Economics

New York Times: "Best Political Book This Year" Says Voters are Too Often Irrational

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I've been amazed at how much positive press the new book by economist Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, has gotten; not because it isn't a great book, but because it is very, very tough on the results of democracy (for reasons summed up in the title), and that's usually not a very popular position.

However, Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times today calls it "the best political book this year." The forthcoming October issue of reason will feature an excerpt from this "best political book this year."

Some past blogging at Hit and Run on Caplan's book. Caplan himself blogs at Econlog.

NEXT: Roughshod for Ron

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  1. It is that sweet spot argument that can say whatever you want it to say.

    Left leaning fans will argue that it favors a technocratic regulatory regime. This is a fallacy because the technocrats are elected by democratic means, but this is the same fallacy that forms the core of benevolent government types already.

    Libertarian leaning fans will argue that it favors less regulatory responsibility put up to a vote. This strikes me as a more reasonable argument and where Caplan is actually coming from.

  2. Haven’t read the book, but the title alone tells me why it’s getting good press. If voters are irrational, then then “need” enlightened leadership to tell them what they should have chosen for themselves. My bet is most of the people who will discuss the book in public will not actually have read it, but will instead use it as an argument for why their policies (which the electorate have chosen not to select) should be imposed by judicial or regulatory fiat. Behind most people claiming to support democracy is a secret longing for oligarchy in which the demos is controlled by the enlightened elite that support the policies those individuals like.

    I have some friends who are die-hard Massachusetts liberals who want to impeach Bush. They don’t ever seem to see that if they can give the power to people to do what they want, they have by that fact created a situation in which power can be used to achieve what they don’t want. The only way to get id of what they don’t want is to give up what they do want…

    The same attitude was summed up in a bumper sticker I saw on Saturday that blew my mind:

    [In BIG Letters that take up two lines]: GET OUR TROOPS
    [in smaller letters after that line]: Out of Iraq / Into Darfur

    How do you argue with that mindset?

  3. I wonder how many people get past the title and actually read the book?

  4. I haven’t read the book, but I’m a little unclear as to why the idea that democracies don’t always choose the best policies or vote in the best leaders is being treated as some sort of revelation.

  5. Untermensch,

    To argue with that “mindset,” you actually have to get into the scary, mysterious world of thinking about issues on their merits.

  6. I think it goes back to the not-irrelevant and not merely semantic “democracy vs. republic” debate. We have a republic because we cannot trust the people to (directly) govern themselves. Problem is, we elect (and are stuck with) power-hungry morons because no sane person will enter politics.

  7. OK, I’ve thought about the merits of invading Sudan. Didn’t take long, might try it more often.

  8. Okay guys, you are NOT reading past the title! Voters do vote on the merits of the issues. They do think things through. All else being the same, they ARE rational. The two big problems are erroneous biases and the gross externalities of democracy itself.

    People vote for bad policies because they WANT those bad policies! Any kindergartner can tell you that. Unfortunately we have been steeped in the religion of democracyism and refuse to see its inherent flaws. Ignorant people should not be voting. As long as there are more ignorant people than educated people voting, we will continue to have ignorant policies.

  9. I just finished the book. Really good, but a bit more math and a few more charts than I was expecting. He argues that our democracy is functioning exactly as its supposed to, if by “supposed to” you mean giving the majority what it wants. Which, as it turns out, is protectionism, rent controls, minimum wage increases, and restrinctions on immigration. The fact that almost all economists think that these hurt the majority of people is beside the point, since voters don’t think like economists. They vote what makes them feel good, not necessarily what’s in their best interest. There’s no incentive for the average voter to educate himself, since his one vote doesn’t make a difference. Caplan quotes H.L. Menken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

  10. To argue with that “mindset,” you actually have to get into the scary, mysterious world of thinking about issues on their merits.

    Translation:
    We should get out of the bloody quagmire in Iraq and into a bloody quagmire in Sudan because of liberal good intensions. Whereas going into Iraq was because of conservative (i.e. neocon) good intensions.

