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Self-deception as the root of political failure

  • Tyler Cowen

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    I consider models of political failure based on self-deception. Individuals discard free information when that information damages their self-image and thus lowers their utility. More specifically, individuals prefer to feel good about their previously chosen affiliations and shape their worldviews accordingly. This model helps explain the relative robustness of political failure in light of extensive free information, and it helps explain the rarity of truth-seeking behavior in political debate. The comparative statics predictions differ from models of either Downsian or expressive voting. For instance, an increased probability of voter decisiveness does not necessarily yield a better result. I also consider political parties as institutions and whether political errors cancel in the aggregate. I find that political failure based on self-deception is very difficult to eliminate. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11127-005-2058-y
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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

    Volume (Year): 124 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 437-451

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:124:y:2005:i:3:p:437-451
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    1. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. "Rational Ignorance versus Rational Irrationality," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(1), pages 3-26.
    2. Joel L. Schrag, 1999. "First Impressions Matter: A Model Of Confirmatory Bias," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 37-82, February.
    3. Klein, Daniel B., 1994. "If Government is so Villainous, How come Government Officials don't seem like Villains?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(01), pages 91-106, April.
    4. Brennan, Geoffrey & Hamlin, Alan, 1998. " Expressive Voting and Electoral Equilibrium," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1-2), pages 149-75, April.
    5. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1982. "Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 805-24, December.
    6. Friedman, David, 1987. "Cold Houses in Warm Climates and Vice Versa: A Paradox of Rational Heating," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(5), pages 1089-97, October.
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