My facebook feed nowadays is so full of Brexit that I’m tempted to add my own commentary to it. The way I look at it is in terms of option valuation.
While the UK economy hasn’t been doing badly over the last five years (steady strictly positive growth), this growth hasn’t been uniform and a significant proportion of the population has felt left out.
Now, Brexit can have a negative impact on two counts – first, it can have a direct adverse impact on the UK’s GDP (and also Europe’s GDP). Secondly, it can have an adverse impact by increasing uncertainty.
Uncertainty is in general bad for business, and for the economy as a whole. It implies that people can plan less, which they compensate for by means of building in more slacks and buffers. And these slacks and buffers will take away resources that could’ve been otherwise used for growth, thus affecting growth more adversely.
While the expected value from volatility is likely to be negative, what volatility does is to shake things up. For someone who is currently “out of the money” (doing badly as things stand), though, volatility gives a chance to get “in the money”. There is an equal chance of going deeper out of the money, of course, but the small chance that volatility can bring them out of water (apologies for mixing metaphors) can make volatility appealing.
So the thing with the UK is that a large section of the population has considered itself to be “out of the money” in the last few years, and sees no respite from the existing slow and steady growth. From this background, volatility is a good thing, and anything that can shake things up deserves its chance!
And hence Brexit. It might lower overall GDP, and bring in volatility, but people hope that the mix of fortunes that stem from this volatility will affect them positively (and the negative effects go to someone else). From this perspective, the vote for Brexit is a vote of optimism, with voters in favour of Leave voting for the best possible outcome for themselves from the resulting mess.
In other words, each voter in the UK seems to have optimised for private best case, and hence voted for Brexit. Collectively, it might seem to be an irrational decision, but once you break it down it’s as rational as it gets!