  11. To argue with that “mindset,” you actually have to get into the scary, mysterious world of thinking about issues on their merits.

    Yes, but always thinking about particular issues seems to blind many people to the brain-hurting, abstract world of thinking about what is wrong or right about the general political system.

  12. NAL, you beat me to the “translate joe” punch.

    I agree with Untermensch; most positive reactions to the book will most likely come from an elitist viewpoint of the title, and not having RTFB (I have not RTFB).

    There are a lot of people out there who think they would create paradise on earth if just given the power to put their ideas in place.

    The fact that most of these peoples’ lives are a fucking shambles doesn’t even make them think twice that they might not know what the hell they are doing.

  13. …not because it isn’t a great book, but because it is very, very tough on the results of democracy…

    Maybe this is part of the answer to the question about why so many people think we’re on the wrong track. …maybe people just have a bad feeling about politics being the solution to their problems generally.

    …and then maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

  14. Democracy’s fatal flaw is that, as government power and scope expands, people must agree on more and more things that don’t actually involve protecting anyone’s natural rights from the aggression of others (protections that very few people—even libertarians—disagree on)… and if 49% don’t agree, the other 51% simply uses the coercive power of the state to force compliance with their point of view.

    Democracy would probably work acceptably if its use were limited to the creation of legislation prohibiting actual violations of natural rights. How to get from here to there, especially when it seems that most people are libertarians about their own passions and tyrants about others’.

    Kyle

  15. Yeah Ken, wishful thinking. I think it’s the opposite, government is not doing enough to solve their problems. Damn it, I still have problems, it’s the governments fault! It’s the I’m too lame therefore I need government to do it for me syndrome.

    It’s like Obama’s speech at the 2004 democratic convention. He wants to end the gap between the have and have not, and the have not crowd is depending on it. Instead of doing it themselves.

  16. Richard,

    Best damn summary I’ve seen so far.

  17. Which, as it turns out, is protectionism, rent controls, minimum wage increases, and restrinctions on immigration. The fact that almost all economists think that these hurt the majority of people is beside the point, since voters don’t think like economists.

    I don’t think economists are in nearly as much agreement about such things as you’re saying here.

  18. “””Democracy would probably work acceptably if its use were limited to the creation of legislation prohibiting actual violations of natural rights.”””

    I think that would hit a wall after we elected people who would argue the semantics of “natural rights”. In a similar way that they are doing with the word torture, and “the program the President dicussed”.

    I think a big problem for us is that we are more interested in playing partisan politics than doing anything right.

  19. Tricky Vic,

    But people must be some sense of futility. It isn’t like the government hasn’t been doing its level best to spend all it can over the past few years.

  20. Democracy would probably work acceptably if its use were limited to the creation of legislation prohibiting actual violations of natural rights.

    Wasn’t that the entire point of a written Constitution?

  21. Okay guys, you are NOT reading past the title! Voters do vote on the merits of the issues. They do think things through. All else being the same, they ARE rational. The two big problems are erroneous biases and the gross externalities of democracy itself.

    Caplan’s point is that the average voter is epistemically irrational, not that they are instrumentally irrational. It’s the difference between knowing the earth is round and knowing how to get from point A to point B.

  22. I’m a little unclear as to why the idea that democracies don’t always choose the best policies or vote in the best leaders is being treated as some sort of revelation.

    Cue Winston Churchill.

  23. “Democracy would probably work acceptably if its use were limited to the creation of legislation prohibiting actual violations of natural rights.”

    What would be the point of democracy then if the decision about what the government can and cannot do has already been made? And who makes this decision, anyway?

  24. (1)What would be the point of democracy then if the decision about what the government can and cannot do has already been made? (2)And who makes this decision, anyway?

    (1)Choosing the exact wording that works best, and electing people to carry it out? (2)A constitutional congress, perhaps?

  25. So in other words, the people should simply be subject to the ideas of a handful of people who have been dead for 200 years?

    Talk about tyranny.

  26. What would be the point of democracy then if the decision about what the government can and cannot do has already been made? And who makes this decision, anyway?

    “Separation of Economy and State” would be a good slogan to use here.

  27. “Separation of Economy and State” would be a good slogan to use here.

    The exact words I was going to use…

    It is rather astonishing how people are flabbergasted by the notion that perhaps economic rights should be protected from the vagaries of majority rule, but take it for granted that the rights of speech, press, assembly, religion, petition, born arms, unquartered troops, etc., etc., etc., etc., should not be up for vote in Congress.

  28. Congressmen (and most other currently elected officials) should be selected at random, serve a single term, and be prohibited (preferably by being shot on sight) from ever re-entering the District of Columbia after they have served.

    Re: the actual book, which I have not read-
    How much discussion is there of rationally self-interested behavior on the part of Congressmen and Senators which benefits them personally and professionally, at the expense of the country at large?

  29. MYTUBE! YOUR WISDOM IS UNASSAILABLE. THE URKOBOLD JOINS YOU IN RENOUNCING THE CONSTITUTION, WHICH WAS, AFTER ALL, IMPOSED UPON US BY FORCE BY A HANDFUL OF DEAD, RICH, WHITE GUYS.

    LET US GATHER TOGETHER AND LYNCH THOSE WHO OFFEND US, UTILIZING THE NOW UNFETTERED POWER OF THE MOB! AH, THE URKOBOLD REVELS IN THE EXCITEMENT OF FREEDOM UNLEASHED.

  30. I didn’t read the book either. But I did listen to Russ Roberts and Caplan discussing the book in this very excellent podcast.

  31. And who makes this decision, anyway?

    At the risk of exposing my rudimentary grasp of political philosophy, I’d say that it’s entirely true, as you imply, that the legitimacy of a government to govern rests in the consent of the governed. I.e., no, I would not want such decisions made by an elite with no connection to popular election (even judges are picked by elected politicians). But that doesn’t mean that the governed have the right, either directly or via the powers of government, to do whatever they please to their fellow human. If, that is, you believe, as I do, that one’s rights end at the tip of your fellow human’s nose (metaphorically speaking). So while of course the consent of the governed is the ultimate source of the rules of governing, an enlightened and wise citizenry, IMHO, will choose to limit their masters, and each other, in the manner suggested by Kyle, who also, incidentally, already described why his and my ideal is so hard to realize as long as we take accept Winston Churchill’s view that as flawed as democracy is, it is nevertheless our best choice. We’re probably lucky that by accident our original Constitutional Congress operated relatively free of political pressures, even if their fruit did require political ratification. I’ve sometimes heard it wondered whether the 1st Amendment would pass a popular vote today…..

  32. Frankly, I’m more of the strange women lying in ponds persuasion when it comes to government. I’d go so far to say that executive power IS derived from a farcical aquatic ceremony, even.

  33. Urky,

    Leave DanTube alone, ya big bully. He’s just a good ‘ole boy, never meanin’ no harm, beat’s all you ever saw, been in trouble with the law since the day he was born.

  34. So in other words, the people should simply be subject to the ideas of a handful of people who have been dead for 200 years?

    Talk about tyranny.

    Perhaps you’re not serious, but in case you are, one simply cannot devise a system that does not impose something on someone, especially if you count limiting someone’s ability to do something to someone else as an imposition. Therefore, by your logic, we have no choice but to have some form of tyranny. But if you prefer some other system than the one we have, you may have good arguments. That our government operates according to rules (subject to change by the Amendment process) made by people who are by now long dead is hardly one of them.

  35. FYODOR, YOU FOOL, IT IS YOU WHO FAILS TO UNDERSTAND. MYTUBE’S WISDOM TRANSCENDS YOUR LIMITED SCOPE OF UNDERSTANDING. GIVING TO THE MAJORITY WHATEVER THE MAJORITY WANTS ON ANY GIVEN ISSUE AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT IS THE SOLE FUNCTION OF GOVERNMENT. THUS, AS 52.7811112% OF AMERICA CURRENTLY WANT MICHAEL VICK DEAD, HE MUST DIE.

