28. “Critique of Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter”


Abstract: Bryan Caplan’s 2007 book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, created some controversy by stating that voters make irrational political decisions. While it has commonly been accepted in public choice discourse that citizens are ignorant of the complexities of politics, Caplan takes the argument one step further and states that citizens hold extreme anti-economic biases that invoke certain irrational demands of politicians. Caplan also asserts that democratic failure is thoroughly a result of the these irrational biases, and that citizens deserve the primary blame for problems within the American political system. This critique analyzes several inconsistencies in Caplan’s assessment of the political condition, which include his doctrine of rational irrationality, his skepticism towards democratic failure, and his apologetic attitude towards politicians. Under closer scrutiny, one can see that Caplan’s main thesis, the concept of rational irrationality, is largely unfounded. Furthermore, the theoretical model he constructs is largely incomplete, since he focuses primarily on the failures of citizens, but does not take into account numerous other factors within the political process that can lead to democratic failure.