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Self-deception as the root of political failure


I consider models of political failure based on self-deception. Individuals discard free information when that information damages their self-image and thus lowers their utility. More specifically, individuals prefer to feel good about their previously chosen affiliations and shape their worldviews accordingly. This model helps explain the relative robustness of political failure in light of extensive free information, and it helps explain the rarity of truth-seeking behavior in political debate. The comparative statics predictions differ from models of either Downsian or expressive voting. For instance, an increased probability of voter decisiveness does not necessarily yield a better result. I also consider political parties as institutions and whether political errors cancel in the aggregate. I find that political failure based on self-deception is very difficult to eliminate.

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Correspondence to Tyler Cowen.

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Cowen, T. Self-deception as the root of political failure. Public Choice 124, 437–451 (2005).

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  • Public Finance
  • Political Party
  • Political Debate
  • Static Prediction
  • Expressive Vote