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Rational ignorance

By Owen Paine on Saturday January 6, 2007 08:21 AM

Just read an old pamphlet by the late, great Mancur Olson... well, late anyway. It was on the second sexiest thing about Sweden: its massive transfer system. Not a bad read, but that's another post: this one is the accidental product of that read, and my stumbling over an old poli-sci neo-Benthamite chestnut: rational ignorance among the masses of a modern democracy. Needless to say, I thought of Orthrian America.

The notion is one of those simple devils with wide application: rational ignorance is the sour crop if there's nothing much to gain or lose come any one election day. The kool part is how, over time, this "no big whoop" rationality ends up with a nation devoured by its kleptos.

In Olson's world, we the people, out of a very sensible calculation of benefit and cost leave the state to a battalion of highly interested pac-mans, to gobble away our collective bounty. In spite of our common mass interest in the best of all possible Americas, our Orthrian setup insures just the opposite -- by providing a joust, an entertainment, a bundle of hoaky-doaky come-ons and get-afters for the party fans of both sides, and nothing worth wasting time over for all the rest of us quiet and targetless desperados.

Comments (2)

Good stuff.

I've always cringed whenever I heard one of my clueless peers repeating the old chestnut about there being no difference between Democrats and Republicans.

js paine:

like any fighting meme
citizen ignorance as rational
has a sharp edge
but only on one side

like bequest myopia or limited sympathy
it has implications all right
but it fails to reckon with its opposite
in the case of limited sympathy...limited antipathy ie indiffence
which leads us back to ignorance
its opposite irrational knowledge
the militant few
exceeding rational limits
on both sides of a clash/contradiction

update to here and now :

and you see further
uneven development
has led to a right wing
of the former me too lesser party
morphing that party
into the greater evil greater party
the lopsidedness has reached dysfunctionality
the orthrian heads can no longer co ordinate
the lesser can not balance the greater...enough

so the militant few of the left side of the orthrian lesser evil start winging out
as the earleir rigght wing of the me too party did

and once this left wing
gets to a specific weight
reaches a certain level

snap or morph

either the wing morphs the lesser evil
into a new people's party beginning
ie goes the repug route formally
brakes itself off
and forms a new rallying point
fora mass electoral "gathering in"

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