Yes, Michael Sandel demonstrates why people who can’t pass the Intro Micro final shouldn’t be allowed to vote. But our colleague Matt Kahn demonstrates why freshwater economists shouldn’t be allowed to vote, either. (Or write about political theory: if Sandel is “:the leading moral philosopher of our age” then Tom Friedman is its leading foreign-policy thinker and Judge Judy its leading jurist. There’s nothing valid in Sandel’s work that Michael Walzer didn’t say first, and better.)
As RBC commenter NCG points out, the example of lobbyists hiring “line-standers” for Congressional hearings is almost comically ill-chosen to illustrate Matt’s point. Yes, both the lobbyist and the person he hires to stand in line for him come out ahead, as demonstrated by their willingness to engage in the transaction. But the money-poor but time-rich ordinary citizen who doesn’t get in to the hearing because the paid line-stander is willing to show up earlier comes out behind. So, of course, do the victims of whatever piece of plutocratic legislation the lobbyist is there to advance.
So there are two reasons to make this a “blocked transaction”: it’s about a purely positional good (paying line-standers doesn’t produce more places in the hearing room) and it’s about the contest for political power. (Matt’s reasoning can also prove that bribing voters should be allowed, since both the bribor and the bribee come out ahead.)
[Note also that, instead of allowing paid line-standers, it would be unarguably more efficient to simply auction off seats in the hearing room. I think it could be shown that Â there is no case in which it is true that (1) rationing-by-waiting is the right way to allocate a good and (2) people should be allowed to get around rationing-by-waiting by paying proxies to wait for them.]
None of this requires going outside the rubric of economics, merely applying that rubric correctly, based on the phenomena under consideration.Â And that’s why I, as opposed to NCG, object to paid line-standers for hearings but support congestion pricing on highways.