Free Thoughts

A weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts. Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus. See for privacy and opt-out information.


Democracy and Political Ignorance

Ilya Somin joins Aaron and Trevor for a discussion on political ignorance, which is the idea that the majority of the electorate doesn’t have enough information to make fully-informed political decisions, with the understanding that for most people this ignorance is perfectly rational.

The idea of democracy is that the citizens should decide how they’re governed and what policies their government adopts, and they way they do this is via the ballot box. But what if the voters are too ignorant about what makes good policy—or even about the effects of bad policy—to vote well in the first place?

Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law and is also a regular contributor at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Show Notes and Further Reading:

Ilya Somin, Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter

     A video featuring Prof. Somin explaining political ignorance

     Cato Unbound symposium on political ignorance

Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies

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 2014-03-03  1h1m