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Pareto and the Roots of Politics

The great Italian public intellectual Vilfredo Pareto died 100 years ago, in August 1923, after witnessing the liberal order’s demise and the travesty of World War I. During his storied and wide-ranging career, he developed insights into economic, social, and political behavior that resonate powerfully today.

MILAN – Many political disputes in recent years have been framed as battles between economic rationality and eruptions of irrationality that we label populism. But cognitive psychologists and economists would point out that political irrationality is hardly confined to populist insurgents. As a general matter, most political leaders are focused on practical matters and do not necessarily think deeply about the ideas they expound.