Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Confusion or bias?

Hostility to foreign trade and worry about trade defecits is cited by Bryan Caplan in his Myth of the Rational Voter as evidence of the "anti-foreign bias". While I don't doubt that such a bias exists, I'm not convinced that this particular case can't be explained at least in part as mere confusion.

Many of today's voters came of age when the Bretton Woods system was still in place, thus in a time when the balance of payments was a serious political issue, and not something that would be smoothed out by the invisible hand of the market. Surely some of them--including commentators--haven't realized that trade defecits are nothing to worry about, and they've perhaps passed their concern down to a younger generation, which worries about trade defecits simply because they don't understand but see other people are worried. Could part of many of the biases cateogrized by Caplan be accounted for by a sort of instinctual, ignorance-driven groupthink, as opposed to innate statist preference?

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