The Ethics of Giving Machiavellian Advice
By Bryan Caplan
A British reporter just gave me the following hypothetical: Suppose a politician wanted to cynically take advantage of voter irrationality to gain their support for costly measures to fight global warming. What would his most effective strategies be?
One of my answers: Loudly announce that industry, not consumers, will pay the price.
I have to admit, though, that I was reluctant to answer the question. It makes me feel a little like an accomplice.
Still, I doubt I’m telling politicians anything they don’t already know. And by shining some light on politicians’ efforts to take advantage of voter irrationality, I think I’m slightly undermining the effectiveness of their manipulation.
Question: Is it right or wrong to publicly offer hypothetical Machiavellian advice?