  36. THE LIVER OF TRAITOR MICHAEL VICK IS MINE! I HAVE RECEIVED MY COMMAND FROM ZEUS, WHO HAS A RATHER SURPRISING FONDNESS FOR DOGS!

  37. Democracy would probably work acceptably if its use were limited to the creation of legislation prohibiting actual violations of natural rights.

    Wasn’t that the entire point of a written Constitution?

    Yeah, and look at how well that’s worked out. :-/

    I am opposed to democracy precisely because I believe that limited government is unsustainable: all government tends to expand, and expand even more quickly once its competitors are eliminated.

    Local government is therefore an acceptable evil due to reasonableness constraints imposed by competition, but at any level beyond that it will too quickly take on the traits of monopoly, and will use its newly-obtained uncontested force to solidify said monopoly.

    Kyle

  38. I am opposed to democracy precisely because I believe that limited government is unsustainable: all government tends to expand, and expand even more quickly once its competitors are eliminated.

    Bingo. This is why I am an anarcho-libertarian. Though a very limited governement is probably the best situation, the fact that it will inexorably grow makes it unacceptable.

    Unfortunately, true liberty is probably only sustainable on a frontier (go space!), so anyone who wishes to stay in the freest possible place must continuously stay out on that edge.

  39. And, presumeably, when 4% of America changes their minds on that, his executioner will be impeached.

  40. I have a few problems with it. I agree that people are rational consumer and irrational voter but for different reasons. I believe it centers around coercion and not that our vote is so insignificant it doesn’t pay to be rational. In markets we take others actions and offers as givens we must make our decision to suite us best. However, with voting we get a change to levy coercion on other parties to influence their actions and scapegoating is the detrimental thing to humans, imo.

    Democracies are BS. The bill of rights is very anti-democratic and if it wasn’t for them and left up to the people, every other word would be illegal and islam would be outlawed. And, no, we don’t need a tyrant, we need a good republic, with strong rule of law (constitution) that goes even further with individual liberties.

  41. LUNCHSTEALER,

    PRECISELY. WHATEVER AMERICA WANTS, AMERICA GETS. FOR EXAMPLE, THE URKOBOLD HAS CONDUCTED A POLL AND HAS DETERMINED THAT 73.31416592% OF AMERICANS WANT TO WATCH CHRISTOPHER WALKEN BAKE A CHICKEN.

    INSTANT GRATIFICATION MEETS PURE DEMOCRACY. AT LAST, MANKIND ESCAPES HIS FINAL INHIBITIONS AND EXISTS AS A SINGLE, FICKLE ONENESS.

    AT THIS INSTANT, 87.2112% OF AMERICAN VOTERS BELIEVE THAT RACHEL RAY HAS HAD TOO MUCH EXPOSURE. THEREFORE, SHE MUST BE REMOVED FROM THE AIRWAVES. NOW.

  42. Dear URKOBOLD. Could you please not use so many capital letters? I first read your post above THE URKOBOLD REVELS IN THE EXCITEMENT OF FREEDOM UNLEASHED. as “THE URKOBOLD REVELS IN THE EXCREMENT OF FREEDOM UNLEASHED.”

  43. I believe highnumber requested that she be remanded to his custody, until such time as 150,000,001 people want her back on the airwaves.

  44. Gaijin,

    Potatoe, potahto.

  45. EXCITEMENT, EXCREMENT, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? THE URKOBOLD BELIEVES THAT YOUR READING IS EQUALLY ACCURATE.

    50.000000000000000000000000001% WANTS ANNA NICOLE SMITH REVIVED FROM THE DEAD. SO SHALL IT BE.

  46. COUSIN KOBOLD, YOU ARE WRONG ABOUT RACHEL RAY. SHE IS, IF ANYTHING, UNDEREXPOSED. MORE NAKED ON FOOD TV! SHE COULD BE THE REALLY NAKED CHEF!

  47. Local government is therefore an acceptable evil due to reasonableness constraints imposed by competition, but at any level beyond that…

    Yeah, I think you’re right. Above, I wrote about looking at whether the political system has flaws, but an even more fundamental problem with the United States is that it’s too damned big. Hell, even some of the individual states of the union are bigger than the ideal size for an independent country. All the United States military power and economic strength attracts too many politicians who are on some kind of power trip or another.

