Thursday, July 12, 2007


So I took this quiz during lunch. Here are my results:

1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
2. John Edwards (50%)
3. Christopher Dodd (49%)
4. Ron Paul (49%)
5. Duncan Hunter (46%)
6. John McCain (46%)
7. Barack Obama (45%)
8. Tom Tancredo (45%)
9. Al Gore (43%)
10. Hillary Clinton (42%)
11. Joseph Biden (42%)
12. Wesley Clark (41%)
13. Mitt Romney (40%)
14. Sam Brownback (39%)
15. Chuck Hagel (38%)
16. Dennis Kucinich (38%)
17. Tommy Thompson (37%)
18. Alan Augustson (35%)
19. Fred Thompson (35%)
20. Michael Bloomberg (34%)
21. Rudolph Giuliani (33%)
22. Bill Richardson (33%)
23. Jim Gilmore (30%)
24. Mike Gravel (30%)
25. Elaine Brown (29%)
26. Newt Gingrich (28%)
27. Kent McManigal (26%)
28. Mike Huckabee (24%)
(And if you'd like to compare candidates, check this out. Pretty nifty.)

Notice that the first real candidate starts at a paltry 50% of my supposed theoretical ideal. I'm not sure what that means, but my first instinct is to say that my political ideas flail pretty wildly and are probably inconsistent. I chalk that up to my general distaste (not nearly strong enough a word) for politics and to the fact that I took the quiz in 5 minutes while eating a bologna & ketchup sandwich. Oh, and I probably hadn't given a second thought to a number of the issues in the quiz before today, so, you know, there's that.

My point is, I'm still surprised John Edwards came in closest to my "ideal". What's my problem, you ask? That's easy: I hate politics, I really don't care for politicians, and I agree with the notions of the economist in this article, who seems to think democracy is a rather silly idea. He makes too many good points for me to quote, so I won't. I will, however, point out that I agree (albeit halfheartedly) with the article's author, that such silliness is probably a small price to pay:
In the end, the group that loses these contests must abide by the outcome, must regard the wishes of the majority as legitimate. The only way it can be expected to do so is if it has been made to feel that it had a voice in the process, even if that voice is, in practical terms, symbolic. A great virtue of democratic polities is stability. The toleration of silly opinions is (to speak like an economist) a small price to pay for it.
I just haven't had anyone really prove to me that I've really got a voice.

All that said, I guess I should vote anyway, but the whole thing kind of makes me want to vomit, and I'd still really like to think my vote will matter. Anyone?


Josh said...

occasionally i will disagree just for fun, but Caplan really rubs me the wrong way (the understatement du jour).

i'll agree that it's unfortuante that so many stupid people vote, but Caplan's perspective is elitist and whiny, and it stands on the supposition that a strong economy is the panacea for a country--i'm actually surprised that the nyer published this book review.

currently, the record-breaking stock market has no bearing on the increasing poverty in the US (to be fair, the correlation is that as the economy has boomed poverty has increased). This doesn't seem to weigh on Caplan's conscience.

He asserts that people have prejudices, not views, and "he calls these views "irrational," because, once they are translated into policy, they make everyone worse off."

that's just about the biggest pile of bullshit i've ever stepped in while reading the nyer.

However, I am happy to report that Menand managed to scrape some of it off his shoe in the penultimate paragraph.

Matthew said...

points well-taken. here's the paragraph that makes the whole thing worth it, for me:

"It is not clear whether “The Myth of the Rational Voter” is intended merely to be provocative (a motive that has been known to get other economists in big trouble) or whether its recommendations for changing the rules for political participation are to be taken seriously (and by whom?). The book is, in part, a challenge to some of the assumptions made about voting behavior in the academic field known as public choice theory. Caplan has assembled a lot of data that reveal significant disparities between the average person’s views on economic questions and the views of professional economists: the public thinks that the price of gasoline is too high, for instance, but most economists think it is about right or too low; the public thinks that most new jobs being created in the United States are low-paying, but economists disagree; the public thinks that top executives are overpaid, and economists do not. Caplan’s point is that voters’ views on the economy are not random, the result of “rational ignorance”; they reflect systematic biases caused by an erroneous understanding of the way economies work."

i get the impression, personally, that the book leans more toward provocation than legitimate recommendations for altering the democratic process. obviously, he thinks an economist's view of things is the best suited for democracy and policy-making; he's an economist. everyone has the same bias toward their own way of thinking.

what i like about his propositions is that it strikes a chord with my sense of disenfranchisement with the democratic process. all of my history teachers/professors could never really make me feel connected to and/or a meaningful, important member of democracy. i find the sheer volume of the system overwhelmingly depressing, and it irks me to have to feel that way while depending on the miracle of aggregation to keep us all afloat.

yeah, most policy-making centers around issues for which an "optimal answer" doesn't exist, but sometimes i think i'd rather depend on economists to run things than i would on my neighbor who's 40 and still smokes a lot of pot. policy based on numbers doesn't sound so bad when i'm thinking about him voting through a giggly haze of mary jane.

democracy has given us more than any system has given any country in history, but i wonder how long it will keep that up if we don't question & tweak it. caplan's proposals are obviously ridiculous, but i can't think of many progressive ideas that were couched in comfortable, norm-abiding thought. he may be elitist and whiny, but he's trying to think of ways to improve the system we've got (which, by the way, is going to give us something like a choice between hillary and rudy--seriously, is that the best we can do?!), and i've gotta give him something for that.

coincidentally, it doesn't take a magnifying glass to see that the nyer doesn't care for our current governmental leadership, which should explain why they published a book review centering on an economist who's trying to think of better ways to choose policy-makers (read: ways to avoid choosing the same kind of leadership we've got now). i believe that explains the pile of dog doo that is the article in question.