More Evidence, If More Was Needed

The astute and regular reader (yes, just the one) may have figured out by now that neither of the contributors here at YPS have a great deal of trust and faith in government or our fellow man. Government is a necessary evil, although just how necessary is a subject of occasional debate here at YPS Manor. People, on the other hand, are generally stupid, often insane, and sometimes both.

A shining example of stupidity and insanity can be found in an account of ManBearPig’s talk yesterday at GWU. If you are taking Al Gore and his accounts of the world seriously, you are either dumb as a post or non compos mentis. I have a copy of his earlier opus, Earth in the Balance, floating around somewhere and it’s as tepid a piece of warmed over b.s. as I’ve ever tried to read. He’s a dreadful writer, even if you discount the quality of his ideas. All that aside, I have recently come across an explanation for Gore acolytes: rational irrationality.

Rational irrationality is a theme of a recent book by Bryan Caplan, discussed here. It is an extension of the rational ignorance effect. Key concept is this:

This goes beyond the standard public choice concept of "rational ignorance" (where voters aren't educated on policy because it doesn't pay off personally for them to be so) to point out that, since people get some pleasure out of certain irrational beliefs, and in a voting process in which we have almost zero chance of affecting the outcome it doesn't particularly cost us anything to indulge them, people have economically sound reasons to not bother being rational when they vote. Indeed, they don't bother doing so, he maintains (with scads of evidence) in his book.

Aside from explaining the enduring popularity of a certain set of bad ideas in the public discourse and ManBearPig’s followers, this provides us with yet another reason to strictly limit the power of government at all levels. People are ignorant and crazy, and it is completely rational, from a cost-benefit analysis, for them to be so. So why on earth would you give them, even by proxy, any more power over you and your affairs than the absolute bare minimum? It is generally considered a bad idea to let the inmates run the asylum, no? Why is government any different? There is no evidence implying bureaucrats and politicians make decisions better than any other segment of the electorate. Why give them any more power than the absolute minimum? If I make a crappy decision, it doesn’t affect 299,999,000 other people. Some asshat in DC has a bad day, makes an ignorant, stupid decision, and we all suffer.

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