Spot the Problem

Google searches from the United Kingdom.


Hat tip: Catherine Rampell on twitter.


The problem is that the Remainers knew it was in the bag, and now that things turned out differently, they are searching for insults to use against the majority voters.

"Insults ahead of time didn't work. Maybe insults after the fact will do the job."

People can be rational when they vote against their economic self-interest.

And here I don't think it's necessary to believe they voted against their economic self-interest. They may believe, and may be right, that threats of EU protectionism following Brexit will ultimately be hollow, as they would require the EU to sacrifice its own economic well-being. They may believe, and may be right, that even if some protectionism results, that it will be more than offset by an increase in their individual fortunes due to decreased competition from migrant workers.

'as they would require the EU to sacrifice its own economic well-being'

Are Americans becoming as delusional about the importance of the UK's economy to the EU as leave voters?

So the EU can enact trade barriers against Britain at absolutely no cost to itself? That goes against a lot of what I've been hearing economists say about free trade.

'So the EU can enact trade barriers against Britain at absolutely no cost to itself?'

Nobody is erecting trade barriers - the British have voted to leave the EU, and part of that leaving includes losing all the benefits of being a member. This perspective that the EU treating a non-member as a non-member means trade war remains bizarre.

Again, the British have decided to leave the common market, and are now entitled to all the benefits and privileges granted to non-EU members. Which is pretty much none, regardless of the fantasies that some leave voters seem to have had.

So the EU will be erecting trade barriers against Britain due to its non-member status, and hurt itself in the process?

Trade barriers are not needed, incertitude is enough. London was on the way to be a fintech hub. Laugh all you want about finance, but "services" is 50% of UK exports to EU countries.

'So the EU will be erecting trade barriers against Britain due to its non-member status'

Well, if you think that the EU is 'erecting trade barriers' when non-members are treated differently than members, sure. Except the EU is not the party that decided to revoke the UK's EU membership status. But the EU is the party that decides what non-members get from the EU - and the only measure that actually interests the EU is its own. What the British think is fair or proper is of no concern any longer.

Is it really so hard to grasp that actions have consequences?

As this article points out, the answer, at least for leave voters, seems to be yes - 'The government must replace the millions of pounds of EU support Cornwall may lose from Brexit with investment, its council leader says.

The county has received £1bn of aid over the past 15 years with more than £400m in the pipeline until 2020 because of its relatively weak economy.

Cornwall Council leader John Pollard said he wanted "investment equal to that provided by the EU programme".

Cornwall voted Leave and the Isles of Scilly voted Remain.'

Yep, I'm sure the Tories will get right to work replacing that lost EU aid with made in Britain aid - just another example of taking control, obviously.

So the EU is going to change the way it treats the UK, to its own detriment, by erecting trade barriers, although it could choose not to?

Apparently it's very important to certain people not to argue what the effects will be, but that they are the UK's fault, not the EU's fault.

"She made me do it! Bitch set me up!"

'but that they are the UK’s fault, not the EU’s fault.'

I remain confused - the UK has decided to leave the EU, meaning that whatever happens as a result of their decision to leave is all someone else's fault, since apparently the leave voters cherish their fantasies that being a non-member of the EU is better than being a member when it comes to accessing the EU's common market without any conditions?

This remains one of the more bizarre perspectives ever encountered here. The British have just voted to leave the EU, a position all other EU members say they respect. Meaning that the EU will now go about the process of the British leaving without the EU caring what the British think about it. Which, at least according to the leave voters, is exactly the sort of benefit that non-EU membership brings, by taking back control from Brussels.

Turkey Vulture, mutually harmful spite is, apparently, what some think should happen. From the press, mostly Germans, and mostly in their finance ministry, Merkel has not made such an inflammatory statement for example. They may need to consult with other EU states. In theory. Presuming the EU is what it is supposed to be.

Of course, the alternative to spite, would be for the EU to adopt a trade policy with its closest neighbour that isn't punitive and then for the EU to actually make the case for EU institutions and freedom of movement, which the UK have rejected, on their own terms and their own merits, and not as the bitter pills you swallow with your banquet of free trade.

But that would be, like, soooo hard.

What I was always told about the EU growing up, where it was this story of the theory that free trade itself would lead to economic integration, naturally, and this would lessening the risk of war in this wonderful way. Instead, the modern EU idea seems, at least in Germany, seems that, free trade is a treat that is used to sweeten undesirable political and cultural integration, and its actually preferable to economically de-integrate and harm states, if it means forcing them to join the political club.

