mercoledì 31 marzo 2010

Rational irrationality

The comments of this post from Coordination Problem are interesting, especially - as usual - O'Driscoll's. The topic is Bryan Caplan's theory of rational irrationality. There is also a comment of mine, but O'Driscoll's comments make it outdated. I think I will think about the issue during the holidays.

Just a small summary of Caplan's argument (I bet my language is different: I've never studied public choice seriously, I'm Austrian, and I read the book "The myth of the rational voter" more than one year ago).
  1. If I believe that gravity doesn't exist and I jump off a bridge, I die. That's the cost of being irrational, which is particularly strong in real "private" life.
  2. Where's this feedback mechanism in politics? Each single voter has a 0.0000001% probability of being relevant at the margin at the elections. The benefits of informed and rational choices are public, the costs are private: reasonableness is a public good. Rationality is systematically underproduced, because rational politics from the point of view of the voters is a tragedy of the common.
The argument is a priori correct and a posteriori touches a very important fact I consider beyond dispute: people which are clever in their private lives become much dumber when it comes to politics, and I have never noticed the opposite. Besides, the theory also explains the success of Keynesian ideas.

The objections raised in the comments are:
  1. Organized political groups are competitive and will invest in "rationalizing" the voters.
  2. Economists don't invest in laymen's education: when they did it, voters were more rational.
These are great issues. Unfortunately I don't know much public choice, but I think I have something to say about it. Next week.

Nessun commento:

Posta un commento