Don't Trust Your Instincts

Simple answers are satisfying, but often wrong.


Simple answers are so satisfying: Green jobs will fix the economy. Stimulus will create jobs. Charity helps people more than commerce. Everyone should vote.

Well, all those instinctive solutions are wrong. As Friedrich Hayek pointed out in The Fatal Conceit, it's a problem that in our complex, extended economy, we rely on instincts developed during our ancestors' existence in small bands. In those old days, everyone knew everyone else, so affairs could be micromanaged. Today, we live in a global economy where strangers deal with each other. The rules need to be different.

Hayek said: "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

You might think people have begun to understand this. Opinion polls show Americans are very dissatisfied with government. Congress has only a 12 percent approval rating. Good. People should be suspicious of what Congress would design. Central planners failed in the Soviet Union and Cuba and America's public schools and at the post office.

Despite all that failure, however, whenever a crisis hits, the natural instinct is to say, "Government must do something."

Look at this piece of instinctual wisdom: Everyone should vote. In the last big election, only 90 million people voted out of more than 200 million eligible voters. That's terrible, we're told. But it's not terrible because a lot of people are ignorant. When I asked people to identify pictures of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, almost half couldn't.

This is one reason I say those "get out the vote" drives are dumb. I take heat for saying that, but Bryan Caplan agrees. He's a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.

"A lot of bad policies … pass by popular demand," Caplan told me. "In order to do the right thing, you have to know something."

The "informed citizen" is the ideal of democratic societies, but Caplan points out that average citizens have no incentive to become informed, while special interests do. The rest of us have lives. We are busy with things other than politics. That's why our democratic government inflates the price of sugar through trade restrictions, even though American sugar consumers far outnumber American sugar producers.

Caplan has a radical proposal for citizens: Be honest. If you know nothing about a subject, don't have an opinion about it. "And don't reward or penalize candidates for their position on an issue you don't understand."

Political life differs from private life. If you vote for a candidate while ignorant about issues, you'll pay no more than a tiny fraction of the price of your ignorance. Not so in your private affairs. If you're dumb when you buy a car, you get stuck with a bad car. You get punished right away.

"And you may look back and say, 'I'm not going to do that again.' … It's not so much that voters are dumb. Even smart people act dumb when they vote. I know an engineer who is very clever. … But his views on economics (are) ridiculous."

It's not what people don't know that gets them into trouble. It's what they know that isn't so.

"A very common view is that foreign aid is actually the largest item in the budget," Caplan said. "It's about 1 percent."

Actually, even less. Medicare, Social Security, the military and interest on the debt make up over half the budget. But surveys show that people believe foreign aid and welfare are the biggest items.

So, you ignorant people, please stay home on Election Day. And those of you who do vote, please resist the instinctive urge to give our tribal elders more power.

If Americans keep voting for politicians who want to pass more laws and spend more money, the result will not be a country with fewer problems, but a country that's governed by piecemeal socialism. Or corporatism. We can debate the meaning of those words, but there's no doubt that such central planning leaves us less prosperous and less free.


NEXT: Your Bad

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  1. My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.

    Voting should be a privilege tied to volunteer Federal service. That way, when the space insects attack Earth, we will have an army full of citizens and Doogie Howser to defeat them.

    1. The problem is that with the internet is that everyone thinks they are an expert now. A good example is the climate change debate, people who probably failed maths at school are now lecturing me on how sound the science is.

      Even if everyone really was an expert on all matters, I still fail to see how that gives them the moral right to vote and then do whatever they want to me.

      1. The problem is that with the internet is that everyone thinks they are an expert now.

        But…but…Wikipedia: the encyclopedia that you can edit! Open source! Social media! Web 2.0!

        1. So is the WikedGudpedia Strike of 2012 over?

          Guess we know who run Bartertown…

          1. Simple answers are satisfying, but often wrong.

            As in, Libertarianism.

      2. “Maths”?
        What are you, some kind of foreigner?

        1. Maths is done best on the Interets.

    2. when the space insects attack

      Earthling, you “crack me up”.

      1. We of Earth prefer the designation, “Monkey Boy.”

        1. As your leader…I resent that!

    3. The alien bugs had no answer for Doogie. He got 1600 on his SATs in elementary school.

  2. So are you suggesting that we scrap democracy because voters are ignorant? The so-called “free market” has brought us the corporate media which has dumbed down our entire public. Education is the solution to ignorance, but you will never have that as a priority in a country that values only money and perpetual war for profit. We don’t need to control who votes and who doesn’t, we need to rethink our values as Americans and build an entirely new system from the ground up. Hayek is from another era and most of his beliefs were very applicable and accurate for his day, but he is not relevent today. Individualism may still be necessary in certain ways, but collective thought is important on issues like protecting our environment, welfare, and civil liberties. And the free market has corrupted our entire system and destroyed our environment. Capitalism is failing globally, hate to break it to you. If Hayek had stuck around another 20 or so years he might have lived to watch it’s utter destruction. New ideas, new systems. Out with all the old systems. That is the way forward.

      1. wow


        And the free market has corrupted our entire system and destroyed our environment.

        This guy’s never seen the pollution left behind by the former Soviet Union. Saint Petersburg in the early 1990s was a horrible shock to me. There was a brown-black ring around the harbor from the diesels of the sub fleet. The coating of dust and ash were so bad signs and license plates were illegible. Many looked completely blank from the thick khaki coating.

        1. But, but, but when government pollutes it doesn’t count. It only counts when evil corporations pollute for greedy profits.

          1. It is stupid to attribute pollution solely to free markets and ignore some of the awful examples of pollution via government, but I don’t think this is a mistake most environmentalists commonly make. Many that I know protest government acts that pollute (like moving an incinerator near a local neighborhood).

            1. Do they protest government-sponsored roadzz?

              If the gov’t didn’t subsidize our driving habits ? that is, if consumers were able to feel the economic costs of road-building, there would probably be fewer roads, less driving, and… less pollution! And the roads we did have would be more efficient and better maintained.