Which has all been a big problem during this referendum. There's been an inability to articulate what the EU really does for the median Brit, other than being a shit sandwich they have to eat in order to get the benefits of free trade in the Common Market. Which free trade the increasingly protectionist working class doesn't even believe in any more any way, if they ever did. If they're not, then should the rump EU consider whether it is in the right to punish them for rejecting them?

prior_test2: "Well, if you think that the EU is ‘erecting trade barriers’ when non-members are treated differently than members, sure."

I didn't realize that prior_test2 was such an EU-nationalist. Is that what the EU is about, replacing nationalism with supra-nationalism?

non-members are treated differently than members, sure

What A fascinating idea! I wonder if it bears any comparison to the distinction between citizens and non-citizens....

I think it's just about certain there will be an economic cost for the UK.

I think it's pretty certain that it won't be as bad as "Remain" said it would be, because politics is full of fear and lies, from both sides.

The EU is not in a position to start a trade war with the UK, but dumber things have certainly happened.

Even if there is a cost for the UK as a whole, those who voted yes may themselves benefit on net. Or at least reasonably believe that they will benefit on net.

But, sure, they also may have just decided that some things are more important than year over year per capita GDP growth. I just tend to be skeptical when I seem to always see ideological opponents belittled as idiots for "voting against their economic self-interest."

Yes, the arguments about the significance of the EU to UK and vice-versa are irrelevant. The real question is whether the EU would risk being responsible for a World downturn, just out of pique.

'The real question is whether the EU would risk being responsible for a World downturn, just out of pique.'

Wait, the EU voted to kick the British out of its common market in a fit of pique?

Why is anyone that supported leave surprised that the EU could care less about British concerns at this point, and the EU in general does not feel that its needs to humor an ex-member in any way, shape or form.

Though probably not out of respect for the leave voters taking back control of the UK. Instead, because the EU no longer needs to show even a pretence of concern about the UK, one will magically discover that the EU will act in its own, self-defined interests - interests unlikely to have absolutely any overlap with those of UK leave voters.

A lot of the people pushing "the idiots voted against their own economic self-interest" line actually mean "they voted against my economic interest".

I'm reminded of the NYT editorial board types pushing more or less unlimited immigration. Those would be the people with the nice Guatemalan housekeeper, who enjoy eating out at restaurants where 75% of the staff are illegal, and where none of the crew who re-roofed their summer place seemed to speak English. Wonder who used to do those jobs?

But they are confident their kids are going to Ivy League schools and on a good life - at least if they can preserve the "holistic" admissions process to limit the number of slots taken by "not well rounded" Asians at those schools.

Turkey Vulture:

Nice job here, handling this fool.

Which is why the highest proportion of no votes came from hard-working people over 65 ...

I think you are saying that people didn't do their homework until the last minute. True? I am seeing that people didn't think it was a real possibility until the last few days of the campaign because remember, the polling was tight, and there were still a large number of undecideds.

Check the dates. It wasn't doing homework at the last minute. It was frantically looking through the textbook after the test to see whether your answer was correct.

You're assuming all the people doing the searches were those who voted to leave. Perhaps... but maybe they were those who voted to remain, searching for some idea of what was to come. Or perhaps it was some of both.

I'm confused. Is the EU an especially Libertarian organization? Would "remain" increase the economic freedom of Britons? If so, should we join ourselves?


anon, let me help explain. Tyler can be counted on to push the official bankster elite position or meme of the day. He can be counted on to do it to a libertarianish audience. That is his job, nothing more.

Maybe you can explain what Alex's job is too, since he posted it.

Too busy to read who posted this on the blog?

It really is Tyler's blog with an occasional comment from Alex.

Yeah but Alex's posts usually generate the most traffic and comments.

Along with the most mockery.

Freedom to move and seek employment, employees, goods, services and markets with virtually no institutional barriers throughout an entire continent is pretty economically Liberal.

Each state in the EU can provide that on their own if that's what they really wanted. They don't need a supra-national organization to implement those goals. In fact, it really takes no action at all to allow people to enjoy their freedoms and liberties.

Imagine that you're a very leftwing Democrat.

You want leftwing ideas to become more popular in your area.

If you live in California, you might support an independent California. Then you could enact all the liberal policies that you wanted without having to worry about those pesky Republicans in Washington DC.

At the same time, by removing so many Democrats from the national electorate, you'd push the United States in a very conservative direction. The US House of Representatives would go from 247 Republicans and 188 Democrats to 233 Republicans and 149 Democrats. Republicans would control more than 60% of the remaining seats in the old United States.

If you're a Democrat living in California, you might be willing to accept that tradeoff.

