… But We Won’t Do That

Dear Capitolisters,

A couple months ago, I briefly discussed two analytical techniques, “stated preference” (what people say they’ll do in certain situations) and “revealed preference” (what they actually do), used to measure people’s willingness to wait in line. (You probably missed that part because you were too busy resisting my wisdom in the comment section.) In politics and policy, it’s smart to examine people’s stated and revealed priorities, because they often differ—and sometimes dramatically. People say, for example, that they really care about buying American (or whatever), but put an actual price on doing so—and make it anonymous—and Economic PatriotismTM turns out to be not much of a priority at all. Politicians’ differentials are often even wider: They say they deeply care about all sorts of stuff, but—put that stuff to a vote in actual legislation—and their priorities can shift.

Boy, can they shift.

I bring this up because Congress and President Biden have been really busy these past two weeks addressing all sorts of existential “crises”—American deindustrialization, China’s tech ambitions, climate change, etc., that they say they care deeply about. Yet dig into the actual legislation they’re championing, and you find a different set of priorities—priorities that often undermine the very things that supposedly demand urgent legislative action and, of course, mind-numbing amounts of taxpayer dollars.

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