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Ilya Somin

American political scientist, Harvard University, author of Stillborn Crusade: The Tragic Failure of Western Intervention in the Russian Civil War 1918-1920


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 voter knowledge costs. A truly democratic government must, therefore, be strictly limited in size.

Sep. 01, 1998 - from "Voter Ignorance and the Democratic Ideal", an essay published in Critical Review, Fall 1998