Monday, July 30, 2007

bin Loggin'

No real time to post today as I'm past deadline and trying to fathom and write about a long paper on the "hybrid analysis" of genetic regulatory networks. Don't worry - -I won't say another word on the topic.

But...for amusement, have a look at George Mason economist Bryan Caplan's grim reckoning of the political process and why we idiot citizens get what we deserve, as summarized in today's New York Times opinion piece of Nicolas Kristof. The gist:

This book, by Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, does a remarkably thorough job of insulting the American voter. The cover portrays the electorate as a flock of sheep.

“Democracies frequently adopt and maintain policies harmful for most people,” Professor Caplan notes. There are various explanations for this — the power of special interests, public ignorance of details, and so on. But Mr. Caplan argues that those accounts fall short.

“This book develops an alternative story of how democracy fails,” he writes. “The central idea is that voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and vote accordingly.”

I haven't yet read Caplan's book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, but I'm going to order a copy as he seems to explore fertile territory -- how our biological "thinking instincts" tend to lead us into bad decisions, whether because we weigh up risks incorrectly, or vote for people because they seem strong and "presidential". In their short review of the book, Publisher's Weekly says the book explores "how social science's 'misguided insistence that every model be a 'story without fools'" has led it to a very poor understanding of human systems. I can certainly agree with that.

Maybe nothing brings the point home more clearly, as Tim Grieve at notes, than that 41 percent of Americans still think Saddam Hussein helped pull off 9/11, or that 11 percent actually think we've caught bin Laden (or "bin Loggin'", as a man in Pennsylvania apparently pronounced the name to Grieve).


Anonymous said...
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Mark Buchanan said...

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