The Galumph of the Will


Will today touts a ‘movement’ conservative —  albeit undoubtedly a ‘libertarian’ — theoretician’s “Stanford University Press” book that, SURPRISE!, comes to the theoretical libertarianism conclusion! (Almost like an Assembly of God preacher concluding in favor of Creationism, without the passion):

The price of political ignorance: More government 
George F. Will / Washington Post

It was naughty of Winston Churchill to say, if he really did, that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”  Nevertheless, many voters’ paucity of information about politics and government …

What I’m about to say will take a little wading through deep waters, but this is only 1524 words, so not DEEP deep waters. And the payoff is worth it, I PROMISE.


George Mason University is not in Wisconsin

Let me skip to the fellow’s bio, and then we’ll come back (from his George Mason University — a partially or wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. Google “Walter E. Williams” if you doubt me — Bio webpage ):

Before joining the faculty at George Mason, Somin was the John M. Olin Fellow in Law at Northwestern University Law School in 2002-2003.  In 2001-2002, he clerked for the Hon. Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Professor Somin earned his B.A., Summa Cum Laude, at Amherst College, M.A. in Political Science from Harvard University, and J.D. from Yale Law School.

OK: Smart. Then “guided.”  (GOPs recruit out of  Yale and Harvard just like Dems.) Poly sci at Harvard and Law degree from Yale. And then apprenticeship to an appeals court judge — which is a specific kind of grooming in the legal culture. Remember, John Roberts clerked for William Rehnquist, and the fact that they are successive Chief Justices is neither surprising nor, save for historical accident, coincidental.



If you understand where he comes from, and who he works for, you understand what he’s going to say, ofttimes even before he says it. As someone said, it’s America and you can wear whatever you want. A doctor COULD dress like a plumber, and a plumber could dress like a doctor, but for some reason, they never do.

James O'Keefe Pimps

Yes. Pimps wear suits and ties.

Judge Jerry E. Smith is the interesting stop along the way, the bellwether on Ilya’s  journey to George Will. Wikipedia:

Jerry Edwin Smith (born November 7, 1946) is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.[1] He was nominated by PresidentRonald Reagan on June 2, 1987 and confirmed by the Senate on December 19, 1987. Smith received his commission for the seat two days later.[2]

Smith attended Yale University and Yale Law School, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1969 and his J.D. in 1972. After law school, he clerked for Judge Halbert O. Woodward on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Smith later served as the director of the Harris County Housing Authority (1978–1980), Special Assistant Attorney General of Texas (1981–1982), chairman of the Houston Civil Service Commission (1982–1984), and the City Attorney for Houston, Texas (1984–1987).

Which is important when you consider a few …

Notable cases [emphasis added]

Smith wrote the majority opinion in Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932 (5th Cir. 1996), in which the Fifth Circuit struck down the use of affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas School of Law. Seven years later, the decision was abrogated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003).

In Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA, 947 F.2d 1201 (5th Cir. 1991), Judge Smith wrote the panel opinion that required the United States Environmental Protection Agency to use cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether to ban a toxic substance.

Now, since Ilya was clerking for Texas Judge Smith (appointed by Ronald Reagan) in 2001-2002, it’s safe to suggest what his politics were becoming, with the blue-ribbon certification: Harvard, Yale, Hangin’ Judge Smith (who served an apprenticeship under a Texas Judge who had, otherwise worked for Humble Oil Company — former Standard Oil division — his entire career until LBJ put him on the bench).

Ilya Somin GMU official photo

Ilya Somin-  GMU official photo

So, we have an idea that Ilya of George Mason is being groomed for  a Federal Judgeship, and is laying out his “popular”/academic work which is being touted as a favor to someone by George Will.

To wit (Will’s formulation):

In “Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter” (Stanford University Press), Ilya Somin of George Mason University law school argues that an individual’s ignorance of public affairs is rational because the likelihood of his or her vote being decisive in an election is vanishingly small. The small incentives to become informed include reducing one’s susceptibility to deceptions, misinformation and propaganda. And if remaining ignorant is rational individual behavior, it has likely destructive collective outcomes.

