Voters act rationally in markets. They will research and study purchases and trading partners that will have an impact on their satisfaction with the decision. When a consumer buys a car they probably know the horsepower, the mileage and can recite the safety features. The benefits and the costs are internal and they bear the burdens and the fruits of their decisions.

Yet when making political decisions the voters may choose to be rationally ignorant; believing that the costs associated with being better informed are not justified by the benefits. They may also be rationally irrational; when the cost of being irrational is so low that they may make an irrational decision with some short term or specious benefit.

In his famous Democracy in America, Alexis de Toqueville noted that while the new Americans would spend painstaking time and effort to analyze situations of trade that they would quickly accept precepts of politics and philosophy (or religion). Modern politics and issues such as environmentalism has become more like religion where beliefs in dogma are expected and logic and skeptics are treated as heretics.

This makes the case for market solutions over political solutions to reflect the people’s will. It also explains how marketing is outweighing substance in political campaigns.

The concept of the ‘rationally ignorant’ and the ‘rationally irrational’ is from “The Myth of the Rational Voter” by Bryan Caplan.