment here in Boston” (Much of my family on my Dad’s side live in and around Boston, the most BREXIT-supporting constituency in the UK.)

      Alas, my study being self-funded I’ve had to move on. But I still appreciate the discussions we had – your questions about the assumptions etc in my model went far beyond any of the type the self-styled “proper” referees for an academic paper used to throw at me. You, anonymous2 and Col Smithers were the only people who really engaged with me regarding the study and I thank all three of you. It’s a shame there weren’t more, but not the site’s fault – the methods are niche compared to NC usual ones so I don’t take it personally and am largely stepping back from discussing them.

    2. Terry Flynn

      I have a comment that may or may not exit moderating but I thought in any case follow up comments are warranted beyond my desire to thank you especially for constructive criticism, along with anonymous2 and Colonel Smithers, when discussing my survey a while back.

      I’ve realised my methods are a bit of a ‘conversation stopper’ (e.g. ‘Nobel’ discussion) and so I am not really posting in the right place. *NO* criticism of NC, obviously there are ‘off topic’ issues/methods and I will check in when business/caring responsibilities allow, to see in particular insights from you guys and Clive – I’m not going to cut off my nose to spite my face! But I’ll return to “lurker” status. Thanks again.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Hey, don’t get too upset about being in moderation, the software here seems pretty random, I still can’t work out why some of my comments end up there.

        I don’t think your comments are ever ‘conversation stoppers’, except in the sense that they are so well considered that they need and deserve more than a quickie reply. You made some points a few days ago on Thaler and behavioural economicts that I’m still digesting (and looking up your references). I hope your comment doesn’t mean you aren’t going to post much here anymore, I’d very much miss your contributions.

          1. Anonymous2


            I do hope you will continue to chip in from time to time at the very least. Your contributions have added significantly to my understanding. You elevate the discussion.

          2. Terry Flynn

            Many thanks – see my comments elsewhere on this thread!

            I think I need to build up what I do more gradually and not throw readers into the deep end.

        1. Terry Flynn

          Thanks, the moderation issue, whilst a periodic issue for us all and which Yves kindly took time out to explain to me, isn’t actually the “main thing”. It’s more that – probably due to the site’s origins – I think a lot more readers are able to (for instance) give good criticism and informed views about those 95% of “nobel” winners whose work assumes representative agents in silly macro models that finance people rightly laugh at.

          Unfortunately there isn’t the same critical mass of commenters who can chat about the 5% of winners who somehow got past the neoliberalism Swedish central bank panel and produced good models of human choices and welfare. So topics like why numeric scales (including happiness ones) were long ago discredited outside economics, how a minor change to voting in (say) the US primaries would have got rid of both Trump and HRC, health care demand under single payer, and the British public’s relative preferences for different types of BREXIT don’t really “go anywhere”. I just don’t want to sound like the stuck record when only 1-3 people engage. I’ll keep an eye out for if people working in these areas start commenting! Thanks again.

          1. flora

            Well, for me, just as NC is a welcome outlier in financial reporting compared to the MSM, your comments are a welcome outlier in approaching the financial assumptions I hold. This is useful education for me. If I don’t comment it’s because I’m still trying to understand. Probably frustrating for you not to receive more comments. Hope you keep posting.

            1. Terry Flynn

              Thanks! I guess the central problem is that the models I use quantify uncertainty *within* the individual. I find it hard to get a lot of statisticians to “get it”! Whilst, for instance, there was a rare day during the general election campaign that both PlutoniumKun and I were free to chew the fat about my model all day, the more usual state of affairs is that the thread I post to drops down the list quickly due to the high volume of postings at NC (again, not a criticism, just an observation).

              So I won’t go silent, but I might, due to other obligations, be a little more selective about what threads I comment on. And I can’t resist boasting here that my BREXIT model enabled me to beat the pollsters and bookies – I knew the extent of the “angry remainers” for the GE and that May’s majority was toast. Made a bet and won, haha. Thanks again.

              1. thunder monkey

                quantify uncertainty *within* the individual

                That’s intriguing, I was wondering whether public opinion surveyers were working in that direction. Do you make use of Zaller’s Receive-Accept-Survey model?

                I would like to read about your model but can’t find the conversation with PlutoniumKun you mention, do you have a link to that?

                1. Terry Flynn

                  Thanks for engaging. No all the stuff I do is based on Random Utility Theory (Thurstone 1927). He was pretty revolutionary in that he was a leading light in two competing paradigms – psychometrics (using insights across people to, for instance, identify cut-off points in categories of scales) and which ultimately became the “big boy on the block” and RUT (which languished for many years due to statistical limitations in implementing his models, which model the INDIVIDUAL).

                  The “vanilla” version of RUT is used still in math psych and a lot of discrete choice modelling but pollsters are TOTALLY ignorant of this and that’s why they repeatedly get predictions wrong. YouGov used a model that is “in the spirit of RUT” in their “new untested” model and interestingly it got the general election almost correct, unlike their official model (and those of all the pollsters). Economists like McFadden tweaked it to fit their own ends – sometimes successfully (hence why he got a “Nobel” prize for prediction) but often they run into difficulties. Now I try to stick to the vanilla models but sometimes they are impractical so admit I use some McFadden type stuff but you have to be very very careful when you do that. I’ll see if I can find the link you requested but there are some discussion pieces on my work website (tfchoices) which summarise some of our discussions.

                2. Terry Flynn

                  can’t find the link on NC :-(

                  But I did write a series of blogs on my website – which weren’t intended to be potential NC ones but which might shed light on what I found….but as I say elsewhere, I may need to “build up to these” to help the average NC reader understand why I understood at least in April 2017 what had been going on among INDIVIDUALS in the population and why – apart from the 40% of hardcore hard BREXIT supporters, support for the SEM was increasing – enough to change a new hypothetical referendum result and why I knew I could safely bet on May losing her majority when the pollsters said otherwise!

                3. Terry Flynn

                  Quickie until my main response gets through mod.

                  I use “random utility theory” due to Thurstone (1927). If/when the main comment gets through it says a bit more.

          2. Oregoncharles

            ” So topics like why numeric scales (including happiness ones) were long ago discredited outside economics, how a minor change to voting in (say) the US primaries would have got rid of both Trump and HRC, health care demand under single payer, ”

            That’s quite a lure, especially the voting one; and I really wonder just how they’re related. Your work seems above my pay grade, but important, and certainly on-topic for NC, at least in my opinion. Comments aren’t the best place for something that complex; I second PK’s suggestion that you submit an article, with some introductory material for us rubes. (Obviously, I can’t speak for our hosts, only for myself. I’m also suggesting you do a lot of work, hoping you would benefit.) If NC doesn’t run it, I bet someone would, and you could alert us to it in the comments. I, at least, would like to understand it better.

            In any case, I’m another one who appreciates your comments and hopes you’ll continue, even though I haven’t responded much. But they’re a bit tantalizing without a fuller explanation. I didn’t learn statistics in college, but frequently wish I had.

            1. Terry Flynn

              Many thanks. There is a common theory underlying all that stuff but my recurring problem is trying to run a business (having had to leave academia for reasons regular readers can piece together but which I hesitate to spell out explicitly) whilst engaging in some caring duties….so I acknowledge that my fast writing doesn’t help people’s understanding! I’ll see if I can find the old BREXIT thread requested above…here’s a US voting piece I just wrote now. Rushed so may not be NC material but if anyone wants to contact me with constructive advice am always happy to get it. Plus I have a reticence to “push my own work” to Yves et al.


          3. Jeff W

            So topics like…don’t really “go anywhere”. I just don’t want to sound like the stuck record when only 1-3 people engage.

            Honestly, I’m not sure the topics need to “go anywhere” but your comments don’t sound like a “stuck record” to me—they’re very helpful. I have a bit of a background in behavioral science (psychology) and it often seems to me like behavioral economists are aping behavioral science methods, well, badly. I don’t have enough academic expertise to critique what they’re doing but I’m really happy that someone here does. So even if people aren’t actively engaging with you in the comments, there are probably at least a few people who, like me, still appreciate your observations.

            1. Terry Flynn

              Many thanks. Yes I’d agree with what you say. The problem is that math psych is a rather niche subject and its members haven’t (in common with other disciplines) engaged very well with other branches of academia. So you get McFadden getting a “nobel” for proving a model my colleague proved 10 years earlier! But to be fair to McFadden, he acknowledged the math psych people in his “nobel” lecture AND he saw the potential for using the theory (random utility theory) in a regression model to predict an important real world issue – exactly who would use BART in SF and by how much under various ways it could be configured – in essence he mapped out a multidimensional demand curve of “what if…?” scenarios that acknowledged people’s uncertainty. So when they put the “final” configuration into his model, his predictions were brilliant.

              Behavioural scientists across mainstream psychology and economics have simply not gone and chatted to the math psych people who understand experimental design, have a theory that has minimal assumptions, is realistic and when applied correctly, works! It’s taken some marketers and people in areas of applied econ to realise this and exploit the advantages.

      2. justanotherprogressive

        I too fall into the “moderation trap” often, but I don’t think it is personal. It’s just an algorithm that keys in on “words” and can’t figure out how they are used together. I can imagine Outis and Terry(? I think that’s the new person’s name) are so busy filtering out crap that sometimes they miss good posts or can’t get to them for a while…..

        And if sometimes my posts just don’t show up, ah well, it was only words – the same subject will come up again in the future and I will make my comments then……

        Please don’t stop posting because you add a great deal of information that I find very useful, particularly in the health care discussions….

        1. Terry Flynn

          Thanks very much, see my reply to PlutoniumKun – and coincidentally my first post just made it out of moderation!

