Behavioral Economists Ignore Biases and Irrationalities of Governments

(p. A4) . . . it is quite a leap between acknowledging markets sometimes fail and arguing they are inherently flawed. Policy makers who work from the second assumption risk overreaching, by seeing market failure where there is none and ignoring their own behavioral biases, in either case leaving people worse off, not better. Public trust in free markets hasn’t wavered notably in the U.S. or Britain from precrisis levels and even in the pope’s native Argentina, attitudes aren’t much more negative than in 2009.
. . .
. . . , consumers don’t seem irrational when they evaluate fuel economy; one study found changes in gasoline prices are closely reflected in the relative prices of less fuel-efficient used cars.
Besides, as Mr. Viscusi and Mr. Gayer note, the government has behavioral biases of its own. Courts and regulators assign more value to the potential harm of a new drug than its potential benefits. Politicians take actions out of proportion to the risks, for example by closing schools during the Ebola scare or imposing onerous airline-security checks to prevent terrorist hijackings.

For the full commentary, see:
GREG IP. “Market Critics Shouldn’t Overreach.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Sept. 24, 2015): A2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 23, 2015, and has the title “Critics of Free Market Shouldn’t Overreach.” Where there are minor differences between the print and online versions of the article, the sentences quoted above follow the online version.)

The Vicusi and Gayer paper mentioned above, is:
Viscusi, W. Kip, and Ted Gayer. “Behavioral Public Choice: The Behavioral Paradox of Government Policy.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 38, no. 3 (Summer 2015): 973-1007.

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