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

9780691138732
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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. With the upcoming presidential election season drawing nearer, this thought-provoking book is sure to spark a long-overdue reappraisal of our elective system.

Cover:
Paperback
Edition Number:
1
ISBN:
9780691138732
Pages:
296
Author:
Caplan Bryan
Publisher:
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS
Release Year:
2007

Bryan Douglas Caplan (born April 8, 1971) is an American economist. Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and frequent contributor to Freakonomics as well as publishing his own blog, EconLog. He is a self-described economic libertarian. The bulk of Caplan's academic work is in behavioral economics and public economics, especially public choice theory.


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