If you're a Democrat living in, New York, the loss of California would be catastrophic.

Some small number of people would get to live in a more liberal place, a much larger number of people would live in a much less liberal place.

That's essentially what the UK leaving the EU means. British interests won't be considered by the EU. They'll go from having some influence to almost no influence over the organization.

I have become more open to the idea that America should have stayed in the British Empire. So sure, by the same measure Britain should stay in the EU.

But I observe that many people who are pro-America seem to be doing a me-not-thee thing.

The Mercatus crew doesn't care about freedom of contract and association, except in the form of twee complaints about cosmetology licensure and complaints about occult matters like health and safety regulation for pharmaceuticals.

If I'm reading the times correctly, the big spike didn't start until after the polls closed in the UK, with the peak coming Friday morning UK time.
So it's not last minute research, it's after-the-fact research.

Steven has it.

Those are Remain voters.

If what? It's also a problem if the remain voters voted without googling the consequences first, right?

The only way this is not a problem or less of one is if those are all people who didn't vote at all.

Some, sure, but I would guess that a major number of the searches involved EU citizens - you know, students, programmers, doctors, technicians, etc. - wondering what their life in the UK will look like now that the UK has decided to leave the EU. I would also guess, though this will not be reflected as easily, that a number of Britons in the EU are searching the same thing.

surely another problem is that it just drops off? does everyone in the UK now know exactly what will happen..?

I'm not sure data implies this.

If you perform the same search over a 24hr scale, you'll see the majority of searches took place when most British people would have been asleep. These searches were probably done by people staying up to watch how the result unfolded - politics fans.

There isn't much actual news on a referendum/election until after the polls close. Watching how the results come in is like watching the ebb and flow of a sports game - maybe this result is more like Superbowl fans searching for 'Superbowl' as they watch the Superbowl.

I think we're all overreacting to this. If the graph measures something like searches per hour, then you must compare the area below the curve before and after the closing of the polls. Besides that, you could consider the fact that the first research might present a "multiplication" effect, where people share with others their online search findings. Finally, you can't just assume that voters research about the effects in the same pattern through time as the rest of the population, probably people who didn't vote just looked it up when it was on the news.

Still, I believe that this still shows that people were gravely misinformed during the voting, but it is not as bad as it looks in the graph.

I live in the US and did the search today too, looking for information on investment opportunities.

People weren't paying attention in Britain just like they aren't paying attention in America. A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate. What's happened there is the same thing that is happening here: ignorant blowhards are leading an ignorant electorate. Isaac Asimov: There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

Along with a large number of Britain's leading business owners.

Well we can certainly trust them to represent the interests of the common man!

Well, employ them, at least.

Employ who? If the business leaders had really been interested in employing Britons, Leave would never have won.

'If the business leaders had really been interested in employing Britons'

Yep, a British Airbus component manufacturer should only ever employ Britons, obviously. And clearly, all the Polish plumbers are employed by famed British manufacturing companies like Rolls-Royce to turn out jet engines.

Your opinion of what the business titans "should" do in those circumstances might be somewhat different from a working class Briton's idea of what they "should" do.

Probably should stop "rocking the vote" and busing voters about, then, huh?

Ignorant voters are great if they're pulling the Left levers.

"I love the poorly educated"

Trump, Donald J.

I love most of your comments, but not this one, and specifically not that odious Asimov quote that you constantly drag out like a superstitious talisman to neutralize the day's bad news. A 'properly functioning democracy' depends on no such thing as an 'informed electorate', since no such thing exists. To my mind, a properly functioning democracy depends on humility: On questions too complex for the electorate, the people defer to their representatives in government; the corollary being that on questions too complex for the government--which is to say the vast majority of questions--the government should defer to its people. If you anticipate a liberally minded electorate comprised of people proficient not only in their own affairs but in the affairs of all others, and all others collectively, you will be disappointed.

I'm sure it's flattering to self-described intellectuals to believe that there exists a Cult of Ignorance in this country, but it isn't true. Nobody relishes their own ignorance, and nobody--not even subliminally--would assert their ignorance is as good as another's knowledge in answering any question. What you call a Cult of Ignorance is in fact an assertion of democratic rights: that if a political question is asked, every American--indeed any citizen of a democratic state--feels an equally valid right to answer it. Maybe the solution to this problem isn't better-informed answers but fewer questions. British elites, after all, forced Brexit upon themselves; what started as an off-handed promise by David Cameron spiraled into an unforced catastrophe. On EU membership, the government abdicated its responsibility, posed a question to the people, and the people answered--as is their right. Don't insult the people for answering the question differently than you might have answered it; blame, if anything, the circumstances that compeled the question to be asked at all. As someone who mildly supported Brexit--to the extent it's any of my business as an American--I don't think popular referendum was the right way to achieve it. But even if Remain had won, I wouldn't seek solace by trotting out contemptuous quotes.

