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THE ECONOMICS OF ILLUSION

By George A. Akerlof

Abstract

When individuals choose not only goods, but also how to process information, there is a bias: people tend to process information so that they feel good about themselves. This bias is particularly important in voting behavior, where agents have almost no individual effect on public choice outcomes, and therefore almost no incentive for unbiased use of information. Two examples are given. In one example, an adaptation of the classic overdepletion problem, the public chooses not to counteract externalities by appropriate tax policy. In the second example public policy follows the choices of experts, contrary to the interest of the public. Copyright 1989 Blackwell Publishers Ltd..

DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1468-0343.1989.tb00002.x
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