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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2013/ 25 Mar-Cheshvan, 5774

Cure for ignorant voters --- really small governments

By A. Barton Hinkle




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | My fellow Americans, we are one ignorant bunch.

This is particularly true with regard to politics and government, subjects about which the public is a howling void of nescience. To say Americans don't know much about politics and government would be more than just an understatement. It would be like saying a Galapagos tortoise doesn't know much about medieval French literature.

Ilya Somin — a law professor at George Mason University in Fairfax — has written a book on the subject: "Democracy and Political Ignorance." In it, he shows that Americans know woefully little about their political system, have known very little for a long time, and are not likely to change in the foreseeable future — because they have a very good reason not to.

For instance: In 1964, only 38 percent of Americans knew the Soviet Union, NATO's principal enemy, was not a member of NATO. In December 1994, the month after Republicans led by Newt Gingrich took control of Congress, 57 percent of Americans had never even heard of him. In 2003, 70 percent of Americans were unaware of the passage of Medicare Part D, "the biggest new government program in several decades."

Fifty-eight percent of Americans cannot name the three branches of government; 70 percent cannot name their state's senators; 72 percent cannot name two or more of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Before you start cursing, note that Americans have very little incentive to know such basic things, and even less to study more abstruse details such as the content of specific legislation. (In 2009, only a quarter of Americans knew "cap and trade" addressed environmental issues rather than, say, health care or finance.)

This is because the cost, in time and effort, of becoming an informed voter is fairly high. And what do you get for it? Precious little. It isn't polite to say so, but votes usually matter only in the aggregate. Your one vote in, say, a presidential election will have almost no chance of changing the outcome, and therefore roughly zero effect on your life personally. Hence, Somin writes, "For most people, the benefits of devoting more than minimal time and effort to learning about politics are greatly outweighed by the costs."

Granted, there are exceptions — the political junkies who get the same enjoyment from politics that sports junkies get from sports. Sports fans often know a great deal, even though they cannot affect the outcome of the games. (Not even with their lucky hats.) Political fans, Somin writes, likewise "derive enjoyment from rooting for their preferred parties, candidates, ideologies, and interest groups, while deriding the opposition. They . . . also derive satisfaction from having their pre-existing views validated, and from a sense of affiliation with a group of like-minded people."



So does the team-sports model rescue democracy from the pit of ignorance? Hardly — because partisan activism is, in important ways, even worse than disengagement. Partisans may know more, but their knowledge is often selective. On top of that, they use it in highly biased ways — primarily to reinforce their existing views and reject new information that challenges their cherished dogmas. And they often tune in to news sources (Fox News, MSNBC) that facilitate close-mindedness.

This renders partisans more susceptible to false beliefs that cement their team loyalty: Democrats are more likely than independents to believe "truther" conspiracies alleging that George W. Bush knew in advance about 9/11, and Republicans are more likely than independents to believe "birther" claims that President Barack Obama was born abroad. It also leads partisans to reject truths that do not square with their partisan leanings. In one series of studies, Democrats completely ignored a factual correction in George W. Bush's favor. Republicans were even worse, believing a false claim in Bush's favor even more strongly after seeing it corrected.

Are there any remedies? Perhaps. We could delegate more decision-making to experts. But this only adds a layer to the problem. The experts still would have to be held accountable by elected officials, and ignorant voters "are likely to be poor monitors of elected officials' supervision" of the experts. On the other hand, if the experts are not supervised, then there is no way to ensure they are pursuing the public interest.

We also could limit voting to the knowledgeable. But not only would this be grossly undemocratic, it wouldn't improve matters, for the reasons just described.

Somin suggests two structural remedies. One involves handing over more decision-making to smaller political units — states, or even municipalities — which would allow people to vote with their feet. People who vote with their feet tend to educate themselves first. (Think about how much research you put into buying a house or a car.) And they educate themselves because they know their "vote" — to live on a cul-de-sac, or move to Seattle, or buy a Toyota instead of a Ford — will be the decisive one. When you vote with your feet, the "election" is heavily rigged to produce the outcome you want.

The other structural change? Limit the scope of government. For Somin, the reason is straightforward: A smaller government means deeper knowledge. If the public will learn, say, only 100 things about the executive branch, then it will know a lot more about each agency if there are five agencies rather than 50. There is an "inverse relationship between the size of government" and "the ability of voters to have sufficient knowledge" to vote intelligently.

For the rest of us, there may be another reason: A smaller government, even in the hands of Those Ignorant Bums on the Other Side, will do less damage than a big one can. When power is decentralized, you can flee to another state if things get too bad in your current one. When Washington is in charge of everything, the cost of voting with your feet gets much, much higher.

Each of these approaches has downsides — though not necessarily the ones you might think. For instance, the cost of moving would seem at first blush to impede "foot voting" by the poor. In fact, Somin notes, "households with an income under $5,000 per year are actually twice as likely to make interstate moves as the population as a whole."

