|May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)|
|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
|News||Inverted Totalitarism||Recommended Books||Recommended Links||Elite Theory||The Iron Law of Oligarchy||Pluralism as a myth||Myth about intelligent voter|
|Corporatism||Libertarian Philosophy||Neo-Liberalism||Neo-conservatism||Principal–agent problem - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia||Skeptic Quotations||Humor||Etc|
|It's not a matter of whether the war is not real, or if it is, Victory is not
possible. The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous.
Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed.
In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact.
-- George Orwell
You can make people do anything if they're afraid.
"Myth about intelligent/rational voter" is pretty widespread despite many books that convincingly prove that this is a myth and that people are able consistently vote against their own interests including this virtual economic interests (in other words are easily brainwashed). There are some interesting facts on the ground that disprove this myth (Washington Post, ):
Two books on the subject that deserve attention are
There is one book with neoclassical perspective on the subject (and as such completely off the mark) but at least Amazon reviews (especially negative one start reviews ;-) are well worth reading:
The Myth of the Rational Voter Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies by Bryan CaplanGaetan Lion:The Myth Caplan is rational, July 20, 2010
Caplan's thesis seems sensible. The voters are irrational as they have systematic biases including anti-market bias, anti-foreigner bias, anti-trade (or pro-protectionism) bias, and pro make-work bias. In turn, the voters elect politicians that reflect their biases. And, politicians execute detrimental social policies that reflect the biases of the voters. However, Caplan thesis is wrong on numerous counts.
First, the voters are not irrational. They are ignorant of counter-intuitive economic concepts. Those are two different things. One entails voters are crazy; they are not. The other entails they don't know macroeconomics; and they truly don't.
Second, politicians govern to get reelected. And, their main master is the economy as measured by GDP growth, inflation, and unemployment. Whether they are responsible or not for such indicators, politicians will suffer the blame or get credit for them. The pressure of delivering a strong economic performance easily overcomes any of the biases Caplan mentions.
Third, on economic policy it is often technocrats, not elected by voters, who run the show. Politicians are mainly lawyers not economists. On complex macroeconomic policies technocrats control the agenda. The main two ones are the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. These two pretty much dictate fiscal and monetary policies respectively. They also work jointly in times of crisis. A good example is the recent financial crisis. The various bail outs, fiscal stimulus, TARP plan, etc... were not initiated by George Bush or Obama. They were orchestrated by Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury under Bush, and his successor Timothy Geithner, and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Fed. The public's strong anti-bank populist sentiment had no influence whatsoever on the implementation of those bail outs. Thus, recent history represents a devastating blow to Caplan's theory.
Fourth, international trade is another area that trumps Caplan's theories. His favorite theoretical examples address voters bias for protectionism and import tariffs. But, matters of international trade are now almost entirely subordinated to supranational entities such as the WTO. Additionally, you can't find a nation more in favor of free trade than the U.S. The latter has signed bilateral free trade agreements with North America (NAFTA) and many other countries. This is another embarrassing rebuttal to Caplan's theories that voters' biases result into poor economic policies. They don't. Political leaders and technocrats ignore voters' sentiments whenever they have to.
Fifth, Caplan's faith in the markets appears delusional. In his view, because democracy results in poor policies reflecting irrational voters' biases, you need an alternative. And, his alternative is the market. Quoting Caplan: "If people are rational as consumers but irrational as voters, it is a good idea to rely more on markets and less on politics." The timing of his libertarian manifesto could not have been worse. It gets published in 2007 just as we experience two spectacular market failures. The first one had been brewing up for decades: the health care crisis. That's where we found out that an unrestrained for profit health care system does not work. The second market failure was the aftermath of financial deregulation that had taken place over a decade and resulted in the current financial crisis. We should also add the recent market failure of unregulated deep sea oil drilling (the BP incident). So, for Caplan to state we should replace government by markets whenever we can is irrational.
Sixth, another weakness of Caplan's theory is that he uses data that is often over 20 years out of date. Such is the case, when he states that the elderly are less supportive of Social Security than the remainder of the public. He also states that women are less pro-choice than men. Had Caplan used current findings, it is likely that the opposite would be true.
