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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Robinson on the Electorate

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Robinson on the Electorate

Economists have long examined the interaction of the electorate and politicians.  James Buchanan, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, wrote The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy establishing a paradigm known as public choice economics.  Bryan Caplan wrote The Myth of the Rational Voter, challenging assumptions of most models studying voter behavior.  Eugene Robinson eloquently expresses one of my fears about American voters in “Our Quick-Fix Electorate.”
The nation demands the impossible: quick, painless solutions to long-term, structural problems. While they're running for office, politicians of both parties encourage this kind of magical thinking. When they get into office, they're forced to try to explain that things aren't quite so simple -- that restructuring our economy, renewing the nation's increasingly rickety infrastructure, reforming an unsustainable system of entitlements, redefining America's position in the world and all the other massive challenges that face the country are going to require years of effort. But the American people don't want to hear any of this. They want somebody to make it all better. Now.
Another of my fears is that the electorate will become so deadlocked between competing ideologies that no decision will be made precipitating an irresolvable government debt crisis.Replace this text with...


  1. We as a nation have become so dependent on immediate gratification that no one is willing or perhaps capable of actually working toward a long term solution. So many of the generation X and Y and even the youngest of the baby boomers will work a trade-off between lasting true change and another round of temporary gratification. A Treasury check for $800 while I will spend it is not going to motivate my family to continue to spend placing us in debt. The government (policy makers) need to sit down at the nations kitchen table just as a family does and get their (Our) spending in order.

  2. The quote from Eugene Robinson is reflective of the same relationship that appears to exist between economists and government officials. Politicians approach the general public with a false sense of ease that leaves voters forgetting and/or ignoring that there are actually many factors which have to be considered before a solution can be executed. Similarly, government officials seek the advice of economists when developing economic policy and in doing so the officials approach the economists with a false sense that only the economists’ advice will be followed.
    -April Matos
    Macroeconomics 2301

  3. Campaigns focus on votes, promising fast and immediate results that just are not possible. Long term solutions must be implemented. Voters need to focus on facts, they need to truly understand ecomomics, how the goverment plays a key role in the success of our ecomony. Uneducated voters will continue to make decisions based on false statements that promise quick and easy fixes.
    Juanita Bolanos

  4. People generally like the path of least resistance, which is disconcerting in which jumping off a cliff takes less effort than climbing a mountain. The only way we can assure that America can solve its problems is if it chooses a leader who is in touch with reality and has a plan that may be challenging but realistic. Politicians know what voters like to hear, the magical fantasy where things are brighter, and they will say whatever gets them the votes.
    -Mattthew Williams

  5. The growing national debt is of great concern to me. Not only will I continue to be penalized for improper spending by our elected officials, but my daughter will as well. I read an article from Yahoo! over the summer talking about how this is an emergent problem. “This growing crisis is a symptom of a deeper problem in Congress: members stealing from the future to stay present and reward the past.” ( I believe politicians are trying to work on the current issues at hand, but not clearly thinking on the future thirty to forty years out. I keep hearing there will be no Social Security for my age group. I understand that we need to take care of people now, but we also must plan for the future. Congress is more concerned with getting their pet projects funded than focusing on real issues at hand. And yes, Americans love instant gratification. We are not a patient society, and I don’t see that mentality changing unless the government decides to step in and put the brakes on frivolous spending. We must rebuild our crumbling road system, health care system, and other necessary structures in order to maintain our place within the world.
    ~Suzanne Goff