By Amy Willis
I don’t know about you, but my feeds are dominated by the RNC in Cleveland this week…I’m not following the circus closely at all…But I do think this is an opportune time to reflect on what economics can tell us about politics more generally…
Politics, like markets, is a means of allocating resources, according to Rick Stroup’s excellent article on political behavior in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. So we shouldn’t dismiss politics out of hand. However, politics differs from markets in other siginificant ways. As Mike Munger says in this Feature Article, “In politics you try to move money around and take credit for it. In markets you try to create value and make profits.”
It’s also important to remember that politicians (and presumptive politicians) are just like you and I in that they, too, respond predictably to incentives. And indeed, if they are to represent so many people, we should “understand that our interests are diverse and that no politician can really fight for all of us.” That, and pigs don’t fly.
Of course, there’s been lots leading up top this week…David Henderson was “stumped by Trump” already last year… Bryan Caplan early on found this election to fit his “simplistic theory of Left and Right” quite well. But Caplan does find the 2016 contest to be an outlier based on his framework from The Myth of the Rational Voter.
If you’re shocked, like me, at the level of incivility in this electoral cycle, Arnold Kling’s typology of “the three languages of politics” might be illustrative. According to Kling, Progressives, Conservatives, and Libertarians each have their onw language, making it easier to demonize one another. (You can also read Kling’s e-book for only $1.99!)
The RNC also reminds me to be skeptical whenever we hear reference to what “we” want or are going to do. There is no “we.”
And finally (and just for fun!), there has been a seemingly endless number of pieces over the last several months proclaiming the death of the Republican Party. But this is the only one I’ve seen in the form of a drinking song…