Bryan Caplan  

Name This Book!

Elite Fools... Elite Folly and Selection Bias...

Since Arnold is already pumping up my book, and it's been accepted by a major university press, it's time to announce my official Title Contest. If we've learned anything from the success of Freakonomics, it's that titles matter. And while I don't expect to be anywhere near the best-seller list, it would be great if I had a title to pique readers' interest.

So here's my offer: If I use the title you suggest, I'll take you to lunch at Morton's (Tyson's Corner or Reston, your pick).

Main constraint: I'm looking for witty, not belligerant. I don't want an "in-your-face" title that will alienate scholars. I'd rather sell fewer copies and be read by the economists and political scientists that I'm trying to engage.

For now, I'm calling the book The Logic of Collective Belief: The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality. It's a slightly witty allusion to Olson's classic, and hardly belligerant. But that's faint praise. There's probably a better title out there, and hopefully one of my readers knows what it is!

Before you suggest a title, of course, it would help to read a little of the book. Here's an excerpt.

P.S. Arnold makes a number of interesting points about my book. I think I'll hold off on responding, though, until it comes out.

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TRACKBACKS (2 to date)
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The author at Biopolitical in a related article titled Irrational voters writes:
    Bryan Caplan is about to publish a book which still has no definitive title. In it Caplan argues that voters are both ignorant and irrational (as voters, that is; not in other aspects of their lives). To attract votes, politicians promise policies th... [Tracked on January 28, 2006 1:30 PM]
The author at Muck and Mystery in a related article titled Rationally Ignorant writes:
    I read these Arnold Kling posts 1,2,3 about Bryan Caplan's work and forthcoming book. So here's my offer: If I use the title you suggest, I'll take you to lunch at Morton's (Tyson's Corner or Reston, your pick). I meant to develop and apply the ideas ... [Tracked on January 29, 2006 1:02 PM]
COMMENTS (60 to date)
Tim Swanson writes:

"Vote: It's Easier Than Working"


"No Matter Who Wins, We Lose"

Randy writes:


I like your title, and looking forward to reading the book. Personally, I would just drop "The Logic of" and leave it as;

Collective Belief: The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality

Bill Dupre writes:

Mass Delusions

Al T writes:


Al T writes:

Uncommon Wisdom: A Look at the Economics of Voter Egalitarianism

Al T writes:

Blind Leading the Blind: An economic examination of political munchausen by proxy.

John Brothers writes:

These titles should get some heads turned without being particularly belligerent:

* "Voting considered harmful"
* "Democracy: Fatal if swallowed"
* "Democracy vs. Economy"

But I think the best title is probably "The Paradox of Democracy"

Eli writes:

Collective Ignorance: The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality

Robert Cote writes:

Locke, Schlock and Porkbarrel
The seeming irrational outcomes of democratic choice


[I preface the title with an old joke] A masochist and sadist go out on a data. Things go well and the masochist turns seductively to the sadist and says "I want you hurt hurt me." The sadist with an evil grins replies; "No." Thus the title:

The Sadist Says "No"
Why we get hurt by getting what we ask for from democracy

G writes:

Chaos by Representation or Representaion by Chaos

Meena writes:

What price devotion

Zeus writes:


Put your photo that you have at the top of the page on the cover of the book. Then title the book GEEKonomics!

Roy Mathers writes:

Turn Off
Tune Out
Be Free?

Chris writes:

What is wrong with "The Paradox of Democracy?" Perhaps with a subtitle "The Logic of Collective Belief"

Capital Freedom writes:

Here's a thought:
A Simple Majority: The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality

Scott Scheule writes:

A nod to Donald Wittman:

The Myth of Democratic Success

That's too confrontational for my tastes, however.

dearieme writes:

Loopynomics: the Infinite Gullibility of the Masses.

Jordan writes:

It would be best if you could quote the aliens from the Simpsons...something along the lines of "Go ahead, throw your vote away! It's a two party system! Muhahahaha!"

David Friedman writes:

The Logic of Rational Irrationality: Why Governments Fail

(or reverse the order)


Why We Believe Lies


The Worst Form of Government

(Churchill reference)

rakehell writes:

I think the reason that Freakonomics is successful is everyone is buying it for the baby names section, which I happen to think is ill-researched.

James writes:

The Alchemy of Democracy

Harish writes:

Don't Rock the Vote!

Chris R writes:

Sorry to borrow one from the Fox network and the talented James Surowiecki, but...

The Ignorance of Crowds: Why voters choose bad policy.

The Religion of Bad Economics.

And a modification of your original...

The (Il)logic of Collective Belief: What voters don't know hurts them.

T.R. Elliott writes:

1. It's come to my attention that my comments are not very constructive. Given that I value truth, I agree. In fact--my words--I'd say I'm pretty much a jerk. Ok, enough jerkdom.


2. I've not analyzed the excerpt yet. I will. In depth. In the mean time, given my quick read through the material, I'd call the book:

One Dollar, One Vote

Because I think that is the ultimate argument.

tc writes:

The Muddled Majority: Why Smart People Vote For Dumb Things

Tim Worstall writes:

Running together some recently successful titles:

"Geeks, freaks and why you can never buy a successful democracy".

Njal writes:

The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality or How Much Democracy Do We Really Want.

or combined with D. Friedman's suggestion (I really would like to share a table with him :-)

The Worst Form of Government: How Much Democracy Do We Really Want

Bill Stepp writes:

The Logic of Mass Delusion: How Voter Irrationality Originated and Why It Persists

or maybe Electoral Mass Delusion, etc.

