Voter Ignorance and the Democratic Ideal

Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, V. 12, No. 4, 1998

46 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2017

See all articles by Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Date Written: Fall 1998

Abstract

If voters do not understand the programs of rival candidates or their likely consequences, they cannot rationally exercise control over government. An ignorant electorate cannot achieve true democratic control over public policy. The immense size and scope of modern government makes it virtually impossible for voters to acquire sufficient knowledge to exercise such control. The problem is exacerbated by voters’ strong incentive to be “rationally ignorant” of politics. This danger to democracy cannot readily be circumvented through “shortcut” methods of economizing on information costs. A truly democratic government must, therefore, be strictly limited in scope.

Keywords: Rational ignorance, elections, democracy, voting, information, information shortcuts, miracle of aggregation, polling, political ignorance, Anthony Downs

JEL Classification: D71, D80, H10, H11, H40, H41

Suggested Citation

Somin, Ilya, Voter Ignorance and the Democratic Ideal (Fall 1998). Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, V. 12, No. 4, 1998, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3007987

Ilya Somin (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

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703-993-8069 (Phone)
703-993-8124 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://sls.gmu.edu/ilya-somin/

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