When you say "cult of ignorance," you mean how speakers are always being barred from or shouted down on university campuses? It isn't that big a problem: 18-22 year olds are pretty stupid, and don't learn much of anything until after they leave the university, so it doesn't matter if they indulge the cult of ignorance while they're on campus.

A properly functioning democracy depends on a thing which apparently doesn't exist anywhere. Let's put more and more things under the control of properly functioning democracy.


Welcome to what the EU is saying to the British now, in terms of respecting British wishes - 'While the UK would remain a member until exit negotiations were concluded, they said, Europe expected it to “give effect to this decision ... as soon as possible”. The special settlement negotiated by Cameron earlier this year was void and could not be renegotiated, they said.' -

The interests of anyone in Brussels/Strasbourg caring what the UK desires in terms of its future relations with the EU should just be starting to become clear for the successful leave campaigners.

Oddly, the EU members except the UK are not willing to agree with the Brexit advocates "give up everything we want while we take everything you have".

Trump does say he will walk away from a deal he does not like, but for Brexit, that means walking away from any trade or connection to the EU if the EU won't bend over and get screwed by Brexit advocates.

Trump never talks about the times he walked away, which I'm sure are GREAT in number, so GREAT, the list is too long to talk about.


also: Catherine Rampell is the living, breathing embodiment of the Cathedral.
Nothing but pat PC pabulum. Constant feminism and bitching about inequality.

What's the problem? Britain leaving the EU isn't a big deal and the search results fall off after a few hours. Just like the market panic was over after a few hours. The pound is down a couple of cents from where it was at the end of February. The FTSE 100 is up on the week, and it's even up currency adjusted over the past two weeks. If you want to see a problem, look at Deutsche Bank, but that isn't related to Brexit.

The political establishment lives in an echo chamber created by the media. I would guess most of those panicked searches were by the supposedly well informed, intelligent people who went to the right schools, but exist within that bubble.

Many many problems, among the the future of the European Digital Single Market proposal. The EU commission said it was a 470 billion USD bill laying on the street. It was a set of regulations for intellectual property, consumer protection......for short, any digital business would follow EU rules instead of 28 sets of rules, the very definition of economy of scale. Today, June 24th, the optimistic scenario is one set of rules for the UK and one for the EU, the pessimist one is things stay as today.

Wouldn't a libertarian prefer reciprocal agreements over one standard? I personally would be fine with German or Japanese cars being sold in America with minimum modification. Left hand drive, English labeling, pass a smog test.

It would be nice too if reciprocal agreements on IP did not set term, just ensured that foreign and domestic IP were treated the same. That is, sure you can have a 30 year copyright if you want (or 300?), but make sure you treat a local author and an import the same. That way you can't "rob" foreign IP, but you can set your own balance for property and innovation.

Why shouldn't a developing country have 5 year patents, really?

"What’s the problem? Britain leaving the EU isn’t a big deal and the search results fall off after a few hours. Just like the market panic was over after a few hours."

So, nothing will change with Brexit because no one voting for Brexit wanted no change?

Or are you saying that everything the Brexit advocates have been complaining about the EU are just everything the EU is trying to change anyway?

The Brexit advocates are like your boss saying "I'm going cut the price you pay for the car you make by cutting your pay be 50% so you will be better off because you will save 5 weeks of your current pay when buying your new car."

The 24th isn't over yet?

That drop-off was quite notable.

Brexit is not an event: it's a process. A lot of yeoman's homework, in the "Flexcit" plan, has already been done by Richard North: A shorter version is available here:

Nobody in Brussels/Strasbourg cares in the least what some British citizen desires in terms of the UK leaving the EU.

The British are about to discover their true standing in European affairs - and it is likely to be a lot less than the leave voters dreamed.

Irrelevant. Whatever Cameron or anyone else says, including the EU grandees, the UK is still a member of the EU and is still subject to the acquis. That goes for members of the EU Commission as well. What happened was simply a popular referendum. The UK could, and in my view should, wait until after the May-August elections in France and Germany before engaging in any kind of serious Article 50 negotiation. The EC can issue all the threats it wants, but it's just political noise.

