"The Myth of the Rational Voter":

Princeton University Press has just published GMU economist (and my friend) Bryan Caplan's book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. I haven't see the book yet, but I've read several of Bryan's articles on the subject, which are absolutely fascinating. I'm ordering my copy today.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen writes that its "one of the two or three best books on public choice in the last twenty years." And economist Greg Mankiw of Harvard writes that it's "the best book I've read lately."

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Bryan Caplan's Myth of the Rational Voter:
  2. "The Myth of the Rational Voter":
Zathras (mail):
I haven't read this book, but it seems that in order to reach its conclusion requires the disposal of one of 2 hypotheses-either the efficient market hypothesis is flawed or the political field is not a market. I'd be curious to know which he prefers.
5.17.2007 3:38pm
a n o n y m o u s:
With an advertisement like that, he damn well better *give* you a copy.
5.17.2007 3:50pm
DiverDan (mail):
It's been a while, but my recollection of economics is that the efficient market hypothesis requires the assumption that all participants are fully informed, or at least have equal access to information, and this hardly seems to apply to the political arena, even if it were a marketplace. Moreover, treating politics as a "market" has its own set of problems, since not all participants are equal. The wealthy pay a far higher amount (at least in absolute terms) in taxes in exchange for exactly the same voting privilege accorded to the poor (who, after taking into account transfer payments, may actually have a negative cost of political participation, at least in voting), and some participants (i.e., corporations, trusts, pension funds, unions, etc.) are denied any voting right, except for that exercised by their individual owners or beneficiaries. Moreover, there are geographic disparities between participants -- for example, individual Alaskan voters have a far higher relative impact in selecting their two Senators than do individual voters in populous states such as New York, California, or Texas. Also, voting is not the only "currency" in the political market - maybe not even the most important. Lobbying, campaign contributions, or the ability to deliver block votes on certain key issues, like the NRA's ability to sway votes on gun control or AARP's ability to deliver votes on Social Security, may effectively block any consideration of necessary policies. It seems that treating politics as a "market" may be possible, but it would require far more complexity than the typical commodity market - more like trying to define a market for highly differentiated specialty goods, where each seller can differentiate his product on numerous characteristics and the "product" offered by individual politicians is really a large basket of goods, some highly desireable to voters, some undesireable to voters, and some to which voters are completely indifferent), there are no perfect substitutes, and each buyer is looking for something just a little different from anyone else. If one were to try to apply a "market" paradigm to politics, it seems that the efficient market hypothesis would not apply.
5.17.2007 4:44pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Tyler Cowen writes that it's "one of the two or three best books..."

I can't think of a more reliable guarantee of its complete worthlessness.
5.17.2007 8:11pm
AK (mail):
Of course, the whole exercise of voting when the probability of your vote being the deciding vote is less than the probability of you being killed on the way to the polls is irrational.
5.17.2007 9:58pm