              Pretending that it’s the gov’t’s job to provide transportation to everybody has serious, serious environmental consequences. Most granola socialist greenies are too high to understand that obvious point.

            2. Environmentalists hate everything. There’s not a technology we can use that they won’t protest. They won’t be happy until we’re living like the Blue Kitties in Avatar, which is why they should be ignored.

              1. which is why they should be ignored

                No they need to be re-educated. ignoring them will only let them breed …..

        2. You are exactly correct. That is rarely talked about. The reason for it is that top-down, central planning doesnt work. It creates an economic system that inevitably fails. While it is circling the drain it simply cannot afford environmental considerations. As it gets closer and closer to the drain, more and more corners get cut.
          (wow, vodka is kicking in already )

          1. Vodka? How suthen are you, really?

            1. Bloody Marys are staple down here. It is the AM.

        3. Sounds like Pittsburgh in the 50s.

        4. Sounds like Pittsburgh in the 50s.

    1. The truth is that capitalism has lifted millions out of dire poverty in China, India and many other places. What is failing globally is your welfare state, all the incredible and unsustainable government debt afflicting so many countries is not corporate debt, it is the debt created pay off your financially and morally bankrupt socialist ideas.

      1. “lifted millions out of dire poverty in China, India and many other places. What is failing globally is your welfare state”

        Yup, no big gobvernment or welfare in India and China!

        1. Oh, China and India have lots of socialism. But, they have a bit less of it than they had previously, and a bit more of free markets, and this improvement has led to an explosion in standards of living in both countries. Further improvements would lead to even better living conditions in those countries.

          1. But, but, but it’s not perfect textbook pure libertarian free market capitalism so that means socialism is better than capitalism!

          2. So let me get this straight: when nations with more of X than other nations do better than the latter, that’s evidence that X is bad.


            1. Let me get this straight. You’re saying that when nations allow more capitalism and the standard of living improves, that’s evidence that socialism is good.


              1. No, I mean exactly what I said, that if you think socialism retards economic development then pointing to the comparative economic success of nations with more socialism makes little sense. Try again.

                1. Then that confirms that you are a moron.
                  You should compare the countries to themselves.

                  1. You need to take this up with Notsure, he started this by comparing them to western welfare states decline.

                    1. MNG, there’s still a large gap between western economies and these emerging economies.

                      Obviously the point is that countries like China and India are rising because they are becoming more capitalistic, while the western nations are falling because they are becoming less capitalistic. That doesn’t mean they are all on equal footing.

                    2. Again, I’d agree with the statement “there is a positive correlation between nations becoming more free and that nation’s economic growth.” But that is not the same as saying “there is a positive correlation between economic freedom and economic growth among all nations.” While it seems true that nations becoming more free are growing, it also seems true that many nations that are not very free are growing faster than free-er counterparts.

                    3. that is pretzel logic…of course, economic growth comes with increased freedom. China’s growth is largely due to easing of rules that introduced aspects of capitalism. No one says China is the homeland of liberty but greater economic freedom has directly translated to increased economic growth. Stated more simply, please name the nation that has seen economic growth while simultaneously increasing restrictions on freedom.

                    4. Capitalism is what makes countries great. Democracy is doing this country in. We have not been a democracy for even a hundred years and we are going down the crapper.
                      When everyone can vote, everyone loses.
                      If China adopts Democracy they will also experience the ride down the crapper.

                2. Compared to what? Not the USA. India and China are both a lot poorer than the USA. What we compare them to is what they used to be with more socialism.

                3. “”that if you think socialism retards economic development…””

                  What retards my economic developement more that government determining my need and only allow me that.

        2. MNG, we know you’re not that dumb.

          See prote’s post below.

          1. …above, whatever.

          2. we know you’re not that dumb

            Speak for yourself.

            1. We THINK you’re not that dumb?

              I dunno, MNG is more thoughtful by several miles over MaxChony.

          3. “we know you’re not that dumb.”

            And you’d be correct ;).

            China and India may be moving more towards free markets than they were in the past, but they still have substantially more government intervention and control in their economies than we do. It’s a strange, strange argument to say:

            China and India, which have more government intrusion than the US, are doing better than the US.
            Therefore we can conclude government intrusion is bad for economic success.

            1. China and India which have less government intrusion in the economy than before, are doing better than before.
              Therefor we can conclude that less government intrusion is good for economic success.

              Additionally the US has more government intrusion in the economy than before, and is doing worse than before.
              Therefor we can conclude that more government intrusion is bad for the economy.

              Geez you’re a fucking moron.

              1. Is this the part where you’re just joking?

                You’re argument is an interesting one if all you are claiming is that “as a nation moves away from socialism that nation’s economic situation will improve.” But if you are saying “nation’s with more socialism do worse economically” then you’ve got a problem.

                1. I am comparing them to themselves, moron.

                  1. “I am comparing them to themselves”

                    Which, of course, is not what this thread is about: Nosure’s pointing to them as successes IN COMPARISON to western welfare states decline.

                    1. No, moron. Notsure is comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.
                      You are comparing apples to oranges.

                    2. Look at the first post, it compares the success of India and China to the decline of Western welfare states.

                2. You want to raise your hallowed Sweden don’t you ? People of Swedish descent living in America are on average better off than those in Sweden, so what is your point again ?

            2. Both India and China are not doing better, they are still poorer, but from where they came from, things are much better.

              You can easily dismiss China by claiming it was not a democracy etc. but India was everything you advocate, it was socialist, democratic, had strong unions, tons of regulation, all this only lead to a stifled economy until it was made more free (relatively) in the early 90’s.

              1. If you want to say “India and China have become better off as they move away from socialism” then OK. I agree that seems to be the case.

                But if you want to say “nations that are more free in comparison to other nations are growing faster than the latter” you’d simply be wrong. If you correlated nations’ economic freedom scores with their economic growth recently you would certainly not get a perfect correlation.

                1. But if you want to say “nations that are more free in comparison to other nations are growing faster than the latter” you’d simply be wrong.

                  Which is why the only person saying that is you, moron.

                  Though it does make an easy straw man to slay, does it not?


