Discussion Tuesday

From Lew on Twitter:


3 replies
  1. Sam Murray
    Sam Murray says:

    I cannot resist: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.

    The effects of voter apathy are often exaggerated. Even behavioural economists acknowledge, voting has additional value as a consumption activity and is associated with civic values.

    As well, the less people that vote, the more valuable each vote becomes. As long as voter fraud is not significant, each vote represents the chance to influence government. As votes become scarcer, they exert more influence and become more valuable, especially to those most affected by government policy and taxation.

    Voting is an exclusive consumption good. When someone votes they dilute the influence of the remaining votes. The lower voter turnout falls, the more rational interest those most effected by government policies and taxation have in becoming an informed voter. Lower voter turnout could lead to more rational voters.

    The falling voter turnout in many Western Democracies countries has also tended to coincide with increased opportunities for engagement. Government departments now carry out a large number of consultations and most Members of Parliament are only a phone call, email or tweet away. People may be engaging more, but voting less.

    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      These are good points – I don’t disagree. I imagine it is an exciting time to be a political scientist.

      However, if this Keynes quote is true:

      “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

      Then isn’t there a risk that the increasingly deterministic basis of behavioural economics, and the view it gives on individual choice, may lead to a more totalitarian society?

      • Sam Murray
        Sam Murray says:

        There may be a risk, but there have always been ideas in political philosophy, theology and economics that tend towards totalitarianism. I disagree with Keynes that ideas themselves are dangerous, although I understand why he thought that during his lifetime. It is how ideas are used by people that is dangerous. People are dangerous, not ideas.

        People could use ideas from behavioural economics to undermine democracy, but I do not think behavioural economics is dangerous to democracy.

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