Bryan Caplan  

Reducing Ignorance, Facilitating Irrationality?

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The Cato Institute is making it really easy to discover politicians' voting records on free trade. With the click of a button, for example, we can find out the trade positions of Dorgan and Wyden, the demagogues who bedeviled Robin Hanson. (You won't be surprised).

It's great the Cato is helping to reduce public ignorance. But mightn't it be facilitating public irrationality? If the public is protectionist (and it is), increasing awareness of trade records could actually hurt free traders.

Should we hope that the Cato label will keep protectionists from finding out who's really on their side?


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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Paul Geddes writes:

Notice Ron Paul's tragic performance?

Barrier Votes: 58% (29 votes out of 50 opposing trade barriers)

Yes, yes, his supporters keep telling me that he REALLY wants free trade, and only votes against these half measures because he wants more PURE free trade.

His strategy, to say the least, is very confusing. Not only to me, but also to the xenophobes. Is that why someone recently sent me a protectionist screed about losing jobs to foreigners under a Ron Paul fan club title....

Paul Geddes, Vancouver CANADA
(location should indicate why I'm particular senstivie about border gestapo supporters)

David N. Welton writes:

Nice, but the application is irritating in its incompleteness. I can immediately think of a lot of ways I'd like to dissect the data that aren't presented:

* By party.
* By region or state.
* Who are the most/least anti-trade.

I'm sure there are many more ways of looking at it.

Lord writes:

I thought we had reached the point where everyone is rational by definition and any inadequacy is in our understanding of it, or have I missed something?

RL writes:

Dear Lord,

You have missed Bryan's latest book, apparently...

Pedant writes:

I have to side with Paul and Kevin Carson on those "free trade agreements". Simple public choice theory leads me to believe most bills produced by our legislature are exercises in rent-seeking. Bills as bloated as those agreements especially so. Who cares if they call it "free trade"? What it is in practice is just more statism.

Dain writes:

Pedant,

Hear Hear!

LemmusLemmus writes:

Given that people who visit the Cato site are highly likely to be in favour of free trade, you've probably identified a nonproblem.

Horatio writes:

Protectionists are less intelligent on average and unlikely to find Cato's rankings.

agnosticvote writes:

I'd be one of the first to point out McCain's shortcomings, his record on free trade is fantastic. That has to be a good sign, right?

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