Hardin om rationell ignorans

The condition of rational ignorance is not blameworthy or somehow immoral or irresponsible. It is a natural implication of the division of labour that makes life richer for us. We all share the disability of Saul Bellow’s Mr Sammler, who says, ‘I am more stupid about some things than about others; not equally stupid in all directions; I am not a well-rounded person’. If I am a typical citizen, I specialize in manufacturing goods, farming, offering professional services, making music, or whatever. I may be very good at what I do but I may be virtually incompetent at delivering professional services, making music, or any of a vast array of other things, all of which I could do, if at all, only at a much lower level of competence than I do my chief occupation. As Schumpeter noted, I might similarly drop down ‘to a lower level of mental performance’ as soon as I enter the political field. I might argue and analyse ‘in a way that [I] would recognize as infantile within the sphere of [my] real interests’. If I put some years of preparation and forty hours a week into it, I might do politics quite well. But the whole society would lose if I did that rather than what I have chosen to do.

Schumpeter’s observation is cited by virtually every contemporary writer on democratic theory. And no one has yet offered more than wishes about how to change the fact. The fact is not easily changed because it is so eminently reasonable that it is the fact.

Referens: Hardin, Russell. 2003. Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy. Oxford University Press, s. 168-69.

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