Public Choice

, 142:1

Persuasion, slack, and traps: how can economists change the world?

Commissioned Editorial Commentary

DOI: 10.1007/s11127-009-9521-0

Cite this article as:
Caplan, B. Public Choice (2010) 142: 1. doi:10.1007/s11127-009-9521-0


Contrary to my critics, voter irrationality does not imply that economists cannot mitigate political failure. With rational voters, reform-minded economists have few viable tactics; with irrational voters reformers have more options. Rational voters can be swayed only by facts and logic; irrational voters could respond to better rhetoric. Rational voters strategically punish those who ignore their policy preferences; irrational voters use less effective disciplinary strategies that create political slack. Even with irrational voters, efficiency-enhancing reform is hard. With rational voters, however, democracy’s failure to adopt a reform is strong evidence that the reform does not enhance efficiency.


Voter irrationalityPolitical failureEconomic reform
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Center for Study of Public Choice, and Mercatus CenterGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA