“Is It Political?”

When I mention what I’m writing, my dad often suspiciously asks me, “Is it political?”

Here’s how I always want to respond.

If by “political,” you mean “emotional, innumerate, dogmatic, tribal, unfair, and dishonest” then the answer is, “Of course not.”  These negative adjectives are a fair description of virtually all popular media – including popular media that agrees with my conclusions.  But where popular media go low, I go high.  If you want to know what good thinking looks like, start with Superforecasting.

On the other hand, if by “political” you mean “discusses government and society, and evaluates the desirability of government policies and social practices,” then the answer is, “Of course.”  That’s what I do for a living, after all.

In a world where almost all political discourse in the second sense is also political in the first sense, it’s easy to see why people would tend to conflate the two.  Logically, however, they’re two different animals.  And conflating them reinforces this sad intellectual state of affairs.

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Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, named “the best political book of the year” by the New York Times, and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN.