Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Teamwork and fun

Nobelist James Buchanan's public choice (politics without romance) ideas are profound. But public choice is still missing from most economists' "toolkit". It is seemingly easier to find departures from Nirvana economics (models built on assumptions of perfect information, perfect foresight, perfect rationality, etc.) and hop-skip-jump to the conclusion that markets fail -- and a wise and dispassionate tribe of experts should get to work fixing things. It's the old progressive idea. It is seductive and it seemingly appeals to people who dream of social order -- and also many brainy people, perhaps elevating their self-image as the engineers of such order.

But beyond that, one sees the problem every time a political candidate speaks -- and when listeners jump and shout for joy. Nothing may make logical sense. But people are tickled to be there and to be participants. The human instinct is that people desperately want to be on a team -- just like at sporting events. The impulse to form teams and bands is a favored evolutionary tale of how sapiens came to dominate all of the other faster and stronger species roaming the planet.

All of this is stark in 2016. It has been many times noted that Clinton and Trump are flawed candidates. But Clinton's lying is no big deal; Trump will become "presidential" anytime soon! Many are desperate to be on a team -- and tie themselves into knots to find a way get behind one or the other of the unappealing candidates. People cheering at the game Saturday afternoon are having a lot more fun than those who stayed away, attending to their normal lives.

Small government (small politics) advocates will always have a tough time. What they offer comes up short in the fun department.