            1. Terry Flynn

              Thanks have DMed! That piece is interesting but I think if I’m going to “help people along” with the theoretical framework I use then I have to learn to go step by step – the voting piece I sent and linked to above is probably the easiest introduction to my methods. I would criticise the piece you mention because the mathematical properties of such “rating scales” virtually never hold in practice and don’t “mimic” real life (discrete choice – candidate A over B etc) decisions….but my criticism is not something to “dump on NC people” straightaway – my mistake in the past! Gotta build up to it, hence the most-least voting example.

              But it certainly helped me organise my thoughts as to how to better engage people on here so many thanks.

    3. Anonymous2

      I think pretty much all that is said above in the preceding comments has validity. To my mind it is a pretty complicated issue, with all sorts of factors playing a role. Was Brexit a protest against Thatcherism and its consequences? To a degree, I think yes. But I think there were other factors at play as well.

      I have seen a variety of academic studies which rang true to me in the sense that I thought they revealed part of the truth. I do not remember the details but there was one which concluded that those who voted Brexit were a combination of those who felt left behind economically and those who felt left behind culturally. The first of those would obviously chime with Liberini and Co’s thesis. The social conservatism IIRC was detected by examining attitudes on capital punishment and other markers of this trait, so those who voted Brexit also favoured a return of capital punishment.
      Another study found a correlation between those areas where the economy had been adversely affected by competition from China and voting for Brexit.

      I am a little surprised that the findings on age conflict with those in the survey conducted by Ashcroft and Co. which came up with quite different findings (survey size c.12,000) indicative of strong age-related effects. A much more expert statistician than I would be needed to dig into the data and the methodology to understand the reasons for the difference.

      I am being summoned to lunch so will come back with a few more ‘anecdotal’ observations later.

      1. Anonymous2

        So, anecdotal observations.

        The Brexiteers I know tend to read the Telegraph, therefore have a thoroughly false impression of the UK’s relationship with the EU. I have never managed to get a coherent argument from them for Leave, as they tend to refer to ‘the German dictatorship’, say the UK will be forced to join the Eurozone. (Yes, Germany is the most powerful country in the EU but it is a serious over-simplification to describe the EU as a dictatorship).

        One argues that, freed from EU regulation, UK industry will boom. No specific regulation mentioned. Dream on.

        One was a retired farmer with many farmer friends. He was much influenced by his friends in the pub.

        One woman I saw on TV said quite explicitly she wanted to go back to the way things were in 1972. This seemed to be harking back to the sense of community she enjoyed in her street in her younger days which has now gone (I suspect a veiled reference to immigration here).

        All the Brexiteers I know are of the older generation. The young I know are pro-EU.

        But this is all anecdotes, not data. Probably reveals more about the circles I move in than about the national picture.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I think it can all be summed up with the phrase ‘thoroughly false impression of the UK’s relationship with the EU’. You even see it here with UK people commenting who clearly don’t understand how the EU works in relation to national governments – they may consider themselves left wingers, but they have thoroughly imbibed right wing talking points. Everyone I know who has worked in or with the EU has developed a healthy level of cynicism about how it works, but the exact same applies to anyone I know who has worked in a local council, a national government, or a major multinational for that matter.

          I always find the regulation argument, especially from supposedly hard headed businessmen to be risable. Whenever I hear it I reply ‘so you’d prefer 28 separate regulatory systems to deal with?’ The usual response is some mutterings about Hong Kong or that ‘its all bad’.

          1. Terry Flynn

            I wish I’d had more time to look at the attitudes/votes by newspaper – IIRC in a quick look type of paper (broadsheet/tabloid)-European editorial views (leave/remain) interactions clearly influenced how an individual’s attitudes were enhanced/repressed in expressing their final discrete choice remain/leave vote.

            Plus (and this links in with other points in this thread), I was incensed at the name-calling I saw among supposedly intelligent friends/former colleagues on Twitter. On both sides but definitely more “racist” insults thrown at leavers than insults going the other way…..when, as you say, there was incredible lack of understanding which was worse among remainers in my data: lots who thought they could have the single market without free movement of people. So leavers could have thrown back “stupid” more often as their riposte if they’d wanted (not that I wanted anyone to be engaging in name-calling.)

  3. Colonel Smithers

    As we are on Brexit, readers will be relieved to read the following and know that disaster capitalist Legatum is the principal adviser to Her Majesty’s Government on Brexit: (aka the Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Saville tactic) (please scroll to the bottom, “journalist” Anne Applebaum is the wife of Alex “Boris” Johnson’s best friend, university classmate and fellow Bullingdon bully, Radek Sikorski)

    One of the Legatum advisers seconded to HMG and Calexit enthusiast, Shanker Singham, appears in front of the Commons Brexit Committee next week. One hopes MPs question him properly, rather than grandstand. The latter is more than possible as Bliarites Wedgie Benn and Wes “Israel First” Streeting are on the committee. The Committee is being made aware of the above and the need to ask about the short positions (against Sterling) held by Legatum’s parent company, but no one knows if they will bother using the material.

