Arnold Kling  

Disappointing Election Year?

Nanotechnology and the Economy... Social Security Privatization...

That's my perception.

I picture voters under 40 as having less allegiance to top-down economics and top-down moral legislation. I would think that the trend would be libertarian.

...Instead, during the debates, it seems to me that we witnessed libertarian "anti-gravity," with the candidates competing to appeal to traditionalist-minded voters at the expense of libertarians.

Robert J. Samuelson writes,

Bush and Kerry didn't want to offend near-retirees by saying benefits need to be cut; or Hispanics by talking realistically about immigration; or nearly 200 million licensed drivers by saying that to reduce oil demand requires a stiff gasoline tax; or most Americans by proposing tougher controls on health spending. No one wanted to hear these unappetizing policies, so Bush and Kerry didn't propose them.

For Discussion. If the public were more educated on economic issues, how might this year's campaign have been different?

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The author at posicionarse in a related article titled ¿Por qué compramos Bush? II writes:
    Leo en Efimera que el pueblo nunca se equivoca (con un enlace a Hitler). ¿Hay algo perverso en como elegimos a nuestros políticos?: Bush and Kerry didn't want to offend near-retirees by saying benefits need to be cut; or Hispanics [Tracked on November 3, 2004 8:11 PM]
COMMENTS (9 to date)
Philip Dunham writes:

You are correct. That is the consensus from my circle of friends in our early twenties

Jason Ligon writes:

There is no credible libertarian choice. As a little 'l' libertarian myself, I have never been more annoyed with my choices. Badnarik and the LP continue to make the case that limited government is only for loons.

I dispute that many people are in fact libertarian, by the way. People are self interested and want to be bought off. Politicians know this. The fact is, if a candidate were to propose cutting benefits, he would lose. You can't even cut agriculture subsidies and win, forget about Social Security.

Kaliman writes:

Let's forget labeling: liberal, conservative, libertarian. Let's get behind a pro back to constitution candidate. To do this we millions have to stop buying into the propaganda that our vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote. If we millions quit believing that propaganda, we would be surprised at the result, if everyone of us who had that thought actually voted third party. And if we are serious about this, we will then attack the unfair ballot access laws in each state. The impossible is attained one step at a time. We just have to take that first step. So let's stop belly aching and get to work.

William Woodruff writes:

If the public were more educated on economic issues, how might the campaign have been different ?

Hmmm. Let us see. Bush would be forced to explain his label as a conservative whilst wrecking havoc with the nations finances. In addition, someone would press him on the issue of a higher national tariff at the pump to REALLY reduce the demand (directly, right now) on foreign oil.

Kerry would be forced to explain in fine detail, what he would expect in the federal coffers his across the board reduction in Corporate Tax rates of 5%.


The two major party candidates are always locked into a "prisoner's dilemna" situation. Because the electorate is (possibly rationally) ignorant of the secondary and tertiary consequences of public policy. The flu vaccine shortage being a good example, as is the re-importation of drugs from Canada.

That's the American political system, and no amount of education will overcome it.

Thomas writes:

I think it is that the majority of the people are totally ignorant about large-scale economic trends. Of course, if you try to take "their" money in taxes, they get very upset. But it is fine to take other peoples' money, or mess with their businesses.

And this applies to what are considered "moral" causes as well. The war on drugs is an example of a policy that falls apart on behavioral economic priciples, regardless of your moral viewpoint. It creates a powerful market for artificially expensive drugs (and their inherent crime), pushing out other entrepreneurship, and no one is actually willing to do the horrible society-wide things that would be required to really "win" the war.

Bill Fellers writes:

Ask a question worthy of a tax-code-sized book, why don't you?

It depends upon degree of course. If people were slightly better educated in economics, there would be little effect--a slight shift to the right in both parties concerning economic issues. If people had basic economic literacy, there would be a strong shift to the economic right in both parties or a third party would gain support. If people had metaphysical economic knowledge, we'd abolish 90% of the federal government because we wouldn't need it.

Lawrance George Lux writes:

Libertarians need to be better educated in Politics, there being no need for a better educated Public or Voter. Candidates' positions are determined by the Money, such being the contributions they receive. The greatest majority of the Money comes from the Wealthy, who do not like political discussion of Issues which might endanger their own position. The Money is invariably 'Status Quo' with talk to never verge into areas of danger.

Three things appeal to the American Electorate, which also appeal to Libertarians: more benefits, less taxes, and less government. Libertarians must promote programs which clearly outline greater benefit, less taxes, or reduced government. The American Public will listen to little else. An aside, do not mention it if you detest Religion. lgl

Kaliman writes:

I looked at voting results state by state and saw that the Libertarian party got 0% and 1% of the vote but nothing higher. The Constitution party did slightly worse. This is clear evidence that people have an aversion to third parties. Right now the Republican Party is no longer conservative or constitutional. Third parties are the only choice for traditional conservatives/libertarians. A lot of work must be done. Ballot access laws must be changed, and the brainwashed aversion to third parties must be seriously eroded. That is not going to be easy.

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