Easier to walk with the wind in your back : Does irrational public opinion affect the Swedish democracy?
Abstract: In The Myth of the Rational Voter, Bryan Caplan concludes that irrational public opinion leads to bad policies, that are overall bad for the country and the citizens. By irrational public opinion, he essentially means that people have opinions that are plain wrong. By taking a stand against the government based on these faulty opinions, the government is forced to adopt bad policies, in order to stay in power. By looking at four different cases, I attempt to see if the situation can be deemed to be similar in Sweden, albeit with a different approach to what is rational, than the one used by Caplan. The question I ask is if irrational public opinion forces the government to adopt bad policies? I expand the view of rationality from the economic view to be more considerate of other factors and priorities that are very much part of everyday life. The emphazis is on the gathering of information, which is facilitated by widespread access to the Internet and relatively high levels of education. The aspect of leadership, or the possible lack thereof, is also considered. The examined issues are; The new law about communication surveillance (FRA-lagen), the lowered limit on health insurance, the changes in unemployment compensation and the vote to enter the European Monetary Union. While it can be seen that there were likely arguments antagonistic to the viewpoint of the government, they are unlikely to have had any major effect. Instead, the protests that were possibly of any consequence, were typically well-informed, from sources that we would expect to be familiar with the issue at heart. As for leadership, it is more often than not the case that the intentions are good, but the “sales-effort” is lacking. In some aspects, we might even claim that the government failed at its job. Ultimately, the conclusion we reach is more optimistic than the one Bryan Caplan reached. While it is true that this might be mainly because we use different definitions of rationality and different sources of evidence (and examine different countries), it does not serve to undermine the result. Despite the fact that the cases were chosen on the basis that they were likely to prove the existence of irrationality, they did not.
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