Israel, Palestine, and the Enlightened Preference Approach
By Bryan Caplan
A while back, I gave EconLog readers a primer on the “Enlightened Preference” approach to policy. The key idea is that you give subjects two surveys. The first tests objective knowledge; the second elicits policy preferences. The idea is to see if – controlling for other respondent characteristics – people who know more want different policies.
Now if you read the comments to my post on Joe Sacco’s Palestine, you might notice that a number of readers invoke something akin to the Enlightened Preference approach. An anonymous pro-Israeli writes:
One is constantly being bombarded with propaganda in favor of
the Palestinians, while we have access to all the internal political
debates within Israel itself. We know both the justifications for their
actions and the heated internal debates over which actions are
appropriate… Anyone who
hasn’t heard the Palestinian side hasn’t been listening.
In contrast, Saifedean writes:
If you don’t believe me, then you truly must start reading stuff other
than Zionist garbage propaganda that passes for American discourse on
the Middle East.
The claim on both sides at least seems to be that any fair-minded person who knew the basic facts would share their policy preferences.
It’s obvious that both sides can’t be right. It is however possible for both sides to be wrong. If we applied the Enlightened Preference approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and added control variables for ethnicity and religion – what do you think we’d find?
My best guess is that greater knowledge would lead to slightly more pro-Palestinian policy preferences. But I’d be amazed if the implicit model of either side – initially neutral people who learned the facts would agree with me – turned out to be correct.
If anyone can propose a reasonable bet about this, I’m listening. In the meanwhile, I’m going to email my Enlightened Preference guru to see if this question can be resolved using existing data.
Update: As far as my EP guru knows, the approach has never been applied to this issue.