Many of our ebooks are available through library electronic resources including these platforms:. The greatest obstacle to sound economic policy is not entrenched special interests or rampant lobbying, but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases held by ordinary voters. Boldly calling into question our most basic assumptions about American politics, Caplan contends that democracy fails precisely because it does what voters want. The Myth of the Rational Voter takes an unflinching look at how people who vote under the influence of false beliefs ultimately end up with government that delivers lousy results. Bryan Caplan suggests some provocative, and highly original, answers.
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My thoughts:. While the public perennially exhibits what I call anti-market and anti-foreign biases, is egregious. Sanders is anti-market bias personified, Trump is anti-foreign bias personified. After bleakly assessing public opinion, The Myth of the Rational Voter argues that democracies normally deliver substantially better policies than the public wants. In , one of the main dilution mechanisms has badly failed: Using social pressure to check and exclude hard-line demagogues.
Fortunately, most of the other dilution mechanisms remain intact. Most notably: a While the public often likes crazy policies, they resent the disastrous consequences of those crazy policies. This gives politicians a strong incentive for felicitous hypocrisy once they gain power — especially when contemplating policy change. As a puritan , Sanders revolts me and Trump horrifies me. Even impotent populism makes my flesh crawl. The spectacle of populism-with-a-prayer-of-a-chance has already lost me hours of sleep.
Trump in particular keeps intruding on my Bubble. Flesh crawling aside, the actual consequences of a Trump or Sanders presidency remain shrouded. But I can also easily imagine four years of gridlock. But his macho persona and casual remarks seem more predictive than his public statements. None of the candidates would survive serious scrutiny, but Sanders and Trump would be thrown out as soon as they delivered one short speech.
Suppose an Hispanic version of Donald Trump were thrilling Hispanic voters. Call him Donaldo Trumpo. Opponents of immigration would plausibly fear that El Donaldo is a classic strongman plotting to turn the U. And they would hasten to the inference that Hispanics are fundamentally authoritarian and unfit for democracy. For instance, strong Libertarian views might strike me as irrational just as strong social Democrat views strike you as irrational.
And yet…. Even if Libertarian views are closer to the median Republican which was the conventional wisdom before Trump , a Libertarian voter supporting Mitt Romney over Gary Johnson, because she recognizes that that Romney is a lesser evil than a sure loss to even a neoliberal Democrat, strikes me as a rational act.
We have a media and education system that is almost unanimously liberal. The anti-foreign bias identified in the book was related to international trade deficit, not immigration. Immigration is different because it can bring social and political externalities that mere long distance trade does not. It could just be a rational response to those social and political externalities. You claim that voter distraction, or short attention span is responsible for ameliorating the bad policies that voters prefer.
I think that the role of lobbyists also plays a part. Politicians need to convince voters that they think as they do, but politicians still listen to lobbyists. And when really bad ideas become the rage, people like the Koch brothers can help counter that with donations to organizations that support more reasoned policies.
All that could change if Hillary gets her chance to overturn Citizens United. Actually, the whites voting for Trump are finally exhibiting a rational awareness of the way mass immigration is leading to their dispossession as a people.
They are becoming aware that their group interests, economically speaking, are threatened by mass immigration from non-whites interested in pursuing their own ethnic interests, assisted by the diversity regime which now dominates the United States. Is your conception of anti-foreign bias totally focused on international trade and immigration?
Molyneux is one of a very small handful of people who displays courage and honesty of the issues surrounding mass immigration. Bryan is fairly educated on these topics — IQ, its heritability and group differences, criminality, culture, institutional degradation, etc. Did you know Dani Rodrik is voting for Bernie Sanders? Is Dani Rodrik irrational?
Will Wilkinson has also implied that he may vote for Bernie Sanders as well. I think rational people can disagree! Trump and Sanders supporters generally are more likely to argue on the basis of aura and narrative, with little mention of policy positions or articulated reasons. I am better off for being able to buy cheaply made foreign goods or goods made cheaply by foreigners here. Trump is regress. Racialist demagogues like Al Sharpton have only helped to stunt their communities; the last thing anyone needs is a white Al Sharpton in other words, a Trump.
You may be better eating your strawberries, but the whites who compete with cheaper labour, the white middle class paying for more services to support masses of immigrants, deal with crime, etc, etc, is not better off.
