Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy: The Cold War Origins of Rational Choice Liberalism 2nd Edition
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“[Amadae] explains how the RAND Corporation's systems analysis and rational policy analysis became normative standards in governmental decision making. There are arresting insights into the whole ensemble of defense establishment leaders and institutions. . . . This is . . . a sophisticated, substantive, and balanced interpretation. Readers will come away from this book with a nuanced and enhanced understanding of many vital and enduring themes in contemporary political thought. This is an exemplary study in modern intellectual history. It is well positioned to reconfigure the contours of the rational choice theory landscape and its legacy.”
“That which emerges from separately pursued paths of scientific inquiry often has a coherence that only an external observer can discern. As a protagonist in this book’s story line, I welcome Amadae’s integration of public choice ideas into the more comprehensive vision that was never a part of my intent.”<\#209>James Buchanan, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Economics
From the Inside Flap
- Publisher : University of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (October 15, 2003)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 408 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0226016544
- ISBN-13 : 978-0226016542
- Item Weight : 1.44 pounds
- Dimensions : 9.18 x 6 x 0.92 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,269,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In fact, this book is a complete disappointment, a futile exercise in "guilt by association" with no substantive structural or causative support. The basic argument is that rational choice theory emerged at the same time as the Cold War, many rational choice theorists were committed liberal democrats who worked for the Rand Corporation to combat Communism and improve public sector decision-making, rational choice theory is a strong support for liberal democracy and a powerful critique of Marxism, from which it follows that the intellectual roots of rational choice theory lie in the Cold War and the effort to defeat Communism. This sort of shoddy reasoning is called "post hoc propter hoc," or more prosaically, "coincidental correlation." This type of reasoning is common among post-modernists, the archetypes of modern sloppy thinking, but I never encountered this bizarre form of reasoning in a work that applauds rather than critiques the blatant exploitation of science for political ends. Here are some examples of Amadae's bizarre statements.
"Kenneth Arrow created his impossibility theorem while firmly ensconced within the context of America's Cold War with the Soviet Union... It was no accident that Arrow's inspiration for his famous theorem came during a summer internship at the quintessential Cold War institution, the RAND Corporation." (p. 102) In fact, it was exactly that---an accident. Moreover, Arrow's theorem is more devastating as a critique of liberal democracy than it is of Communism, by far. Communism is not wedded to the notion that the state should be responsive to the whims of voters, whereas liberal democracy is precisely wedded to this notion. Ms. Amadae, where is your common sense?
"It is not possible to argue that the development of rational choice theory was inevitable. Rational choice theory grew out of the Cold War environment in which the nightmares of Schumpeter, Popper, and Hayek were daytime reality for millions of people." (p. 154) Of course, it is often difficult to argue "inevitability," but in this case, it is easy. The roots of rational choice theory lay in the French school of probability theorists, including Blaise Pascal and Daniel Bernoulli, the English theorists George Boole, Thomas Bayes, and Frank Ramsey, as well as the Italian di Finetti. Leonard Savage in the United States produced the most polished version thereof at the height of the Cold War (1954), but rational choice theory was already very strong by the time his Foundations of Statistics appeared. By the way, Savage did participate in RAND Corporation research, but so did many people whose relationship to the Cold War military or ideological effort was completely minimal, including Alfred Tarski, Rudolf Carnap, and Willard v. O. Quine. Ms. Amadae, where is your common sense?
"Rational theorists enthusiastically employed the new framework for analyzing collective decisionmaking to secure the foundations of American constitutional democracy by countering the threats posed by authoritarianism and communism... [Mancur] Olson's The Logic of Collective Action resembles the other texts in the rational choice canon by posing a direct challenge to Marxist political philosophy." (p. 176-177) In addition to being a confusion of correlation with causation, this assertion makes no logical sense. To repeat: authoritarianism and communism do not need a theory of how correct social policy might flow from the competition of diverse interest groups, but liberal democracy needs precisely this. Mancur Olson's work on the free rider problem is of seminal importance, but it played no role in Cold War ideology whatsoever. Ms. Amadae, where is your common sense?
"Rational choice theory and its structuring of American political discourse and practice can be perceived as a direct response to Marxist social theory." (p. 185) This statements is completely false and completely outrageous, much like the rest of the supremely shoddy book. What amazes me most is that this poor excuse for scholarship could be endorsed by Robert Bellah, Russell Hardin, and James Buchanan.
Bentham's approach was reinterpreted and updated technically ,using more advanced mathematics, by Frank P Ramsey,Bruno De Finetti,and J L Savage.A von Neumann -Morgenstern utility function was later incorporated.The end result was the Subjective Expected Utility (SEU) approach ,based on linearity and additivity.The author could have provided an effective critique of SEU had he been aware that J M Keynes had already demonstrated ,in both his A Treatise on Probability in 1921 and his 1909 Cambridge Fellowship Thesis of 1909,that the general case was one of non additivity and non linearity.SEU is a special case only.SEU can't deal with non-additivity or non linearity.It can never be anything more than a special theory at best.