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  1. #1

    TheCustomer99's Avatar
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    Do politicans pander to our irrational side?
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    There's an article similar to this in Reason Magazine this month, but they haven't posted it on their website yet, so this story will have to do. It is interesting how people "systematically favor irrational policies." The guy who wrote the book this article alludes to is an econ prof at George Mason university, and he says that the average voter has four biases that lead to irrational public policy decisions:

    1.) An Anti-market bias: The average voter doesn't understand what supply and demand truly is, so they will support policies that interfere with the market.

    2.) An Anti-foreign bias: The average voter believes that foreign trade hurts America, and will support tariffs and protectionism.

    3.) A Make-work bias: The average voter believes that employment is more important than production.

    4.) A Pessimistic bias: The average voter often believes the economy is doing worse than it really is.

    It is some interesting food for thought, but let's keep the discussion civil.

    EDIT: Just realized I misspelled politicians.
    "Anecdotal thinking comes naturally, science requires training." - Michael Shermer

  2. #2

    Shannonb's Avatar
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    I don't really understand what your asking but I will attempt to answer nonetheless.

    Of course they pander to our irrational side. The real question is "what is irrational?". Republicans will tell you that reform and change is irrational while Dems will tell you the status quo is irrational.

    I've taken economics courses before and full understand supply and demand. However, no country can go completely off of hte principle of economics. It would leave a lot of people jobless and hungry and a few elite oligarchies would dominate America. Personally, I believe this is close to happening already. I don't advocate strict protectionism but at some point a leader has to stop think about the elite and look down at what is happening to the people who voted for him. I am one of those people who think, no matter which way you want to spin it, it is ridiculous that children could ever be homeless or hungry in America.

    So as far you question goes, and from the sense of things I'd say your a pretty staunch republican or libertarian, I'd every politician plays to irrationalities to some extent. But some of the things you consider irrational arent irrational to most people.

    For instance, you state that employment is not as important as production. This is working off of that infamous "trickle-down" effect. All I say is, if you the man who loses his job and can't feed his family, are you going to give two craps about some stupid economic policy that says years from now, your loss of a job and profit of a company will ultimately help the poor? I doubt it.

  3. #3

    baggss's Avatar
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  4. #4

    TheCustomer99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shannonb View Post
    I don't really understand what your asking but I will attempt to answer nonetheless.

    Of course they pander to our irrational side. The real question is "what is irrational?". Republicans will tell you that reform and change is irrational while Dems will tell you the status quo is irrational.
    Yes, but in order to understand what progress is, you have to know the methodology behind the status quo, and there really isn't much of an attempt by anyone to do so. So neither side gets it.

    I've taken economics courses before and full understand supply and demand.
    Looks like we have one thing in common.

    However, no country can go completely off of hte principle of economics. It would leave a lot of people jobless and hungry and a few elite oligarchies would dominate America.
    Question: Why don't economists say this?

    Personally, I believe this is close to happening already. I don't advocate strict protectionism but at some point a leader has to stop think about the elite and look down at what is happening to the people who voted for him. I am one of those people who think, no matter which way you want to spin it, it is ridiculous that children could ever be homeless or hungry in America.
    I don't think there is a single person on earth who thinks that it is good that people go homeless or hungry. The question is what can we do about it, and is there even a solution that won't do more harm than good?

    So as far you question goes, and from the sense of things I'd say your a pretty staunch republican or libertarian
    Libertarian. I'll call myself a republican when they find room for non-interventionists who support gay marriage, oppose the war in Iraq, are anti-death penalty, oppose the war on drugs, think that the Patriot Act is ridiculous, believe global warming, believe evolution, etc.

    Besides, I wouldn't say that liberals only believe this (although they agree with more of it). If you listen to Sean Hannity, you'll hear him echo a lot of what is criticized by Caplan. I hear more conservatives say that we should "buy American" than I do liberals.

    I'd every politician plays to irrationalities to some extent. But some of the things you consider irrational arent irrational to most people.
    Well, that's kind of the point of the article I linked to.

    For instance, you state that employment is not as important as production. This is working off of that infamous "trickle-down" effect. All I say is, if you the man who loses his job and can't feed his family, are you going to give two craps about some stupid economic policy that says years from now, your loss of a job and profit of a company will ultimately help the poor? I doubt it.
    This goes along the lines of people who argue for the death penalty and say, "If someone in your family was killed, you'd think differently." Well, yeah, because I'd be blinded by anger.

    With regards to your argument in particular, it isn't really "trickle down" economics. It's more of a basic economic principle. How many people get laid off and never find a job again? Does a business have an obligation to give people jobs that it doesn't think it needs? If a business gave jobs for the sake of jobs, would it be benevolence or waste?

