Whatever the results from November’s election, voters will make a case for smaller government, a George Mason University law professor predicts.
Ilya Somin, author of “Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter,” says most voters put more time into researching the type of TV they buy than into the political candidates they choose.
“You realize that your vote is infinitesimally small,” he told Watchdog.org in an interview. “It’s actually rational to be ignorant.”
Somin says political ignorance runs deep in the voter pool.
“Only 36 percent know the three branches of the federal government. Just 38 percent know that Republicans control the U.S. House of Representative,” he said, citing recent surveys.
By contrast, Americans will do detailed research on the televisions and cars they buy because they know those purchases make a difference. Oftentimes, voters have little substantive choice in elections, where incumbents enjoy a large cash advantage and use that to air their message over those carefully chosen flat screens.
Somin’s solution? Vote with your feet. If voters feel overtaxed and underappreciated, move to a city or state that is less hostile.
Somin, a self-described libertarian, argues that size matters.
“Many European countries are smaller than some of our states. Yet Switzerland, for instance, has better health care. They have better retirement programs.
“We should learn from that and devolve issues from federal government,” he advised.
Somin posits that if voters’ felt their votes actually mattered, they would put the same energy into researching and agitating for better government.
“If electorate were more knowledgeable we’d have different candidates and different platforms,” he said.
However, Somin admits, “It’s not likely that knowledge will increase” across a political landscape increasingly dominated by a powerful central government.
A Libertarian group has urged its members to move en masse to New Hampshire, in an effort to control the levers of political power there. The Free State Project limited its initial search to states with the smallest populations.
So far, though, the Libertarians have made only minor inroads into the political process.
Consumer crusader Ralph Nader – at the other end of the political spectrum — says America’s political duopoly is too entrenched, with too little difference between the established parties.
“You don’t pick the candidates; they pick you,” he says.
Using political gerrymandering and shoveling public funds back to special interests, mainstream Republicans and Democrats push an elitist brand of crony capitalism that effectively shrinks the middle class.
Somin says rather than empowering self-serving middlemen in Washington, D.C., voters would be better served by smaller government and more private enterprise.
“Many things are handled better by private sector: education and health care to name just two,” the professor said.
“At least decentralize more decision making to the state or local level. And if a state becomes dysfunctional, people can move away,” Somin said.
“The response to harmful federal policies is to leave country entirely. That’s costly and less probable.”
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