Economist Bryan Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter argues that humans are less rational as voters than as consumers, causing us to support government policies that pursue illusions instead of giving us what we really want. Since educated folks seem to be more rational (because they tend to agree more with experts), and yet do not vote on substantially differing values, Caplan suggests we weigh educated votes more, or at least stop trying to get out the vote, and that we reduce the scope of government policy.
I just read your replies and I don't think you were censored. Also, you could probably repost the deleted comment in the Open Thread here at overcoming bias without it being "censored".
I think your contrasting between "judeo/christian" vs. "lassiez faire/darwinian/nazi" economic public policy is unhelpful for enlightenment or for best policy formation. But I do think you're being baited into that framework by folks like Caplan -so I think it's an emergent problem from what I called the "polarization bias dance party" between Left/Right types. Both groups seem to be satisfying mutual psychological needs by reducing policy discussion to these two polarized points, but I think it's far from optimal in terms of actually determining best policy (to maximize my (or our) persistence odds).
Summary: I responded to the comments made by Hopefully Anonymous, TGGP and Jim Outen.
Body: Available here.
Conclusion: The opinions I expresssed were censored. Allowing a link to elsewhere is in no way the equivalent of not deleting the possibly offending comments from the very conversation where they are relevant.
mnuez,Just post a summarized version here with a link to the longer version on your blog.
CORRECTION: Your email was indeed sent and received as you said. For mysterious reasons Gmail had spammed it (dunno why).
Of course the rest of my comment stands. My clear and detailed response to three comments (made on a previous comment of mine) was not in any way "an arbitrarily long comment" and appears to have been excised lest it offend - something that would appear to fly in the face of what the principles of Overcoming Bias claim to be.
First of all I should note that I enjoy your posts and that this is not my first visit to Overcoming Bias and that I've also noted that I enjoy this blog on my own blog.
Lest you think that I'm saying this in order to flatter you I'll continue with the following :-)
Aside from the fact that I never received any email from you, I should also note that an explanation for censorship of ideas in the form of letting me know that you don't allow "arbitrarily long comments" is quite silly. I'm not entirely certain as to what an "arbitrarily" long comment would be but I'd find it hard to imagine that it would be a detailed response that speaks directly to comments made in response to an earlier comment of my own.
Perhaps I'm crazy but it would appear to me that the more true reason for the wholesale deletion of my comment would be the more impolitic explanation to the effect that it might offend some people.
And if that isn't bias NON-overcome I'm not sure what is.
Mnuez, we don't allow arbitrarily long comments here. I sent you an email explaining that your 1000 word comment was way too long, noting that you had a previous comment (still up) on this post that was also too long, and inviting you to put a comment here with a link to your longer comment.
It just seems so unlikely. Would a blog that calls itself "overcoming bias" engage in censorship?
I blame typepad. Until an experiment has been replicated Occam's Razor would demand that we assume that a blog called Overcoming Bias would never delete non-spam comments.
I'll attempt to replicate that experiment now with a re-post.
P.S. In the unlikely event that my recent comment was purposely deleted and that the subsequent one will be deleted as well but that for some reason THIS comment will remain, I direct anyone interested in reading the deleted comment to my blog where it's been reprinted. But again, deleting comments does not quite seem to be in accordance with the supposed intellectually honest values of this blog so I'll have to assume that never took place. ~ m
Mnuez,You embarrass yourself with this comment:
"[Economists]have full and complete faith in the ability of the individual human being to engage in his most responsible, self-benefiting behavior when he engages in the market (despite the few measley trillions of dollars spent in psychological/marketing studies designed to fool people into spending money in ways that do not serve their best self-interests) yet they have zero trust in the same small human unit when it comes to his knowing how to vote his self-interests."
Read Caplan's book or related articles, as he addresses this issue thoroughly. He details how voters do not vote to maximize their financial self-interest, and instead entertain various fantasies and delusions. If I recall, he calls this the "near-neoclassical" demand curve, and claims that voting mechanism makes the expected value of a vote for your self-interest very low (the converse being that the price of irrational beliefs is low, thus we happily indulge in them).
Reading before ranting is generally a superior strategy.
mnuez, Rand was not an economist. There is no "Randian economics" (that's philosophy/literature), nor "Darwinian" (biology) or "Judeo-Christian" (religion). Caplan seems to like Rand's writings (he compares her to Victor Hugo), but is not an Objectivist. In his "Why I Am Not an Austrian" essay he refer's to Huemer's "Why I Am Not an Objectivist" as representing his views since graduate school. Furthermore, he does not necessarily attack "left-leaning economics", if that includes economists who would consider themselves to the left of the center. He says that on average economists are more accurate than the general public AND (this is important) the average economist is left of center! Anti-foreign bias, in particular, is not at all a stranger to the political right. I myself (I'm a paleolibertarian and I despise both the representative left and right in this country, though I occasionally find myself in agreement with both anarcho-socialists and monarchists!) strongly disagree with his position on immigration, which he would attribute to that bias.
If you would like to show that your disagreement with Caplan is on rational grounds, you could use the arguments that are numbered 1 through 7 above, or come up with some new ones. Referring to Caplan as an "asshole" (even if he is one, I personally do not know but presumably Robin does) is not likely to be an effective tactic and on the contrary would likely distract people from the points you are trying to make.
Mnuez, I still think you're over-feeding off of polarization bias. I think it might be more fruitful to sidestep a whole left-right approach to Caplan and to focus on what policies (economic and otherwise) actually seem best to achieve particular goals (such as one I'd suggest, to maximize your and my mutual odds of persistence).
