This non-Austrian has just published a book seeking to elucidate why free voting so regularly emplaces harmful economic policies, or officeholders who favor them.
The book is reviewed by Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education, whose Web site doesn’t include a blog. So I thought I’d announce the book on this blog (as I’ve been doing lately) and voice my own opinion on the matter, which I proclaim totally innocent of any wisdom I might have gained by reading Caplan’s book.
I think much voting on economic measures is based on perceptions (usually erroneous) of their effects on the “gap” between rich and poor. I believe the rich are much less concerned by this gap than the poor, but I also believe that a voter could view himself as comparatively rich as to the effects of one measure (say, the minimum wage) and comparatively poor as to another (say, estate taxes).
I believe “the poor” (as defined above) are prone to voting to hurt themselves when they perceive that it may hurt “the rich” more. This is an envy-driven dog-in-the-manger philosophy, and the reason “the rich” aren’t as prone to being influenced by the gap is not that they are in any way morally superior to “the poor,” but because envy is always and everywhere an upward-directed attitude – one always compares oneself enviously with one’s betters rather than with one’s inferiors.