Why don’t we blame America’s problems on the ignorant and apathetic masses?

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

If you asked a cross-section of the American populace to identify the principal cause of our nation’s problems, you wouldn’t likely get many responses blaming the American people themselves.

But there’s overwhelming evidence that ignorance and apathy are perhaps  our biggest problem.

For example, when every seat in the U.S. House and more than a third of seats in the U.S. Senate are up for election this coming November, a majority of Americans won’t bother to vote.

Hell, most Americans can’t even name the people who represent them in the House or Senate. That sort of fundamental ignorance means that most people are utterly unable to sort through the various issues at play in these elections.

Indeed, barely 40 percent of Americans can name the three branches of the federal government, as Richard Shenkman noted in his book  “How Stupid Are We?”

Countless other surveys conducted in recent years show that Americans generally are appallingly ignorant of how their government works. In one such poll, only one in four respondents could name more than one of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Then, too, there are more than a few elected officials who aren’t much smarter than the typical citizen.

As Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” recently put it: “Every shortcoming of American governance is related in some fashion to the knowledge deficit of the public – if only because there is no widespread indignation at policies shaped by elected officials who suffer from the same intellectual blind spots as their constituents.”

An old joke comes to mind: Question: Which is worse, ignorance or apathy? Answer: I don’t know, and I don’t care.