'the UK is still a member of the EU and is still subject to the acquis'

Well sure, but Brussels wouldn't mind that certified letter triggering article 50 tomorrow, as compared to October. And as the UK remains an EU member, if the EU ignores Cameron's desire to have October be the date, the leave campaigners can likely point out, with complete justification, that nobody in Brussels cares about what the UK wants.

'The UK could, and in my view should, wait until after the May-August elections in France and Germany before engaging in any kind of serious Article 50 negotiation.' As this article makes clear - - no one in the EU any longer cares about what the UK wants, even to the extent of pretending.

'The EC can issue all the threats it wants, but it’s just political noise.'

It isn't just the EC, as that article makes abundantly clear. The EU is uninterested in British desires, and is now making decisions with EU interests in mind. Interests that no long have anything to do with British interests.

What leverage does the EU hold to force the UK to start the clock soon? What's stopping the UK from taking their time with this?

'What leverage does the EU hold to force the UK to start the clock soon?'

Um, the EU is the one doing the kicking out of the house after a divorce has been chosen? The EU feels it is in the EU's interest to end uncertainty as quickly as possible, regardless of what the British wish. They need no leverage at all - the British are becoming non-members, who have the all the same rights and privileges as all other non-members. That is, the UK has pretty much nothing, and the EU does not care about leverage in telling the UK what will happen in the eyes of the EU.

The leave voters have taken back control, only to discover that no one in the EU cares in the least what the leave voters want.

Right. And if the EU's best case was for the UK to remain a member, its second best case isn't far from what North has laid out.

I am struck by how many people simultaneously praise the EU as a bunch of Solons, and also portray them as petulant fools who would harm their own interests out of spite.

Going back to a trading relationship is the obvious "Perfect for no-one, but acceptable to all" solution.

The problem: Turning to Google for answers to questions of the day as if it were your mother and you're seven?

Unlike the Delphi, Google does not answer . But it does take you to a large number of relevant positions on all sides.

The problem: lazily checking google trends and passing it off as "journalism."

Alex, if you believe that the common people are stupid and ill-informed, how exactly do you expect them to govern themselves in the absence of state coercion? Will a pull-back of the government's reach lead all these fools to suddenly become enlightened?

I'm completely neutral on Brexit, but it's truly disgusting the way that chattering class holds the common man in contempt. Reading Rampell's twitter, it's clear that she actively hopes that the British suffer as punishment for not voting the way she wanted them to.

Agreed. What else have many in the chattering class got to contribute of any value, if not herd signalling.

The chattering classes have come about every one of their views from careful reflection and analysis of all of the relevant information. The common man was led to his by stupidity, or perhaps by his dad, or perhaps by his stupid dad.

Thank you for the laugh.

The "common man" in Britian is far more likely to be a taker than an analyst or banker in London. Why shouldn't the more productive members of Britain's economy be wary of the unwashed masses?

So renounce universal Democracy all together?

Nobody's talking about taking away the right to vote. Just that the makers in London have nothing to gain from the takers in old coal or steel towns.

Then what does "be wary of the unwashed masses" mean?

Give them plenty of heroin, but don't let them make important policy decisions.

"Give them plenty of heroin, but don’t let them make important policy decisions."

How is that different than renouncing universal Democracy?

Does this scale? Because my super patrician grandma doesn't understand why people who earn a salary get to have their say. After all anyone working to pay the mortgage can't really develop a rational unbiased vision of the political issues of the day. Basicslly she has the same contempt for the Observers of the world as they have for the poor. As she's a lot more charming and rich than them.

Chill out people.
Its the UK not China!

Seems like that graph applies as much to the Remainers.

They also don't know what will happen if the UK leaves the EU, and didn't bother to find out, perhaps seeing it as beneath the possible, and so can't and couldn't really make a case for it.

I am presuming Tabarrok has more intelligence than the simple minded reading of this would suggest lets on and he is aware of this.

(Although being Tabarrok, I also assume the real point he is implying is actually "Democracy just ain't no good").

clear victory for guts over minds

Well, yes, that is amusing. But I think it is most likely to be people who were sure that Remain would win, who now want to know the mechanics of leaving.

Hyperbolic discounting

No vertical axis, so I assum the rise from 1 person to 20 people googling the phrase is essentially irrelephant


Disgraceful to not have a vertical scale.

Exactly. Putting alternative search terms into Google Trends shows that this search is an invisible blip compared to things like the 2016 Euro Championships or Game of Thrones, as illustrated here.

Amazing to watch bias cause ordinarily rational people to swallow bad statistics like anti-vaxers.

Maybe because the EU is so abstract no one is quite sure how it actually improves/harms their lives......

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