                  1. @ 7:33 dude.

                    1. Not there, dude.

        3. Do some more research on when both China and India starting taking off, you will easily see that both happened when the economy was made more free not less free.

          1. Sure, but they are still MUCH LESS free than we are. To point to their rapid economic growth under a MUCH LESS free state than ours and at the same time to our decline under a MUCH MORE free state undercuts the general claim that economic freedom is correlated with economic growth.

            1. Sure, but they are still MUCH LESS free than we are.

              They are MUCH MORE free RELATIVE TO THEMSELVES than they were before their economy improved.

              our decline under a MUCH MORE free state

              We are MUCH LESS free RELATIVE TO OURSELVES than we were before our economy declined.

              Compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, moron.

              1. Again, you’re hilarious calling me a moron over and over for not comparing them to themselves: I’m simply replying to a post that compared them to each other. And yet no “moron” for that, eh? I suspet this is your rage at liberals, you know, wishing them dead and all, speaking here.

            2. The American economy has not declined, all that has happened is that other countries have gotten richer, which means even America is still richer overall.

              It does mean though that a lot of lazy workers have got a deserved wake up call, you can’t assume to you will be better off simply because you were born in the right country.

              1. “a lot of lazy workers have got a deserved wake up call, you can’t assume to you will be better off simply because you were born in the right country.”

                You’re patriotic sense of community is noted.

                People shouldn’t assume they will be better off because they were born in the right country, they should only assume that because they were born to the right parents!

            3. Are you being deliberately dense? They are much less free than we are but are much freer than they were and the idea is that their economy is growing as a result. We are much more free than they are but are less free than we used to be and our economy is stagnant. How does that possibly undercut the claim? It’s our relative freedom to ourselves declining and their relative freedom to themselves increasing that’s the indicator. How we compare to each other doesn’t matter. Geez….

              1. We are much more free than they are…but they are growing and we are not.

                That’s my point. Is that not totally consistent with the following:

                Many nations that are much less free than us are growing better economically.

                1. “We are much more free than they are…but they are growing and we are not.

                  That’s my point. Is that not totally consistent with the following:

                  Many nations that are much less free than us are growing better economically.”

                  And my point is, “That’s not the point.” By your logic, if we reduce our level of freedom to match theirs then our economy will start to grow too, but that’s only half the equation. A more accurate senario would be to reduce our level of freedom to what theirs used to be before their growth started, keep it that way until our economy drops to match what theirs was then, then increase our level of freedom to where theirs is now, and watch the economy start growing.

              2. Are you being deliberately dense?

                MuNG bean being deliberately dense?

                Say it isn’t so!

            4. Sure, but they are still MUCH LESS free than we are.

              And they are much less wealthy than we are.

              High levels of government intrusion correlate to lower levels of wealth.

              Reducing levels of government intrusion correlate to increasing levels of wealth.

              The mechanisms which lead one to suspect there is a causal relationship underlying these correlations are well known.

              1. We are much more free than they are…but they are growing and we are not.

                Which fits in nicely with the observation that your rate of growth maps onto the rate of increase or decrease of government instrusion.

                We get more BigGov, our growth is low. They get less BigGov, their growth is high.

                This ain’t exactly rocket surgery.

            5. there actually is one way a more socialized country can have greater economic growth than a “more free” nation. Example in America nothing big gets built anymore because of social concerns like pipe lines, dams or coal plants where as in China the leaders simply say build the plant, move entire towns and build the dam etc. These actions allow for greater access to resources, lowering their cost and hence cheaper products overall which improves the economy. Unfortunately those governments only show us the areas of prosperity because more people suffer under the socialized system then prosper.

        4. India and China had big government before they started doing as well as they do now. The difference that allowed millions of people to get out of crushing poverty was that some capitalism was allowed in. The socialism in those countries never did much to address the poverty there. Only when they opened up to trade did things start happening.

      2. If you are talking Taiwan, you have a good point.

    2. Ass – does it hurt to be as stupid as you are? I’ve always wondered that – does it physically hurt you? Or are you so ignorant that you’re actually blissful and feel good?

      Hope you’re able to care for yourself! Good luck!

      1. Can you explain the mindset that motivates someone to make a post that says nothing beyond “you’re stupid?”

        1. Why don’t you?

          1. Shouldn’t you be out wishing the mass death of those you disagree with?

            1. I never said anything about the Catholic church, moron.

              1. You said you wanted liberals to be euthanized. You’re a genocidal nut, and the fact that others here didn’t call you out on that says volumes about the quality of the commentariat around here these days.

                1. Perhaps they don’t call me out because they don’t take comments like that seriously from a guy who calls himself “sarcasmic”.

                  1. Yeah, you were just joking…about mass killing…

                    1. “Yeah, you were just joking…about mass killing…”

                      I think that is a safe assumption to make about silly statements about mass killing from internet weirdos.

                    2. There are no jokes allowed on the Internet.

                    3. Everything I say should be taken literally! And I apply the same standard to you jackanapes.

        2. Not sure I want to try and put myself in the mindset that would lead to such a non-helpful post. A far more polite response to Ash Seiter:

          “Thank you for so graphically confirming Stossel’s point that some people do not know enough to cast rational votes. Please consider not voting until you have educated yourself on how economics works, and how socialism in all its permutations fails due to not being able to allocate resources based on market prices.”

        3. A post which claims that central planning is superior to individuals acting in their own interest really doesn’t require much more, does it?

          Imbecilic? Insane? Probably mentally ill? How would you define, “Liberty doesn’t work but central planning from Top Men will”? Dreamy?

          1. But, but, but, inequality!

          2. Y’all are failing to notice that ash seiter is the dude in the photo at the top of the article holding the sign

          3. Yours is a minority view in a democracy. You’d think you’d see the wisdom in actually trying to persuade those with whom you disagree.

            1. Yours is a minority view in a democracy.

              Translation: more people agree with me than you, so neener neener nanny boo!