    1. vlade

      wanna bet? Also, the “short sterling” position needs to be asked carefully, the answer might be “no, we don’t” and technically correct, because instead of an outright short sterling/long whatever (except probably turkish lira), you could be say short UK gilts financed with USD loan.

      Or, even more non-intuitively, long Footsie (basically, Footsie is pretty much non-sterling earning companies, very much negatively correlated to sterling).

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Vlade.

        Absolutely right. And also a, for want of a better term, loophole exploited by investment firms when their home state regulators banned the shorting of some stocks temporarily.

        The committees rarely have your sort of expertise. They can call for outside help.

        With regard to your point about the FTSE, few people realise who composes it. The MSM just parrot the day’s closing without looking at the constituents. It’s just another feel good stat that means nothing to people struggling outside the City and media bubbles.

    2. Clive

      Oh no, not Wes Streeting.

      Muzzling and using (or trying to, luckily got kiboshed by an emergent Monentum) procedural “reforms” to sidetrack his union — check.
      Big four consultancy job to sell market based “solutions” to the public sector — check
      Opposing anything that smacks of socialism in the Labour Party and championing the need to be “electable” and appeal to the “centre ground of British politics” — check
      Doing a faux outrage on “anti-semitism ! anti-semitism ! say something Jeremy, say something !” (anti-semitism risks becoming U.K. politics’ “oooh, look, Russia ! Russia !”) then criticising Corbyn no matter how he responds — check

      Yes, indeed, he’s your (I wish this phrase were mine, but I’ll steal it) full-service neoliberal. His only contribution will be to say “All right Ms. Kuenssberg, I’m ready for my close-up”.

        1. Clive

          Some days our risible politics does all the hard work for you and stuff just writes itself. Could y’all there maybe re-elect gaffe-a-minute Tony Abbott? He’d keep us in material for months…

          1. skippy

            Just to clarify… Tones sheep ™ skin…

            disheveled… always bemused by the Scholar appendage bolted onto such ideologically funded and managed criteria, reminiscent of the “science” bolt on wrt econnomics

  4. Carolyn

    First, unhappy feelings contributed to Brexit. However, contrary to commonly heard views, the key channel of influence was not through general dissatisfaction with life; it was through a person’s narrow feelings about his or her own financial situation.

    Amongst the people I talked to before and now after, I don’t recognise that feeling at all; but maybe it’s kept well hidden?

    Second, despite some commentators’ guesses, Brexit was not caused by old people. Only the very young were substantially pro-Remain.

    Being an older person myself, I have been arguing this for some time! Of all the people I chat with, which is a very small sample, could they have voted the 16-18 year-olds were solidly ‘remainers’; the 18-mid 20s presented a mixed view with a balance in favour of remaining. Thereafter to me there seemed no real pattern in terms of age.

    I would not disparage gut instinct and feelings at all. There is a lot of ‘feeling’ during pre- and post-discussions – from myself included, of course.

    Rather than the above Understanding Society findings, I saw a pattern which fits more with the detailed survey of 4,000 voters by Ipsos Mori, reported in today’s FT’s, entitled The six tribes of Brexit revealed.[Behind the FT paywall] But note (if you have access to the article), I live in the East Midlands; maybe I am reflecting a regional difference?

    I voted leave a) because I feel (that word again) I made a major mistake in the referendum held on 5 June 1975 – I voted ‘remain’. And in some ways the reasoning reflects a strong sense of a lack of care on my part for not doing more background work on the over-arching objectives of the European movement. I ‘bought’ the blah about the European Communities only being a ‘common market’ and that we should leave EFTA for the wider market opportunity. Humm; for some years now, I’ve viewed that sales pitch as a ‘crock’ – it seems to me that greater central, bureaucratic control and direction of all our lives has always been the objective.

    b) Being in the East Midlands by 1972, I was involved in the efforts to resettle a significant number of British Ugandan Asians; I was impressed with the attitude and efforts of the majority to adapt and ‘get on with it’. I witnessed the huge positive difference thy made to the economy of Leicester. I have a range of friends and acquaintances with very different ethnicity to mine. Thus I believe I’m far from xenophobic, however I see that some more coherent approach has to be taken to control immigration to the UK. And whatever the policy, it has to be seen to be positive for the vast majority of UK citizens; and to be fair and equitable – clearly explained, and consistently and humanely applied.

    So, I am a ‘leave’, but immediately apply for membership of EFTA, and stay in the EEA for a period of time (5-10 years) while we find our free-trade-feet and get on with the lengthy process of negotiating free trade agreements with countries around the world. A Norway-style option kinda person. (An option that looks to have disappeared down an Ultra rabbit hole!)

    In terms of the Ipsos Mori ‘six tribes’ findings, I put myself in the Moderate Leavers camp (18 per cent of the population).