You're correct in noting that I didn't address myself to the issue of whether there should be any threshold of competance required for voting but you're incorrect in assuming that this was the case owing to the fact that I dislike Caplan's economics.
I didn't address myself to the issue of whether all should be allowed to vote because it wasn't the most important issue of the article. The most important issue was the fact that Caplan and the article's author were portraying as a given that Randian econimics were "correct" and that left leaning economics (which they presented as the beliefs of the average ignoramous) were "irrational". That sort of coup could not be allowed to pass unnoticed.
Whether there should be some threshold of study required before a citizen is allowed to vote is a seperate (and far less relevant) mattter. The real issue here is that an elitist asshole (whom I'm calling such based only his repulsive economic tastes) and his reviewer are attempting to take control of the intellectual atmosphere regarding economic policies by presenting their own Darwinesque tastes as "correct" (and that's quoted because that's the exact word that they used) and as more left-leaning Judeo-Christian economic tastes as "irrational".
Thanks TGGP. Here's a 2006 article I found on the site:
"The Gender Gap of Economics: Why Do Men Think More Like Economists? Evidence from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy"
This gem will sink viability of Caplan's proposal unless economic literacy is counter-weighted with something women outperform men on (reading comprehension of passages about candidates or policies?) on a voter threshhold competency test. Because regardless of whether men are more economically literate than women or not, women vote in greater proportion than men, and I don't see them giving up that democratic advantage.
mnuez, I noticed you said you take have "a fascination with the science of economics". Which economist or school of economics do you find the most interesting, or has had the greatest effect on your views? Do you read much public choice, rational choice or behavioral economics (these would be among the most relevant for Caplan's argument)? Finally, I think you might like to read more of Caplan's research (which can be found at this page and discussed at econlog), which would give you a better picture than the New Yorker article.
mnuez, I sense a little polarization bias? I think there are good reasons to consider voter threshhold competency requirements that have little to do with the ideological bathwater that Caplan added to this baby. Why not focus on the best arguments, rather than take an approach "Caplan said this stupid/ideological baiting thing as a reason for concept X, I have an opposite ideological perspective and he has thus effectively baited me, therefore I oppose concept X". Your and Caplan's polarization dance party is getting in the way of my desire for more rational and effective governance, in my opinion.
You gotta love economists (almost as much as you gotta love lawyers, politicians and casino owners). They have full and complete faith in the ability of the individual human being to engage in his most responsible, self-benefiting behavior when he engages in the market (despite the few measley trillions of dollars spent in psychological/marketing studies designed to fool people into spending money in ways that do not serve their best self-interests) yet they have zero trust in the same small human unit when it comes to his knowing how to vote his self-interests.
Wonderful human beings, these economists. Let’s put them in charge. (I’m joking of course, they already are in charge.)
Update: Wow. I wrote the above when only about a third of the way through the New Yorker article when I wrote the above. Having a fascination with the science of economics though I continued reading the piece in the assumption that – though I might disagree with and dislike the beliefs and goals of the economists of the piece (the economist written about and the economic-minded fellow doing the writing) – I would probably learn something interesting nonetheless.
Well, I’ve read further and the learning has yet to have taken place. What I have come across however are patronizingly disgusting biases disguised as honest reporting.
Here for example, the article’s author offers a few theories he considers to be silly and naive as to why allowing everyone to vote might be something less than a tragedy. Among these naive theories that silly people might grasp at so as to rationalize the allowance of universal voting, the author offers...
"Then, there is the theory that people vote the same way that they act in the marketplace: they pursue their self-interest. In the market, selfish behavior conduces to the general good, and the same should be true for elections."
But of course that isn’t the case. In the market, you see, every guy who buys a fifty thousand dollar car because well-designed ads have convinced his subconscious that he needs this cars lest he be emasculated – is of course benefiting and serving his truest “self-interest” with this debt-inducing purchase. With regards to voting, by contrast, people might stupidly support policies that well respected Objectivists know to be contrary to Randian philosophy.
And here’s the article’s offering of the “four main areas” where people have terribly “irrational” misunderstandings regarding economic policies that “differ from [those of] the economic expert”.
"The average person, he says, has four biases about economics—four main areas in which he or she differs from the economic expert. The typical noneconomist does not understand or appreciate the way markets work (and thus favors regulation and is suspicious of the profit motive), dislikes foreigners (and thus tends to be protectionist), equates prosperity with employment rather than with production (and thus overvalues the preservation of existing jobs), and usually thinks that economic conditions are getting worse (and thus favors government intervention in the economy)."
So in short, being suspicious of the profit motive is silly, being employed is less important than ensuring that good “productivity” is taking place and strawmen (xenophobia and alarmist fears as having anything to do with people’s interest in some protectionism and governmental intervention) are always fun.
Then there’s some more mockery of people’s silly interest in survival (“people really believe that the country would be better off if profits were regulated, if foreign goods were taxed, and if companies were prevented from downsizing”), some school-mistressly scare-mongering of the silly little boys (“politicians who pander to these beliefs are more likely to be elected, and the special interests that lobby for protectionism and anticompetitive legislation are the beneficiaries—not the public. The result, over time, is a decline in the standard of living”) and the inevitable coup de grace of suggesting as reasonable that none but Economics Orthodoxists be allowed to vote in elections.
But really now, why concern ourselves with matters such as these when somewhere in Wyoming there may be a crazy on the loose?
An interesting article, from a very cool blog (someone to invite to be an overcomingbias contributor?). An inverse correlation between voter turnout and schizophrenia in neighborhoods indicates a possible reason to allow arguably incompetent voters to vote: