How a Rational Politician Treats Irrational Voters
By Bryan Caplan
I officially nominate Greg Mankiw for an Emperor Has No Clothes Award. The Award (it’s real!) normally goes to critics of religion. But politics is the premiere religion of the modern world – and where else can you find impious candor like this?
The expression “create or save,” which has been used regularly by the
President and his economic team, is an act of political genius. You can
measure how many jobs are created between two points in time. But there
is no way to measure how many jobs are saved. Even if things get much,
much worse, the President can say that there would have been 4 million
fewer jobs without the stimulus.
An actual answer to the
question “What metric?” could have taken the form: “If the unemployment
rate on [insert date] is below [insert threshold], I will judge the
plan to be a success.” Given the uncertainties inherent in the economy,
however, no sensible politician would hold himself to such a measurable
Yes, yes! Let me add, though, that when politicians are spending a trillion dollars, any sensible voter would insist upon a measurable standard. “Create or save” is simultaneously absolute nonsense and an act of “political genius” because political genius is nothing other than the masterful manipulation of voter irrationality.