Do Informed Voters Produce Better Results?

You’ve probably seen video clips online of reporters / vloggers hanging around Polling Places during an election asking voters basic questions like “which party controls the Senate?”, “Name 3 Congressmen”, “Where is Ukraine?”, etc. Don’t know if he still does it, but Jay Leno used to have a segment called Jaywalk where he would go out and ask people on the street seemingly important / basic questions about History, Politics, Science, and Education. (Is he even on the air anymore? You can probably tell I don’t watch much TV.) The point to all this is to highlight how really clueless people can be. And though I’m sure there’s a lot of screening that goes into producing these video clips and they’re hardly representative of the general population, when someone posts one of these online, the inevitable result is some political party or candidate fanatic saying “SEE! The other party / candidate’s supporters are really dumb! WE are the smart and informed ones. Thus, our political agenda is more legitimate.”

I won’t blame one side of the aisle over the other. I’m sure if you spend 30 seconds on Google or YouTube, you could find hundreds of clips, from every angle, supporting / arguing against every agenda known to man. And obviously, this only applies to places where democratically-elected government officials are put in power. In North Korea, for example, it’s amazing that Kim Jong Un gets not just 100% of the vote, but there’s also a 100% participation rate in each election (maybe it has to do with the fact that there’s only one candidate and that voting is mandatory).


Makes me wonder . . . do ‘informed’ voters produce better electoral results? If everyone had perfect knowledge of, for example, geography, would that give you more faith in the majority rule? (Yes, I understand the difference between a democracy and a Republic. Stay on course here, true believers.) If every voter had perfect information about history, religion, science, voting records, candidate ‘dirty laundry’, spending / receipts history (both legal and shady), extramarital affairs . . .

Is our political dissent a matter of imperfect information / education?

This is where your worldview will largely shape your response. If you believe, as I do, that all men are born with a sinful nature and that absolute power (in the hands of men) will corrupt absolutely – then you probably think our political differences are more a result of our human nature and not lack of information.


Now, many think people are born neutral or innocent, that morality is a fluid, man-made construct, and so they put some faith behind enough people getting together and doing the right thing. Wonder if you folks have ever watched infants playing together. Even at a very young age, they have a sense of right and wrong without any training. Another topic for another time.

If you went to grade school in the US, we’ve all been taught about Checks and Balances in a democratically-elected Republic — the division of power between the 3 branches of our government (I’ve always enjoyed the Schoolhouse Rock version of the 3 Ring Circus), State’s Rights vs. the Fed, and how the voice of the people undergirds it all.

 

Similarly, in this clip, Prof. Munger from Duke University states that a democratic constitution has 2 purposes – 1) defining the limits of what we can decide on collectively and 2) laying out the process by which we will decide.

So here’s my question.

What happens when people use the second part of Prof. Munger’s Democratic Constitution (the process) to change the first (the domain)?

The fact that our system of Checks and Balances is still, in the end, a system based on coercion and the use of law / courts to strip people of their rights, leads me to set my targets on the root-cause rather than the peripheral flash fires.

I believe our current system of government is not fiscally sound because it’s not designed to be. How often do you hear voters harping on cutting spending / the budget, so long as their pet projects / programs are not impacted?

I believe 50.1% of the popular vote hardly constitutes a mandate to slash our liberties, steal our property, imprison our sons and daughters due to the subjective distain for one vice over another, and send us to die in overseas battles.

I was thinking about this topic when I came across Texas95‘s post “Democracy? No! James Madison explains“. I’ll admit, I probably shared his opinion of the problem and solution for most of my life. But with age and reading, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not education or information that has failed us. It’s a fundamental flaw in the design of the system and our human nature.

So where does that leave us? As I’ve shared previously, I don’t have a defined plan to organize society. Rather, I have a set of moral principles by which I will live my life.

  • I don’t want to tell you what you can or can’t do.Please do the same for me.
  • I don’t want anything that’s been stolen from you, and in return, don’t steal from me.
  • I don’t have to agree with everything you have to say, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.
  • If you come to harm me, I will defend myself and my family.
  • If you and I agree to an exchange, it’s no one’s business but ours.

Rollo McFloogle shared this video clip of Michael Huemer’s “The Irrationality of Politics” talk on Tedx. I don’t agree 100% with Huemer’s conclusions, but he certainly makes some good points about challenging your political beliefs every now and then. My hope is that more people will do just that and think about embracing Liberty more and more each day. 

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8 responses to “Do Informed Voters Produce Better Results?

  1. Rollo McFloogle

    “I’ve come to the realization that it’s not education or information that has failed us. It’s a fundamental flaw in the design of the system and our human nature.”

    I agree. Human nature is flawed, so by creating a system where certain people have authority over others allows those human flaws to come through more strongly than if we were all regarded as equals with regard to authority.

    I’m glad you got something out of the Huemer video, but I’m curious about which conclusions you disagree with.

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    • Huemer seems to be advocating the idea that political ignorance is one of the root causes of irrational behavior. (I could be wrong, and I haven’t read any of his other works.) On the flip side, he’s saying that political awareness will ultimately lead to rational behavior. As I’ve tried to share above, I don’t think that’s necessarily a relationship of causation. Even when it comes to my own beliefs, they may not always be rational because I’m flawed. Simply having more information won’t always change that.

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      • Rollo McFloogle

        He’s not saying that political ignorance is the cause of irrational behavior, he’s saying that ignorance is the cause of irrational behavior and that political ignorance is the cause of irrational political behavior.

        Likewise, political awareness will lead to rational *political* behavior.

        He’s not saying that more information will necessarily make people more rational. People can ignore that information–and ignoring information simply because you disagree with it is a symptom of irrationality.

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        • So, I think I still disagree with his premise. Maybe I’m getting hung up on the word “irrational”. It sounds like there’s basically a dichotomy of choice — the rational and the irrational — and that the decisions one makes would be based on awareness (political or otherwise). Take for example if someone murdered my wife or children in cold blood. The evidence is indisputable and maybe the killer even openly admits his guilt. One may argue the politically rational conclusion, based on the mountain of evidence, would be to insist on the death penalty. Some may argue that life in prison would also be somewhat rational. The irrational choice would be to advocate forgiveness or mercy. But I would support the victim’s decision to make the choice to forgive and would have no problem stating it’s a perfectly rational decision to make.

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          • Rollo McFloogle

            Sorry for the delay…

            Why do you think that forgiveness would be considered irrational? Or that one decision in a group of possibly decisions necessarily has to rational or irrational?

            I’ll put it this way: if you decide to get some ice cream and can decide between chocolate and vanilla, does one choice have to be considered rational and other irrational?

            I think that’s a very simplified version of what you’re getting hung up on.

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  2. Txfatherof7,
    Thank you for the link to my essay. Please allow me to explain/expound. I respectfully disagree with the statement “I’ve come to the realization that it’s not education or information that has failed us. It’s a fundamental flaw in the design of the system and our human nature.”

    The point of my essay was to make others realize and understand the true design of our society and why a Republic is different and superior to a democracy.

    The problem today is the vast majority of America’s voters today believe they live in a democracy with unlimited and unrestrained powers where it is perfectly legal and moral for a “majority” to take from others. This is foundation of the Marxist ideal and the antithesis to our founder’s belief in Judeo-Christian G-d given rights to the individual; protected by LIMITING the legal powers of “man’s” government, which requires a “super-majority” vote through the article V amendment process in our Constitution to expand.

    The belief that America is a democracy is provably false.

    A result of purposeful manipulation and deceit by Marxists(progressives) who planned and implemented a generational plan to misinform and indoctrinate the populace with falsities and lies that America is a democracy with unlimited powers by re-writing America’s history beginning with our educators from kindergarten through university and law schools.

    The federal governments illegal activities are the result of a populace failing to make sure their children were educated with truth and failing to pay attention to politicians who broke the law and holding them accountable.

