Somin Quoted in Two CQ Weekly Articles

Professor Ilya Somin's comments concerning the individual mandate for health care and voter ignorance were carried in two articles appearing in CQ Weekly.

The first, an article published June 4, probes Georgetown University scholar Randy Barnett's arguments that Congress exceeded its power to regulate interstate commerce by including a requirement in the health care overhaul that everyone have insurance. The article discusses Barnett's proposed “Bill of Federalism,” composed of 10 amendments, ranging from term limits to abolishing the income tax and protecting nonenumerated rights. The sixth of these amendments would give states the power to repeal any federal law or regulation.

The publication cites Somin's skepticism, as he predicts that such an amendment would bring only a “fairly small improvement.”

“If something was so unpopular that two-thirds of the state legislatures voted to get rid of it, there’s a good chance Congress would not enact it in the first place or that Congress would want to get rid of it itself,” Somin says.

The second article, appearing June 11, looks at the level of confusion on the part of voters as they grapple with the complexities of the budget deficit and other modern-day political issues.

In it, Somin argues that the voter who chooses not to know about politics and public policy is behaving rationally. He explains that individuals will do a great deal of research before making decisions they really control. Conversely, they understand that they have very little influence on major issues such as who is elected to the presidency or to Congress. Consequently, they do very little research on those issues, as there is little incentive to become a "better voter."

In his forthcoming book, "Democracy and Political Ignorance," Somin states that the "sheer depth of most individual voters' ignorance is shocking to many observers not familiar with the research." He views public ignorance as "a type of pollution that infects the political system rather than our physical environment."

A Washington Power Breaker, CQ Weekly, June 4, 2011. By Seth Stern. 

What They Don't Know, CQ Weekly, June 11, 2011. By Fred Barbash.