Additionally, Caplan trips himself over basic economic concepts. Just as he goes on that economists are so smart and the rest of us are not; he demonstrates he is himself not so clear on economic concepts. Thus, when he attempts to teach us the basics of labor specialization he immediately contradicts himself. Quoting him on page 17: "If Crusoe's belief is correct, he wisely specializes in agriculture and has Friday do other kinds of work. But, if Crusoe's belief is blind to prejudice, keeping Friday out of agriculture reduces total production and makes both men poorer." As you noticed, whether Crusoe is correct or prejudice, the result is exactly the same.
David Moore wrote a far superior book pretty much on the same subject: The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls. Moore's main point is that the public is often unqualified to answer polling questions. Meanwhile, such polls are mistaken for the voice of the Nation. But, again ignorance and craziness are not the same thing. Moore understands that. Caplan does not.
Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" (Phoenix, AZ.)
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and Adds Nothing to Today's Issues, October 1, 2007
"The greatest obstacle to social economic policy is not entrenched special interests but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs and personal biases of ordinary voters." I thought that was a good introduction and eagerly dived in. Then it all fell apart, beginning with page 1 and Caplan's assumption that free trade is unequivocally good for America.
Clearly free trade was good for America just after WWII when we were the only industrial entity of any consequence standing. Want cars, steel, electronics, refrigerators, TVs - whatever, we had it and they probably didn't. So Americans made out like bandits.
Today, its the Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Japanese, etc. who are raking in the benefits. While Americans lose jobs, pensions, health care coverage, and move to lower-paying jobs, economists remain isolated in their 18th century theories of free-trade developed in an era of only minor differences in standards of living, wage levels, and major limitations in communication speed and transportation.
On a macro level, Americans are also losing manufacturing capacity and skills. Shocked to see a senior Mattel executive publicly apologizing to the Chinese over issues leading to the recall of Chinese manufactured toys? Undoubtedly the Chinese have more than a little power over Mattel (and other toy makers), given that at least 75% of toys are now "Made in China" and we would have difficulty quickly substituting our own capabilities for theirs. In WWII the U.S. turned the tide of battle with its ability to mass-produce quality armaments. Today we have difficulty producing IED resistant vehicles and the most effective body armor.
The dollar's purchasing power is already another victim of today's free trade, with potentially far worse declines possible. Suppose we now suddenly decided to "bite the bullet," stop buying most low-cost items from China and reinvigorate our own manufacturing? Would China threaten retaliation by dumping the trillions of dollar IOUs they hold, wrecking our currency? Could we afford that risk?
Perhaps economists (including Caplan) will join the 21st century when Asian economists begin taking their jobs via Internet instruction in American colleges and universities. It is time to update their popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases.
Don't confuse us with the facts!" June 8, 2007
Many people have noted that democracy seems not to work - policies are implemented that often are not in the best interest of voters, and when voters are surveyed they routinely lack even the most basic civic knowledge. The way people have typically answered this problem is to say that voters are uninformed, and that if they simply had more access to good information, they would use that information to make better choices. But even so, the tiny informed minority will sway elections because the uninformed majority will vote at random.
Here, Caplan directly challenges that view by asserting that voters are not simply ignorant but irrational, and that this is in fact predicted by economic theory. Voting is not like shopping - it is more like making use of a commons, because the costs of a "bad" vote are borne by the public at large, and the chance of an individual casting the deciding vote is tiny. Therefore, people will vote for what makes them feel good without bothering to find out whether it really is good - it simply doesn't matter.
... ... ...
The key idea here is that de facto educated people are not needed as voters so "diffusing" the vote to encompass a mass of uneducated people you get the situation similar when only top 1% has the right to elect. Intelligent voters are dangerous because they are heavier than control and manipulate (and if that means dismantling public education system so be it -- interest of oligarchy are more important).
What is important for elite is an illusion of choice not the choice itself. That simulates the sense of belonging for "shmaks" (aka red necks). Media, in this case is just a part of feedback control loop to manipulate the "dark masses" (aka shmaks), and the more ignorant people, the easier it is through such a control loop enables manipulation. Of course, neither of which involved such a dark reality of the population to the real issues of governance and the economy, it is not even going. After all we can't make happy all the people. So de facto, access to education is a powerful mean to make existing stratification of the society permanent. Of course, this policy creates fundamental and unavoidable conflict with the requests for social justice. And as a result can lead to periodic shocks when masses slip out of control due to some gross injustice like financial crisis of 2008.
Actually this is what Russian elite (or at least part of Russian elite) openly proposes. Look at the transcript o Gref (the chairman of Sberbank). Recommended reading in order to better understand the real views of the ruling elite in the development and management and not to fall into some vain illusions. The second point here is that all those US cries about threats to democracy in Russia are the same cries that wolves do when they are deprived from guarding chickens. The was never democracy in Russia since 1991 and never will be as there is no democracy is the USA and never will be any. The only differences is the methods of rotation of elite (and is this sense Russia is much more democratic then the USA).
Yeltsin criminal regime was a dictatorship of comprador oligarchy centered around gangster syndicate of "Komsomol banksters" (Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, Gusinsky and Co.). Shock therapy, methods of privatization used (under the direction of Harvard academic skunks) and shelling parlament proves that 100%. It was just economic rape of the country from which it did not fully recover. Actually under Yeltsin GDP dropped to level lower then during invasion of Hitler armies in WW2.
Putin partially dismounted this in favor of energy and military-industrial complex oligarchy. In a way his regime somewhat similar to George W Bush regime but with different personality and less hate toward middle class and common folks. As well as without subservience to neo-conservatives. But it looks like the same energy and military-industrial oligarchy bonsais rules the country. Medvedev tried to sit between two chairs. I think that's why Kudrin opposed growing milirary expenditures.
And this hysterical circus about votes falsifications is actually a perfect method to push voters to vote again their own economic and political interests. Consensus is very fragile as the county has huge unsolved problems. And hostility of the USA toward Russia which was quite determined to kill wondered foe should not be underestimated.
We have an example in a struggle between corrupt and criminal comprador oligarchy leaded by Yutchshenko-Timoshenko allies and industrial part of the oligarchy led by Yanokovich. In this case voters were quite successfully brainwashed. With the help of western money and consultants Yanukovich criminal past became a huge factor.
In other words common folds are always duped. For example millions of Americans who were taken for a ride by Bush II presidential campaign scripted from the pages of Niccolo Machiavelli’s "The Prince." The father of Realpolitik famously observed that “politics have no relations to morals,” and this aphorism serves as the motto for George Bush and company. Richard Nixon once remarked, “You can’t fool all of the people, all of the time, but if you fool them once, it lasts for four years.”
Apr 27, 2017 | www.usatoday.com
The fact of the matter is that too many Trump supporters do not hold the president responsible for his mistakes or erratic behavior because they are incapable of recognizing them as mistakes. They lack the foundational knowledge and basic political engagement required to know the difference between facts and errors, or even between truth and lies.
"(and maybe we could replace the insulting euphemism "low information voters" with "differently-informationed voters." Or something)."
How about "insufficiently bamboozled voters"?
Given that all these nice, affluent women voters who apparently had NO IDEA much of the country has been ravaged by Democratic Party policies, they are the people who should have the "low information" label hung around their necks for the foreseeable future. They also seem to have very little understanding how how elections work, how American government works, etc.
Low Information, High Credential voters (LIHC): ugly acronym, uglier impact.
Sep 22, 2016 | www.vanityfair.com(Re Silc). "Interestingly, the biggest drag on Trump among this group was his verbal treatment of women."
