What makes democracy work? Ignorance.

Collective ignorance is essential to the democratic process because it keeps extremists from dominating politics

Reed Saxon/AP
Occupy the Rose Parade protesters carry an oversize copy of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, followed by a "corporate" version of the document, as they march in a prearranged demonstration at the end of the 123rd Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. French argues that the collective ignorance of the voting public is actually what keeps democracy working properly.

What makes democracy work so well? Ignorance. The majority of voters don’t know anything about the issues and of course have no idea what candidates will do once in office. Ecologist Iain Couzin at Princeton figures this makes democracy work great. Jonah Lehrer writes for the Wall Street Journal:

Why are democracies so vibrant even when composed of uninformed citizens? According to a new study led by the ecologist Iain Couzin at Princeton, this collective ignorance is an essential feature of democratic governments, not a bug. His research suggests that voters with weak political preferences help to prevent clusters of extremists from dominating the political process. Their apathy keeps us safe.

Like schooling fishing and flocking birds, people in democracy just go with the flow. And, it all works out fine, right?

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