Can Voters Be That Irrational?

“Many Florida Republicans sought a candidate who they thought could defeat President Barack Obama”, writes the Wall Street Journal tonight (, “with significantly more voters who cited that as their top priority opting for Mr. Romney, according to exit polls.”

This is like saying, “many consumers bought tomatoes, citing their desire to have tomatoes recognized as the most consumed vegetable in the world”. No consumer would do this, knowing that his own purchase of tomatoes is not going to show in the statistics. Similarly, no rational voters would vote for a candidate in order to make a difference, which he would only do if, without his vote, another candidate would have been elected (on this, see my Regulation article “The Public Choice Revolution“).

Can voters be that irrational? Can each voter cast his vote to make a difference while knowing that he has never decided an election, and that nobody he knows ever has? Probably not. But they explain their motivation, which they don’t very well understand, with ready-made, senseless phrases. Talk is cheap.

The Man in the Moon

After Newt Gingrich’s proposal for a moon colony, what could be better than quoting Lysander Spooner ( on a related topic:

“Our pretended treaties, then, being made with no legitimate or bona fide nations, or representatives of nations, and being made, on our part, by persons who have no legitimate authority to act for us, have intrinsically no more validity than a pretended treaty made by the Man in the Moon with the king of the Pleiades.”

The Nation

“In a shared bit of rhetoric and ideology, National Socialism, Fascism, and the New Deal all depicted their rise to power as the concrete realization of the idea of the nation, which until then had been uninformed, halfhearted, and theoretical.”
— Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), p. 119

Could FDR’s Book Have Been Written by a Nazi?

“On May 11, 1933, the main Nazi newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, offered its commentary in an article with the headline ‘Roosevelt’s Dictatorial Recovery Measures.’ … ‘If not always in the same words,’ the paper wrote, ‘[Roosevelt], too, demands that collective good be put before self-interest. Many passages in his book Looking Forward could have been written by a National Socialist.’” — Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), p. 19

The Three New Deals

“The New Deal, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany all profited from the illusion of the nation as an egalitarian community whose members looked out for one’s another welfare under the watchful eyes of a strong leader.” — Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), p. 15

Thanks to Robert Higgs for pointing this book to his Facebook friends.

Ron Paul: A Great Victory in New Hampshire

With 80% of the New Hampshire precincts in, Ron Paul in assured of nearly a quarter of the vote and a solid second place. It is a great victory for liberty or, should I say, the great beginning of a future victory for liberty.

It is unlikely that Mr. Paul will win the Republican nomination. The political establishment is terrified of him — and for very good reasons indeed. Were he to win the nomination, I fear the probability he would get elected is low, even if he comes at a better time than Barry Goldwater did. But the seeds are sown. The fact that Mr. Paul received a sizable proportion of the youth vote is extremely encouraging. History is in the making. Perhaps we haven’t worked for nothing during all these years.

In my opinion, not all of Ron Paul’s ideas are unassailable. On monetary matters, for example, he would benefit from the advice of more critical libertarian economists. But all his proposals point in the right direction. He has a strong knowledge of, and commitment to, individual liberty. Pardon my self-serving bias but his endorsement of The Idea of America (edited by Bill Bonner and myself) shows the reality of the Ron Paul revolution (see the endorsement, and buy the book, at Amazon or at Laissez Faire Books).

Ron Paul’s campaign will have a major pedagogical impact towards the restoration of liberty in America, and in the rest of the Western world. For perhaps other countries will stop importing only what’s bad from America and, once this country becomes the beacon of liberty again, will import libertarianism.

The Proliferation of Police

During the last half of the 18th century, my estimate is that there were 222 inhabitants per police personnel in Paris. In American cities of 1,000,000 inhabitants or more, the 2009 number is roughly the same: 232 inhabitants per police employee. And don’t forget that ID papers and technology now make them much more efficient at tracking individuals. Some progress!

Sources: For Paris: Marc Chassaigne (1906), La Lieutenance générale de police (Genève: Slatkine_Megariotis, 1975); for the US:

Double Jeopardy and You

The Economist

One could have thought that the old legal rule against double jeopardy would be strengthened as new surveillance technologies (ID papers, computerized databases, and DNA) made prosecution and condemnation easier and less costly. One would have been wrong as the demise of double jeopardy in English law shows. What happens in reality is that the lower the cost of power for Leviathan, the more power he wants. What the demise of double jeopardy means is that the state is certain to get a conviction when it really wants it, whether its victim is guilty or not: with its nearly infinite resources, it will just have to prosecute as many times as necessary before a jury caves in.

“Bad banks” and Bad States

A “bad bank”, a solution adopted by many governments to solve banking crises, is a bank to which all toxic assets are transferred. It would be nice if a “bad state” could be similarly created, to which the bad policies of all states in the world would be transferred. Of course, nobody would be willing to live under such a bad state, for it would be hell on earth.