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From Friedman to Wittman: The Transformation of Chicago Political Economy


  • Bryan Caplan


Donald Wittman's "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," argues that the "markets work, democracy fails" outlook typical of many economists rests on bad economics. After summarizing Wittman's main arguments, I maintain that Wittman too hastily accepts the assumption of voter rationality. There is an extensive body of empirical evidence showing that systematically biased beliefs about politically-relevant topics—especially economics—are widespread. Chicago political economy would have developed in a more productive direction if it had treated rational expectations as an empirical hypothesis, and modeled irrationality as a normal good.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryan Caplan, 2005. "From Friedman to Wittman: The Transformation of Chicago Political Economy," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 2(1), pages 1-21, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:2:y:2005:i:1:p:1-21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ken Binmore, 1997. "Rationality and backward induction," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 23-41.
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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Donald Wittman, 2005. "Second Reply to Caplan: The Power and the Glory of the Median Voter," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 2(2), pages 186-195, August.
    2. Mehrdad Vahabi, 2011. "Appropriation, violent enforcement, and transaction costs: a critical survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 147(1), pages 227-253, April.
    3. Klein, Daniel B., 2009. "Knowledge Flat-talk: A Conceit of Supposed Experts and a Seduction to All," Ratio Working Papers 140, The Ratio Institute.
    4. Рубинштейн Александр Яковлевич, "undated". "Рациональность & Иррациональность: Эволюция Смыслов
      [Rationality & Irrationality: Evolution of the Senses]
      ," Working papers a:pru175:ye:2017:1, Institute of Economics.
    5. repec:nea:journl:y:2017:i:33:p:151-156 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Anthony Evans, 2014. "A subjectivist’s solution to the limits of public choice," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 27(1), pages 23-44, March.
    7. Bryan Caplan, 2005. "Rejoinder to Wittman: True Myths," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 2(2), pages 165-185, August.
    8. Donald Wittman, 2005. "Reply to Caplan: On the Methodology of Testing for Voter Irrationality," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 2(1), pages 22-31, April.
    9. José Jorge Gabriel Júnior, 2011. "Democracia E Racionalidade Do Eleitor:Evidências Dos Pleitos Estaduais," Anais do XXXVIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 38th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 066, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].

    More about this item


    democratic failure; irrationality; systematic bias; rational; irrationality;

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists


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