The dangers of political ignorance can be mitigated by making more of our decisions by “voting with our feet,” and fewer at the ballot box. People vote with their feet when they choose which local government to live under, or make decisions in the private sector. “Foot voters” have powerful incentives to seek out relevant information and use it wisely, because they know that their decisions matter. Most of us spend more time seeking out information when we decide what new television to buy than on deciding who should be our next president or which party should control Congress. Few of us believe that our next TV is really more important than our next president. But we devote more effort to the former choice because we know it will actually make a difference, whereas the latter almost certainly will not.
Historically, foot voters have often managed to acquire the information needed to make good decisions even under the most difficult conditions. In the nineteenth century, millions of poorly educated and often illiterate European and Asian immigrants acquired the knowledge they needed to understand that there were better opportunities available in the United States than in their home countries. If we decentralize power from the federal government to states and localities, or to the private sector, more issues can be decided by foot voting instead of ballot box voting, and more of our decisions will be well-informed.
Mass political ignorance is a difficult problem to solve. But we can help diminish its negative effects by empowering foot voters. Reducing the dangers of ignorance is not the only issue we must consider in determining the structure of government; some centralization is unavoidable. But ignorance is an important consideration that is too often ignored in debates over the role of government in society.