Btw, have you read the recent book _Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy_ ?
It was reviewed in The Economist a few weeks ago but I haven't seen it.

I love the mass delusion part. It's fun!
Reminds me of the Clinton follies.

asg writes:

David Friedman beat me to "The Worst Form of Government", but along the same lines:

"Three Wolves and a Sheep: The Fundamental Weaknesses of Democracy" (from the old aphorism "Democracy is three wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner"... I suppose this doesn't work, actually, since the aphorism illustrates the problem of too MUCH rationalism in voting!)

"The Government We Deserve: Voter Irrationality and Democratic Outcomes"

Njal writes:

One more -

Be Careful What You Wish (or Vote) For. The Logic of Collective Belief

Bill Dupre writes:

Vote and Die

Robert Cote writes:

I'd say you've got another Chapter for your book. Can we be listed as Contributors? (just kidding)

Tom writes:

Voting Against Liberty

Erich Schwarz writes:

I suggest:

The Logic of Voter Irrationality.

Concise, not rude, and paradoxical.

Tim Lundeen writes:

Fascinating excerpt.

Obviously this is why political parties try to develop an emotional bond with their members: "My party right or wrong". If you're not going to consider your vote rationally, as an attempt to make a collective decision that leads to the outcome you think best, you might as well vote in a way that makes you feel good.

How about a title along the lines of "Unwilling to See" or "Collective Blindness".

Best of luck with this, I'll get a copy when it comes out :-)

William Stepp writes:

Politicians and Ballots: Weapons of Mass Stupidity

Geoffrey Brand writes:

The Madness of Crowds Who Vote
And the Popular Delusions that Drive Them

Obviously a MacKay reference...

Geoffrey Brand

Gil Guillory writes:

Good and Hard: How Democracy Doesn't Work

Nice work, Mr Caplan.

liberty writes:

Benevolent Ignorance: How Democracy Acts as the Opiate of the Masses.

liberty writes:

The only problem - that didn't really speak to the economics of it except as reference to Marx. You might want to add an additional subtitle :

"A Study of The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality"

Delusional Democracy: The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality

or: Delusions of Democracy

Rod McFadden writes:

Electoral Brothels: giving the customer what he wants

Marcus writes:

"The Irony of Democracy"

No, wait... that's been taken.

Les Livingstone writes:

My suggested title for Bryan Caplan's new book is:


In the remote probability that this title might win, I'll reluctantly forego the lunch, because I'm in West Palm Beach, FL. Instead, I would happily accept a signed copy of the book. Good luck with this admirable and important book.

PJens writes:

Wishful Voting: Explaining Collective Voter Irrationality

Bill Stepp writes:

The Democratic Delusion: The Political Economy of Voter Irrationality

It's a counterweight to James Marone's The Democratic Wish, although his book is history, not theory.

superdestroyer writes:

Fooling Ourselves: How We Harm Ourselves and America While in the Voting Booth.

PS. How about Arties instead of Mortons?

Jeremy writes:

Slightly belligerent:

"Dumocracy" (or "Dumbocracy," but that starts with "Dumbo")

Less belligerent:

"Ballots or Wallets?" (or some variation)


"The Butterfly Effect" (reference to both Chaos Theory and Florida elections)

James D. Miller writes:

Voters' rational irrationality.

Gary Rogers writes:

How about:

Hijacking the Vote: An Economic Look at How Systematic Bias Undermines Our Future

Whatever you call it, I look forward to seeing it in print. Congratulations!

eric writes:

The Logic(?) of Crowds

Behavioral Politics

Stupidity and Rational Self Interest

Geoffrey Brand writes:

Slight modification of what I had earlier...

The Madness of Crowds Who Vote.
Why Extraordinary Popular Delusions Persist in Democracy

Andy writes:

How about any of these??

"Why our Best Interests Don't get the Vote"

"Manufacturing Choice with Political Machines: An Economic Approach to Voter Irrationality"

"Creating the Illusion of Choice"

"Why People Voted for Bush and Other Logical Errors Made by Voters"

"Voting Against Yourself: Why we can't get it right at the Ballot Box"

"I Voted for Freedom and all I got was this Stupid War?"

and... how could you not pick this one?

"Dude, Where's my Choice? Sounding the Alarm against Voter Irrationality with Economics"

"Why your Best Interest Don't Show Up at the Ballot Box: Explained by Economist Bryan Caplan"

Sorry, kinda got on a roll (probably downhill? heh.)

Michael Giesbrecht writes:

As Good as it Gets: The Government of Irrational Voters

Dan G writes:

Lying to ourselves
Preferences over beliefs
The Government We Deserve
Don't Blame Me
Ordinary Demagoguery
Voter Turnoff
Wishful Voting
Public Bads
The Cult of Democracy

Wild Pegasus writes:

A Chicken in Every Garage: The Absurdities Underlying Mass Franchise Democracy
The Whore is Us: The Poor Choices That Voters Make
Jasonomics: Bad Ideas That Voters Have That Won't Die
Chinese Democracy is Coming Out This Year!*
Kiss This Baby!

* Sorry, weird joke.

- Josh

Finlog writes:

My take:

The Right to be Wrong. An inquiry into the economics of voter irrationality.

lw writes:

Please Stop Us Before We Vote Again

David Williamson writes:

So Crazy it Just Might Work: The Study of Rational Irrationality.

RdJ writes:

I like the antithetical symmetry between 'logic' and 'irrationality' in your title. A shorter title might be better remembered and less confused with all the other book titles containing 'logic' and 'collective' - how about Presumed Rational?

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