Bryan Caplan  

Public Choice Symposium on The Myth of the Rational Voter

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Schools, Jobs, and Extracurric... What I'm Saying...
The video of the 2008 Public Choice Society symposium on my book is now up on Youtube, courtesy of the noble Zac Gochenour.  On the panel: me, Randy Holcombe, Geoff Brennan, Mike Munger, and Art Carden.  Enjoy.


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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Nelson writes:

Bryan: I'm sorry to say I have not had time to read your work on the "Myth of the Rational Voter." I just wanted to make a larger point. I often hear people, even economists, talk about how economics assumes people make "rational" decisions. I guess my economics training is lacking. My understanding of how rationality fits into economics is through revealed preference. We do not observe preferences, we observe actions. By assuming people act "rationally", we assume that peoples actions say something about their preferences. If a ham and turkey sandwich are the same price and we observe that someone buys a ham sandwich for lunch rather than a turkey sandwich, we can say at the point of purchase that they desired a ham sandwich more than a turkey sandwich. In order to make this leap of faith, we assume rationality. By that I mean people make choices that reflect their preferences. If we can not make the rationality assumption, then we are stuck in a situation where we can not say anything about preferences from observed behavior. In my mind, rationality is actually a very weak assumption that allows for the use of revealed preference.

While I have not looked at your work in public choice theory, the notion of a "rational" voter always struck me as a very weak assumption. It doesn't mean that people don't make mistakes, or that information and other costs don't hinder fully informed decision making. But I have to say, over all the years I have been observing voting behavior, I have never seen an irrational voter. I may not like particular voters preferences, but that's another story.

Anyway, love your guys blog. Keep up the good work. Looking back, I guess I could argue that I made an irrational choice to leave academics to manage money on Wall Street! Believe me when I say that I see a lots of "irrational" people every day - at least according to my preferences.

Ruben Immel writes:

Round of applause! I certainly like what you said and I agree on the general. I am not one to mess things up, because in principle I totally agree with you, BUT I do page optimization is one aspect that can't be skipped.

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