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 reccomending 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.
This book is published by Princeton University Press.
"The best political book this year." (The New York Times)
"Caplan thinks that democracy as it is now practiced cannot be salvaged, and his position is based on a simple observation: 'Democracy is a commons, not a market.'" (The New Yorker)
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Not so great in audio format...
The concept of the book is excellent and one that I approached with much interest, being the Anarcho-Capitalist/Libertarian that I am. The book outlines the case for why decisions made in the free market are always more rational, sustainable, and mutually beneficial than ideas made in the electoral process. Unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to follow when you're listening to it as the author throws out a lot of statistics and gets sidetracked easily. It would probably be best read in paperback format.
Very dry and shallow, and made it all the more difficult to listen to this book as opposed to reading it.
Highly reccomend it as a read if you have spare time, but not worth the audio version unless you have a really good attention span.