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Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter, Second Edition
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Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter, Second Edition

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  69 ratings  ·  12 reviews
One of the biggest problems with modern democracy is that most of the public is usually ignorant of politics and government. 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 creates a nation of people with little political knowledge and little ability to objectively evalu ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published June 15th 2016 by Stanford Law Books (first published September 18th 2013)
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3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  69 ratings  ·  12 reviews

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Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In many ways, this is a frightening book. Somin goes into careful detail on the arguments and evidence for widespread and persistent political ignorance. Then he discusses the harm such ignorance has on policy and good governance. And then he shows that most solutions are likely to fail to significantly reduce the problem. Some of the solutions discussed wouldn’t likely work even if they were feasible or likely to be implemented. Many of the other solutions—including Somin’s own suggestion: limi ...more
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
The main theme of the book is that it is rational to be politically ignorant because of essentially a third-party system whereby representatives deciding laws and courts determining whether those laws are constitutional, leading to Somin's conclusion that smaller government is smarter and more efficient.

Limited government contributes to less political ignorance and more ability by citizens to influence laws.

It is a well-written book and I found the explanation of the countermajoritarian diffic
Oct 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend that this work be read in tandem with Christopher Achens' and Larry Bartels' work, "Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government."

Both books take as their common starting point multiple studies that have demonstrated some rather dismal facts about voter behavior (focused on the United States but, given all of the various elections and referenda throughout Europe in the past year, I suspect the findings apply to their citizens as well): low levels o
The book was informative and exasperating all at the same time. The first half of the book does an excellent job of describing how poorly informed the voting public is, with huge percentages of the population unfamiliar with even very basic facts about their elected representatives and the issues that come up before them. 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 ...more
Jacob Blumberg
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t really agree with his really lack of a solution, but there are some good ideas presented that I never thought about.
Nick Geiser
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somin's book defends applies the literature on rational ignorance and the intelligence of democracy to questions of federalism and judicial review. Somin argues that federalism is "smarter" than centralism--voters tend to be more knowledgeable of issues at lower levels of government since the relative costs and benefits of becoming informed favor more learning than at higher levels of government. A further mechanism by which federalism might enjoy greater intelligence is jurisdictional competiti ...more
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Important reminder that facts matter

We are increasingly told that we live in a "post-factual" society, where ideology and populism trump reality. This poignant book drives home the point that voters do not have the information we may think they do. While I do not agree with all of Professor Somin's solutions to the problems of political ignorance, I agree that it's a significant problem that's unlikely to be solved anytime soon. The book is well argued and well written.
Andrew Nelson
Jan 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: polsci
Very well written and researched, with good focus on his thesis. However, many of the arguments I found most compelling relied on foot voting vs ballot box voting. Fair enough, I agree in many ways. But many of the arguments for the merit of foot voting did not have enough teeth to beat back the downsides. I especially thought that the issue of moving, at least for the electorate he and I agree are most at risk to political ignorance, is far greater an issue than Somin seems to treat it as.
there's some good info here, but it's needlessly verbose and extremely repetitive. also, as a hemorrhaging-heart Rooseveltian liberal, I find his proposed solution of decentralization rather distasteful, although given the title I'm not sure what I was expecting.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very scholarly, but slow.
Shawn Gude
Agreed with very little of this, but it's an indispensable read for any small-d democrat.
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Professor at the George Mason University School of Law, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a blogger for Volokh Conspiracy, and a former co-editor of the Supreme Court Economic Review (2006 to mid-2013).