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do voters want serious change? January 16, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, econ, politics.
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bryan caplan with “5 myths about our ballot-box behavior”:

5. Voters want serious change.

Pundits love telling us that voters are “fed up” with politics as usual. Candidates follow suit, insisting that — unlike their competition — they’re really listening to the American people.

Nonsense. Public opinion data strongly confirm that the status quo is popular. All the big components of the federal budget enjoy broad support. When asked whether government should do less of something, more of something or stick with the status quo, the average American almost always sticks with what he has.

The only iron-clad counter-example is foreign aid. Most Americans have wanted less of it for decades. But since foreign aid is about 1 percent of the federal budget, we can safely call it the exception that proves the rule.

Surely Americans want serious change on Iraq, you say? True, about 60 percent of Americans now say that the war was a mistake. But given the available options, voters are still getting what they want. If Iraq were a stable and enthusiastic ally, we’d like to leave today, but that’s not on the menu. Most Americans now favor a timetable for withdrawal, but how many would want to stick to a schedule if that meant handing Iraq over to radical Islamists? In a few years, the majority may be ready for “peace at any price” — but not yet.

As the humorist Josh Billings once observed, “The trouble with people is not that they don’t know but that they know so much that ain’t so.”

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