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May 27, 2007



There's a lot that can be said in opposition to the growing calls for authoritarianism in our nation. But the author of the NYTimes review of Caplan's book says it well:

"Caplan’s view of democracy is all about efficiency, not legitimacy"

As if legitimacay is not at the heart of what qualifies as a rational political system. There is no way to legitimacy outside of the democratic process.

These narrow, one-sided definitions of rational would be funny if not for their link to technocratic fascism proposals. Let's call authoritarianism by its name. Let's not let it hide behind economic theory.


Bravo! Dani, you are spot on.


Caplan's book is nothing if not controversial. While his analysis of the current system seems sensible on the surface--and I am usually happy to see any work that pokes holes in the pop culture concept of our 'ideal democracy'--it is not without its share of flaws, as you have pointed out.

Where he really looses me though, is when he uses that unsteady foundation as the base for his proposals for alternatives which are radical, at best, and downright frightening, at worst.


You really believe that the average man on the street is better at assessing the impact of trade policy than the average economist?

And, quite frankly, I don't think its fair that you replaced Brian's claims about "average economist's" with "Chicago or GMU economist". His findings are based on the survey of economists in general, not just free market fundamentalists.

About your own research on democracy, I think it's great, but pretty irrelevant in this case. Brian did not do a comparative assesment of democracy vs authoritarian systems and concluded that democracy is the poorer alternative. He is suggesting a system that hasn't really been tested anywhere.

Robin Hanson

Caplan admits that experts/educated can make mistakes, and that there is some pocketbook voting. The issue is the overall trends, so your pointing out what you think is a particular mistake and particular pocketbook voting isn't a very strong critique. The data on democracy doing well didn't compare them to the alternatives that Caplan proposes, so I don't see how that evidence is relevant.


Completely agree... voters can't be said to be geniuses to be sure. But it's pretty scary when you really think about what he is arguing for. In addition, his book is full of illogical and contradictory arguments, mangled terms, cultural prejudice, and a whole lot of other weaknesses. Like a lot of cloistered academics, he’s hermetically sealed inside his own thinking and theories, and totally unhinged from the real world... past and present. I won’t recap the whole list of objections here... but it’s on my site. (literalmayhem.com)

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