Monday, June 25, 2007

Stupid Voters --> Stupid Policies

I start this series of essays by referring to the book by Bryan Caplan entitled " The Myth of the Rational Voter".  Bryan believes that that democracies choose bad policies and he has a number of reasons that he believes so.  Chief among these reasons are the 4 following items:
AntiMarket Bias
AntiForeign Bias
Make-work Bias
Pessimistic Bias

Bryan states that the American voting public votes for policies that oppose a free marketplace.  They also have a chip on their shoulder about foreigners, they think that lots of jobs means prosperity and they have a definitely pessimistic view of the future.  The evidence for these biases is explained well in the book as well as some of the results of such biases.  I intend to probe into why these biases exist and discuss the policy results of these biases beyond what is explored in the book.

AntiForeign bias is synonomous with xenophobia.  Everyone has xenophobia to some degree.  In addition, the flip side of xenophobia is herd behaviour.  Take for example a soccer fan or an American football fan.  They jokingly refer to the opposition as the enemy and call for blood during a game.  Whether they are actually joking or not, the behaviour is rooted in xenophobia.  Why is xenophobia so widespread ?  Let us look at proto-man, in the era of 100,000 B.C.  PM moves about in tribes.  Maybe tribes cooperate but if a single individual is discovered sans his tribe, the discovering tribe is likely have him for dinner or pre-dinner entertainment.  Thus PM has a well developed fear of strangers.  Fast forward to the year 2007 and find that reptilian concept buried deep in the brain of modern man.  Covered with a thin veneer of 10,000 years of civility.  Ready to jump out at the most embarrassing moments.  One example of a breakout is the concept of "Freedom Fries".  Even though 70% of Americans appear tired of the war in Iraq, no one that I know of has apologized to the French for this faux-pas. heh heh.

AntiMarket Bias ....  This refers to the fact that although Capitalism has been proclaimed the winner over Socialism and Protectionism, the two latter theories are still supported by the preponderance of American voters.  There is much evidence supporting the view that the free market serves the interests of voters in a superior way and yet voters are largely immune to this evidence.  Why is this ?
I want to go back to our proto-man of 100,000 B.C.  As the tribe travels around and meets other tribes, some trade occurs.  Yet such trade has little impact on the tribe.  Stealing from other tribes seems more effective ( no quid-pro quo ) and the tribe must be ever vigilant against other tribes and nature.  If the tribe does not take of a tribe member X, then X is likely to die.  If the tribe does not protect it's favourite hunting ground and keep it secret, the tribe is likely to die.  [ Hence the American patent system, but I digress ].  Thus we see Socialism and Protectionism are burned into the dinosaur brain structure of the proto-man.

Make-work Bias
As you might expect, I am going to invoke proto-man once again.  In 100,000 B.C. everyone has to work or the tribe is going to starve or freeze.  Of course, if proto-man lives in a Hawaiian pardise, perhaps all he has to do is kick a coconut tree and step to the side for lunch.  Most proto-men have to hustle as there will be snow storms and tiggers and other stuff to ber ready for.  No doubt this is where the Protestant work ethic came from.  And we can see that a elederly wiseman would be useful he represents the largest network hard drive available.  Thus proto-man has drilled into his wee cranium that work is necessary and is linked with prosperity.  Also we see that PM would develop a strong idolization of those with the largest hard drives and the easiest retrieval interface.  [ Which is why politicians are listened to and scientists are dissed ]

Pessimistic Bias
Proto-man of the year 100,000 B.C. has no written history and each day is a new adventure in survival.  He has no inkling of technology making things easier and easier for common activities.  He has no concept of being able to take a month long holiday in the summer.  Proto-man vies each day with pessimism or at least must aproach each new day with caution and wariness.  This kind of thinking becomes buried deep in the crevices of the inner smart matter.  It will be genetically passed on to year 2007 man as well as the other biases presented earlier.

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