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06/12/2014

Ilya Somin on Political Ignorance and the Constitution
Michael Ramsey

At Volokh Coonspiracy, Ilya Somin responds to a review (by James Rogers [Texas A&M, Political Science] of his book Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter.  From the discussion:

It is indeed true that Framers sought to “engineer” the Constitution around the problem of political ignorance, thereby diminishing its harmful effects. But they did so in part by trying to do the very thing I advocate in the book: placing tight limits on the power of government, especially the federal government. James Madison famously emphasized in Federalist 45 that the powers of the central government are to be “few and defined.” In a passage from Federalist 62 that I quote in the book, he emphasized that “[i[t will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read." I doubt that Madison meant that adequately informed voters literally need to read every provision of every law. But he did clearly imply a tradeoff between the quantity and complexity of law and the ability of voters to understand it.