The myth of the rational voter

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies

the myth of the rational voter

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies is a book by Bryan Caplan, in which the author challenges the idea that voters are.

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In theory, democracy is a bulwark against socially harmful policies. In practice, however, democracies frequently adopt and maintain policies that are damaging. How can this paradox be explained? The influence of special interests and voter ignorance are two leading explanations. I offer an alternative story of how and why democracy fails. The central idea is that voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational -and they vote accordingly. Despite their lack of knowledge, voters are not humble agnostics; instead, they confidently embrace a long list of misconceptions.

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. This is economist Bryan Caplan's sobering assessment in this provocative and eye-opening book. Caplan argues that voters continually elect politicians who either share their biases or else pretend to, resulting in bad policies winning again and again by popular demand. Boldly calling into question our most basic assumptions about American politics, Caplan contends that democracy fails precisely because it does what voters want. Through an analysis of Americans' voting behavior and opinions on a range of economic issues, he makes the convincing case that noneconomists suffer from four prevailing biases: they underestimate the wisdom of the market mechanism, distrust foreigners, undervalue the benefits of conserving labor, and pessimistically believe the economy is going from bad to worse. Caplan lays out several bold ways to make democratic government work better--for example, urging economic educators to focus on correcting popular misconceptions and recommending that democracies do less and let markets take up the slack. 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.

This story is clearly comforting, but is it correct? In The Myth of the Rational Voter , my forthcoming book with Princeton University Press, I review a large body of evidence and conclude that the answer is definitely no. Like moths to the flame, voters gravitate to the same mistakes. There is convincing evidence that the public holds systematically biased beliefs about toxicology and cancer. For their debate to make sense, both sides have to claim knowledge about a what the average voter believes, and b which belief is true.

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The Myth of the Rational Voter

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies is a book by Bryan Caplan , in which the author challenges the idea that voters are reasonable people that 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. He also categorises a few major misconceptions associated with this bias: 1 a view that market payments are transfers rather than incentives, 2 a belief in a monopoly theory of price, where firms impose prices on consumers without recourse.

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5 thoughts on “The myth of the rational voter

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