    Meanwhile, how we (UK) prevail on / get untangled from the clusterf*.* that our Government looks about to foist on us is taxing my aged grey cells. I need tea and a lie-down!

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Carolyn.

      Brexiteer Pritti Patel and her UKIP official father are Ugandan Asians. There are others of that ilk. It’s odd to see so many people of immigrant origin, including the half-Mauritian Tory MP Suella Fernandes, and Catholics like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Edward Leigh, Bill Cash and Daniel Hannan, and the Jewish UKIP Blumenthal and Bloom families trying to fit in and “out do the natives” with their anti-EU fervour.

      My grandfather worked in the Ugandan sugar industry in the 1960s. Another relative studied in Kampala at the same time. Like Ugandan Asian journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, they were not surprised what happened in 1972 and predicted it. A French friend and former colleague of Moroccan origin was there a couple of years ago and was shocked to see and hear how some of the Asians returning are resuming their bad habits. Some appear to be like the Bourbon family.

    2. Terry Flynn

      I am East Midlands born and bred and wasnt surprised that in my national survey it was the *only* English region to display a positive “net favourability score” towards free migration in terms of attitudes. The reason for their BREXIT choice, however, was that these attitudes had zero *direct* effect. The FTA largely explained their votes – almost certainly because it was the hardest form of BREXIT and the one they perceived the politicians had least ability to backslide on.

      Of course there were indirect effects of migration – but an FTA was seen as the best way to “stop everything” (which of course it wouldn’t)

  5. jabawocky

    This coincides roughly with my experience.

    Among the agricultural brigade, all regulation is associated with the EU and the regulations are a nightmare, so they voted leave.

    The poor basically felt they had nothing to lose: ‘what the hell’, my brother on benefits said. They also were jealous of those with something to lose, and quite pleased with opportunity to give them a spiteful bloody nose.

    There were the foolish Daily Mail propaganda victims who really believed we would ‘take back control’ and all end up better off. They also fall for other right-wing propaganda campaigns, such as believing in the necessity of low wages and of reducing government spending. These are the most frustrating types, and occur at high frequency in all age groups outside of the traditional university cities and London. Almost always white british.

    I also met plenty of ‘Clive-types’. These were mostly older professionals, mainly left wing 60s former flower power types. They voted leave despite obvious risks to their businesses and livelihoods mainly for the reasons that Clive suggests. Their strategy depends on the UK not being handed to the far-right uber-rich Trumpian interests that are alleged to have bankrolled brexit. It is a very risky strategy in my view, but at least it’s not a selfish approach to the referendum which is what is embodied in the tfirst groups i mention.

    1. Clive

      There’s an important point in that we’ve been placed, as the electorate in our respective countries, in positions of having to make increasingly high-risk high-potential-reward high-potential-losses choices. Trump/Clinton, Brexit/Remain, Catalan independence, Greek euro membership / Grexit.

      As our societies become more balancing-on-a-precipice, our voting decisions reflect these high-stakes gambles.

  6. paul

    I’ve said it before, but if you give unhappy people the chance to stick two fingers up, they’ll take it.

    They don’t come around very often in managed democracies.

    The whole process was in bad faith, the tories should have had (in an ideal world where they responsible guardians of the common weal rather than lazy,venal opportunists) their own referendum before Cameron’s last election and fought on that position.

    Jeremy Corbyn had the best position, “there’s a lot of shit in the eu, but there’s even more outside”, but he has failed to politically capitalise on it. He is still more the idealist than the politician and resists putting the political bullet to the head that treeza must be longing for.

    I am the only ‘Leave’ voter I know, attending a funeral I had to justify myself to a neighbor that there was much to dislike about the eu, none of which we will be liberated from by the current shambles.

    Would I have been able to support a hard brexit?
    Not at all.
    But then the referendum was not about how we leave.
    I just had to reassure them I wasn’t fueled by righteous racism.

    The ornate chinese finger trap that comprises the eu is something to be properly in awe of, unless you are a wet behind the ears brexiteer flunkey

    1. Joel

      Paul, are you saying you voted Leave?

      If so, can you just enlighten me (serious question): even if you weren’t voting for a hard Brexit, why weren’t you swayed by the economic dangers of even a “soft” Brexit, i.e., the “transition period” between when the UK left the EU and when it could sign new trade treaties?

      1. paul

        That is what I am saying.
        I voted leave in disgust at the open air knocking shop that is Brussels, the destruction of a greece that has suited the greeks since the generals left, the degradation of members states ability to legislate (one chicken coming home to roost now),the mass underemployment it promotes, the insanity of professing a one size fits all monetary policy over a rather diverse area and the anti-democratic nature of the institutions that comprise the euroborous.

        Why should I have voted otherwise?

        Was I given the option of a measured withdrawal?

        The eu institutions have no problem with making decisions they favour without regard for their consequences, yet their agents are overly sensitive to their own needs.

        The obvious fact that both sides see this as war shows how big a mess this is.