What Al Sharpton and most black leaders demonstrate, including Hispanic and Jewish leaders, is a predilection to promote the interests of their group, while expecting Whites to play only individualist strategies.
And there is no denying that only Whites have a stronger disposition to act apart from groups in the name of universal ideals. Europeans, particularly Northern Europeans, are the least collectivist of all peoples, which is leading to their colonization by hordes of aggressive-collectivist Muslims.
Trump is expressing, implicitly, White identity. Please try to make correct attributions when quoting other commenters in the thread. Email the webmaster econlib. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk.
Yes, political externalities work both ways. I am an out atheist, and there are many countries in the world where it would be illegal to express my views — and 13 of them would execute me for it.
So forgive me if I fear immigration by people who would have me killed. Calm your fears. Economists mere social scientists, remember , are not entirely innocent of developing and promulgating this false belief.
If only people were widgets, then they might be on to something. After all, better to be on the outskirts of the Inner Party s than risk being cast adrift, right?
Also, in my field, most of the people I compete with for jobs are white or Asian. Cheap immigrant labor increases my purchasing power. An influx of educated European immigrants, on the other hand, might reduce my wages. A country full of collectivists belonging to different warring collectives is not a recipe for a prosperous or harmonious or free society. Do you prefer it to the status quo? Those states in Europe possessing a high degree of ethnic homogeneity, where ancestors had lived for generations — England, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark — were the ones with the strongest liberal traits, constitutions and institutions.
On the other hand, those states or empires like the Austro-Hungarian Empire composed of multiple ethnic groups were the ones enraptured by illiberal forms of ethnic nationalism and intense rivalries over identities and political boundaries. This is fascinating and a bit strange to see a passionate defender of the middle of the road. My thought is that when giant obstructions block the road, one must choose to swerve left or right sadly up or down does not seem to be a political option.
This was an interesting article to read for the comments as well. It used to be that you could read William F. From that point of view one can at least better define the issues. Sanders too is not great on immigration or war. He derided open boarders as a Koch idea and he proposed supporting a Sunni Muslim collision in Syria.
He is also very much against trade with foreigners and rails against jobs lost due to international trade. One more thing since the most important issues to me are literal war and the drug war I must consider Trump. Trump is less likely to bomb or put troops in Syria and more likely to end the war on drugs. Myth of the Rational Voter My thoughts: 1. Categories: Behavioral Economics Political Economy. Tim Mar 1 at am. Tom Jackson Mar 1 at am.
RPLong Mar 1 at am. Tom Jackson — the myth of the rational reader? Richard Mar 1 at am. AS Mar 1 at am. LD Bottorff Mar 1 at am. Thomas Mar 1 at am. Don Boudreaux Mar 1 at pm. Frans Alexander Mar 1 at pm. Levi Russell Mar 1 at pm. D Mar 1 at pm. John Hamilton Mar 1 at pm. Mark Mar 1 at pm.
Frans Alexander Mar 2 at am. Dwayne Woods Mar 2 at am. Doug S. Mar 2 at pm. Mark Mar 2 at pm.
The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
My thoughts:. While the public perennially exhibits what I call anti-market and anti-foreign biases, is egregious. Sanders is anti-market bias personified, Trump is anti-foreign bias personified. After bleakly assessing public opinion, The Myth of the Rational Voter argues that democracies normally deliver substantially better policies than the public wants. In , one of the main dilution mechanisms has badly failed: Using social pressure to check and exclude hard-line demagogues. Fortunately, most of the other dilution mechanisms remain intact. Most notably: a While the public often likes crazy policies, they resent the disastrous consequences of those crazy policies.
The Myth of the Rational Voter
The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies is a book by the economist Bryan Caplan , in which the author challenges the idea that voters are reasonable people whom society can trust to make laws. Rather, Caplan contends that voters are irrational in the political sphere and have systematically biased ideas concerning economics. Throughout the book, Caplan focuses on voters' opinion of economics since so many political decisions revolve around economic issues immigration , trade , welfare , economic growth , and so forth. Using data from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy SAEE , Caplan categorizes the roots of economic errors into four biases : anti-market, anti-foreign, make-work , and pessimistic. Caplan refers to the anti-market bias as a "tendency to underestimate the benefits of the market mechanism.