  48. As long as I don’t have to see the creepy, rigor-mortis smile of Giada de Gabor or whatever her name is.

  49. FLAPPY, YOU MYOPIC DWARF, YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF MYTUBE’S WELL-CONSIDERED POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. IT MATTERS NOT WHAT ONE OR A MILLION PEOPLE WANT. ONLY THE DESIRE OF THE MAJORITY AT THIS INSTANT MATTERS.

    IN FACT, THE MAJORITY NOW WANTS RACHEL RAY TO SODOMIZE EMERIL LAGASSE. ODD, BUT WHATEVER THE MAJORITY WANTS!

  50. Kobold owes me a keyboard.

  51. Of course it is getting good press. Caplan is a horrific elitist. The implication of the book is that people are irrational and need to be lead by their enlightened betters. And its a surprise the big media loves the book? Yeah right.

  52. Oh URKOBOLD, the great one, the infallible, what do your polling minions think of farming aborted fetuses for ethanol?

  53. Caplan is a horrific elitist. The implication of the book is that people are irrational and need to be lead by their enlightened betters.

    That may be the implication that can be read out of the title, but it is not the implication that should be drawn from the book.

    The implication is, rather, that the regulation of certain spheres of human activity should not be in the hands of anyone: It’s not a matter of the elites deciding while the proles are powerless.

    As noted above, it is analogous to the Bill of Rights, which does not disempower the proles while it empowers elites: It disempowers both.

  54. TAKTIX?,

    THEY ARE FOR IT, PROVIDED THAT THE TEQUILA SUPPLY IS NOT THREATENED THEREBY.

  55. Threatening tequila supplies is the height of irrationality.

  56. Can someone please give the Urkobold his Ritalin?…after he finishes getting Rachel Ray to sodomize Emeril Lagasse. I wanna see that.

  57. THE URKOBOLD MERELY FOLLOWS WHERE MYTUBE LEADS.

  58. What would be the point of democracy then if the decision about what the government can and cannot do has already been made? And who makes this decision, anyway?

    The billions of dead and never to be born.

    Things are the way they are because all the other ways got their asses kicked by the way things are.

  59. To argue with that “mindset,” you actually have to get into the scary, mysterious world of thinking about issues on their merits.

    Why? We have things like markets and federalism, where stupid ideas get killed and good ideas prosper.

  60. Of course it is getting good press. Caplan is a horrific elitist. The implication of the book is that people are irrational and need to be lead by their enlightened betters. And its a surprise the big media loves the book? Yeah right.

    Have you read or heard anything to do with that book besides blog posts? Caplan explicitly rejects that idea. I mean, he’s practically an anarcho-capitalist (see his website). Don’t pose this false dichotomy of democracy/oligarchy. There’s a third option, and that’s simply not giving anyone any control over others at all.

  61. Caplan explicit rejects the idea but then claims anyone who disagrees with the cafateria selection of economic conventional wisdom he esposes is by definition irrational. Therefore, voters and people’s wishes of how their government should run should be ignored and replaced with his idea of utopia. Just because Caplan’s idea of utopia agrees with yours doesn’t justify ramming it down everyone’s throat. Just because he is not a socialist and advocates limited government doesn’t mean that he is not an elitist. Basically in Caplan’s world it is his way or the highway and no one else should have a say in how the government is run.

