Bryan Caplan  

Stossel and Me

PRINT
Some Useful Notes on the Crisi... Futarchy in Camden, Maine...
My 20/20 segment - or at least part of it - is already up on Youtube.  The title: "Should Some People Not Vote."  It would have been nice to get more airtime, but it's an honor just meeting Stossel and being on his show. 

I only wish they'd used my favorite sound bite, which went something like this: "Before I studied public opinion, I wondered why our policies were so bad.  After I studied public opinion, I started wondering why our policies weren't worse.  An important part of the answer is that the people who know less are less likely to vote."

Alternate version: "When you watch the presidential debates, you may think that the candidates are pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator.  If everyone voted, though, they'd be pandering to a much lower Lowest Common Denominator."


Comments and Sharing





TRACKBACKS (1 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/962
The author at Classical Values in a related article titled the proper functioning of a republic writes:
    What if Barack Obama adopted John McCain's policies? As the following interviews (all broadcast on the Howard Stern Show) suggest, he'd still be supported by many of his followers. The few McCain voters who were interviewed also seemed to feel... [Tracked on October 11, 2008 9:16 AM]
COMMENTS (9 to date)
Eric Hanneken writes:

ABC News also has the video, along with a text version of the story. The comments are abundant and mostly nasty.

Chuck writes:

Do you have a reply to those who might say that the rationality of voters is largely irrelevant since election outcomes can be predicted by macro factors like income and GDP growth?

Jay in FL writes:

Appropriate to read both the nasty comments and notice the pop-up on the right side of the page for the piece on Britney Spears appearing on 20/20 tonight.

Paludicola writes:

"The Myth of the Rational Voter" has been sitting upon my bookshelf for several months as my own tardiness and other obligations relentlessly force it further down the list, so I properly acquainted with Professor Caplan's proposition. With that in mind, I think that the present crisis lends credence to the objection that intelligent people are not immune to failure and indeed can readily fail spectacularly, so a political system dominated by them would then also in time dramatically fail. That the whole number and total magnitude of failures by elite government would be less than those of popular government seems possible, but I don't know enough to assess that possibility.

I suspect that the most pernicious consequences of popular government manifest in the political campaigns that it encourages and the sort of people who are best able to wage such campaigns. The present nigh de facto popular election of presidents seems more like a contest to choose a new Santa Claus than one for the executive branch. Further, I also have a notion that popular government predisposes a nation towards acting, centralization and empowering prominent individual politicians.

ryan yin writes:

Chuck,
Insofar as the models are valid, they would only tell you which of two candidates wins, right? I don't see why that would tell you much when candidate identity and platform is endogenous, or when there aren't many datapoints lacking the "really wants to win a majority" fixed effect.

scott clark writes:

good work, boss.

you got out two answers, but they had to get out of the story to make room for britney. kinda almost reinforces your point.

scott

Paludicola writes:

A frustratingly long section of the show was devoted to Barbara Walters interviewing some man who was scandalously married to some woman; I knew nothing of either.

John Stossel irritates me less now than he did when I was a liberal, but he still seems smug to me. The advocates of mass registration argued for their position as feebly as I had expected. In the end, they seem to resort to invoking holy democracy itself.

It has long bothered me that most people seem to think that the degree of popular participation in government is the measure of its worth rather than its outputs, which most would consider the important measure of any policy enacted by a government. If we did try to measure government by its outputs, however, it would be a rather difficult thing to decide what outputs should be thought good. If we adopt limited participation, then whatever controls the standard for suffrage would be coveted and doubtless readily abused.

Frejus writes:

All Stossel reports are the same. Find something he thinks stupid. Say solution is free markets. Or say that he's brave because he's "politically incorrect" in reporting on it. (Play theme song from Rocky here--for all the brave politically incorrect people.)

(BTW: I think this is when Stossel lost his mind.)

The basic argument of Stossel's piece has problems: Those who know less should play no role in picking those who know more. E.g. don't buy a car because you don't understand the combustion engine. Don't hire an electrician because you don't understand wiring codes. Etc. Essential bootstrap problem in this idea. And total ignorance of values and morality.

Thus, his segment was about as informative as a story of a man who cheats on his supermodel wife or a has-been pop singer making a comeback. I guess that's why Stossel's story was sandwiched between them.

John Richardson writes:

"The basic argument of Stossel's piece has problems: Those who know less should play no role in picking those who know more. E.g. don't buy a car because you don't understand the combustion engine. Don't hire an electrician because you don't understand wiring codes. Etc. Essential bootstrap problem in this idea. And total ignorance of values and morality."

You may not have to understand the combustion engine, but you should know that it's not a good idea to put saltwater in your engine.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top