"Let's start by giving Donald Trump every state that Romney won in 2012, even North Carolina where, as of Thursday morning, Clinton had a narrow lead in the RCP average of polls in that state. That would give Trump 245 electoral votes to Clinton's 293, with 270 needed to win. Now let's give Trump every state where Clinton's RCP average lead was less than 3 points, thus putting Iowa, Nevada, Florida, and Ohio in Trump's column. Clinton would then lead 273-265 and still be in the winner's circle. Now let's assume that Trump wins Maine's second congressional district, which would narrow her lead to 272 to 266. To be clear, I do not think that Trump will sweep North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, Florida, and Ohio. For that matter, he is struggling to keep his lead in places like Arizona and Georgia. These include New Hampshire, where the RCP average gives Clinton a 5-point edge, Pennsylvania a 6.2-point lead, Michigan a 5.6-point lead, and Virginia a 3.7-point lead" [ Cook Political Report ] [dusts hands]. "The key thing to think about in the coming weeks is who the election is really about. For most of the past three months, it was a referendum on Trump, and he was losing. The last couple of weeks, the race has been about Clinton and she has been losing ground as a result." The political class cannot concieve of the idea that the election might be a referendum on them . And that a narrow win will not be enough to allow them to retain the mandate of heaven.
"The larger explanation for the Trump phenomenon is even more unsettling for Washington's political class, especially the media. They have lost their power" [ Politico ]. No, they haven't. But they are frantic to retain it. "Only a decade or two ago, the media world was confined to a group of people in D.C. and New York-a group that largely knew each other, mingled in the same places, vacationed in the same locales. The most influential members of the group routinely defined what constituted a gaffe, others echoed that view, and it became the conventional wisdom for the rest of America. In the age of the Internet, with bloggers spread out across the nation, and multiple platforms across the political spectrum, that's no longer possible. The growing divergence between these 'insiders' and the new 'outsiders' has played to Trump's benefit, every single time he made what was once conceived as a 'game-changing' error." Hmm. I remember 2003-2006 very well, when bloggers were going to do just this. That was going to happen until it didn't. In other words, I don't think it's bloggers and platforms that are the drivers; aspirational 10%-ers, as it were. It's a solid chunk of the 90% being mightily ticked off (though ticked off in ways appropriate to their various conditions). And that's not going to change.
"Thus Clinton's peculiar predicament. She has moved further left than any modern Democratic nominee, and absorbed the newer left's Manichaean view of the culture war" [Ross Douthat, The New York Times ]. And "culture war" completely explains why all those bright young people were chanting the talking points of an elderly white male socialist delivering hour-long speeches on policy to ginormous rallies. If you want to see an utterly classic conflation of "liberal" and "left," read this. Douthat really is an idiot.
"View from the barber's chair: In Florida even blacks and Hispanics may be turning against Hillary Clinton" [ Independent ]. This is good, although using the word "safari" for encounters with Florida voters might not be an ideal choice of words.
UPDATE "There are three consistent features to all of conservative talk radio: Anger, Trump, and ads targeting the financially desperate" [ Chris Arnade ]. "The ads are a constant. Ads protecting against coming financial crisis (Surprise! It is Gold.) or ads that start, 'Having trouble with the IRS?' The obvious lessons being 1) Lots of conservative talk radio listeners are in financial distress. 2) They are willing to turn to scams."
UPDATE "[Squillionare Tom Steyer is] chipping in an additional $15 million to For Our Future, a joint effort among four labor unions and a super PAC he founded called Next Gen Climate. The money won't go to TV ads but to a door-to-door campaign that aims to knock on 2 million doors in seven swing states, encouraging "sporadic" voters to get to the polls" [ USA Today ]. Once again, if the Democrats didn't suck at basic party functions, they wouldn't have to suck up to squillionaires like this.
UPDATE "No matter who wins in November, America is going to face a divide unseen in decades. If Donald Trump wins, he will confront a resident media more hateful than that which confronted Richard Nixon in 1968" [Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative ]. "If Hillary Clinton wins, she will come to office distrusted and disbelieved by most of her countrymen, half of whom she has maligned either as "deplorables" or pitiful souls in need of empathy." A country Buchanan worked so tirelessly to unify! Still, the old reprobate has this right. If Clinton wins (likely modulo events, dear boy, events) and the Republicans retain the House and the Senate, they'll impeach her over some damned thing in the emails. And they'll be right.