    I think the article itself makes the best argument:

    The make-work bias is best illustrated by a story, perhaps apocryphal, of an economist who visits China under Mao Zedong. He sees hundreds of workers building a dam with shovels. He asks: “Why don't they use a mechanical digger?” “That would put people out of work,” replies the foreman. “Oh,” says the economist, “I thought you were making a dam. If it's jobs you want, take away their shovels and give them spoons.” For an individual, the make-work bias makes some sense. He prospers if he has a job, and may lose his health insurance if he is laid off. For the nation as a whole, however, what matters is not whether people have jobs, but how they do them. The more people produce, the greater the general prosperity. It helps, therefore, if people shift from less productive occupations to more productive ones. Economists, recalling that before the industrial revolution 95% of Americans were farmers, worry far less about downsizing than ordinary people do. Politicians, however, follow the lead of ordinary people. Hence, to take a more frivolous example, Oregon's ban on self-service petrol stations.

    Finally, the public's pessimism is evident in its belief that most new jobs tend to be low-paying, that our children will be worse off than we are and that society is going to heck in a variety of ways. Economists, despite their dismal reputation, tend to be cheerier. Politicians have to strike a balance. They often find it useful to inflame public fears, but they have to sound confident that things will get better if they are elected.
    We have a relatively low unemployment rate right now (4.6% according to the US DoL), and it isn't because people are getting laid off from their high paying jobs and being forced to work at Wal-Mart.
    "Anecdotal thinking comes naturally, science requires training." - Michael Shermer

  5. #5

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    I am very definitely a cynic, but my personal observation is that the average politician will pander to ANYTHING they think will get them votes. They are "vote w h o r e s". As a class, they are despicable. There are exceptions of course, but by and large, I find this to be true.

    I am from Canada originally and I recall the Toronto Star newspaper running a front page editorial many years ago about the then current US presidential election entitled "Why Does Such High Office Attract Such Low Men?". The title was spot on. No intimation, by the way, that Canadian politicians are any better - it is just that this particular headline was about the US presidential election, thats all.
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by mac57 View Post
    I am very definitely a cynic, but my personal observation is that the average politician will pander to ANYTHING they think will get them votes. They are "vote w h o r e s". As a class, they are despicable. There are exceptions of course, but by and large, I find this to be true.
    This is exactly what went through my head when I read the thread title! It's all about the votes: however you can get them.
    "Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others"

  7. #7

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    TC99 - that's an interesting list of four biases. I'd have to say that I agree to some extent that those four statements explain a lot. Voters will generally be happy when they get more than they pay for... or perceive that to be the case. Of course, not EVERYONE can get those unbalanced benefits so the politicians go mostly for the cheap votes.

    Anytime I get in a personal (rather than web) discussion of politicians pandering for votes, I always ask the other person if they've read the U.S. Constitution lately. Generally, the answer is "no". I always urge them to do so and then get back to me to continue the discussion of pandering and the government's role in redistribution of wealth, dispensing of healthcare, rebuilding of home, etc.

    I'm all in favor of charity and helping each other out. I'm not in favor of having a government in the middle passing out money to do their experiments in social engineering -- mostly to get re-elected.
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  8. #8

    eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by papercut View Post
    I'm all in favor of charity and helping each other out. I'm not in favor of having a government in the middle passing out money to do their experiments in social engineering -- mostly to get re-elected.
    hmm... when most people won't even back off the gas a bit to let someone in from an on-ramp, i don't really trust the general public enough to use the extra cash they may have from cutting government programs to any sort of altruistic use. not to say the goverment does a great job either, but i think that point circles back to customer's original point.
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  9. #9

    baggss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by papercut View Post
    I'm all in favor of charity and helping each other out. I'm not in favor of having a government in the middle passing out money to do their experiments in social engineering -- mostly to get re-elected.

    I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with that.


  10. #10

    Shannonb's Avatar
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    Liberal philosophy- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, we can help them get back on their feet

    Conservative- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, screw em.

  11. #11

    eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shannonb View Post
    Liberal philosophy- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, we can help them get back on their feet

    Conservative- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, screw em.
    liberal and conservative, and more specifically, democrat and republican definitions have changed so much over the years that a statement like that is not only short sighted, it's as inflamatory as this sentence is a run-on.
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  12. #12

    baggss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shannonb View Post
    Liberal philosophy- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, we can help them get back on their feet

    Conservative- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, screw em.
    Liberal - Kill babies and save Criminals.

    Conservative - Save babies and kill Criminals.

    Now THAT'S inflammatory....



  13. #13

    eric's Avatar
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    i don't see how.
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  14. #14

    Shannonb's Avatar
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    I'm anti-abortion, so I;m not quite as an inflammatory liberal as you think.

  15. #15

    TheCustomer99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shannonb View Post
    Liberal philosophy- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, we can help them get back on their feet

    Conservative- People need to help themselves and if they try and fail, screw em.
    A better definition of both ideologies:

    Liberal: We want control of your boardroom.

    Conservative: We want control of your bedroom.

    Libertarian: Leave both alone.
    "Anecdotal thinking comes naturally, science requires training." - Michael Shermer

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