It's a very ancient saying,
But a true and honest thought,
That if you become a teacher,
By your pupils you'll be taught.
              --The King and I

I’ve long nagged my students to enter essay contests. So I’m especially pleased to report that my former student, Prof. Ed Stringham of San Jose State, seems to have taken my advice to heart.

Ed subtly brought our co-authored essay, “Mises, Bastiat, Public Opinion, and Public Choice: What’s Wrong With Democracy?” to the attention of the right people. Lo and behold, we were nominated for a 2006 Templeton Enterprise Award. And at last night’s awards dinner, we were delighted to hear that we’d won First Prize and $25,000.

In terms of marginal productivity, Ed deserves the whole prize. I had no idea the prize existed, so no Ed, no prize. Thankfully, Ed is too loyal a student to accept anything more than half the prize plus a $1 finder’s fee.

So what’s the deal with this article? Long story short: I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing Mises and other Austrian economists. But I don’t hate Mises. I love Mises. He has been one of the primary inspirations for my whole research program on democracy, voter irrationality, and political failure.

For Mises, as for me, democracies adopt bad policies because most people are irrationally committed to systematically mistaken economic (and other) beliefs, and politicians have to heed public opinion to get elected. It’s a simple but powerful model, and, despite Mises’ reputation as an “anti-empiricist,” Ed and I argue that modern research shows that the facts are on his side.

My current plan is to ramp up my pro-contest propaganda. During all these years of nagging students to enter essay contests, it never occured to me that I might get a cut of the prize money. Thanks for listening, Ed!

P.S. Here’s the press release.