Reuters Columnist Reviews Somin Book on Political Ignorance

On October 8, Reuters columnist Jack Shafer published a review of Professor Ilya Somin's new book, Democracy and Political Ignorance. 

"Never before has so much raw and refined political intelligence been available at such a low cost to citizens willing to buy a cheap computer and Web connection — or pay the bus fare to the local public library," writes Shafer in his review. "But uninformed the people are, as Ilya Somin delineates in his subversive new book, Democracy and Political Ignorance, and their ignorance is willful!"

More media won't solve political ignorance, Reuters, October 8, 2013. By Jack Shafer.

"Our political ignorance is as enduring as it is pervasive. When the Pew Research Center study compared the political knowledge of 1989 respondents with those from 2007 it found the advent of multiple 24-hour news channels, the C-SPAN channels, and hundreds of news sites on the Web had not moved the political ignorance dial in any appreciable way. Nor have massive rises in education over the past half-century put a dent in political ignorance, Somin finds. 'On an education-adjusted basis, political knowledge may actually have declined, with 1990s college graduates having knowledge levels comparable to those of high school graduates in the 1940s,' he writes, even though IQ scores have been rising. 

"Assuming that political ignorance is a supply-side problem, some of our European friends have legislated an increase in political TV programming on private and public stations. That seems to have boosted political knowledge but most of the observed increases appear to be in the realm of international news. But Somin cautions his audience into reading too much in that finding: Americans have long exhibited less an interest in international news than those living in smaller European countries."

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