Will we one day see a Council of Economic Advisors able to veto legislation for being uneconomic?  It seems unlikely but do not underestimate the influence of my friend Bryan Caplan whose The Myth of the Rational Voter flirts with putting limits on the vote-franchise and yet still manages to get a favorable review in the New York Times Magazine!

Nor is that all.  An even more powerful demonstration of the spread of Caplanianism can be found here.

Spread the word – buy The Myth of the Rational Voter and go forth and multiply.


Will we one day be free of economists who present themselves as the saviors of mankind?

He might have some good points, but eesshh...

Better to be a franchise snob than a credit snob, I guess.

Mr Noah,

You got a problem with redundantalisms?


I'm willing to assume with you and Brian Caplan that rationality in voting is generally preferable to irrationality. And, without having read his book, I am willing for the sake of argument to assume that voters often are irrational.
How does that conclusion lead to the policy recommendation that they should be disenfranchised in favor of so-called "experts" (in this case, the Council of Economic advisers)? Are you resuscitating progressivism's "public interest" model of government that the public choice literature has ground into dust over the past several decades? In addition, even if voters are irrational, doesn't libertarianism insist that we consider their sense of their own self-interest as valid? Put differently, isn't the replacement of irrational voters with decisions by the CEA or any other group of "experts" precisely the kind of paternalism that libertarians purport to abhor?

Just because voting is a fallible institution, we shouldn't assume that alternative institutions are perfect. Voting may yet be the least bad institution in our choice set.



Will we one day see a Council of Economic Advisors able to veto legislation for being uneconomic?

And what might "uneconomic" mean other than, "Bryan Caplan doesn't like it?"

Not much of a standard.

Based on the NYT story and reports elsewhere the concept of a "high court of economists" is scary indeed. I characterize the NYT review as naive with only a slightly expressed doubt as to the ability of economists to known the public interest. Scratch the surface of economics and we see more faith than science. How would seats on the court be apportioned among the various schools "churchs"? As a retiree I see it in my economic interest to be liberal on immigration policy. I also concede that I am not paying the burden for immigration that citizens living on the border bear. Would a vote to restrict immigration be irrational for me? Were the poor of Venezula irrational for voting for a populist? I judge a lot of votes to truly be irrational. However, I surely don't want Mr. Caplan or an economist with a perspective closer to my overiding my vote nor the vote of another citizen even if I believe the citizen to be misguided on his own interest.

I read the review in the Times. I think I would characterize it as polite rather than favorable.

I think this is accurate. It might even be polite.

American economists had lots of influence in Russia in the 1990s.

How'd that work out?

Welcome to neo-feudalism.

You got a problem with redundantalisms?

Nah, not really.

See the "Libertarian Paternalism" item a few entries down. See also: "meet the new boss, same as the old boss?" entry.

Different subject matter, same rationale. Y'all don't like the idea of government saving us from ourselves but all you're doing is substituting Uncle Sam with your own pencil-pushing cronies.

Sorry, but this doesn't pass the sniff test. Not one bit.

So now we have the libertarians so in love with the concept of liberty that they are proposing a dictatorship of the anointed to enforce their narrow concept of liberty.

May I suggest:

Amendment 28: When it says "To regulate Commerce...among the several States," it only applies to someone in one state is buying something from another state. Not someone buying something in the same state. No, really. We weren't high or anything when we wrote that. We did not write "in the several States." We were serious about the "among" part. What was the Supreme Court smoking when it decided Swift v. United States?

"Thus, Caplan's preferred approach is not so much to turn politics over to elites as to reduce the sphere of politics altogher."

This is slightly off topic, but something that always puzzled me is the stance many libertarians take on the "Founding Fathers" and the "Constitution" - seemingly god given documents that outline what our government should be, with Libertarians constantly bemoaning how our government has moved away from those principles.

Well, The Founding Fathers made it so that only land owning white males (i.e. the elite) could vote for a reason. They made it so that the President and Senate were indirectly voted in for a reason. Most of the Founding Fathers dismissed true Democracy as "mob rule"; that the common Joe truly didn't know how to govern a country and that the well educated elites had to do it for them.

Which brings us back to Caplan. Is his idea really so different than that of the Founding Fathers? Many progressives and libertarians would balk at Caplan's position - that the public is too stupid to govern themselves. But perhaps we need to look into the fact that Democracy as it stands now is certainly not the ideal government, only the best one we know of.

It's a little odd how Alex finds Caplan's argument that we're more rational in markets "pretty convincing" given that Caplan relies almost completely on theoretical posturing and the majority of the econometric studies show a much more ambiguous empirical picture.

You know what Caplan deserves? Just such a council, but staffed 100% by marxist economists. That'd teach him.

The voting system is mere a game to keep people in confidence that their choice matters.


Caplanism are probably non-believers

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