Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Are the Voters Qualified to Pick a President?

The big political buzz is over whether John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama are qualified to be president. The voters are expected to decide, but are they qualified to do that? Don't bet on it.
The rest of my TGIF, "Are the Voters Qualified to Pick a President?" is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.


John V said...

Well said. I agree 100%.

But there's a snag here. And mind you, I mean what I'm about to say to get the wheels constructively turning and thinking.

While you blast (rightfully) the dangerous role of basic economic ignorance and the silly expectations therefrom in the voters' minds in the realm of democratic elections, the hard fact remains that there are many PhD economists, some with popular blogs and web-influence, who are not only partisan Democrats but also ideologically liberal. Krugman is a notable one. Others with popular blogs are DeLong and Thoma. There are others still. Visit Angry Bear and peruse the links on the right column.

IOW, despite their sound grasp of basic economics and markets and beyond, the end result is that these professional economists generally support the same candidates and buy into the same rhetoric as many of the very voters you criticize.

I think it's all fine and good for you, or Caplan in his book (which I've read), to make this case about economic biases and ignorance and its effects on democracy and voter mentality. I think it's great to recommend a book like Hazlitt's. But this doesn't tackle the larger problem that needs to be addressed:

What does this talk about understanding basic econ and markets mean when many PhD economists who have studied well beyond the basic and fundamental tenets of economic thought support the unkeepable promises of candidates and buy into the unrealistic rhetoric that seduces laymen voters?

What would a Krugman-like economist say about Bastiat or Hazlitt and the iron clad notions they put forth that they seemingly ignore through their actions? and WHY?

In summary, economists who share your view need to start addressing the conflicts with economists who disagree with you before bemoaning the average voter. The average voter is an easy target.

Blasting Joe Six Pack for silly views is easy. What to you say to Krugman? or DeLong? or any number economists who agree with them?

That's a book I would buy.

littlehorn said...

Since when do you need to be "qualified" to pick a candidate ?

Since when does a candidate need to be "qualified" to be picked ?

This kind of talk is gold for authoritarians.

The Democracy is not about solving problems, listening to/electing "clever" people.

For better or worse, the People should decide. Should, cause it doesn't anymore.

And their stupidity or ignorance has nothing to do with their inalienable right to decide.

Sheldon Richman said...

Llittlehorn, "their inalienable right to decide" what? No one has a right to decide who will give me orders. Yes, "the People should decide," but not through the bogus decisionmaking of political systems. They should decide through the voluntary market process.

John V, Fair point. But they are a relatively small number compared to the voters.

John V said...


Yes, they are a small number compared to voters at large. Nonetheless, I think it's a factor that undermines your point (and Caplan's to certain extent).

If an educated PhD in economics can arrive at the same conclusions in terms of candidates as voters who don't know up from down, then I think it's worth exploring.

Granted, if all liberal intervention-wanting voters reasoned like, say, Paul Krugman then I think the specifics of policy and rhetoric would change dramatically. Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama would not be so loose with their rhetoric in a room full of economically literate liberals. The nonsense we saw on the campaign trail in Ohio over trade would never happen. But they still give edification to voters who find justification for their own views in rhetoric of these academics.


You're misreading the point. It's not about being authoritarian at all.

Like I've said in the past to people who choose to react with this strawman argument you present:

Imagine putting a lot of the rights to privacy and civil rights that you take for granted in the Bill of Rights were subject to the democratic passions of the electoral and legislative process. Just imagine. OK.

Jimi G said...

I believe that everyone has an equal right to decide -- NONE.


The discussion ends there. The issue of whether voters or economists are qualified is irrelevant -- no one has the right to commit violence against another, er ... I mean, VOTE.

littlehorn said...

Littlehorn, "their inalienable right to decide" what? No one has a right to decide who will give me orders.

I cannot get more specific. It is meant to be a general idea.

If I join a society whose codes and laws restrain my rights, then i have a natural right to influence those codes and laws. Of course, I alone cannot decide the laws that will be applied to everyone else. And also, I know that others, if numerous enough, can implement laws that I didn't decide for myself, and it is tyranny.

I agree.

But it seems to me, that if we're ever to regain some control over our own lives, we should start by dropping the anti-voter rhetoric.

I read a lot of Arthur Silber's essays. I remember one, in which he was talking about how the intelligence is manipulated to make us believe the government knows more than it can tell us, and we have to trust it with whatever it's about to do.

This excuse was used over and over again, and almost always the intelligence proved to be false.

Silber said the decision-making is never one of hard, cold thinking, but one of judgement. In other words, the government does nothing that the People could not do.

But the elite in Washington believes the People is not well-informed, and does not deserve to be listened to. Its will can and in fact must be disregarded.

Sir, I did not read your article, but your title reminded me of this.

D. Saul Weiner said...

And the worst part of it all is, that compared to their ignorance on foreign policy matters, the voters are economic geniuses!