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Download The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies Audiobook (Unabridged)

Extended Audio Sample The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (Unabridged) Audiobook, by Bryan Caplan
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (388 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Bryan Caplan Narrator: David Drummond Publisher: University Press Audiobooks Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2010 ISBN:
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The greatest obstacle to sound economic policy is not entrenched special interests or rampant lobbying, but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases held by ordinary voters. This is economist Bryan Caplan's sobering assessment in this provocative and eye-opening book.

Caplan argues that voters continually elect politicians who either share their biases or else pretend to, resulting in bad policies winning again and again by popular demand. Boldly calling into question our most basic assumptions about American politics, Caplan contends that democracy fails precisely because it does what voters want. Through an analysis of Americans' voting behavior and opinions on a range of economic issues, he makes the convincing case that noneconomists suffer from four prevailing biases: they underestimate the wisdom of the market mechanism, distrust foreigners, undervalue the benefits of conserving labor, and pessimistically believe the economy is going from bad to worse. Caplan lays out several bold ways to make democratic government work better - for example, urging economic educators to focus on correcting popular misconceptions and reccomending that democracies do less and let markets take up the slack.

The Myth of the Rational Voter takes an unflinching look at how people who vote under the influence of false beliefs ultimately end up with government that delivers lousy results. With the upcoming presidential election season drawing nearer, this thought-provoking book is sure to spark a long-overdue reappraisal of our elective system.

This book is published by Princeton University Press.

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joseph | 2/15/2014

    " Very theoretical, almost like reading an economics textbook (full of charts etc) and whil I agreed with the author's points it was hard to stay awake while reading it on the train. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jonathan | 2/7/2014

    " I really liked this book. I thought it was really insightful. It is a must read for anyone who has an interest in politics/government. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jake | 1/25/2014

    " Fantastic book. The only drawback is that many laymen will find it a little slow going and a bit of an information overload. Caplan does an incredible job of expressing his latest research in economics. Also, the conclusion of the book is absolutely extraordinary. He does an excellent job tying everything together. "Myth" will change not only the way you look at politics, but also the way you view other people's beliefs in politics. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dave | 12/11/2013

    " The good: an interesting thesis based mostly on careful research and reasoning. The bad: the writing is thoroughly uninspired; the organization and editing is sometimes just awful; and the last quarter of the book lacks focus. Reading only the first 2/3 of the book, or even just a good book review, would be a better use of one's time. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Alex | 12/9/2013

    " A decent book at proving its main contention, but the author seems quite condescending and intolerant which was off-putting. Beyond showing that a lot of people have misconceptions about economics, not a whole to this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sheldon | 12/3/2013

    " Interesting topic, okay book. I think it is worth the read as it's not too long but does get a little hard to digest after a while. Other knock i have is the author seems to take an strong "economists know best" tone (at least to me). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nate | 11/30/2013

    " Caplan's general argument is that a majority of voters in democracies (or representative republics) are rationally irrational when it comes to politics. Since the likelihood of one voter's vote being decisive in an election is practically nil, the costs for being wrong (i.e., choosing a candidate whose policies are bad for the nation) are practically nil to the individual voter. This being the case, voters have little incentive to take the time to become informed on political/economic matters. On the contrary, there is a disincentive to becoming informed: it costs (e.g., time). Furthermore, there are certain psychological benefits (e.g., feeling like one is acting altruistically) that come from supporting certain policies because supporting them seems like the "fair" and "moral" thing to do. However, psychological benefits and social benefits are not the same thing: Lenin likely thought he was doing the "moral" thing by instituting a Communist government in Russia in 1917-18, but the effects of that form of governance on the people/nation were extremely bad and immoral. An example might help illustrate the argument. It is pretty much undisputed in the economics profession (at least the author states) that free trade among nations is beneficial for both nations: it raises productivity and standards of living in both nations. However, many feel the U.S. should have policies limiting free trade in order to protect American workers in certain industries from the competition of cheaper foreign labor and products. Holding such a position is fine, but the point is that by doing so a voter is effectively lowering his standard of living because he is paying more for goods in protected industries that he would pay if there were no limitations on trade, and the labor in such industries is not being put to its most efficient use possible. But since the individual voter's vote most likely won't decide the election, and since he knows this, he doesn't really see the costs of his voting for policies that would lower his standard of living because he assumes that whatever is going to happen will happen no matter how he votes. Voting to lower one's standard of living seems irrational. But since one's vote has very little impact on an election it is rational to be irrational. Whether you agree with the author or not, he makes some good points throughout the book that anyone interested in the functioning of democracies would do well to consider. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 11/28/2013

