Larry Bartels examines the irrational electorate:
It’s not only in the United States that the Depression- era tendency to “throw the bums out” looks like something less than a rational policy judgment. In the United States, voters replaced Republicans with Democrats in 1932 and the economy improved. In Britain and Australia, voters replaced Labor governments with conservatives and the economy improved.
In Sweden, voters replaced Conservatives with Liberals, then with Social Democrats, and the economy improved. In the Canadian agricultural province of Saskatchewan, voters replaced Conservatives with Socialists and the economy improved. In the adjacent agricultural province of Alberta, voters replaced a socialist party with a right-leaning party created from scratch by a charismatic radio preacher peddling a flighty share- the- wealth scheme, and the economy improved. In Weimar Germany, where economic distress was deeper and longer lasting, voters rejected all of the mainstream parties, the Nazis seized power, and the economy improved. In every case, the party that happened to be in power when the Depression eased went on to dominate politics for a decade or more thereafter. It seems far-fetched to imagine that all these contradictory shifts represented well- considered ideological conversions. A more parsimonious interpretation is that voters simply and simple- mindedly rewarded whoever happened to be in power when things got better.
Stupid? No, just human. And thus to borrow the title of another current best seller, by behavioral economist Dan Ariely “predictably irrational.” That may be bad enough.
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