But just because voters are ideologically mixed does not mean they are centrists at heart. Many voters support a mix of extreme liberal policies (like taxing the rich at 90 percent) and extreme conservative policies (like deporting all undocumented immigrants). These voters only appear “centrist” on the whole by averaging their extreme views together into a single point on a liberal-conservative spectrum.

This makes those who celebrate voter centrism rather like the fabled statistician who drowned in a river that was 2 feet deep on average. Even if voters are centrist on average, they can be quite extreme on many particular issues.

The result? Reforms that empower voters may not push politicians further to the center — instead, they may encourage politicians to pander to extreme views popular among voters. Indeed, where they have been enacted, many changes that reformers favor — like public funding of elections and top-two primaries [DRH note: as we now have in California] — have resulted in politicians doing just this. By seeking to further empower voters in the name of reducing polarization, well-meaning reformers may actually be encouraging dangerous extremism.

This is from David Broockman, “How well-meaning political reformers are helping to elect President Trump,” Washington Post, March 7.

Broockman is an assistant professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He’s sharp.

I somehow think that co-blogger Bryan Caplan would like this article a lot.

HT@ Stephen M. Jones.