The Best Answer to Voter Ignorance? Smaller Government!


George Will has an interesting column about Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter, by George Mason University's Ilya Somin. Somin—who explained to Reason TV in 2012 why he thought the individual mandate was unconstitutional and a threat to liberty—contends that citizen ignorance is a major problem because it leaves government power essentially unchecked and unaccountable.

As Will summarizes:

Voters cannot hold officials responsible if they do not know what government is doing, or which parts of government are doing what. Given that 20 percent thinks the sun revolves around the Earth, it is unsurprising that a majority is unable to locate major states such as New York on a map. Usually only 30 percent of Americans can name their two senators. The average American expends more time becoming informed about choosing a car than choosing a candidate. But, then, the consequences of the former choice are immediate and discernible….

A typical argument is that such rational ignorance on the part of voters can be remedied by getting voters to become more knowledgeable. Somin goes in a different direction, says Will:

A better ameliorative measure would be to reduce the risks of ignorance by reducing government's consequences — its complexity, centralization and intrusiveness. In the 19th century, voters' information burdens were much lighter because important federal issues — the expansion of slavery, the disposition of public lands, tariffs, banking, infrastructure spending — were much fewer.

Read the whole thing. And watch Somin discuss Obamacare below.