    The first requirement for education is accuracy and truth. If ones education is based upon untruths, then no true understanding will result, forcing the individual to retreat to emotional and groupthink name calling when decisions do not result in the promised outcomes. All the while, those with understanding, realize the promises were always lies for the ignorant to support.

    Definition of rational-“having reason or understanding…”
    To be able to make useful and accurate rational choices/decisions, 2 things are required; (1) an education with learning, that provides historically correct and accurate understanding which results in wisdom. One has to have enough “wisdom” to know/understand the probable results of a decision/chosen course of action. (2) Accurate and true “information” available for review for the basis of quality decision.

    If the decision maker does not possess and/or have access to these basic “resources”, a “rational” decision is impossible.

    Can a decision be rational and accurate if based upon false knowledge/false belief system/false information? I argue no. (Consider the belief “the world is flat in Christopher Columbus’ time”. What were the repercussions for traders, business owners, governments, and yes, even individuals; of the world based upon false beliefs and information?)

    America’s Constitutional system is the most ingenious design by “mankind” ever devised. Which is why America became the most free and wealthy society mankind has ever known.

    Americans only need to force the federal govt. to shrink to its legal design and powers for a new renaissance to flourish once again.

    America’s ills come from the Un-Constitutional, ie. ILLEGAL, exercise of powers by the federal government restraining individuals from free choices actions in every facet of our lives.

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  3. I have to agree with Texas on this one, my friend. The system the founders gave us was flawed, but not so much so as we believe. It was good enough that the checks and balances had to be destroyed before they became ineffective. Read the ORIGINAL Constitution and you will find that the ONLY position the people could elect was their Representative. Senators were elected by the State governments and the President by the electoral college and not by popular vote. But there was more. The income tax was another attack on our checks as it gave the govt. a direct control over the individual that did not exist before hand. Federal welfare is still another attack on the founders protections as it opened the door to people “voting” themselves other peoples’ money.

    This brings us to the real reason our system has failed: WE ARE AN IMMORAL PEOPLE! If we read the founders’ warnings, they said our government was meant for and will only work for a moral and religious people. They also said morality only comes from religion — period! And they said that the person who wages war on religion is an enemy to both their nation and liberty. It is not by coincidence that the 5 men who met in the room above that New York pub to start planning how to destroy the U.S. Constitution started by declaring war on the Christian foundation of this nation, nor that they decided to start in the halls of academia. Nor is it a coincidence that those men were students of Marx.

    THIS is where our failure lies: not with the system the founders built, but with the perversion it has become and the corrupt people who allowed and even cheered it on.

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  4. txfatherofseven,

    I’d like to offer one more thought — on your confusion over the definition of irrational. If you’ll study the definition in the dictionary, I think you’ll find that it has more to do with an inability to reason than making the decisions someone else thinks they should.

    For example; if you accept Marxism, then it is perfectly rational to argue his tenants. The irrational side is to stick to them AFTER you have been shown that they have never and can never work in the real world — even when mass murder is applied to try to force people to do as Marx predicted, Marxism fails. Once this has been demonstrated, AT THAT POINT, it becomes irrational to stick to the doctrines of Marxism — but not before.

    HOWEVER, where voting is concerned, if a person cares more about his pocket than his liberty, it is perfectly rational to vote for more welfare — even at the expense of liberty. In this case, I do not see how a person who votes that way can ever be called irrational because — as someone who admits self-interest as their primary concern — it will always be rational to act in their own interest. If they are content to accept slavery for money, then that is rational — it’s just that some will not understand the choice.

    This applies to your example: if you are Christian, it is rational to forgive the murderer — but not to let them go all together. Scripture does not teach us to let a murder go free, only to forgive. The irrational act there would be to forget the role the law plays in civil law. After all, civil government was ordained by God, too, and He set the boundaries of its authority. Our duty is to forgive the transgressor, but it is also the government’s duty to at least lock him up so that he does not harm again. The key here is that there is more than one interest in your example, and they can and often do have different agendas. Therefore, what is rational depends on what their agendas are vs what they should be.

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