  62. Voters twice rejected the New York Times’s favoured presidential candidates. So obviously they’re irrational.

  63. “The implication is, rather, that the regulation of certain spheres of human activity should not be in the hands of anyone: It’s not a matter of the elites deciding while the proles are powerless.”
    MikeP I agree that this is what Caplan is aiming at. I wonder though, isn’t it naive to think that the only regulating of other folks behavior is through state coercion? I mean, all bosses regulate your behavior. Your wife will surely regulate your behavior. And your friends. Sure, I guess in libertopia these people can’t forcibly coerce you to do x or y, but you would end up a friend-less, woman-less, starving, pariah…How’s Caplan gonna fix that? I’m not sure its always wrong to have the government use the threat of force to coerce x so that he can’t use whatever he has that other people need badly to coerce a dozen others. I don’t dispute that force is the worst form of it, but coercion can take place in many ways…

  64. Anyone who has lived in a very small town knows that coercion does not have to come to force…If a community decides it does not like you, because, say, you are an athiest, or black, or gay, or punk rock, they can stop hiring you, stop selling to you, stop speaking to you, refuse you service…That’s coercion too. You could say “well move” but the non-libertopian could say that to anyone who does not like his government. Telling someone do x or move is coercion too, isn’t it?

  65. I don’t have time to read all the comments, but I hope someone mentioned the author’s use of “he” and “him” to mean “all people.”

    Or maybe there’s a sheep-like assumption that only men are concerned about politics.

    I don’t need to read anything beyond the first two pages to deny credibility.

  66. “I don’t need to read anything beyond the first two pages to deny credibility.”

    That strikes me as a bit touchy of a reason to deny credibility to this work…Albeit it was sexist and unjustified, it was common upon until very recently to use male words like this to mean “all persons.” And to be honest books that try to rectify that with the “he/she” all over the place seem strange to many readers. Besides, even if the guy were some flaming sexist, or racist for that matter, his ideas on voting and economic knowledge should be judged on their merits apart from what he brings.

  67. Anyone who has lived in a very small town knows that coercion does not have to come to force…If a community decides it does not like you, because, say, you are an athiest, or black, or gay, or punk rock, they can stop hiring you, stop selling to you, stop speaking to you, refuse you service…

    How much more likely would it be for people to stop selling to you, speaking to you, or serving you if that shunning can be encoded into the law of the community. After all, your hypothetical community posits shunned people with very few friends. Certainly a majority of town would forbid economic dealings with the shunned were they empowered to.

    There are two reasons this government empowered shunning is worse than the free market shunning you cite. The first is obvious: Dealing with the shunned person is illegal, and only those willing to risk breaking the law can deal with him. The second is more subtle: By forcing the shunning onto everybody, the people who most want the shunning are able to allay the costs that would accrue to them were they the only ones doing the shunning.

  68. i think we should have a new pronoun for the he/she problem we seem to have…

    my choice for the now sexless pronoun is “sin”

    you got to admit it is cool.

  69. To argue with that “mindset,” you actually have to get into the scary, mysterious world of thinking about issues on their merits.

    Joe, normally I think your comments are well thought out, even when I disagree with them, but what, pray tell, is the merit of getting into Sudan? I agree that what is happening there is terrible, but how are we any more likely to “fix” Sudan that we did Iraq? Going into another predominantly Muslim country to side with the Christians in that country is hardly likely to endear us to the Muslim world any more than going into Iraq did.

    As near as I can tell the “merit” of going into Sudan is that it would make us feel better…

    I’m curious why the altruistic use of military force is somehow better than the use of military force where we actually have some interest? All in all, if we’re going to waste our treasure and our lives, I’d actually rather seeing it going for something where we see some benefit (other than feeling good). I know that sounds cruel and callous, but if we only get involved where we have no interest, then there are no end of quagmires we can sink in.

  70. Of course it is getting good press. Caplan is a horrific elitist. The implication of the book is that people are irrational and need to be lead by their enlightened betters. And its a surprise the big media loves the book? Yeah right.

    QFT!

  71. Of course it is getting good press. Caplan is a horrific elitist. The implication of the book is that people are irrational and need to be lead by their enlightened betters. And its a surprise the big media loves the book? Yeah right.

    Well, John, you’re right. But then again, libertarianism is elitist by its very nature as well: “we must limit democratic government because otherwise the vulgar masses will vote to ruin everything.”

  72. I don’t have time to read all the comments, but I hope someone mentioned the author’s use of “he” and “him” to mean “all people.”

    Or maybe there’s a sheep-like assumption that only men are concerned about politics.

    I don’t need to read anything beyond the first two pages to deny credibility.

