Public Choice

, 142:1

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

Commissioned Editorial Commentary

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Voter irrationality Political failure Economic reform 

References

  1. Becker, G. (1968). Crime and punishment: an economic approach. Journal of Political Economy, 76(2), 169–217. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Caplan, B. (2003). The idea trap: the political economy of growth divergence. European Journal of Political Economy, 19(2), 183–203. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Caplan, B. (2007). The myth of the rational voter: why democracies choose bad policies. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  4. Caplan, B. (2009). Irrational principals. Review of Austrian Economics, 22(2), 159–167. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Levy, D. (2008). Public choice for sheeple: a review of The Myth of the Rational Voter: why democracies choose bad policies. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 69(3), 288–294. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Wittman, D. (1995). The myth of democratic failure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© 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

Personalised recommendations