              1. Other than being a genocidal nut you seem to be rather slow in general. I’m not claiming “more people agree with me than you so I’m correct” (I’m not even claiming I agree with the guy whose post started this, to add to how clueless you are), I’m claiming that “if you are a minority view in a democracy and you want your view to ultimately be accepted you’re going to have to have people be persuaded to your view.”

          4. I’ve always wondered at people who think one plan, set by someone who is not there and won’t bear the consequences of it, is somehow better than the aggregate of the 400 million plans it replaced.

          5. It’s “Top. Men.”

        4. Can you explain the mindset that motivates you to make a post that says nothing beyond “you’re stupid?” in response to a post that says nothing beyond “you’re stupid?”

          See how this works? Why don’t you refrain from posting every last thought that pops into your head.

          I realize that you can retort with the exact same argument, but since I don’t spew mental diarrhea upon these pages on a daily basis, I would hope I could be forgiven.

          1. It seems that I do not type nearly fast enough.

          2. You’re retarded, asking someone “why would you simply reply ‘your stupid'” is not equivalent to replying “your stupid.” The latter simply says “Boo to you!!!” while the former is a question: I’d be curious as to what motivates someone to make such a substance-less response.

            See, this is what I did to you, I explained the idea behind my difference with you, rather than leaving it at “you’re retarded.” Simply going “you’re stupid” might be a witty retort on a playground, but isn’t for grown ups.

            1. Do you seriously expect someone to read and respond to a comment that starts by calling them retarded?

              You’re retarded.

              1. sarcasmic? Do you pay hookers to shit in your mouth?

                1. No. They do it for free.

                  1. So does MNG. I’m just curious as to why you are letting him.

                2. Ah, SF. The guy who wet his panties because I wouldn’t accept that libertarians truly believe in non-aggression but who had no complaints about sarcy here wishing mass death on liberals.

                  But what does one expect from our Teen Beat H&R trio.

                  1. According to SF and Warty this board is for their clever Three Stooges routine, simple cursing of anyone they disagree with as “statist fucks,” Game of Thrones reviews and arguments about which girl is sexier or not. Everyone else is causing them pain.

                    Can’t you guys get a MySpace chatboard or something and let the grown ups talk politics?

                    1. Ooh, only three sentences MNG. Sorry, but your lack of substance is obvious.

                      I bet you do make more money than me, though.

                      In all seriousness, I didn’t see this comment of sarcasmic’s, but I am really only in the habit of condemning things I think people really mean. Or do you yell and throw a hissy fit every time you read Mencken too?

                    2. So wishing genocide is fine with you as long as we’re just joking about it…

                    3. So wishing genocide is fine with you as long as we’re just joking about it…

                      I bet your husband hates it when your vagina aches all the time.

                    4. Iirc you have family in the military. If I joked “Man, I wish the Taliban would slaughter a few more battalions of our military” I’m sure you’d enjoy my sarcasm.

                    5. Iirc you have family in the military. If I joked “Man, I wish the Taliban would slaughter a few more battalions of our military” I’m sure you’d enjoy my sarcasm.

                      You really have no idea how thick-skinned military members and their families are, do you?

                      A wild MNG appears!
                      He uses the Appeal to Personal Emotion!
                      It has no effect!

                    6. Rev? Are you know or have you ever been an attendee at a tractor pull? Because anything you say doesn’t count if you have.

                    7. Lord, comedy central must be showing infomercials.

                    8. Rev? Are you know or have you ever been an attendee at a tractor pull?

                      SugarFree, may we not drop this? You know I belonged to the FFA. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

                    9. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the SugarFreeganbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”‘

    3. Thank you for your input, comrade Lenin. Now FOAD.

    4. “collective thought”


      1. Collective thought is easy: “They just take their brains and put them together.”

        Nobody seems to notice Step One is to take their brains.

      2. Yeah, the biggest problem with ideas like collective thought and collective action is that they are impossible.

    5. The troll-fu is strong with this one

    6. “Individualism may still be necessary in certain ways, but collective thought…”

      How do two people “think collectively”? Individuals think, whereas groups of people debate or discuss.

      Words have a meaning, and your muddy language is a good part of the fascist-socialist problem.

    7. Are you talking about the US or some other country when you mention the Free Market bringing us corporate meda, corrupting the entire system, destroying the economy et al. I’m on the young side but never saw anything approaching a free market here in the States although a few areas have been close here and there.

    8. The so-called “free market” has brought us the corporate media which has dumbed down our entire public.
      no ash, the evidence is pretty clear that “credit” for this belongs to the public education system. Your screed shows you to be a product of same. By the way, if capitalism is failing, please point out the economic system that is better, the one that allows bright people to innovate, the one that produced a higher standard of living than we have, the one that has allowed more people to escape poverty.

      I’ll save you the time – you can’t, because no such system exists. But public schools soldier on, producing more idiots like you who happily vote for the next candidate who promises them free anything.

    9. So Ass Sitter, how is European socialism working for you? Still have those pictures of Mao and Stalin hanging on your wall? The people of China and the Soviet Union starved under the banner of collectivism.
      Get a (non liberal) education before spouting off.

    10. Google “Ash Seiter” and you’ll understand where this stupid comes from!

      1. From FB “people that inspire Ash Seiter” Che Guevara,Michael Moore,Ralph Nader….

  3. Medicare, Social Security, the military and interest on the debt make up over half the budget. But surveys show that people believe foreign aid and welfare are the biggest items.

    Whaaa? Social Security and Medicare make up a large percentage but people are wrong thinking that welfare is a large percentage? Oh, you mean the dishonest scream “I paid in” and ignore that it is, in fact, welfare.

    1. Except for how they are different they are the same!

      1. Seriously, Social Security, Medicare and Welfare all come from taxes paid into the general fund, so they are totally different, you idiots!

        1. Again, except for the fact that the benefits are distributed by different criteria and the program is financed and run differently, they are exactly the same!

          By this logic WWI and WWII were the same event, I mean both involved using guns to fight Germans…

          1. Again, except for the fact that the benefits are distributed by different criteria and the program is financed and run differently

            You are kidding right? Food stamps are distributed by different criteria than WIC so they are no longer welfare? Since a man isn’t a woman they can’t both be human? Do you even read the idiocy you write here?

