When pro-free-market critics of democracy explain why laissez faire is not a winning election issue, they usually say that voters have a no incentive to research economic policy because one vote won't sway the election and the expected payoff to any individual voter is infinitesimal. So they, quite rationally, vote on other bases. This "rational ignorance" leaves space for special interests to have their way, despite the fact that if the voters paid attention to what was going on, they wouldn't put up with it.
That explanation leads to the conclusion that democracy does not work because outcomes diverge from what people really want but are powerless to obtain. On the other hand, fans of democracy think that the rejection of laissez faire shows the system is working just fine. But both sides agree that voters are rational (employing reason) under the circumstances.
Which story is true? Maybe neither.
Bryan Caplan's new book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, which is beginning to make a splash (see this New York Times Magazine article), offers another reason why consistent pro-market policies don't do well....
The rest of my latest TGIF column, "A Democracy of Dunces?" is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.P.S.: I've been delinquent in posting because I spent the last several days near Washington, D.C., at the Future of Freedom Foundation foreign policy and civil liberties conference. It was a huge success and will clearly be the major libertarian -- and antiwar -- event of the year. An account of the conference is on Counterpunch here.