My Cato Unbound Lead Essay on “Democracy and Political Ignorance”

My essay, “Democracy and Political Ignorance,” – which summarizes some key themes of my new book on the same subject, is the lead essay in this month’s Cato Unbound forum. Here is the first paragraph:

Democracy is supposed to be rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. But in order to rule effectively, the people need political knowledge. If they know little or nothing about government, it becomes difficult to hold political leaders accountable for their performance. Unfortunately, public knowledge about politics is disturbingly low. In addition, the public also often does a poor job of evaluating the political information they do know. This state of affairs has persisted despite rising education levels, increased availability of information thanks to modern technology, and even rising IQ scores. It is mostly the result of rational behavior, not stupidity. Such widespread and persistent political ignorance and irrationality strengthens the case for limiting and decentralizing the power of government.

The Cato Unbound website will soon post responses by Yale Law School Professor Heather Gerken, political theorist Jeffrey Friedman, and Sean Trende, senior elections analyst at RealClearPolitics. I will then post a rejoinder, and the conversation will continue from there. Each of these commentators is a leading expert on democratic theory, federalism, or political participation, and each is likely to have a significantly different take on these issues from mine. So it should be an interesting exchange. I look forward to it!

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