John Stossel

Caplan divides them into three categories: antimarket bias, antiforeign bias, make-work bias and pessimistic bias. Antimarket bias describes people feeling that trade and profit are zero-sum games, that one person's gain is another person's loss. They haven't learned that free exchange is win-win and that in a free market, profit comes from cost-cutting innovation. Antiforeign bias, perhaps a vestige of primitive man, consists of distrusting "them" even though our prosperity increases according to how global the division of labor is. Foreigners don't want to invade us; they want to sell us useful things. Make-work bias is the belief that what makes us rich is jobs, rather than goods, and so anything that eliminates jobs is bad. If that were really true, we could prosper by outlawing all inventions created after 1920. Think of all the jobs that would create! Finally, pessimistic bias is the view that any economic problem is proof of general decline. Lots of people actually think we're poorer than our grandparents were!

As a result of these biases, people often support price controls, foreign-trade barriers and laws against job "outsourcing," and oppose immigration. Most economists are eager to demonstrate that these policies are bad for society, but most people aren't interested in evidence. They're interested in what confirms their worldview and makes them feel good. So they often vote for protectionists, anti-immigration advocates and other opponents of the free market.

Caplan's book isn't calculated to cheer up those of us who favor more market and less democracy. He offers some solutions that aren't likely to be adopted any time soon, such as permitting only the economically literate to vote, or giving them more votes, or eliminating get-out-the-vote campaigns (which serve only to get out the uneducated vote).

More practically, he thinks that "Everyone who knows some economics" should grab every opportunity to teach it. That's what I try to do with my "20/20" segments, television specials and the Stossel in the Classroom program, which brings economic ideas to high-school and college classrooms.

I hope we will create some rational voters in the process.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate