The Myth of the Rational Voter

Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
Narrated by: David Drummond
Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (223 ratings)

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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

Critic Reviews

"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 listeners say about The Myth of the Rational Voter

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

3 people found this helpful

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Moral consideration 0%, Logical thoughtwork 100%

Suppose you wanted to wander around the mental landscape of an expert, capitalist, liberal economist. Here it is, you found it. The bedrock is maybe a little more sociopathic in nature than is comfortable, but the crystal clear rivers are pure logic, running around and through and over preconceptions of the forest. Metaphors aside, I was by turns scowling, snorting, raising eyebrows and sighing thoughtfully as I read. There's fascinating ideas here, alongside no small amount of privileged bullshit. If I was of a mind to nitpick, I could also go off about the constant use male pronouns when simply 'people' or something neutral would do. Or references to US citizens as 'Americans' while Mexican citizens are compared as simply 'Mexican'. (How is it so easily forgotten that there are two full continents of Americans? Peruvians are just as American as New Yorkers.) I recommend this book for it's various insights into critical thinking and logic, invaluable tools to be sure, but caution that it's a bit a dry, whimsical, and offensive ride at times. Still, the value of stepping outside one's ideological bubble can't be overstated. Give it a go.

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Interesting

Overall the content of the book was interesting and the author does a good job of making his argument. The book is somewhat hindered by being in audio format.

* Even with the headers between sections, it can be hard to tell where they are. It would help it the reader had paused briefly for them.
* The author likes to do lots of block quotes surrounded by prose. Given he is typically quoting contemporary writers, it can be hard to tell when the quote starts. This is a problem audible has in general.

With those complaints in mind, the book is still quite interesting and thought provoking. I still recommend listening to it.

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Drones on and on and on.....

I had high hope's. Like listening to someone reading recipes. I suppose unless this is your field maybe then it would be interesting.

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Great analysis and theory

I'm absolutely biased in that I like Bryan Caplan's writing and ideas (separate from believing them). That being said, I think there is a lot of merit in this book with it's research and sound reasoning. Yes, he probably makes some big assumptions and leaves out some weaknesses of his theory. Still, he seems to account for a lot those too in his book. As far as the audio goes, it's fairly well done, but the lack of changing emphasis and tone in the reader's voice was sometimes distracting and made it hard to ingratiate oneself in the book. However, it was still fairly easy to listen too. Overall, highly recommended.

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A compilation of biased and unsupported assumptions.

Waste of time. Pompous and full of unsupported assumptions. Totally detached from reality or merely a propaganda piece. A blunt exercise in smuggling ideology under disguise of economics.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Often Marginalizes Individual Beliefs

Among other distasteful things in this book, the author clearly subsumes that democracy is embodied in the U.S. constitution. In reality, the word democracy is nowhere found in the constitution! Having said this, Mr. Caplan would no doubt call me a "fundamentalist"; this was a chacterazation that he often used in this book. I am convinced that Mr. Caplan is an atheist with a distinctive Darwinian humanist world view, and he makes every effort to dispense with the voting public who may have religious beliefs. Beliefs which actually affect their lives - not just their voting decisions. His references to such people are typified with the term "irrational" or "irrational rationality" (if they happen to per chance, vote the "right way"). Instead of revealing the underlying cause for democracy's inherent weaknesses, Mr. Caplan chooses instead to highlight examples of specific voter illogic. In fairness, some of the examples he uses are both interesting and humorous. He nevertheless unfailingly believes that its not the institution of democracy, but the voters who are defective. I am reminded of what Benjamin Franklin said to a woman who asked him what they (those at the Philadelphia convention) had "wrought". He said, a "republic if you can keep it". I will simply say; there is a huge difference between a Democracy and a Republic! Additionally, David Drummond (if I didn't know otherwise) sounded as if he was the author. If only all audiobooks could be read that way!

1 person found this helpful

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excellent topic. insightful and relevent

this book brilliantly explains through economic terms why voting and voters only believe themselves to be moral and correct

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Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended

Goes deep into complex subject matter while making sure you understand every word, just lovely.

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Very relevant

In the wake of political controversy with the election of an incompetent president, Caplan gives us sound explanation for this event. It is truly incredible how Caplan reasoned his way to a conclusion of voter irrationality that now has a 1 for 1 case study in politics biggest stage.

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  • Luca Nicotra
  • 12-19-19

Thought provoking

Do voters act in a rational fashion when they cast their ballots? Are they self interested or ideologically driven? Decades of research is strung together in a coherent and compelling story. Well worded and read. Reccomended to anyone interested in politics.

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  • Nicolas Karonis
  • 01-03-17

Rational acknowledgment of prevailing irrationalit

essential reading for anyone interested in the flaws of the Democratic process and how it affects economic policies.
Very efficiently debunks accepted common sense wisdom.