Democracy:A Reading List

Who knows what the stupid people would vote?

Capitalism is just another form of discrimination. It discriminates against people who don’t want to work hard or who are not capable. Why should they be discriminated against? We have internalized that it’s the only kind of discrimination that is OK. You couldn’t discriminate against skin color, age, and disability. Why could you discriminate against someone who is stupid? There’s no reason. It’s just we’ve all agreed–and by we I mean the people who are not so stupid. If everybody voted, I’m sure the stupid people would–well, who knows what the stupid people would vote?-Scott Adams, Reason Magazine Interview With Virginia Postrel

“There is actually no more evidence for the wisdom of the inferior man, nor for his virtue, than there is for the notion that Friday is an unlucky day. There was, perhaps, some excuse for believing in these phantasms in the days when they were first heard of in the world, for it was then difficult to put them to the test, and what cannot be tried and disproved has always had a lascivious lure for illogical man. But now we know a great deal more about the content and character of the human mind than we used to know. There are minds which start out with a superior equipment, and proceed to high and arduous deeds; there are minds which never get any further than a sort of insensate sweating, like that of a kidney. We not only observe such differences; we also begin to chart them with more or less accuracy.”-Notes On Democracy, H. L. Mencken

The naive “Experts are right, laymen are wrong” theory fits the data; the “Experts are deluded, laymen get it right” theory does not. This does not mean that the average belief of the economics profession is an infallible oracle. I have never seen it that way. There are cases where I think that the public is closer to the truth. There are topics that I think both groups badly misunderstand. My claim, rather, is that—after correcting for measurable biases—economists should not change their minds just because non-economists think differently.-Bryan Caplan, The Myth Of The Rational Voter

What strange phenomenon is this? What name shall we give it? What is the nature of this misfortune? What vice is it, or, rather, what degradation? To see an endless multitude of people not merely obeying, but driven to servility? Not ruled, but tyrannized over? These wretches have no wealth, no kin, nor wife nor children, not even life itself that they can call their own. They suffer plundering, wantonness, cruelty, not from an army, not from a barbarian horde, on account of whom they must shed their blood and sacrifice their lives, but from a single man; not from a Hercules nor from a Samson, but from a single little man.-Etienne de La Boetie, The Politics Of Obedience

The masses of people, as La Boetie and Mises recognized, always and everywhere consists of ”brutes,” dullards,” and fools,” easily deluded and sunk into habitual submission. Thus today, inundated from early childhood with government propaganda in public schools and educational institutions by legions of publicly certified intellectuals, most people mindlessly accept and repeat nonsense such as that democracy is self-rule and government is of, by, and for the people.-Hans Hermann Hoppe, The God That Failed

Envy and fear of envy in “a small community where all neighbors watch and where all are neighbors” accounted for the unprogressiveness, the slowness of change toward a productive economy among the Indians of Guatemala. And when a tribe of Pueblo Indians showed the beginnings of specialization and the division of labor, the envy of their fellow tribesmen impelled them to take measures to end this process, including physical destruction of the property of those who seemed in any way better off than their fellows.-Murray Rothbard- Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays

“The problem is not that voters lack thorough expertise in economics, or make an occasional careless error. We still call someone “literate” even if they misspell a word every now and then. Most voters lack elementary understanding of economics. It is fair to say that an ample majority does not understand the basics of how markets work. They are especially confused about labor and international markets. Voters also have severe misconceptions about how government spends their tax dollars, and are extraordinarily pessimistic about long-run economic conditions.”-Bryan Caplan, Straight Talk About Economic Literacy

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