Does Rational Ignorance Imply Smaller Government, or Smarter Democratic Innovation?

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Ilya Somin argues that in light of the public's rational political ignorance we should make government smaller. But his account of the phenomenon of rational ignorance does not justify his policy prescription of smaller government; on the contrary, it implies that we should revamp the current framework of democratic institutions. This is because, since Somin fails to set out a principled basis on which to value democracy even in the face of rational ignorance, he cannot explain why we should want any democratic government, however small it may be. If rational ignorance is as grave a challenge to democracy as he takes it to be, it would seem to demand either radical institutional innovation or, alternatively, an abandonment of certain democratic principles. By not explaining why we should value citizens’ involvement in politics at all, and why we might therefore draw different policy conclusions than he does himself, Somin's book ultimately fails to do full justice to the important questions that it raises.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-361
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Review
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Ilya Somin
  • democracy
  • democratic theory
  • institutional design
  • political knowledge
  • public ignorance
  • rational ignorance


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