Knowledge About Ignorance: New Directions in the Study of Political Information
George Mason University School of Law
July 12, 2006
Critical Review, Vol. 18, Nos. 1-3, pp. 255-278, 2006 (Symposium on Political Knowledge)
George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 06-30
For decades, scholars have recognized that most citizens have little or no political knowledge, and that it is in fact rational for the average voter to make little effort to acquire political information. This article shows that rational ignorance is fully compatible with the so-called paradox of voting because it will often be rational for citizens to vote, but irrational for them to become well-informed. Furthermore, rational ignorance leads not only to inadequate acquisition of political information but also to ineffective use of such information as citizens do possess. The combination of these two problems has fundamental implications for a variety of issues in public policy and international affairs, including the desirable size and scope of government, the need for judicial review, the division of power within a federal system, and the conduct of the War on Terror.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25
Keywords: Constitutional law, collective choice, voting, information, rational choice, federalism, elections
JEL Classification: A13, D7, D8, D80, D82, H41, H50, H77Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 14, 2006 ; Last revised: April 10, 2011
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