Out of Sight, out of Mind: How Opportunity Cost Neglect Undermines Democracy Academic Article uri icon


  • Every government program has an opportunity cost, which consists of the private and public goods that society must forgo to make the program possible. In evaluating government programs, rational voters would take opportunity costs into account. Unfortunately, opportunity costs are usually implicit, and psychologists have shown that decision makers tend to irrationally ignore implicit information while giving too much weight to salient situational elements. This Article presents evidence that the bias against implicit information causes voters to neglect the opportunity costs of government programs. The Article also explains for the first time the implications of opportunity cost neglect for democracy.

published proceedings

  • New York University Journal of Law and Liberty

author list (cited authors)

  • Lucas, G

complete list of authors

  • Lucas, Gary M Jr

publication date

  • January 2015