The Myth of the Rational Voter Book Summary - The Myth of the Rational Voter Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro
00:00

The Myth of the Rational Voter summary

Bryan Caplan

Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies

3.4 (39 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

'The Myth of the Rational Voter' by Bryan Caplan challenges the belief that democratic societies make smart choices. Voters are found to be irrational and ignorant, leading to poor policies and inefficient government.

Table of Contents

    The Myth of the Rational Voter
    Summary of 8 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 8

    The averaging of extremes is fundamental to democracy and is what makes it such a functional system.

    Many people consider democracy and democratic governance to be two of humanity’s greatest achievements.

    After all, democracy is based on a miracle: the miracle of aggregation. Essentially, this refers to the phenomenon that an average answer given by a group tends to be correct.

    So, if you ask some people to estimate how many beans are in a glass, some will guess too high and some too low. But when you average out their answers, the deviation in either direction will balance out, making the average very close to the correct number.

    When this idea is applied to politics, it’s plain to see that the average voter is not very well informed and that his assessments of political issues tend to be wrong. But, interestingly enough, the divergent opinions of a large group of voters will average out to close to what is true. So, in a democracy, uninformed or extreme positions tend to nullify one another, leading to a more informed and moderate result.

    And it’s precisely this middle way between the extremes that makes democracy such a sensible system. In a perfect democracy, popular ideas prevail while extreme viewpoints cancel each other out because of the miracle of aggregation.

    This is what makes democratic governments better than dictatorships, in which only certain elites have a say and often hold opinions that are contrary to those of the majority. For example, when the East German government built the Berlin Wall in 1961, the decision stood in stark contrast to the general political sentiment of the East German people. If the country had been a democratic one, the miracle of aggregation would have never allowed such a wall to be built.

    So, the miracle of aggregation is what makes democracy function. But sometimes democracies don’t work – and you’re about to learn why.

    Want to see all full key ideas from The Myth of the Rational Voter?

    Key ideas in The Myth of the Rational Voter

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is The Myth of the Rational Voter about?

    The Myth of the Rational Voter (2007) is all about the barriers our democracy faces and why they matter. These blinks break down the various misconceptions people have regarding democracy, explaining how they connect to flaws in the democratic method and show why our current forms of democracy don’t work.

    The Myth of the Rational Voter Review

    The Myth of the Rational Voter (2007) by Bryan Caplan challenges conventional wisdom and offers a fresh perspective on democracy and voter behavior. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It unveils startling facts about voters' irrationality and ignorance, shedding light on why certain policies persist despite being detrimental.
    • Caplan's research and analysis demystify popular misconceptions about democracy, providing a thought-provoking exploration of the flaws in our political system.
    • This book's engaging and accessible approach to behavioral economics and political theory ensures that readers won't find it dull or mundane, but rather intellectually stimulating and enlightening.

    Best quote from The Myth of the Rational Voter

    If voters are systematically mistaken about what policies work, there is a striking implication: they will not be satisfied by the politicians they elect.

    —Bryan Caplan
    example alt text

    Who should read The Myth of the Rational Voter?

    • People who care about politics and leadership
    • Anyone with an interest in economics and its everyday applications
    • Any reader wondering how democratic elections can consistently produce such bad results

    About the Author

    Bryan Caplan is an American economist and professor at George Mason University. He considers himself an anarcho-capitalist and is an expert on public choice theory. In addition to The Myth of the Rational Voter, Caplan is also the author of Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids.

    Categories with The Myth of the Rational Voter

    Book summaries like The Myth of the Rational Voter

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    The Myth of the Rational Voter FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Myth of the Rational Voter?

    The main message of The Myth of the Rational Voter is that voters are not always rational in their decision-making.

    How long does it take to read The Myth of the Rational Voter?

    The reading time for The Myth of the Rational Voter varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Myth of the Rational Voter a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Myth of the Rational Voter provides valuable insights into the irrationality of voter behavior. It's definitely worth a read.

    Who is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter?

    The author of The Myth of the Rational Voter is Bryan Caplan.

    What to read after The Myth of the Rational Voter?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Myth of the Rational Voter, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky
    • Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
    • Shattered by Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes
    • A Higher Loyalty by James Comey
    • Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
    • Political Order and Political Decay by Francis Fukuyama
    • The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan
    • Ultralearning by Scott H. Young
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don't Do by Amy Morin
    • 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness by Jim Rohn