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The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies | [Bryan Caplan]

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies

The greatest obstacle to sound economic policy is not entrenched special interests or rampant lobbying, but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases held by ordinary voters. This is economist Bryan Caplan's sobering assessment in this provocative and eye-opening book.
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Publisher's Summary

The greatest obstacle to sound economic policy is not entrenched special interests or rampant lobbying, but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases held by ordinary voters. This is economist Bryan Caplan's sobering assessment in this provocative and eye-opening book.

Caplan argues that voters continually elect politicians who either share their biases or else pretend to, resulting in bad policies winning again and again by popular demand. Boldly calling into question our most basic assumptions about American politics, Caplan contends that democracy fails precisely because it does what voters want. Through an analysis of Americans' voting behavior and opinions on a range of economic issues, he makes the convincing case that noneconomists suffer from four prevailing biases: they underestimate the wisdom of the market mechanism, distrust foreigners, undervalue the benefits of conserving labor, and pessimistically believe the economy is going from bad to worse. Caplan lays out several bold ways to make democratic government work better - for example, urging economic educators to focus on correcting popular misconceptions and reccomending that democracies do less and let markets take up the slack.

The Myth of the Rational Voter takes an unflinching look at how people who vote under the influence of false beliefs ultimately end up with government that delivers lousy results. With the upcoming presidential election season drawing nearer, this thought-provoking book is sure to spark a long-overdue reappraisal of our elective system.

This book is published by Princeton University Press.

©2007 Princeton University Press (P)2010 Redwood Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"The best political book this year." (The New York Times)

"Caplan thinks that democracy as it is now practiced cannot be salvaged, and his position is based on a simple observation: 'Democracy is a commons, not a market.'" (The New Yorker)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Lyle Houston, TX, United States 05-12-11
    Lyle Houston, TX, United States 05-12-11 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Refreshing"

    Good book by an author who's willing to depart from conventional wisdom. While democracy is spoken of virtually everywhere else as the only possible governance model for an enlightened nation, Mr. Caplan makes a good argument that democracy as we know it has some very serious flaws.

    If you like books by economists, as I do, then you'll like this one. He starts by asking a question that most people would never dare ask, then he logically pursues an answer by examining the incentives created for voters and politicians under a democratic system, how people respond to them and where that leads.

    Narrator does a fine job, in my opinion.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carrie 06-08-14
    Carrie 06-08-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Idea import, but too long"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    This book was way longer than it needed to be to prove its point. I feel like 50 pages might have been more appropriate.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The voice wasn't interesting or engaging. It was great to listen to while trying to fall asleep; you could fall asleep in 5 minutes. However it was really bad at keeping your attention (though that might have just been the overly repetitive nature of the book, but I feel like it's a combination of the two).


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    If it were an hour long documentary, I think it would be valuable.


    Any additional comments?

    Good premise

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rowdy SEATTLE, WA, United States 08-20-12
    Rowdy SEATTLE, WA, United States 08-20-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Not so great in audio format..."
    What did you like best about The Myth of the Rational Voter? What did you like least?

    The concept of the book is excellent and one that I approached with much interest, being the Anarcho-Capitalist/Libertarian that I am. The book outlines the case for why decisions made in the free market are always more rational, sustainable, and mutually beneficial than ideas made in the electoral process. Unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to follow when you're listening to it as the author throws out a lot of statistics and gets sidetracked easily. It would probably be best read in paperback format.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Very dry and shallow, and made it all the more difficult to listen to this book as opposed to reading it.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Certainly.


    Any additional comments?

    Highly reccomend it as a read if you have spare time, but not worth the audio version unless you have a really good attention span.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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