UPDATE "Trump Boasts About Using 'Other People's Money' In Business" [ Talking Points Memo ]. History's worst monster!
UPDATE "A fuzzy screenshot of an email instructing people on how to disrupt internet groups is doing the rounds today, and it's worth having a really good look at. It's unclear where this particular handbook came from, and what particular groups they intend to target, but anyone who has been in Bernie, Green, or Libertarian groups will soon recognize these same tactics and patterns" [ Inquisitr ].
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Not withstanding showing an inadequate fiduciary responsibility to themselves, never mind others, to pursue degrees that may in fact have no value in society for gainful employment? All the while taking on ever more burdensome debt that may never be paid back in their lifetimes without needing their own form of bailouts or debt forgiveness in the future? All this as they rail about "Wall St." bailouts. Again, both sides should take a real hard look at not only these questions, but also the mirror.
At the end both sides were a little taken back and knocked of their own self-appointed pedestals (which is what I hoped for). For as I stated earlier, The "younger" side wasn't all that younger than the other. Many fit into the above from both sides. And you could see the wheels turning in their heads as they contemplated what I had just proposed.
So now, with all that said, do I think we should raise the voting age? No. Of course not. Again: That's not what I'm trying to argue.
What I am trying to bring to light is: Far too many today are acting like children when in fact they are older (I'll contend much older) than the many that not all that long ago set out and made a life for both themselves, as well as others. If I may be so bold I'll use an example in which I played my own part.
At 18 not only had the majority left school, many left at 16 or 17 never finishing (which is where I fell) and were out working odd or whatever jobs they could find. And trust me they were scarce in the 70's. Sometimes we worked as many as we could handle at once with little to no sleep in between because if you wanted to eat – that's what it took. (Many times I slept in my car, in the parking-lot as to not miss or be late. For a miss could mean being fired.)
There was no "going back home" to live with your parents. Many at 18 were confronted by very loving parents and asked point-blank "So you're 18 now. Have you thought about where your going to live?" Why? Because you were considered an adult in just about every aspect of life. And you had better of understood that or else life was going to get a whole lot tougher – sooner.
For many by the age of 19 to 21 they were married, and most had their first child. They had apartments they were responsible for paying rent, utilities, food, as well as upkeep in household chores. Whether they could barely afford it or not. Want to eat? You had better learn to cook and make a meal of whatever you had on hand. A lot of times what was "on hand" was more like a finger. But we all did just that. There was no complaining because – there was no alternative. And for every generation going back it was the same if not more harsh. Want an example? Compare today's employment prospects for a 20 something today as compared to someone the same age in let's say 1938?
By 25 most were in jobs that would turn out to be careers in one form or another. By 30 you were contemplating school districts for your kids, neighborhoods to raise them through high school and more. Today, there are more just shy of 30 (if not over) still living in their parents home with nothing more intense as to compare against a real word "family life" than a relationship that maybe lasted a year or so since college. The same may be for a job if that. All while under the guise of "Unless they can get a corner office with a title along with a smokin' hot spouse – there's no rush because – they aren't settling." As they remain in their parents home unemployed – and single.
Before: the case for voting at 18 could easily be argued. For at 18 you were directly at the receiving end of consequences for your votes. Today? At 18? Answer that honestly. Especially if you are one that fits into the above scenario that I outlined in the beginning.
Never mind what many deem as "the older generation." If you are right now 25-ish. Do you want any 18-year-old today that you know voting into law something that can directly impact you for what ever the reason? Especially if they seem directly indifferent to anything you may hold as dear? And there would be nothing you can do about it (whether you like it or not) because it would be enforced by all the power that comes from being law. Are you starting to understand why knowing the consequences and truly weighing them against alternative scenarios is important? Important as in say…voting?
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If we're going to have voting, it who can and cannot vote shouldn't be based on something that has little to do with understandinig how the government is supposed to work. How about a very rigorous test about what's in the constitution before letting a person vote? Raising the voting age wouldn't help much either, because a majority of the voters are not in the younger age groups.
