But if I am a Democrat, how can I be convinced of this? The specific emphases of the parties have morphed over time, but they usually take up opposite positions on a number of key issues. He is also the author of The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. He then proceeds to demolish a number of well known and less well known arguments claiming that political ignorance is more apparent than real; that there are shortcuts or knowledge multipliers that reduce or eliminate the harm. And then he shows that most solutions are likely to fail to significantly reduce the problem. It is not my view that democracy will always and everywhere be the best possible system. The 2016 election has left many stunned, as the two major parties advanced widely disliked candidates who both favor policies that gravely endanger liberty and the free market. The book was informative and exasperating all at the same time.
Yet one need not subscribe to all—or indeed any—of his normative conclusions to appreciate his smart, thoughtful consideration of the issues. Democracy and Political Ignorance : Why Smaller Government Is Smarter, Second Edition. In the last chapter of the book, I do discuss some reasons for hope. Are they desirable given the degree of voter ignorance? We can also do so in the private sector by choosing what products to buy or what civil society or religious organizations to join. The book is well argued and well written.
But it might be possible to have an evolution, if not toward libertarianism as such, then toward greater decentralization and limitation of government power. Many if not most people simply vote a party slate. Somin goes into careful detail on the arguments and evidence for widespread and persistent political ignorance. Since foot voting is infinitely much more informed than ballot box voting, the effect of such homogeneity is to amplify the power of the most ill informed of our decisions ballot box voting , and to give political ignorance full expression. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain 2015 , and coauthor of A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case 2013.
People make better decisions when they choose what to purchase in the market or which state or local government to live under, than when they vote at the ballot box, because they have stronger incentives to acquire relevant information and to use it wisely. As I discuss in the book, the problem of political ignorance is not new. However, many of the arguments I found most compelling relied on foot voting vs ballot box voting. This chapter reviews the major types of shortcuts, and concludes that they are less effective than advocates claim and often actively counterproductive. This is totally illogical behavior if your goal is to get at the truth.
People make better decisions when they have stronger incentives to acquire relevant information—and to use it wisely. Many people understand that their votes are unlikely to change the outcome of an election and don't see the point in learning much about politics. One is left with the impression that we would be as well off flipping coins to elect representatives as we are submitting the questions to the votes of citizens who are largely ignorant of the issues. One of the biggest problems with modern democracy is that most of the public is usually ignorant of politics and government. Since my vote will not make any difference at all, I'm not going to invest much time in studying 'the issues' or candidates.
Professionals and non-specialists alike interested in the intersection of political science, political philosophy, and epistemology should find Democracy and Political Ignorance a very rewarding read. Overall, the book examines an important issue, though not always in a satisfying way. I think that democracy still does have one important virtue, which is that, while the voters are generally ignorant, there are some forms of government failure that are so blatant and so obvious that even ignorant voters will tend to notice them and therefore punish the incumbents at the polls. One then counts on specialists within the party one chooses to advance the positions one prefers. Comments do not represent the views of Reason. One is left with the impression that we would be as well off flipping coins to elect representatives as we are submitting the questions to the votes of citizens who are largely The book was informative and exasperating all at the same time.
The same goes for decisions about what jurisdiction to live in, in a federal system. In a world of widespread political ignorance, much of the legislation courts might strike down does not meaningfully reflect the will of the people. Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. Yet in surveys taken not long before the election, only 38 percent of the public even knew which party controlled the House and which party controlled the Senate. We are persuaded most deeply by pathos, not logos, and we vote, argue and defend our feelings, not our logical analysis of facts. Present company excepted, of course. His values and, presumably, his experiences growing up in the Soviet Union cause him to oppose larger government, and based on those values he has crafted an argument for smaller government.
Political ignorance is not the only issue that we should take into account in thinking about the role of government in society. However, you will favor both to a greater degree than you yourself would if you thought you lived in a world where political ignorance is not a serious problem. The second edition contains a number of important updates. From this point, he moves on to conclude that a Federal system in which the central government is relatively weaker than the local government is a rational response to political ignorance: It allows greater diversity in local environments, and hence frees up individuals to vote with their feet by, for example, moving to a locale whose laws and officials are more congenial. People make better decisions when they have stronger incentives to acquire relevant information-and to use it wisely. That raises the question of what prospect there is for limiting government or decentralizing it as I would like to do? This creates a nation of people with little political knowledge and little ability to objectively evaluate what they do know.