MRV Update: The New York Times Magazine Review
By Bryan Caplan
Caplan’s complaint is not that special-interest groups might subvert the will of the people, or that government might ignore the will of the people. He objects to the will of the people itself.
In defending democracy, theorists of public choice sometimes invoke what they call “the miracle of aggregation.”…
The hitch, as Caplan points out, is that this miracle of aggregation works only if the errors are random. When that’s the case, the thousands of ill-informed votes in favor of the bad health plan are canceled out by thousands of equally ignorant votes in favor of the good plan. But Caplan argues that in the real world, voters make systematic mistakes about economic policy — and probably other policy issues too.
Caplan’s own evidence for the systematic folly of voters comes from a 1996 survey comparing the views of Ph.D. economists and the general public. To the exasperation of the libertarian-minded Caplan, most Americans do not think like economists.
Confession: In writing this book, I tried hard to appeal to – not just build on – multiple disciplines. The fact that I can get such a fair review from a Princeton political scientist like Gary Bass means a lot to me.