            They are also funded the same. Coercion at the point of a government gun. Oh, you probably think that there is a “lock box” somewhere with trillions in cash? They are collected in different types of taxation so they are, like, totally different?

            1. Intentions, Gill. Actions and results don’t matter. Only intentions matter.

            2. “They are also funded the same. Coercion at the point of a government gun.”

              Again, by that logic WWII and Grenada were the same. Or something.

              “they are no longer welfare”

              Depends on what you mean. If you’re defining “anything that comes from government taxation” as welfare, then yeah, I guess so, but that’s pretty unhelpful and likely a rhetorical equivocation since “welfare” to most people means needs-based benefit programs like TANF and Food STamps.

    2. I think if you asked most people if Medicare was welfare, they would say no. They would be wrong, but that’s what they would say.

      1. It’s important to be clear what you’re talking about. If by welfare you mean “any benefit program from the government” then they would all be, but so would workman’s comp. You’d be correct according to your idiosyncratic definition, but what use is that? Commonly “welfare” is used to refer to TANF specifically or needs strictly based benefit programs in general (maybe not even then, most people don’t consider pell grants when they think of ‘welfare’).

        1. I don’t follow you. Medicare is a subsidized benefit to the population in order to provide financial assistance. Other than it being a specific type of benefit instead of general, how is it idiosyncratic?

          Workman’s comp is an insurance benefit paid for by the employer for the employed. Since it involves a fair exchange (other than being mandatory) of labor for the benefit, it does not qualify as welfare.

          1. Workers’ comp is welfare.

            A defense contract is also welfare.

            In both instances, the state decides that A’s property shall be taken in order to give it to B.

            1. If you want to define welfare as that, then OK, but know that is pretty idiosyncratic.

              1. Idiosyncratic?

                Can’t disagree with the proposition that many people do not consider SS or Medicare or defense contracts as “welfare” while considering Medicaid / food stamps / general relief to be welfare.

          2. “then they would all be”

            Medicare is a broad based payment program; welfare is not, and they are financed differently and the criteria is different than welfare.

            With Medicare everyone working pays a tax to finance it, and then everyone past a certain age collects it. With welfare people of whatever age meeting certain needs-based criteria get a temporary payment from general taxes. They are different in ways, similar in ways, like I said in the beginning.

            I think Medicaid is something closer to what people think of as classic “welfare.”

            1. So, if Medicare isn’t welfare, does that mean its not covered by the General Welfare clause?

        2. so would workman’s comp

          What percentage of workman’s compensation is funded by employers who have to contribute to BWC and other analogous institutions?

          1. Why don’t you just make your point instead of this cuteness? I’ll reply.

            1. My point is that you were wrong about workman’s comp. Workman’s comp, like unemployment, is paid by employers, and the employers can really ruin your day in receiving either one.

              1. BTW, I appreciate your offer to send me a birthday gift and I will definitely treasure the $5 FRN. I will frame it and hang it. Should it go in my study / computer room at home or should I hang it up at work?

                The funny thing is that you just missed my birthday as I share mine with MLK.

                If you are feeling generous, perhaps you could throw in a Nathan Bedford Forrest themed gift as well.

                1. I will so do this if you promise to take a picture and upload/hotlink it here.

                  1. Does it have to be a new picture?

                    I need a haircut big time. I would not want the commentariat to have a visual which would tend to confirm that I am a discheveled nut.

  4. Under Austrian School concepts of rationality are’nt voters rational?

    But then again, under that school I think every act is rational, or something.

    1. Under the Austrian School that would not matter one bit since most things would NOT be up for voting!

        1. Correct. You’re starting to get it, Tony!

    2. and to clarify that “every act is rational” praxeological thought.

      Every decision you make, voluntarily, at that moment IS rational. How can it not be rational? You are deciding what you want, for yourself, right then and there. Each action in that moment in time that you make for yourself is purposeful; you have a reason to do it, just as the decision for me to type each and every letter in this post is. It’s essentially axiomatic.

      That doesn’t mean you won’t regret whatever decision you make now later on. Nor can we apply this collectively (how? we all make different individual choices at each moment in time).

    3. The “rational” in “rational voter” refers to political theory, not economic theory.

      In a nutshell, the theory is that voters will vote randomly on issues they know nothing about, while voters with knowledge will be the ones who will sway the election. So don’t worry about ignorant voters, they will balance themselves out. They will vote rationally by flipping a coin.

      But it doesn’t turn out that way. Election results tend to go OPPOSITE of the experts. For example, most people are ignorant of economics, yet economists don’t sway elections. One reason we aren’t as bad as we could be is that most stuff isn’t up for a vote. If free trade were up for a vote, we would be a wholly protectionist nation.

  5. we rely on instincts developed during our ancestors’ existence in small bands

    Oh, if only that were true…

    Boss! Ze plains, ze plains! Let us gambol! I’m pinin’ for the fording…of streams…so we could hunt and gather again, as Man was meant to do. Good times, good times…

    WHOA! Look at the time! Gotta go exercise a sale of some of my stock options online! Ya’ll have a good morning!

    /Whyte Idiot

  6. Is clicking “Like” the same as voting?

    1. *Like*

      Comment: I

  7. By the way, I don’t care what you say capitol l, this is fuckin’ cool.

    1. Does anyone younger than sixty know how to use a slide rule?

      1. Put me in that category

      2. Yes, and I learned drafting on a board for 4 years before switching over to CAD. Under 45 is probably a better guess.

      3. Has anyone younger than fifty *heard* of a slide rule?

        1. Again, I fit that category

          1. Scruffy, you are a nerd. Good for you!

            1. Part of my charm. It gets all the girls hot when I whip out my Keuffel & Esser.

        2. I have. Only because my father used one in college.

    2. So is the Curta, but I won’t be doing my thermodynamics homework on it.

      1. That looks expensive

        1. And looks like some kind of grenade from the movie Dune.

        2. Here is cheapest slide rule watch I could find. $159.95

      2. So is the Curta, but I won’t be doing my thermodynamics homework on it.

        That’s because you’re not Steampunk enough.

