Government 1B Week 17 The Miracle of Aggregation and Political Representation

Question 1: Are voters informed? If not, why not? According to Professor Caplan, is the problem ignorance or irrationality?

The miracle of aggregation states that even if voters are uninformed it will not matter. It states that half the uninformed will vote one way, and half will vote the other. This way the uninformed will cancel each other out, and the true vote will be left in the hands of the informed. Bryan Caplan challenges this notion, explaining that voters errors are statistical rather than random. He states that uninformed voters are more likely to lean in one direction, since “false beliefs are cheap” and easy for the masses to digest and believe. If someone has a false belief about a medical concern for instance, the result of this belief will be immediate and personal. The person will personally suffer for their false beliefs. With politics on the other hand there is no immediate punishment, so its much easier for the masses to all go along with a specific agenda.

Question 2: Professor Casey claims that the idea of political representation is an empty one. How does he defend this argument?

Professor Casey is very grounded in his belief that political representation is not an accurate representation of the public. It should be obvious to most, a political agent is not an omniscient being with access to every citizens wishes and agendas. A political agent is simply a person with their own agendas, who attempts to emulate the basics of the public’s beliefs. He has no way to communicate with the thousands of people hes representing, and therefore cannot act as a representative for everyone. A good way of describing political representation is through the metaphor of grocery shopping. In an ideal world you could take your shopping cart and fill it up with everything you want, you could get eggs, berries, and meat for example. But in the world of political representation there are several shopping carts standing before you that have already been filled. None of them have exactly what you want, but a few have pieces of what you want. One may have meat and berries, but also bread and cheese. You may really want the meat and berries, but have no need for the bread and cheese. But you have to buy them all together, just like you have to vote for someone with many different viewpoints. Political representatives are a bundle, a bundle of agendas, beliefs, and points of view. They may hold some of the beliefs you want, but more often than not they will have beliefs you don’t want. Since they have these beliefs you have no interest in, you cannot realistically call them a representation of the general public.



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