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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Rational ignorance is a ubiquitous aspect of our lives. In many situations, it is completely unproblematic, or even beneficial. But public-choice theory shows how it can often cause serious harm in the world of politics. The first part of this chapter briefly explains the logic of rational ignorance and why many people may deliberately choose to remain ignorant about political issues. In the second part, I survey evidence and research supporting the theory of rational ignorance in politics, including the related problem of “rational irrationality.” The third part outlines the potential dangers of rational ignorance and irrationality, especially how it can contribute to the enactment of flawed government policies. It also summarizes the literature arguing that widespread political ignorance is not a major problem. The final part briefly discusses potential strategies for mitigating the dangers of rational ignorance.

Keywords: voting, election, rational ignorance, rationality, rational irrationality, collective action, information shortcut, miracle of aggregation, votor education, public opinion

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