        1. You just put that up…
          That was…
          Never mind…
          Yeah, I’m gonna stick with “never mind.”

      3. That Curta is really cool. I want one! I guess that makes me a nerd.

    3. It’s scarcely larger than a 50-cent piece but there’s hardly a mathematical problem this gizmo can’t handle?except how many Brigitte Bardots can stand on the head of a pin.

      Did Don Draper write that ad? Awesome.

  8. ..our democratic government inflates the price of sugar through trade restrictions, even though American sugar consumers far outnumber American sugar producers.

    Except that’s not how protectionists frame the argument. They believe they are “protecting our food supply” and other such nonsense.

    I generally try to avoid the futility of arguing with morons on the interwebz, but I recently got into a bit of an online debate with (presumably) a guy about the Sugar Tariff. I believe I won (he eventually backed off) because the prinicples of liberty and freedom are so easy to defend, but those people never admit that companies like Brachs and Heinz will relocate outside the US for cheaper raw materials. It’s always the greedy quest for cheaper labor, etc.

    1. Sugar subsidies never come up for a vote. If they did they would be resoundingly defeated.

  9. At least the sign doesn’t day “Get A BRIAN!”

    1. You leave Brian out of this, you jerk. Hasn’t he suffered enough?

      1. Fuck Brian. He deserves to suffer.

        1. You’ve always hated Brian. You just can’t be rational on this subject.

          1. The first time I met him he gave me an atomic wedgie, so yes I have always hated Brian.

            1. OK. I didn’t know about that. I’m sorry you were bullied in school.

              1. It’s OK. I went to college and he dropped out of high school. Now I move from management job to management job just so I can fire him.
                Life is sweet!

        2. Have you considered the possibility that the guy may have hoisted a few with Tony LaRussa the night before?

        3. The man they call Brian!

  10. Simple answers are so satisfying
    Well, all those instinctive solutions are wrong

    As much as I like Stossel as a writer, these two statements just don’t follow. The simplest solution to a problem is always to be desired, instinct has nothing to do with it. Sure, many people are guided by emotional responses to events, that has nothing to do with the simplicity of their proposed solutions.

    1. Actually I can see his point.

      There’s stupid-simple, then there’s elegant-simple.

      In engineering/computer science/mathematics there are many types of problems that illustrate this. Brute-force, easier to understand, stupid-simple methods vs. more efficient harder to understand (or derive or prove) methods.

      Both can have the same degree of superficial complexity or simplicity (i.e. the size of the code/algorithm or equations) but the later, more efficient one requires a higher degree of understanding.

      Furthermore, the most elegant-simple solutions are the ones that are the most general. That is, they explain or cover the most cases in a consistent manner. It’s actually like the principle of liberty. Everything derives from a single source.

      1. I agree. However, this article is connecting simple to instinctive when such a connection makes no sense. Instinctive doesn’t mean simple, simple doesn’t mean instinctive.

        If he’s using simple to mean not smart, that’s not clear here.

    2. Sure, many people are guided by emotional responses to events, that has nothing to do with the simplicity of their proposed solutions.

      Instinctive solutions coming from emotion are a completely different animal compared to simple solutions coming from thought.

      Reacting is not the same as responding.

      1. Yes, and to say simple solutions are bad because instinct comes from emotion just doesn’t follow.

        1. I interpreted “all those” in the quote to refer to the specific ones he listed.
          Take it out of context and it does not follow. Put it back in and it does.

          1. Given this:
            Simple answers are satisfying, but often wrong.

            I didn’t assume that “all those” was specifically referring just to the ones he mentioned.

            1. Then you are dumb or deliberately obtuse.
              I’m guessing the latter because of your use of a colon.
              He says “Simple answers are satisfying” followed by a colon. That means a list is about to follow, and sure enough one does.

              Then he say “all those”, obviously referring to the list.

              1. Given your penchant for being an ass, I guess I asked for that by even trying to have a conversation with you on the other side. Now, since I’m an idiot, please explain how the subtitle supports your obvious conclusion.

                1. Perhaps he could have been clearer by writing something like this.

                  Simple answers are so satisfying. Here is a list of four satisfying simple answers: Green jobs will fix the economy. Stimulus will create jobs. Charity helps people more than commerce. Everyone should vote.

                  Well, all those four instinctive solutions that I just gave as examples are wrong.

                  Golly you’re sensitive.

                  Maybe you should take a sedative.

                  Take it with warm milk.

          2. I think Stossel is a good writer, I think he just fudged the premise a little bit for this article.

    3. “The simplest solution to a problem is always to be desired”


      Hey, absolutely nothing called and it would appreciate if you would take down this unbelievably silly statement that’s using it as a base.

      We don’t solve problems in any meaningful sense by circumscribing the character of the solutions beforehand. Doing that belongs to the domain of religious faith, and is anathema to reason. Lasting, genuine solutions to problems come only by fully understanding problems. Since full understanding tends to expose complexity, walking around with a bias favoring simple answers is tantamount to cheering on the problem.

      And really, Reason: Cheering On The Problem would be an excellent new slogan around here. Free Minds, Free Markets doesn’t quite fit a pet website of subsidy-pocketing oil billionaires, nor the commenters who pretend to know the character of the best answer before inquiry.

      1. Any douchebag who complains about the complexity of any problem just hasn’t broken it down far enough. That is the standard default fail reason for why any problem can’t be solved. “Waaaahhhh, it was more complex than we thought.”

        1. I’m thinking Oral didn’t get past basic algebra.

          Too complicated.

          Better leave that complicated stuff to experts (who break it down into set of simple solutions, but don’t tell Oral that. only simple minds use simple solutions).

      2. walking around with a bias favoring simple answers

        As opposed to walking around with a bias favoring complicated answers.

        A bias towards complicated answers does make sense because then the liberal can say “That’s too complicated for me to understand, I’ll defer to the experts.” When in fact the liberal is either being hoodwinked or just plain dumb.

