In the last 20 years especially, the market has begun to generate an increasing number of positive effects that go uncounted by traditional economic measures. GDP can assess Google’s ability to sell ads, but it has never put a dollar amount to the collective gain in well-being that results from YouTube’s ever-growing stockpile of cat videos. It makes no attempt to figure out how much happier we all are now that we can read The New York Times for free or pre-qualify potential soulmates by height, educational status, alcohol consumption patterns, and smartphone operating system preferences.
“What if the Chinese, with all their capacity to produce … well, just peek under a few of your household items … had decided to hoard the production from all of their cheap labor for themselves? Not that you should be ready to up and move the family to China, but, ask yourself, would the average Chinese citizen be better or worse off than he/she is today? Would, for that matter, the average American?” A failing grade in economics to everyone who doesn’t get the correct answer.
I am quite smart and well-informed when it comes to knowing and satisfying my own preferences – for example, I know that I detest Bud Light and white zinfandel and that I love rich porters and Provencal rosés. I’m also smart and well-informed about how to teach principles of microeconomics. I know lots of things about lots of things – but I know nothing about the great bulk of things. As, say, a cardiologist, tailor, or plumber, I’m stupid – despite the fact that I have a beating heart, a wardrobe, and plumbing in my home. If I were given the power to vote on how cardiologists, tailors, or plumbers should pursue their trades, or on what these professional should or should not do for you as their paying customer, I could only vote stupidly. And so I would truly be stupid if I fancied that I am fit to vote on the ‘proper’ roles and practices of cardiologists, tailors, and plumbers. Jason Brennan makes a powerful case that lying to stupid voters is morally acceptable.