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Joseph Schumpeter Lecture Ideology

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  • Roland Bénabou

Abstract

I develop a model of ideologies as collectively sustained (yet individually rational) distortions in beliefs concerning the proper scope of governments versus markets. In processing and interpreting signals of the efficacy of public and market provision of education, health insurance, pensions, etc., individuals optimally trade off the value of remaining hopeful about their future prospects (or their children's) versus the costs of misinformed decisions. Because these future outcomes also depend on whether other citizens respond to unpleasant facts with realism or denial, endogenous social cognitions emerge. Thus, an equilibrium in which people acknowledge the limitations of interventionism coexists with one in which they remain obstinately blind to them, embracing a statist ideology and voting for an excessively large government. Conversely, an equilibrium associated with appropriate public responses to market failures coexists with one dominated by a laissez-faire ideology and blind faith in the invisible hand. With public-sector capital, this interplay of beliefs and institutions leads to history-dependent dynamics. The model also explains why societies find it desirable to set up constitutional protections for dissenting views, even when ex-post everyone would prefer to ignore unwelcome news. (JEL: H11, D72, D83, P16, Z1) (c) 2008 by the European Economic Association.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (04-05)
Pages: 321-352

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:6:y:2008:i:2-3:p:321-352

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Cited by:
  1. Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Galiani & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2008. "Reality versus Propaganda in the Formation of Beliefs about Privatization," NBER Working Papers 14483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Di Maggio, Marco, 2009. "Sweet Talk: A Theory of Persuasion," MPRA Paper 18697, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Franck, Raphaël & Johnson, Noel D. & Nye, John V.C., 2014. "From internal taxes to national regulation: Evidence from a French wine tax reform at the turn of the twentieth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 77-93.
  4. Adriani, Fabrizio & Sonderegger, Silvia, 2009. "Why do parents socialize their children to behave pro-socially? An information-based theory," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1119-1124, December.
  5. Hans Gersbach & Maik T. Schneider, 2009. "Tax Contracts and Elections," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 09/123, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  6. Gersbach, Hans & Schneider, Maik T., 2012. "Tax contracts, party bargaining, and government formation," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 173-192.

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