Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on May 17, 2018

in Politics, Truth-seeking & ideology, Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 132 of my colleague Bryan Caplan’s remarkable 2007 volume, The Myth of the Rational Voter (original emphasis):

Since delusional political beliefs are free, the voter consumes until he reaches his “satiation point,” believing whatever makes him feel best. When a person puts on his voting hat, he does not have to give up practical efficacy in exchange for self-image, because he has no practical efficacy to give up in the first place.

DBx: Holding a political belief generally has no material cost for the individual who holds it. His or her own actions, alone, will never determine the outcome of any political election and will exert an effect on society’s norms that is imperceptible to him or her. So the assistant professor who feels good about himself because he supports minimum-wage legislation as a means of reducing inequality, or the retiree who is convinced that a greater abundance of imports means less prosperity for the people of his country, can continue to cling to such a belief without ever personally paying any real price for holding and clinging to it. This reality, of course, is true for all beliefs, be they ones that you judge to be sound or ones that you judge to be utterly wacky.

Politics – by so thoroughly uncoupling the holding of particular beliefs from the actual consequences of putting those beliefs into action – is a source of what Bryan Caplan correctly calls “rational irrationality.”

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