So Much That Ain’t So

I don’t have much to say about the presidential primaries other than that I’m pleased by all the attention that Ron Paul’s candidacy has garnered for libertarian ideas. I hope that the enthusiasm extends beyond this election season. [Update: I wrote this before learning of the TNR hit-piece. I’m reserving judgment because I don’t know the facts. But, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.]

One other thing to pass along, however, is Bryan Caplan’s recent article debunking five oft-repeated myths about voting and elections. The myths are:

1. People vote their self-interest.

2. Unselfish voting will solve our problems.

3. Voters’ errors balance out.

4. Political disagreement is all about values.

5. Voters want serious change.

These are some of the points he makes in his great book: The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies

Everyone who cares about democracy should become familiar with his thesis.

If you don’t have time to read the whole book, you can get the gist of it from his Cato policy analysis, as well as the Cato Unbound discussion beginning with his lead essay.

Needless to say, I agree with him. I think most voters do, indeed, have persistent biases that lead to all of us getting bad policies enacted.

I’m not sure what to do about it. A good first step, though, is probably to recognize and understand the problem.

After that, if we’re to escape from this worsening situation, it seems that we’ll either need a radical transformation in which ideas are dominant in our culture, or some structural changes to our institutions, or (probably) both.


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