Why can’t we find middle ground between popular vs. rational policy bias?

The PLP are masters at popular policy while the OBA are masters at rational policy, the problem is that in recent history, popular has won more favor.

The OBA recently announced their economic policy, which really seems like the UBP’s 2007 election platform sprinkled with some BDA ideas.  It’s nothing mind blowing and though it’s good policy, it’s the same policy that didn’t win the election for the UBP and didn’t win new support for the BDA.  If any in the OBA think that this new policy will magically gain them support, clearly they haven’t learned anything in the last few years.

Quite unsurprisingly, the PLP immediately moved to counter the OBA’s policy suggestions by capitalizing on anti-foreign bias.  Brian Caplan, author of The Myth of The Rational Voter: Why democracies choose bad policies defines anti-foreign bias as a tendency of non-economists “to underestimate the economic benefits of interaction with foreigners”.  His book, which is an eye opening understanding of how the public holds particular biases, demonstrates how non-economists generally believe that protectionist policies are more beneficial than they have been shown to be.  The PLP successfully capitalize on this bias by immediately responding with suggestions that the OBA’s plans will jeopardize Bermudian jobs.  The OBA’s response to this?  There isn’t one yet.

The problem is that one must carefully balance good policy with popular policy while leading the public on the correct course.  Both the OBA and the PLP are horrible at combining the two. 

The PLP would be well advised to take a deep look at understanding the economics behind their suggestions and actually running the numbers on things.  (Example: today’s claim by Minister Lister that hotel and cruise guests are the same when discounting hotel costs.  Sure, though one has employee’s who live on island vs. the other who doesn’t, let alone the impact on our infrastructure of adding another 2500 people when we can’t manage the ones we get now).  The PLP would be well advised to read Mr. Caplan’s book to appreciate where they could hold bias that is doing more harm than good.

The OBA would be well advised to take a deep look at understanding public perceptions and bias.  Perhaps Mr. Caplan’s book would be a good start followed up by some study of rhetoric?  The OBA should be answering back with attacks on the fact that the PLP will need to raise taxes without foreign jobs and that there were few problems with Bermudians having jobs when there were lots of foreigners working here.  Answer back to claims that term limits protect Bermudian advancement but suggesting that at least with a suspension of term limits, people would go back to having jobs.

Sadly it is easy to doubt any real change.  The PLP will go on with their populist, economy destroying policies while the OBA keeps pushing the same policies without rallying public support.  Sad to see that things are little different than they were before.

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