    " This was a fairly quick read- only 200 pages with a fair number of charts, tables and other data presentations, so it was pretty easy going. The argument is interesting- Caplan essentially claims that voters are systemically biased against policies that pretty much all economists, of whatever political stripe, agree are best (the most obvious example being free trade, which economists have known for centuries makes society better off, but still gets a bad rap from the majority of voters). He notes that higher educational attainment is the primary determinant of "rational" voting (not specifically economics education, though) and that voters are not apt to be self-interested in their choices(in other words, they will choose candidates who espouse policies they believe to be best for society, irrespective of whether they believe those policies make them personally better off). Caplan's argument, though concise, is methodical, empirical and thorough, though he makes liberal use of citations rather than presenting every supporting study in the book. Ultimately, Caplan concludes that the combination of several systemic biases among the voting populace and the tendency of voters not to be self-interested actually results in a political class that does not generally act in society's best interests, which we all pretty much suspect. Of course, Caplan believes, along wit most economists, that markets are better suited to serve society's interests than is government, even a democratically elected one, so his conclusions are likely annoy all but economic libertarians. Which is fair, but it's worth reading the book even if you're inclined to disagree, because he explores every objection along the way, and doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for convenient arguments. His main opponents, in his view, are those who take the approach that the electorate is "rational" in some sense, and he draws quite a bit on behavorial economists like Thaler. However, I suspect that Caplan takes Thaler's points even further than Thaler would like, claiming that while biases might occur in markets, they also occur in government, where they can do more damage due to the concentrated power government wields. It was also enjoyably written for the layman, with very little jargon and no need to understand any higher math. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amy | 11/26/2013

    " I read most of this book but didn't finish it. There was some really interesting stuff, but overall it was much drier than I thought it would be. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ike Sharpless | 11/8/2013

    " I started skimming this book after a few chapters, but was engaged at first. My main gripe is that Caplan bows down too far at the altar of economics and public choice, while at the same time bending over to crap on democracy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matthew | 7/24/2013

    " A "must read" for anyone interested in making good decisions for the social welfare. This would've been five stars if it had been written more for a popular, rather than an academic, audience, but the arguments for why we get the governments we deserve are strong. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bryan | 11/21/2012

    " Excellent. For the reader in pursuit of understanding the perplexing relationship between democracy and capitalism and the population's behaviors that exacerbate their philosophical differences. (Hysterical cover-art.) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynn | 4/8/2012

    " I read this in order to help explain the results of the last election. It did. In fact, it explained our choices too. The book primarily shows the irrational economic views of the non-economist. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Rachel | 6/26/2011

    " This book doesn't convince me to have more kids. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adam | 5/17/2011

    " Every parent and potential parent needs to read this. That is all.

    Ironically, my dad has been saying much of this for years. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marie | 5/16/2011

    " I'm more on the nurture side of things, but it's good to see the other side sometimes. He brings up some interesting ideas. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jana | 5/8/2011

    " Of course I'm going to like a book that confirms most of my existing biases! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gareth | 4/28/2011

    " The self help parenting book for rational people. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Krista | 3/14/2011

    " "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" is an excellent book about the intersection of parenting, economics, twin studies, and the nature-nurture debate. Give it a chance and don't judge it by its title! "

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