The Importance Of Rational Ignorance In Democracy

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Democracy is founded on the concept of government controlled by the people. The people of the community are each responsible for the regulation they live under and are impacted by. Despite this role, the average person in a democratic nation is rarely politically educated, extremely convinced of their particular beliefs, often in disagreement with large segments of the society, and generally possessing irrational views. This trend can be explained in part by the ideas of rational ignorance and irrational ignorance. Rational ignorance is exercised when the cost of obtaining education on political matters and exercising the resulting preferences is greater than the potential benefits the improved understanding could yield. This rational ignorance is caused by several factors, including the difficulty in becoming educated, the opportunity cost associated with the time spent, the small impact each voter has on the government’s decision making, and the insignificance of most policies in day-to-day life. Irrational ignorance occurs when individuals form beliefs that are illogical but serve the individual’s personal preferences, but then fail to exercise reason when approaching their own and others opinions. This irrationality is driven by elements including self interested bias, the concept that beliefs act as an identity and group creator, coherence bias, selective attention, biased gathering and judging of evidence, and a reliance on unsound evidence to confirm existing beliefs.

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