Voters as Mad Scientists

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I'm a Bryan Caplan fanboy, having read his "real" books The Myth of the Rational Voter and The Case Against Education; his "comic" book (with Zach Weinersmith) on immigration, Open Borders; and his three previous collections of (mostly) his EconLog posts Labor Econ Versus the World, How Evil Are Politicians?, and Don't Be a Feminist.

This book is the fourth in that series, The general theme is Caplan's antipathy toward politics and resulting statism. The opening essay (and the book's title) describe the overarching problem: in a democracy, we give the voting collective coercive power over our lives. With two complications: (1) the collective has systemic biases (most specifically anti-market biases) that would make everyone worse off; (2) they, like mad scientists, are "unselfish" in expressing those biases. They are for our own good! You're welcome, no charge, it's on the house!

Along the way, Caplan hits some of my favorite themes. One is that we hold government to "absurdly low standards", resulting in high costs and low performance. To paraphrase the Lily Tomlin character Ernestine: "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the state."

I also very much enjoyed a pair of articles where a libertarian and a conservative act as "missionaries", each trying to convert the other. I am often in that middle territory myself, and darned if I didn't find myself nodding in agreement with both these articles.

Guess I will always find myself in between the camps. (Currently I'm running 71%-29% libertarian. Approximately.)

The downside of Caplan's format is that it's disjointed. Putting together blog posts (typically 2-3 pages) on paper don't necessarily make a coherent whole.

Quibble one: It appears, as before, that the hyperlinks in the original blog posts have been auto-converted to footnotes in the book's text; this is (to put it mildly) less than convenient if you're interested in following them. I would have, at least, included the posts' URLs as well.

Quibble two: I also noticed a couple typos; there are probably more that I missed.

Last Modified 2024-02-24 6:50 AM EDT