Random selection of candidates for public office - AKA sortition - was utilized extensively by the Athenians; they felt it was a far more egalitarian process than elections, in which the rich could simply buy their way into office.
I guess those old Greeks knew a thing or two.
BTW, I just looked in my old European history text book from high school, and there is not ONE SINGLE WORD on sortition in the entire chapter on ancient Greece. Just the word "democracy" over and over. I wonder why that is...
In the modern age, we don't even need sortition. Just some open-source software that will perform the legislative function. Anyone who craves this much power over others is, by definition, a sociopath.
Lewis Black on selecting the next POTUS
Has to be better than the mega-$$$ billions shit show winding up once again!
Voting has an impact how?
Should be simple. It's scientificaly known today that the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 24. Before 24 humans have trouble identifying risk - a lot of the rogue traders were < 24.
18 was only chosen for historical reasons - male children of 18 were forcibly drafted into the military to fight in often pointless wars. In return these 18 year old males were given the right to vote.
The situation today is very different, 18 has only been chosen due to historical intertia - it should be raised to 24 as a first step.
There's a lot more wrong with our sociopolitical system than the voters. Until it is no longer a system by, for, and of the elite, there is absolutely no sense in casting a ballot. I will continue to decline my ballot and send the message that I have no trust or faith in system as contrived.
And Now, For Your Entertainment, The Ever Popular Duet, Wrack And Ruin!
The ruination of this country took place in 1913 with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act.
People bitching and moaning about Obama destroying America are simply delusional.
Do you actually think Romney would have done anything to help the American people?
Do you really think Obama is now, or has ever been, in charge?
This ostensible election was decided long ago.
The voters really had nothing to do with it.
The American people are played like a fiddle by those who call the tune.
Personally, I would rather have seen Jill Stein and the Green Party take over, but such scenarios are mere fantasy in neofascist America.
What we're getting is another four years of "stealthy" neofascism, as opposed to the republican, "in your face" variety, which is what a Romney administration would have most likely meant.
Getting Out the Vote and the Myth of the Stupid Voter
An important, highly intelligent and well-argued blog post at Open Left discusses the myth of "stupid voters" and the weaknesses of the Democratic Party in getting out the vote in elections. This is highly recommended reading. I would love to hear a response from an official Democratic Party official on it.
Key points made in the article:
Year in and year out, voter-discouragement is an important part of the ongoing Republican campaign.
The Democratic Party seems to fall asleep between elections, and it has been historically very poor at the kind of message development and dissemination done by think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Foundation, the Heritage Foundation
Democratic voter-registration and get-out-the-vote efforts have been spotty at best, and it's notable that the individuals and groups doing the best job of this (ACORN recently and Jesse Jackson a couple of decades ago) have been very little appreciated by the ruling group in the party.
The Democratic Party is a business like any other, and just as newspapers get their money from advertisers, and not from readers, the Democratic Party gets its money from donors rather than from voters. Bringing new voters from the lower orders into the party would almost certainly require policy proposals which would negatively impact the big-money people, and even if the Democratic Party started winning elections that way, the boodle coming in would be reduced, and boodle is what pays the mercenary pros at the party headquarters.
In large part this explains the constant refrain from the Democratic leadership: we'd like to do the right thing, but political realities make it impossible. The truth is that the Democratic leaders are very happy with the political realities and don't want to change them. If it were "politically possible" to pass single-payer, for example, the Democratic Party would lose incredible amounts of money from key donors in the medical biz. Single-payer might make the voters ecstatically happy, but these happy voters are not at all likely to replace the money the party lost.
Some food for thought the next time you hear someone invoke the theme of "we agree with what you say in principle but what you want is politically impossible."
div>Posted by redante at 4:24 AM ShareThis
Labels: Democratic Party, GOP Voter Suppression, Open Left, populism, voting div>
Bryan Caplanin a nutshell:
An economist explains how most of us don't think like economists.You've heard of the "intelligence of the masses" - well, when it comes to understanding and voting on policies related to the economy, the mass of America is not so intelligent, according to the author. Caplan explains how our biases and lack of economic savvy can lead to policies that make us worse off.
