by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If you enjoyed Roy Cordato’s recent presentation to a John Locke Foundation audience on public choice economics, you might appreciate John Stossel‘s allusion to public choice theory in his latest column at Human Events.
This election, as usual, there was a big push to get people to go out and vote. Yet most didn’t (more vote in presidential elections, but still less than half the population).
After elections, pundits say, “the people have spoken.” But we haven’t. Often, we just chose politicians we hated less than others.
I’m glad big-spending Democrats lost Congress. But In the grand scheme of things, was that vote such a sweeping endorsement of anyone’s political philosophy? The vote, as usual, was pretty close. Often it feels like America flips a coin.
That sounds cynical, but it’s not just cynics who have doubts about the democratic process.
Economist and law professor Gordon Tullock passed away the day before the election. But had he lived another day, he still wouldn’t have voted last week. He refused to vote, in part because the branch of economics he helped create — “public choice” — helped convince him that people behave just as selfishly and foolishly when they vote as when they make any other kind of decisions, but with more devastating effects on other people.
At the Cafe Hayek blog, economist Don Boudreaux writes that it’s good if people don’t vote because by avoiding politics they “come to depend more on personal initiative and less on untrustworthy, power-craving strangers.”
We don’t suddenly become wiser and nobler when we step into the voting booth. If anything, the decisions we make there are more ignorant and reckless than the ones we make when buying a car.
You probably know more about what kind of car you want than about what sort of laws to impose on your neighbors. It’s another reason why most of life is best left to free individuals.