How Irrational are Voters?
By Arnold Kling
3. Voters are less irrational in many northern European countries. I don’t agree with their socialistic view of the world, but in epistemically procedural terms they are making a much greater effort to get at the truth and put that truth into their vote. What accounts for such a difference?
4. Bryan comes dangerously close to agreeing with me on broad matters of politics. I think public opinion, for better or worse, is often a constraint on what is possible; that is why Henry Farrell described my view as “big government libertarianism.” Bryan sees opinion as a variable to be manipulated, but he could equally well consider it as a constraint. His proposal to take more matters out of democratic hands begs the question of how this could be possible, given current public opinion.
I think that developed countries can survive a great deal of misguided policies. What is important is that we avoid succumbing to Despotic Populism, as Alvaro Vargas Llosa aptly describes the tendencies in Latin America and Russia.
Voting for a large welfare state run by misguided but well-intended bureaucrats is unwise, in my opinion, but not hopelessly irrational. Voting to replace a broad-based democratic form of government with a caudillo and his cronies is so far outside the bounds of rationality as to be unfathomable.
UPDATE: more by Llosa on despotic populism here.