        Usually it’s a mix of both.

        1. Wow again. The sheer volume of incompetent thinking around here is genuinely breathtaking.

          Please pay attention: Criticizing a stated bias toward simple answers is in no way equivalent to carrying any bias — for complex answers, for chocolate ice cream, or for toy dog breeds. This is a favorite logical fallacy of simplistic thought called a false dilemma and you should feel bad for using it, as it reflects very poorly on your reasoning skill.

          Try again.

          1. Nice deflection.

          2. You are creating the false dilemma by implying that preferring simple answers is a bias against complexity.

            It is a bias against unnecessary complexity.

            In my observations liberal thinking (if you want to call it that, it’s more like emoting than thinking) is not only biased against simple answers (simple answers are born of simple minds, classic ad hominem fallacy), but towards unnecessarily complicated answers (because of authority worship, they’re experts so they must be right).

            1. Proclaiming any part of an answer to be “unnecessary” before making an inquiry is poisoning the inquiry by leading the question. Indulging in this shitty excuse for inquiry is exactly, as an atheist once said of faith, “a great cop-out, [a] great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

              This was all covered in the June 1997 issue of Completely Fucking Obvious magazine.

              1. Proclaiming any part of an answer to be “unnecessary” before making an inquiry

                Proclaiming an answer to be too simple before making an inquiry…


                I can do it too.

                1. “I can do it too.”

                  You can do what? What in the world do you think you just did, aside from double down on the false dilemma fallacy by baselessly claiming I must carry X bias because I criticized a -X bias?

                  The fuck?

                  1. You should change your handle to Straw Man Slayer.

                    1. You like it? Nifty. You’re welcome.

              2. Proclaiming any part of an answer to be “unnecessary” before making an inquiry is poisoning the inquiry by leading the question.

                Once you’ve broken down a complex problem into its most simple components it should pretty pretty fucking obvious what is unnecessary. If you can’t see that then you shouldn’t be the person working on a “complex” problem.

      3. Like the domain of religious faith known as progressivism?

  11. After reading the post from ash seiter I have decided that today, rather than put any effort into this, I will mix up a nice stiff vodka/grapefruit juice. with a dash of lemon.

  12. In fairness to the man with the sign, Jim and Brian Moran do need to get a brain.

  13. New voters should have to pass the same knowledge test as new citizens.

    1. That’s just racist, straight up.

      All non-racist people know that would mean black people couldn’t vote, because they are incapable of passing the test.

      1. Elegently ironic

  14. Ash Seiter|1.19.12 @ 7:23AM|#

    So are you suggesting that we scrap democracy because voters are ignorant?


    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” ?Ben Franklin

    “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
    ?Thomas Jefferson

    “Democracy … wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
    ?John Adams

    “Democracy is the most vile form of government… democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention… incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.”
    ?James Madison

    “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and … breaks up the foundations of society.”
    ?Thomas Jefferson

    Ron Paul’s congressional speech on this topic with more historical background:…..start=6956

    1. also on youtube (just RP’s 1hr segment out of that 3hr session)

    2. That’s why the United States wasn’t designed as a democracy. Of course, in the world of today, it IS a de facto democracy, and look where that’s led us.

      1. Damn 17th Amendment.

        1. The 17th Amendment is one of the greatest abominations in the history of the United States. I don’t think people even have any idea how badly it’s fucked us up.

        2. Take away the 17th Amendment and how many of our current Senators would still be in office? I’m guessing 99, with the 100th guy still prescribing glasses in Kentucky.

          1. Take away the 17th Amendment and do you think there would be all these unfunded mandates and conditions put upon federal dollars?

            If the Senate was composed of people representing state governments, do you think they would support federal legislation that forced state governments to do things they would not otherwise do on their own?

            The Senate was a check against the democracy of the House.

  15. Simple answers are satisfying, but often wrong.

    As in, Libertarianism.

    1. And what could be simpler than gamboling?

  16. I went to high school with Morans, I can confirm he didn’t have a brain.

  17. I’m totally onboard with Stossel on the voting thing. It bothered me back when MTV started pushing the whole “Rock the Vote” campaign; do we really want kids with pink hair voting when they rarely have a clue who they vote for?

    The fact that Stossel couldn’t get people on the streets of New York to identify photos of either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney is proof that those people probably shouldn’t vote. During the 2008 election, someone did the same thing with quotes from the candidates – most of which left people stymied (on occasion, they guessed that stuff said by Obama was said by McCain and vice versa), until they were asked, “Who said, ‘I can see Alaska from my house!'” …. every single one was adamant that Sarah Palin said that (she didn’t – that was Tina Fey in an SNL skit). Do we really want people choosing our president who pick their candidate based on comedy skits? Scary stuff.

    1. It’s depressing that elections are decided by people who vote based upon name recognition, attractiveness, and “the cool kids will like me if I vote for this one”.

  18. I suppose it’s not entirely fascist to urge people who disagree with you not to vote.

    But the bulk of people voting irrationally are those who buy into free market fairy tales.

    1. I don’t get the impression that Stossel is saying that people who don’t agree with him shouldn’t vote. I know that’s never been my stance. Really, I don’t give a rat’s ass who you vote for, as long as you can defend your choice. It would be nice if the people pulling the handle had a clue who they were voting for, what they stood for on the issues, etc. When MTV pushes “Rock the Vote,” you get a lot of kids voting for Bill Clinton, not because they thought he would be the savior of the free world but because it was so cool that he played a saxophone on TV.

      1. Who gives a shit? Millions of Christians vote based on who believes in the correct invisible sky daddy… people have their reasons, we’re not about to go digging around people’s thoughts to determine if they are worthy of exercising their most basic right.

        1. Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me so?

          Who art thou Lord?

    2. Whoa…..You just topped them all. competition is over. You get the trophy here and now. Of course it is shaped like a turd and made of shit….but… win it.

  19. I say anyone who draws a paycheck directly from the government be denied voting privleges due to conflict of interest. Federal employees denied Fed elections, state employees denied state elections and so on. Social Security, Medicare and welfare recipients likewise. That leaves few voters left to really sink their teeth into the real issues and get done what needs to be done or undone as the case may be.