      2. paul

        in reply to your actual question:
        I’ve lived through 3 endogenously imposed recessions at least, and just about got by.
        Maybe this is the big one and I won’t get through it.
        At my age, who cares?
        Someone once said its better to vote for what you want than what you don’t want.

        And I’ve never liked initiatives such as Eurogendfor

        1. Joel

          Thank you for your considered reply.

          I can only try to sympathize. You all are in a position with no great options, declining prospects for the vast majority of people, and only the typical “First World” consolation that most people of the world are even worse off and always have been.

          Which is of course where all the First World is now. I am glad that no one here is going to put NAFTA or the OAS or even UN or WTO membership on a referendum.

  7. Tomonthebeach

    Being a Yank, and reading the Clive-related discussion, I am struck by apparent parallels with our narrow vote to elect a leader aiming to isolate my country and squander my wealth. That vote also seems in retrospective analyses like more of a political message of diffuse outrage than aimed at any specific political goal. In fact, in both cases, AIM seems to be directed mostly at one’s own foot, rather than at any particular policy or situation.

    By what means can one divine the motivation for what appeared, even prior to the vote, as a reckless political act that would almost certainly have dire economic consequences for the voter and the country as a whole? It is indeed a puzzlement.

    What is more of a puzzlement to this Yank is why Britain is persisting pursuit of Brexit like lemmings rushing to plunge over the precipice. Information and data continue to mount that the immediate cost will likely be horrendous, and over the long run, will deflate the British economy for decades into the future (not to mention weaken its influence on global events). As grownups, people should be able to acknowledge a poor choice, and change course. The poor choice has been widely acknowledged, but “tut-tut, old man,” pursuit of self-destructive ends in the face of disaster is what we Brits do – the Charge of the Light Brigade for example.

    Post script; it is unsettling to look into the USA mirror, and wonder if we’re all that different. We too seem to be lemmings in aimless stampede without the sense of impending disaster yet helpless to change course. It is reminiscent of the early days of the rise of the 3rd Reich. I am more sympathetic to the parents of my Germanic friends, as I now can see more clearly how citizens across Europe could let fascism prosper in the looming shadow of all-out war.

    1. a different chris

      > Information and data continue to mount that the immediate cost will likely be horrendous

      I actually believe in that sentence, but it is based on Mainstream Economic Thought and we all know how bogus that is at predicting the future. So I also understand why others may seem pollyannish about what we regard as a looming disaster. And yet still others know, given history, that GDP growth won’t flow to them anyway so, as the unemployed brother above said, what the heck. And finally there are the Clives of the world, who risk a lot as they assert that that money isn’t the only measure of life.

      Neville Chamberlain isn’t celebrated for forestalling a most horrible war, is he? Yet if you lived in those time, yes every day it didn’t happen was a blessing, and one more chance it wouldn’t happen at all. But hindsight said he should have acted differently.

      We won’t have any real answer to this for a decade, at least. Ah well.

  8. Sound of the Suburbs

    The UK election in 2015:

    Conservative – Shorter, harsher austerity with no increasing taxes on the rich
    Labour – Longer, milder austerity with no increasing taxes on the rich
    Liberal – somewhere in the middle

    All three parties were over-run by neo-liberals.

    How can I register my discontent?
    You can’t.

    I’ll get them with the Brexit referendum.

    The UK battle.

    Round One

    We are going to shut down manufacturing in the rest of the country to concentrate on finance in London and the elite move to London where things are good.

    The Conservatives eventually go too far and become known as the nasty party.

    Round Two

    New Labour evens things up a bit by using revenue from the City for increasing benefits and to create public sector jobs in the North.

    New Labour’s low financial regulation stance blows up in their faces and after unconditional bailouts for
    bankers they are finished.

    Round Three.

    In the name of austerity the Conservatives get to work removing the stuff Tony Blair put in.

    The nasty party have sown the seeds for Brexit and the elite that moved to London see things taking a turn for the worse and can’t stop crying.

  9. Steve Ruis

    I tend to think votes like for Brexit and for Trump are votes against the status quo. the people are given a binary choice between two options, neither of which is appealing and then the talking heads slice and dice the “reasons why we favored X over Y”. If we had a manifold of choices, such analyses would make sense but when the choices are just two: In or Out, Him or Her, I think people’s visceral feelings are in play quite strongly. I think the election of Barack Obama was a vote against the status quo and when people got more of the same in response, they reached for an even bigger monkey wrench to throw into the gears of government. Yes, HRC won the popular vote, but she should have crushed a clearly unqualified candidate, if people were not dissatisfied with the status quo, which HRC clearly represented. Many of these detailed analyses seem too granular; a big picture approach seems more illuminating.

    1. flora

      I don’t disagree. The status quo being rejected, imo, is economic neoliberalism in place for the last 35 years under both the Dems and GOP. ( Aside: The word “tribe” is a perfect neoliberal, identity-politics sort of word, imo. “Voting block” or “economic interest” implies citizenship. “Tribe” implies…. in the US the tribes are relegated to reservations. -end rant)

    2. John D.

      I also agree. And regarding HRC winning the popular vote: Yes, she got more votes than Trump, but how many of those were ‘lesser evil’ votes, cast by people who didn’t like her and had to pull the lever for her while holding their noses? You give people nothing but bad choices, and disaster will strike sooner or later.

      1. sharonsj

        When you talk about Brexit being a poke in the eye of the elites, I see Trump’s election as the equivalent in America. However, I don’t see Brexit being as disastrous to England as Trump’s swamp alligators will be to the United States.

  10. Joel

    As an American, what amazes me is that even Trump isn’t suggesting a simple exit from NAFTA without trying to “fix” it first. Nor is he proposing some kind of winner-take-all referendum on it.

    And exiting NAFTA would be a cakewalk compared with Brexit.

    Edit: actually, would one of the NC luminaries be interested in writing about NAFTA-exit? It looks like Mexico is already looking toward the exits and only the US will be left unprepared if it happens.

  11. Enoch

    I voted out purely with a Nixonian feeling of resentment. If Clegg (Oxford and Westminster) and Cameron (Eton and Oxford) and neither having had a proper job between them are for it I am against it. It’s as simple as that. However for me the EU has never really been the source of everything that has gone wrong in the UK. The decisions to get involved in Iraq, open the border to non EU immigration and bail out the banks were all taken in London and not Brussels. The referendum was just a big FU to the liberal establishment.

    1. vlade

      The problem is that the liberal establishemt, apart from the emotional shock, is going to suffer little other downside. And, at the same time, it got up a much more regressive establishment – or do you think BJ, Moggie, or even May, are better than Cameron?

      So, this Brexit vote is, unfortunately, following Yves’s Blazing Saddles metaphor, “n-word” getting it.

      And, before we say that it can’t get worse for the poor – you’d be surprised.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        This is the key thing. The liberal establishment, broadly speaking, all have their little getaway homes in France and investments in euro and dollar. They’ll get a nasty hit if their house prices go down, and no doubt they’ll be shocked, shocked, at how expensive wine has become these days. But otherwise they’ll be fine.

        Although I think in truth the big losers won’t be those at the bottom – to an extent they have less to lose. Its the struggling middle I think who will be hit hardest – they are the ones loaded up on debt, reliant on rising house prices, and whose PCP cars and foreign holidays and dreams of a retirement to Spain are all going to go up on a big puff of smoke. And most are Tory voters.

        1. vlade

          Re poor – two things – food prices, benefits.

          The first will go up, while who knows what happens to the second. If Labour would get in (hopefully), it may not be as bad for them, but it’s still going to be bad. You’re right that the middle will get the worst hit, but I’d not discount poor being even worse off than before.

  12. gonzomarx

    For me the whole referendum vote was summed up a few days after by a young mother in Sunderland saying why she voted leave “was shit, it’s shit now, can’t see it getting better”
    A feeling that the status quo had failed.

  13. NickW

    The UK for all its faults is still a democracy. This simply means that every five years we can, if it is the will of the people, remove our current dictators and replace them with a new set with – possibly – new ideas.

    The EU is not a democracy. It is ruled by an oligarchy responsible to no one but itself, We as individuals, even acting collectively, have no means of changing the guard at Brussels or of changing any regulations once promulgated. To the best of my knowledge no EU Regulation or Directive has ever been repealed. This in itself creates an assumption that EU Commissioners are cloaked with Pope-like powers of infallibility.

    On a separate but relevant point we know that 71% of the UK voting population voted in the referendum; with 52% for and 48% against Brexit. I have never been a participant of any vote whether it be in a national poll, a parish council, a PTA or similar where ‘abstention’ meant anything more than agreement to go along with the majority decision.

    1. Anonymous2

      I am afraid I disagree about the UK being a functioning democracy. That requires a properly informed electorate. The English newspapers ensure that their readers are not properly informed.

      Your remarks about the functioning of the EU worry me. The role of the Commission is quite limited when it comes to making European legislation. Yes it is responsible for proposing it officially but in my experience they always checked first with the member states to ensure that there was demand for such legislation and more often than not the original idea came from the member states. And of course all primary legislation requires the support of the member states in the Council of Ministers and needs the approval of the elected Parliament. The system needs improvement but to describe it as undemocratic is not fair. In some important respects (PR) it is better than the UK system , even if one sets aside the deficiencies of the English newspapers for a moment.

      1. vlade

        Unfortunately, it looks like my response to NickW went up poofs, but I agree with you. If EU is oligarchy, then the UK is even worse.

        The “EU is undemocratic” meme is procured by a lot of UK’s press, with little evidence. The four major EU bodies – Council, Comission, Parliament and Court are either elected (Parliament directly, Council is heads of elected governments of the EU states) or appointed by elected officials (Comissions and Court are appointed by Council, not unlike many other national instutions).