That's just one of the many insights to come out of a book on ignorance that is, perhaps paradoxically, highly informative.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

A. Barton Hinkle is Deputy Editor of the Editorial Pages at Richmond Times-Dispatch Comment by clicking here.


Previously:




10/24/13: If they can't cut the small stuff...
10/22/13: Political speech --- dumb as a ham sandwich
10/15/13: Why College Costs Will Soon Plunge
09/19/13: Progressives Reap What They Sow
09/13/13: You are being watched
09/10/13: Sorry, your business isn't desirable enough
09/05/13: The least bad option: Kill Assad
08/27/13: GOPers wrong ones to take on ObamaCare
08/08/13: Gas prices: What can the president do?
08/02/13: Chris Christie pulls a Dowd
07/29/13: Should Click and Clack wind up in the clink?
07/08/13: Commit any felonies lately?
06/18/13: Citizens and the State: the problem is bigger than you think
06/06/13: Political derangement threatens basic rights
05/30/13: Should we fear ex-Marine --- or those who detained him?
05/23/13: Professor of Constitution goes to war against it
05/23/13: REVEALED: IRS letter to tea party groups
05/15/13: Today on NPR: The smothering tax burden
04/30/13: What does Boston say about diversity?
04/25/13: For some libs, 'courage' = agreeing with them
04/18/13: Utterly outraged by their president's callous betrayal
04/11/13: Cognitive dissonance on guns
04/04/13: Do unto others, but not unto us, say the media
04/01/13: Observations from the auto shop holding pen
03/14/13: The nation-building follies
03/12/13: Will the right come around on pot?
03/07/13: Another U.S. dupe falls for a dictator
02/28/13: How dare you say that here!
02/26/13: Eating Frito-Lay chips at gunpoint
02/20/13: Death Star petitions are just what we need
02/13/13: ObamaCare proves law correct --- deep down you knew it would
01/29/13: It's Time to Get Judgy About Incompetency
01/23/13: Look who's mocking fascist fear-mongering now
01/16/13: Only in Washington could you get away with referring to spending and tax increases as spending 'cuts'
01/09/13: Obama begins his second term, Bush's fourth
01/07/13: Who's Attacking the Constitution Now?
01/03/13: Why, historically, January is the perfect time to debate the filibuster
12/26/12: When libs devalue diversity
12/20/12: Mark Your Calendars
12/13/12: Gun control, ad infinitum
12/11/12: Fracking can help fix the CO2 problem
12/06/12: Let's open the door to lots more immigration
12/04/12: Who's watching the kids? Just about everyone
11/29/12: The Real Middle-Class Champion was Mocked and Opposed
11/26/12: It's time to cut a deal on the budget
11/20/12: The case for a carbon tax
11/15/12: Cue the hysterics. Reports of Democracy's Death Greatly Exaggerated
11/07/12: The $4,000 Trash Can: We need regulation, but not this much
10/23/12: The Ballad of Islamist Rage Boy
10/17/12: Undermining the values that enable people in poverty to escape it? Sadly, yes
10/11/12: How Much Is This Tax Cut Gonna Cost Me, Doc?
10/04/12: Warrantless spying skyrockets under Obama
08/20/12: The wrong side absolutely must not win
08/14/12: America was not built on dirt alone
08/02/12: Libs Discover Their Inner Cheney
07/30/12: Feds want to help you --- whether you want help or not
07/23/12: Barack Obama, Storyteller-in-Chief
07/23/12: Nation's worst outsourcer? You
07/19/12: Listen up, America: You need to knuckle under
07/12/12: Obama, Romney: As Different as Two Peas in a Pod
07/05/12: Are teenagers big children --- or little adults?
06/25/12: Minorities treated as mere numbers
06/21/12: Memo to the the Little Guy: Seemingly innocuous activity could bring the federal hammer down out of a clear blue sky
06/19/12: We mustn't let America be buffaloed
05/31/12: Drop and Give Uncle Sam 20
05/15/12: The feds would like to know if you enjoyed that video
05/03/12: Obama inspires: 'America --- Still Not as Bad Off as Venezuela!'
04/26/12: It's everyone's favorite time of year again
03/29/12: GOP disillusionment is a good thing
03/27/12: Just what America needs: more red tape
03/20/12: Nation wondering: what happening to language?
02/21/12: Culture warriors resort to propaganda
02/15/12: Step away from that cookie and grab some air
02/08/12: Lessons in heresy
02/01/12: Do We Really Need Pickle-Flavored Potato Chips?
01/11/12: Shut up, they explained
12/30/11: A Modest Proposal: Let's Ban All Sports!
12/26/11: A Christmas letter from the Obamas
02/24/11: Will the next Watson need us?
12/24/10: Here Are Some Good Gifts for People You Hate
06/15/10: The Presinator
05/26/10: More than equal
04/08/10: Angry Right Takes a Page From Angry Left but guess who is ‘ugly’?
02/16/10: Either Obama owes George W. Bush an apology, or he owes the rest of us a very good explanation for his about-face on wiretapping
02/03/10: Talkin' to us 'tards
01/27/10: I never thought I'd see the day when progressives would howl in ragebecause the Supreme Court said government should not ban books
01/07/10: Gun-Control Advocates Play Fast and Loose
12/31/09: Nearly everything progressives say about neoconservative interventionism abroad applies to their own preferred policies at home





© 2011, A. Barton Hinkle

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