Balkinization  

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Signing Off

Ilya Somin

The time has come for me to finish my guest-blogging stint about my book Democracy and Political Ignorance. I am deeply grateful to Jack Balkin and the other regular Balkinization bloggers for this opportunity. I would also like to thank the many Balkinization readers who followed the posts and made thoughtful comments, particularly those of you who probably disagree with much of what I said. As I discuss in the book, one of the downsides of much political discourse is that people too readily dismiss or ignore arguments that cut against their preexisting views.

For those who may be interested, I will continue to blog about political ignorance, federalism, judicial review, and other related issues  at the Volokh Conspiracy. Over the next few months,  I will also be doing numerous speaking engagements about my book at various universities and other institutions around the country, and a few abroad.

One that may be of special interest to Balkinization readers is a conference entitled "Is Democracy Desirable?" which will be held at the University of Texas Law School on January 31, 2014. The conference was organized by longtime Balkinization regular Sanford Levinson, and Balkinization's own Jack Balkin and Heather Gerken will be commenting on my work at the panel about Democracy and Political Ignorance. The conference will also feature panels on important recent books on democracy and political knowledge by Hélène Landemore and Jamie Terence Kelly. Landemore's book is far more optimistic about the public's knowledge and judgment than mine, while Kelly's is probably somewhere in between.



Comments:

Thank you for your participation, Professor Somin. I appreciate your many contributions to scholarship. I also value your personal story.

I would suggest an alternative model of scholarly argument.

Often I make my assumptions clear at the beginning of my essays. I am a social democrat with a skeptical perspective on "free" markets. I see absolutely no evidence that foot voters in the free market demonstrate greater sophistication than voters. The expression "political fan" is a curious construction that is degrading for the voter who uses a calculus for decision-making that is worthy of my respect even when I disagree. And foot voting is an extraordinarily weak remedy for local oppression of minorities.

Shouldn't an argument based almost entirely on free market assumptions begin with this admission?
 

Query: Is Ilya's goal in writing his tome to educate the ignorant or get the ignorant started on education? Are there any commonalities in his non-fiction tome with another Russian emigre Ayn Rand's earlier fiction "Atlas Shrugged" which some say is the libertarian bible? Or is Ilya aiming his tome at those in power, the ones who take advantage of ignorance of so many? Perhaps an antidote to Ilya's tome is C. Wright Mills' "The Power Elite" (1956) that was aimed at informing the masses (Ilya' ignorants) of how the power elite have been using them.
 

Or perhaps Ilya's tome's goal is to inspire "Feet Don't Fail Me Now Libertarians."
 

The Conference book panels seem to have a Goldilocks Theme. Will the panels include representatives of those considered to be politically ignorant or lacking political knowledge?
 

Thanks to Ilya for not pretending to favor democracy.
Perhaps he would prefer a "constitutional oligarchy," although I admit that oligarchy is a pejorative. It is certainly a mixed form of government that Ilya would embrace. In addition to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches (under a constricted model of suffrage), Ilya might admit that he favors a fourth branch constituted by about six hundred very wealthy individuals who mobilize their funds on behalf of an intellectual infrastructure, a party within the courts, and uncompromising lobbies. Ultimately, a constitutional dictatorship of a fragment of capital.
 

Perhaps some of the panelists on the book panels will address political ignorance in relation to the increasing financial inequality between the power elite 0.1% and the 99+% (many of which may include the politically ignorant). The costs of higher education, including law schools, may have an impact on political ignorance. Capitalism may breed inequality (think of "Atlas Shrugged," the fictional bible of some libertarians) but should democracy? I'm confident that the panelists are not politically ignorant. So let's see what they have to say about political ignorance and how to decrease it and maintain democratic principles and lessen inequality at the same time.
 

I hope that the Conference will address the just resolved failed efforts by the Tea Party contingent in the House - and Ted Cruz in the Senate - to shutdown the government and bring full faith and credit of the US to its knees, in addressing "Political Ignorance" on the part of persons who consider themselves knowledgable politically. Some ignore politics for various reasons. Some engage in politics in an ignorant manner recently on display for the world to see. Not all "Political Ignorance" are the same.
 

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