Democracy and Political Ignorance

A popular government without popular information is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or both.

That quote from James Madison sums up one of the weaknesses of modern democracy.

One of the biggest problems with modern democracy is that most of the public is usually ignorant of politics and government. Often, 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. This may be rational, but it creates a nation of people with little political knowledge and little ability to objectively evaluate what they do know.

In Democracy and Political Ignorance, Ilya Somin fully updates his analysis to include new and vital discussions on

  • the implications of the “Big Sort” for politics,
  • the link between political ignorance, and the disproportionate political influence of the wealthy,
  • assessment of proposed new strategies for increasing political knowledge, and
  • up-to-date survey data on political ignorance during recent elections.

Ilya Somin mines the depths of the current state of ignorance in America and reveals it as a major problem for democracy. He weighs various options for solving this problem, provocatively arguing that political ignorance is best mitigated and its effects lessened by decentralizing and limiting government. People make better decisions when they have stronger incentives to acquire relevant information—and to use it wisely.