    Great, a politically correct weenie. Hypersensitive much? Need a tissue? Some Midol? Clean panties? How about a swift kick to the groin?

    Tell you what: pick a gender-neutral word that will henceforth be used to refer to the entire human species. Every time you see the word “he,” use your own special word in your head. You win and the grown-ups don’t have to listen to you whine. It’s perfect!

  73. Dan T-ube,

    Did the URKOBOLD? scare you off or simply out-troll you so hard you ran away?

    Dan T, MyTube, whatever- nothing you say merits a serious response, because all you do is troll.

  74. I don’t understand the Caplan-as-elitist argument. It isn’t his way or the highway. He is arguing that fewer things should be up for a vote, instead favoring free choices made by individuals. Democracy has the effect of institutionalizing irrational decisions that would not be made absent a political process.

    Regarding MyTube’s odd comment, look, I like my neighbors just fine, but it seems to me that having my neighbors vote on how much of my income they get can cause some problems. It isn’t that they are bad people, but the ability to vote themselves favors creates perverse incentives.

  75. Well, John, you’re right. But then again, libertarianism is elitist by its very nature as well: “we must limit democratic government because otherwise the vulgar masses will vote to ruin everything.”

    I think most libertarians believe “we must limit democratic government because otherwise my freedoms and those of my loved ones will continue to be eroded.”

    True, I think libertarians believe that freedom for everyone would be ideal… but that isn’t necessary to make my life better.

    Kyle

  76. Thanks for demonstrating my point, NAL.

    Translation:
    We should get out of the bloody quagmire in Iraq and into a bloody quagmire in Sudan because of liberal good intensions. Whereas going into Iraq was because of conservative (i.e. neocon) good intensions.

    Would a mission to Darfur be “a bloody quagmire?” What made Iraq a bloddy quagmire? Would those factors be present in a mission to Darfur? What mission?

    A rational person trying to understand the situation and come up with a responsible answer would have to consider all of these questions, and more.

    You, on the other hand, think that the observation that 1) people who aren’t libertarians 2) want to do something that involves the government is all you need to know to draw a meaningful conclusion.

  77. Untermensch,

    For one thing, the Darfuris aren’t Christian. They’re Muslim. You are thinking of the Christians and Animists that were involved in the civil war in the 1990s, the ones that lived in the south of Sudan. Darfur is in the west of Sudan.

    As for what the benefit is – how about saving a million or four human lives?

    As for the Iraq comparison – no one, certainly not I, is advocating that we take over Sudan, topple its government, and try to “fix it.” This is about a defensive mission, comparable to the No Fly/No Drive zones we imposed to defend the Kurds against Saddam. The difference being, Saddam had a fairly effective military, while the Janjaweed would have troubling handling a detatchment of General Sherman’s army.

    I’m curious why the altruistic use of military force is somehow better than the use of military force where we actually have some interest? I don’t think it is. National interest and humanitarian concerns can both legitimate reasons to use military force.

  78. And to be honest books that try to rectify that with the “he/she” all over the place seem strange to many readers.

    That is because writers who construct their sentence so that they need to use “he/she” are demonstrating that they can’t construct a sentence.

    example: That is because a writer who constructs a sentence that requires “he/she” is demonstrating that s/he can’t construct a sentence.

  79. Would a mission to Darfur be “a bloody quagmire?” What made Iraq a bloddy quagmire? Would those factors be present in a mission to Darfur? What mission?

    Sure, but while you are asking those questions, what some examination of the bigger picture, the political/military system itself. For example: Is it the role of the United States to maintain a standing military capable of policing the world? Should the President have the power to inject our military into new foreign wars without Congressional approval?

  80. Why should anyone be “amazed” that Caplan is getting good reviews from the mainstream media, which overwhelmingly favored NAFTA, more immigration, etc.–things not exactly popular with the American working class? (The same incidentally may be said of the MM’s liberalism on social issues like gay marriage.) Populists of both the left- and right-wing varieties have long argued that the mainstream media are elitist, and they will simply see these reviews as confirmation.

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