        The regulations and directives are modified all the time, and to find a few repealed all one has to do is just google “repealed european regulation”, “repealed european directive”. Nuff said.

        1. Terry Flynn

          Also FPTP means in general elections a huge proportion of the electorate feel they have no voice – only those few 10,000s in marginal seats make any difference. A referendum suddenly makes every vote count. Those who feel general elections don’t change their lives suddenly have a way to express anger and frustration knowing their vote counts.

          1. vlade

            Indeed – that is why I was always saying that if you want change, changing UK election system is really the way to go.

            1. vlade

              Of course, part of the problem with that is that someone like DUP or SNP, which now can hold balance of power, would get a pretty short-shrift under a proportional representation system, unless you’d set aside an (unproportional) number of seats for Scotland/Wales/NI, something akin to US Senate with its 2-per-state representation. So it would really involve deep thinking, and something like a constitutional convention, which we’re about as likely to get as getting humans to Mars before this Xmas.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                FPTP has I think been a disaster for the UK, its had the same impact as the US system, in creating a duopoly of power. But unfortunately Labour, in particular the left wing of labour, has always seen it as a route to a socialist govenment with real power, so they are as unenthusiastic about reform as the Tories.

                I agree about the DUP in NI – again, FPTP is responsible for wiping out the middle ground in Northern Ireland. I’m not so sure about the SNP? I would have thought they’d do ok with PR or similar, as they would pick up transfers from Labour and the Tories.

                1. Terry Flynn

                  FWIW and following my piece above, I think most-least voting would start to rejevunate the centre. DUP voters will put SF as least and vice versa. Hey Presto the UUP and SDLP are back in the running.

                  In Scotland I think a broad anti-Tory front would wipe them out and it would come down to “who do the Tories think is worst, SNP or Labour?” Would be interesting.

                2. vlade

                  The problem is that if you get one person, one vote, Scotland and NI even more so are a fraction of English population. So England would pretty much dictate the whole. With FPTP, Scotland can have more MPs easily enough. It takes waay way less votes to be an MP in Scotland/NI than anywhere else.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, it annoys me that this ‘EU is undemocratic’ meme spreads so wide. The EU has massive faults, but it is surprisingly responsive. Over the years of having had peripheral involvement in both environmental and union activism in the UK and Ireland, I’ve found repeatedly that the EU is actually more responsive than certainly the UK government.

          Because of the diversity of interests represented at EU Parliament and Council of Ministers level it is often much easier to find a natural ally with influence to push a message than at a national level, especially if the issue is seen as a bit outside the normal envelope. And taking legal action at ECJ level is frequently more effective and cheaper than at a national level, certanly in the Common Law countries, one reason of course why libertarians hate it so much.

    2. vlade

      Do you reall call UK democracy and EU oligarchy? Huh, I don’t have Col. Smitehers encyclopediaic knowledge of who’s who in the UK politics, but I’d never call UK a democracy if you’d call EU an oligarchy.

      I’d also like you to come with specific examples of EU being more undermocractic (in the fundamental institutional setup) than say the US federal institutional set up.

      Yes, the EU beaurocracy is unelected. But so is all of WhiteHall civil service.

      All the major EU bodies/roles are appointed by/comprised of elected governments of the EU states, or elected.
      The commisioners are nominated by individual EU governents.
      The Council is heads of the EU governments (thus elected, and one can make a point that in national elections one doesn’t elect just into their national parliamnet, but also into EU Council)
      The Parliament is elected by the states’ citizens (that most of them ignore it is not EUs or parliaments’ problem.. ).
      Even the hated ECJ has 28 judges, one per state, appointed by the EU governments (similar to their domestic courts).

      While comission is expected to act independent of the governments it nominates it and is “the only body paid to be European”, it is under a total controll of the Council, which can defang it and basically make it useless anytime it could make itself work in concert.

      So yes, UK may not have much say in EU – but then, it’s about 12% of EU population. Is it any more or less democractic than Manchester having less say in the UK policies than London.

      Re EU directives – they get modified all the time. Moreover, they are negotiated by the EU governments (hello, elected ones) first. UK was actually quite vociferous on many of those concernign financial services, but happily ignoring most of other stuff.

      Also, most of the directives leave reasonable amount of flexibility in implementation to the national parliaments (unlike regulation, which have to be implemented precisely in-toto) – except that the UK one, for various reasons, often decided to just pick up the text and drop it into the UK legislation as-is. And then blame EU, on points that could have been trivially addressed in either stage, should anyone care.

      On repealing – say Regulation (EC) No 1781/2006? Or directive Directive 95/46/EC? Clearly you didn’t even bother to google, as you’d see more than one example there.

      This is the problem in the UK – the above is very consistent with what the press is saying about EU, but majority of what the press is saying here (and, often even what the government is saying) is pretty much rubbish.

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