Columnist George Will Discusses Somin Book

George F. Will, American newspaper columnist, journalist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, published a column in the Washington Post in which he discusses the content of Professor Ilya Somin's new book, Democracy and Political Ignorance.

"In 'Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter,' (Stanford University Press), Ilya Somin of George Mason University Law School argues that an individual's ignorance of public affairs is rational because the likelihood of his or her vote being decisive in an election is vanishingly small. The small incentives to become informed include reducing one's susceptibility to deceptions, misinformation and propaganda. And if remaining ignorant is rational individual behavior, it has likely destructive collective outcomes," writes Will.

"Political ignorance, Somin argues, strengthens the case for judicial review by weakening the supposed 'countermajoritarian difficulty' with it. If much of the electorate is unaware of the substance or even existence of policies adopted by the sprawling regulatory state, the policies' democratic pedigrees are weak. Hence Somin's suggestion that the extension of government's reach 'undercuts democracy more than it furthers it,' says Will.

Will concludes his column saying that "An engaged judiciary that enforced the Framers' idea of government's 'few and defined' enumerated powers (Madison, Federalist 45), leaving decisions to markets and civil society, would, Somin thinks, make the 'will of the people' more meaningful by reducing voters' knowledge burdens. Somin's evidence and arguments usefully dilute the unwholesome democratic sentimentality and romanticism that encourage government's pretensions, ambitions and failures."

The price of political ignorance: More government, The Washington Post, January 2, 2014. By George F. Will.

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