    1. As a government employee, I’m not sure why it is I should be expected to give up my Constitutional right to vote. I mean, I actually have even more of a vested interest in the turnout of the election than the average voter, I think I should have a say.

      1. I’m also a government employee and so I am sure why you should give up your Constitutional right to vote exactly because you have a vested interest in the results of an election. The Constitution should be changed.

        1. Doesn’t everyone have an interest in the outcome of an election?

          The willingness to deny people’s most fundamental democratic right on these boards is rather disturbing.

          1. There are those people voting who obtain a living from governments who have more of a vested interest in the outcome of elections than those who have a potential to lose everything because they must support those who have a vested interest in perpetuating that living. I find this even more disturbing. By the way, this is a republic.

            1. Everyone affected by government policy has an interest in it and thus a fundamental right to vote on the matter. If millionaires can vote based on who will give them favorable tax policy, I don’t see how that’s any different. And they’re milking the system for far, far more than government employees.

              But you don’t see that because you think in ignorant stereotypes instead of facts.

              1. And they’re milking the system for far, far more than government employees

                Thank you for saying out loud that the whole govt. thing is about milking the system, as opposed to res publica (our common causes).

  20. Mr Stossel’s first paragraph is a bad generalization. I would guess that most anyone who reads his work knows those few things to be fiction. And their first instinct is not to believe they would work. Unfortunately the whole article does nothing but confirm what the readers of Reason already know…because they are informed. It’s a shame he doesn’t send this to local newspapers. But, wait they would publish on the editorial pages and most folks don’t read that let alone a newspaper.

  21. Mercedes continues to be a huge hit with her followers on the Live Cams service. Now she is also fulfilling her ambition to be an erotic model.

    Ukrainian girls have a fantastic reputation for their beauty. When you add in Mercedes’ dash of Armenian heritage the result is an exotic mix. This long haired brunette with the petite body is blessed with rich, full breasts. Her eyes have a mysterious charm. She has a vibrant personality and takes genuine pleasure in everything erotic.

    Maybe that is because of her interest in the human body. Mercedes is a final year medical student. She is looking forward to putting her knowledge of anatomy to use.

    Now is your chance to give the doctor an all-over physical examination. This is the time to join Mercedes’ very private practice.

  22. John Stossel is a war monger!

  23. Colonel Hunt is going to give Stoss the pro wrestler treatment.

  24. Colonel Hunt’s battle against the straw man army is in full swing.

  25. The “reasonable” approach to foreign policy has gotten us to where we are now.

  26. Colonel Hunt does not support the troops.

  27. Holy shit, I think the Colonel’s head was about to explode at the idea of end of spying.

  28. It looks like Geraldo broke a hip right there on the battlefield.

  29. Navy lieutenant? Apparently you don’t get gruff until you hit command rank.

  30. You could also factor in deaths when considering war.

  31. You want Geraldo on that wall. You NEED Geraldo on that wall.

  32. Popular comic strip Doonesbury? Stossel is living in the past.

  33. Geraldo gets more money than the troops and less bullets.

  34. Yes, but bin Laden had a hard drive full of pirated porn! That alone justified the hit.

  35. Yeah, free trade is isolationism.

  36. My instinct for 15 years has been that pushing all these jobs to China was going to fucking burn us, and wipe out the middle class. Was I wrong?

    1. Possibly. From what I’ve seen, low-end low-skill jobs were pushed to China, where labor is cheap. These are the jobs that improving technology will replace first–the jobs sent to China may never come back, because they may become obsolete.

      I can’t say what this’ll do for unskilled labor in the US, though. Maybe the middle class will disappear, or perhaps there’ll be so much abundance in a post-scarcity society that we’ll be able to support a persistent class of dilettantes.

  37. Why would anyone who values liberty care one wit about whether I am worthy to vote or not? Am I not smart enough, knowledgeable enough? Is my rap sheet blank? No people with pink hair? Good Jesus. This Stossel character is no libertarian.

  38. What an idiotic point of view:

    The essence of this article is “Those who do not share my political views, please stay at home”,or “they should be allowed to vote”. “I want this crony capitalism to continue”

    1. I disagree. I think the essence of this article is “people should take their responsibility as a voter seriously”.

      If everyone voted only about issues they had taken the time to investigate and understand, results of every vote would reflect an informed decision. That would be amazingly cool.

      It would be interesting if this were a systemic feature, but how could you possibly ensure that? Do you have some sort of “knowledge test” (not to be confused with an intelligence test) that qualifies people to vote on a particular item or candidate? Perhaps each item/candidate upon which a voter votes has its own little mini-quiz, which ensures a basic level of knowledge about the subject or candidate?

      It would be interesting to have a more Athenian-style democracy, just to see what happens.

  39. I got to disagree with Stossel. My instincts say to fuck a lot of pussy. I’m going with my instincts.

  40. surprised no one points this out every time “ignorant voters” (as if there are any other kind) are mentioned:

    The Answer Is to Restrict the Law
    I know what might be said in answer to this; what the objections might be. But this is not the place to exhaust a controversy of this nature. I wish merely to observe here that this controversy over universal suffrage (as well as most other political questions) which agitates, excites, and overthrows nations, would lose nearly all of its importance if the law had always been what it ought to be. In fact, if law were restricted to protecting all persons, all liberties, and all properties; if law were nothing more than the organized combination of the individual’s right to self defense; if law were the obstacle, the check, the punisher of all oppression and plunder ? is it likely that we citizens would then argue much about the extent of the franchise?

    Under these circumstances, is it likely that the extent of the right to vote would endanger that supreme good, the public peace? Is it likely that the excluded classes would refuse to peaceably await the coming of their right to vote? Is it likely that those who had the right to vote would jealously defend their privilege? If the law were confined to its proper functions, everyone’s interest in the law would be the same. Is it not clear that, under these circumstances, those who voted could not inconvenience those who did not vote?

    Fr?d?ric Bastiat

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