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Rational Irrationality and the Microfoundations of Political Failure

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  • Caplan, Bryan

Abstract

Models of inefficient political failure have been criticized for implicitly assuming the irrationality of voters (Wittman, 1989, 1995, 1999; Coate and Morris, 1995). Building on Caplan's (1999) model of "rational irrationality", the current paper maintains that the assumption of voter irrationality is both theoretically and empirically plausible. It then examines microfoundational criticisms of four classes of political failure models: rent-seeking, pork-barrel politics, bureaucracy, and economic reform. In each of the four cases, incorporating simple forms of privately costless irrationality makes it possible to clearly derive the models' standard conclusions. Moreover, it follows that efforts to mitigate political failures will be socially suboptimal, as most of the literature implicitly assumes. It is a mistake to discount the empirical evidence for these models on theoretical grounds. Copyright 2001 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 107 (2001)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (June)
Pages: 311-31

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:107:y:2001:i:3-4:p:311-31

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100332

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Cited by:
  1. Livia Navone, 2013. "Property versus political holdouts: the case of the TGV rail line Lyon–Budapest in Italy," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 409-426, June.
  2. Geoffrey Dunbar & Juan Tu & Ruqu Wang & Xiaoting Wang, 2006. "Rationalizing Irrational Beliefs," Working Papers, Queen's University, Department of Economics 1033, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  3. Eric Crampton & Andrew Farrant, 2004. "Expressive and Instrumental Voting: The Scylla and Charybdis of Constitutional Political Economy," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 77-88, 03.
  4. Anthony Evans, 2014. "A subjectivist’s solution to the limits of public choice," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 23-44, March.
  5. Justin Fox, 2007. "Government transparency and policymaking," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 131(1), pages 23-44, April.
  6. Prieto-Rodríguez, Juan & Rodríguez, Juan Gabriel & Salas, Rafael & Suarez-Pandiello, Javier, 2009. "Quantifying fear: The social impact of terrorism," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 803-817, September.
  7. Randall Holcombe, 2005. "Government growth in the twenty-first century," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 95-114, July.
  8. Louis Jaeck, 2011. "Information and political failures: to what extent does rational ignorance explain irrational beliefs formation?," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 287-301, September.
  9. T. Durant, 2011. "Making executive politics mutually productive and fair," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 141-172, June.
  10. Sanandaji, Tino & Wallace, Björn, 2010. "Fiscal Illusion and Fiscal Obfuscation:An Empirical Study of Tax Perception in Sweden," Working Paper Series, Research Institute of Industrial Economics 837, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  11. Jeffrey J. Pompe & Jody W. Lipford, 2005. "Putting Private Lands into Public Hands: Explaining Voter Choices to Purchase Public Lands," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 20(Spring 20), pages 1-26.
  12. Gehring, Kai, 2013. "Who Benefits from Economic Freedom? Unraveling the Effect of Economic Freedom on Subjective Well-Being," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 74-90.
  13. Schnellenbach, Jan & Schubert, Christian, 2014. "Behavioral public choice: A survey," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 14/03, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
  14. Henning, Christian H.C.A. & Zarnekow, Nana & Petri, Svetlana & Albrecht, Ernst & Hedtrich, Johannes, 2013. "Public Evaluation and Political Acceptance of Sustainable Land Use Polices: A populist democracy policy failure?," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C., Agricultural and Applied Economics Association 150494, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  15. Filoso, Valerio, 2008. "Sulla domanda di economia irrazionale: Naomi Klein vs. Milton Friedman
    [On the Demand of Irrational Economics: Naomi Klein vs. Milton Friedman]
    ," MPRA Paper 9452, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. Gehring, Kai, 2012. "Benefit or burden? Unraveling the effect of economic freedom on subjective well-being," Working Papers 0531, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
  17. Heinemann, Friedrich, 2004. "Explaining Reform Deadlocks," ZEW Discussion Papers 04-39, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  18. Bryan Caplan, 2002. "Systematically Biased Beliefs About Economics: Robust Evidence of Judgemental Anomalies from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 433-458, April.
  19. Caplan, Bryan, 2003. "The idea trap: the political economy of growth divergence," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 183-203, June.
  20. Bryan Caplan, 2009. "Irrational principals," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 159-167, June.
  21. Eric J. Brunner & Stephen L. Ross & Rebecca K. Simonsen, 2013. "Homeowners, Renters and the Political Economy of Property Taxation," Working papers 2013-30, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  22. Christian Schubert, 2012. "Opportunity and Preference Learning," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-08, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

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