Democracy & Irresponsibility

by Don Boudreaux on August 29, 2006

in Politics

The state brings out the kid in all of us (or so I argue in my latest column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).

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save the rustbelt August 29, 2006 at 9:37 am

So everyone who is not a college professor is stupid. I've heard that sentiment in several faculty lounges over the years.

Could it be that people have to work hard and take care of their families and don't have time to sit around pondering and blogging?

A little condescending are we?

Cut the caffeine and go meet some real people, the Ivory Tower is getting to you.

Don Boudreaux August 29, 2006 at 9:46 am

Save the Rustbelt,

How can you possibly suggest that essay in any way suggested that persons who aren't college professors are stupid? I don't remotely come close to saying any such thing.

If you read my column carefully, you'll see that what I argue is that the separation by the political process of persons' choices from the consequences of those choices causes people to behave more irresponsibly than those very same people behave in the private sector. This fact is true of everyone, including college professors.

Nothing — zilch, nada — in my essay says or even implies that a person's maturity of behavior is positively correlated with his or her education.

Did you read what I wrote?

Noah Yetter August 29, 2006 at 10:58 am

"If you read my column carefully…"

I think it's pretty obvious that save_the_rustbelt did not actually read your column. At all.

mcwop August 29, 2006 at 11:49 am

I prefer the government not protect me from, my own stupidity. Why? I prefer to not live in an authoritarian society, which we seem to move closer to every day.

I am ok with limited government that deals with clearly important issues such as clean air (we kind of need that to survive). The government unfortunately pumps out more and more stupid rules each day; rules such as not allowing the pumping of your own gas because some people feel the urge to control every inconsequential facet of other’s lives. Both political parties are equally guilty of this; they only differ in what inconsequential things they choose to control.

I have met real people before. I might even be one myself.

Ivan August 29, 2006 at 12:23 pm


The article was a bit pointless.

Are you questioning democracy? We have no good alternative.

You should have made a more direct attack on unlimited government that lets voters' imaginations run wild.

Politicians operating in a limited setting are obviously liars if they promise the moon.

Don't let my criticism get you down though. I love the blog :)

Swimmy August 29, 2006 at 12:43 pm

Ivan: I'd say the public-choice critique of democracy and the argument for limited government go hand-in-hand. We have no good alternative to democracy per se, but pure Rousseauian democracy is very undesirable and worth opposing. To advocate further constitutional limits we must establish the problems with majority rule.

John Pertz August 29, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Ivan said:

"Are you questioning democracy? We have no good alternative."

Well we do have a choice as to what brand of democracy. I am sure that James Buchanon's brand of democracy differs greatly from a left liberals. We can amend the constitution in ways that will give incentives to citizens to vote in a more rational way than the current order is providing. Dr. Boudreaux's key insight in the article is that the current practice of democracy in the United State's gives citizens incentives to vote in an irrational and irresponsible way because they do not own the wealth that their votes will ultimately arbitrate the use of. As opposed to the private sector where each of us owns our own resources and decides how we want to allocate them. As a result, politics, which is the interplay of our political ideologies, can chose to go fight a multi billion dollar war in Iraq, fund trillion and half a dollar government sponsered health care programs, can pay for part of the retirement of every US citizen, a couple of hundred million dollars in pork barel projects, and god knows what else I am leaving out. On top of all of that, the majority of voters do not want to pay high taxes, want a vibrant economy with good jobs, dont want to see inflation spiral out of control because of the tender of mass government debt, and they want the government to play god and alter weather paterns. The current political climate in the United States is an absolute fantasy land where swash buckling politicians sell false hopes to median voters who are ultimately the enablers of this potentialy untenable state of affairs.

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