POLITY IDIOCY: “Are Americans Too Stupid For Democracy?” / Joshua Holland



Widespread ignorance of objective reality poses a genuine threat to democracy. The people of the United States have ignorance in abundance.

The way representative democracy is supposed to work is pretty simple: you protect the fundamental rights of the minority (so it doesn’t become two wolfs and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner), and then the majority of citizens, acting in their own rational self-interest, elect representatives who will pursue the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens.

That’s the theory, but “rational” is a key word in that formulation. What happens when lots of citizens don’t have a solid grasp of what’s going on in the real world?

Consider some examples that are especially relevant to our current political scene.

– People Don’t Recognize Their Lack of Competence, Can’t Judge the Competence of Politicians

– Politicians Think Their Constituents Are Much Further to the Right Than Polls Suggest

– The Wealthy Think the Wealthy Should Pay More Taxes, But They Don’t Think They’re Wealthy

– Americans Like Sweden’s Distribution of Wealth, and Think They Already Have

– Government Spending Has Decreased Under Obama, But Nobody Knows It

– The Deficit Has Been Stabilized and Is Shrinking, But Only 6 Percent of Americans Know It

– Foreign Aid Is Pocket Change

– So, Should We Just Give Up On Democracy?

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