In other words, it makes perfect sense not to give a damn or know a thing. As to ‘collective outcomes,’ I assume it has something to do with further sucking the life out of ‘collective incomes?


Here is where we take a  short
interlude for the dancing horse

And then this. (And, if any human translator could render this into English from Wonk Esperanto, I would appreciate it)

Many people, says Somin, acquire political knowledge for the reason people acquire sports knowledge — because it interests them, not because it will alter the outcome of any contest. And with “confirmation bias,” many people use political information to reinforce their preexisting views. Committed partisans are generally the most knowledgeable voters, independents the least. And the more political knowledge people have, the more apt they are to discuss politics with people who agree with, and reinforce, them.

The problem of ignorance is unlikely to be ameliorated by increasing voter knowledge because demand for information, not the supply of it, is the major constraint on political knowledge. Despite dramatic expansions of education and information sources, abundant evidence shows the scope of political ignorance is remarkably persistent over time. New information technologies have served primarily to increase the knowledge of the already well-informed, which increases the ability of some to engage in “rent-seeking” from the regulatory state, manipulating its power in order to transfer wealth to themselves. And if political knowledge is measured relative to government’s expanding scope, ignorance is increasing rapidly: There is so much more to be uninformed about.

A better ameliorative measure would be to reduce the risks of ignorance by reducing government’s consequences — its complexity, centralization and intrusiveness. In the 19th century, voters’ information burdens were much lighter because important federal issues — the expansion of slavery, the disposition of public lands, tariffs, banking, infrastructure spending — were much fewer.

As near as I can tell, people is stupid and their votes are meaningless, so politics is just a hobby.

lonegan palin tea party rally

Will’s Hobbyists at hobby

And, ” to reduce the risks of ignorance by reducing government’s consequences ” seems to suggest that since stupid, impotent people automatically create stupid potent governments, we must flaccidify [sic] government to protect us from stupid people whose votes don’t matter.

Political ignorance, Somin argues, strengthens the case for judicial review by weakening the supposed “countermajoritarian difficulty” with it. If much of the electorate is unaware of the substance or even existence of policies adopted by the sprawling regulatory state, the policies’ democratic pedigrees are weak. Hence Somin’s suggestion that the extension of government’s reach “undercuts democracy more than it furthers it.”

An engaged judiciary that enforced the Framers’ idea of government’s “few and defined” enumerated powers (Madison, Federalist 45), leaving decisions to markets and civil society*, would, Somin thinks, make the “will of the people” more meaningful by reducing voters’ knowledge burdens. Somin’s evidence and arguments usefully dilute the unwholesome democratic sentimentality and romanticism that encourage government’s pretensions, ambitions and failures.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the justification of Bush v. Gore.

Consider the conclusion: people is stupid, so the government regulates. But, since the stupid people whose votes don’t count can’t actually know what all those regulations ARE, they are UNdemocratic. What is MORE democratic and protects the democracy needs of the stupid people whose votes don’t count is for lifetime appointed Judges to oversee all laws, subject to the Invisible Hand of the Market.  I keeds you not.

[* And “civil society” which is either code for the Überclass, else a synonym for those ignorant and impotent voters, whose interests must be protected against their political stupidity. Seemingly, the argument is the rhetorical equivalent of an M.C. Escher drawing.


Just this ONE sentence sums it up: “An engaged judiciary that enforced the Framers’ idea of government’s “few and defined” enumerated powers (Madison, Federalist 45), leaving decisions to markets and civil society, would, Somin thinks, make the “will of the people” more meaningful by reducing voters’ knowledge burdens.”


Exeunt George Orwell. Enter George Will.

George Will is officially in his dotage.

escher relativity

click pic to enlarge

If you don’t understand how sick and twisted a slithery “libertarian” justification for aristocracy in the guise of democracy this is, then I am at a loss as to how to esplain it to joo!




PS: If this were played for laughs, rather than serious, Mr. George Mason would have himself the next Peter Principle.

 Mr. Williams has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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