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?