Jason FurmanAfter stints at The World Bank, Council of Economic Advisors, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the White House, Jason now heads up Brookings Institutions' Hamilton Project, which he does while somehow also teaching at NYU.
Here, Caplan directly challenges that view by asserting that voters are not simply ignorant but irrational, and that this is in fact predicted by economic theory. Voting is not like shopping - it is more like making use of a commons, because the costs of a "bad" vote are borne by the public at large, and the chance of an individual casting the deciding vote is tiny. Therefore, people will vote for what makes them feel good without bothering to find out whether it really is good - it simply doesn't matter. Caplan explores four systematic biases voters hold against good economic policy - antimarket bias, antiforeign bias, make-work bias, and pessimistic bias.
The fact that systematic bias exists means that the irrational majority does not in fact vote at random, so it's the irrational voters deciding who wins elections rather than the small, informed, rational minority. Voters get what they want, it's just that what they want is actually bad for them - and they don't care!
Caplan's take on democracy can by summarized as follows: first, he accepts two arguments FOR democracy by democratic enthusiasts, 1. voters are largely unselfish; 2. politicians usually comply with public opinion. He then adds his point: 3. voters are irrational (they have "systematically biased beliefs", or in layman's terms, they have false beliefs). Caplan develops a theoretical framework to prove that it is in fact rational for voters to be irrational because the "price" of their irrationality is low in politics.
The book mainly consists of the following themes: 1. the history of people's economic misconceptions; 2. empirical evidence of systematically biased beliefs; 3. the "rational irrationality" framework and why systematically biased beliefs lead to democratic failure; 4. prescription for overcoming democracy's weakness.
I think Caplan succeeds pretty admirably in 1, 2 and 3, but he is relatively terse at 4. But this is understandable: if you take his arguments seriously, then unless every voter (or at least the "median voter") has a Ph.D. in economics (in fact, she needs to be a libertarian economist!), the outcome of democracy will not be efficient. Increasing the electorate's education, etc. level will somewhat mitigate the situation, but as Caplan himself proves, this is hardly enough (education is not sufficient to eradicate all systematically biased beliefs).
As to the book itself, it is quite readable. I knew about his work before reading the book, what surprised me was how he mixed it with the history of economics with his own research, with quotes and all.
It's also interesting to note that (at least according to my observations) mainstream public choice (the economic approach of studying politics) economists tend to downplay Caplan's work, maybe it is because Caplan's work cuts to the core of public choice (the "rational choice" approach)? Or maybe they really think his work is not much different than rational ignorance? Now that his book seems to have gathered a lot of publicity, maybe others will take a second look.
The only weakness of the book is the part that he repudiates the accusation that economists have "market fundamentalism". His point is basically 1. markets, when free of failures, will lead to efficient outcome (first, "positive", premise); 2. Caplan does not say this, but in most economists' thinking, there is also an implicit second, or "normative" premise, which is that efficient outcome is desirable. In fact, most economists tend to shy away from this conclusion and maintain that they only specialize in cost/benefit analysis and do not make such judgment, but from their passionate, enthusiastic and sometimes vehement arguments for free market, it is not too difficult to detect such deep-rooted belief -- that "free market is good". 3. economists do not always assume there are no market failures, therefore they are not "market fundamentalists". But this is typical economists' thinking: in order to argue with them, you must accept their first premise first, and implicitly also accept the second premise, then the debate about "market fundamentalism" naturally reduces to argument about whether there are market failures. But, they are people who do not accept even the first premise, and there are more -- on moral grounds, etc. -- having difficulty accepting the second. I am not saying I agree with these people (but I have not been blinded by the ivory tower yet, so at least I know the existence of such people and such views). It is very typical of economists to not even acknowledge such views, or pretend they do not exist. It is not an easy task to face these people face-to-face, listen to their arguments, then come up with your own arguments to correct their "biased beliefs", but a good economist should not be daunted. However, this is not a big blemish in an otherwise well researched and well written book, so I am still giving it 5 stars.
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