I vaguely remember this Pew poll relating to the public’s knowledge of current events being discussed elsewhere, but it has some information that I have to discuss.
First of all, 31% of Americans can’t name who the Vice President of the United States is. Read that slowly so it sinks in. It’s not exactly like Dick Cheney’s name hasn’t been in the news at all in the past, say, EIGHT YEARS. In fact, Cheney’s name identification is roughly that of Beyonce’ Knowles’ – which makes perfect sense, since Cheney’s name ID has been dropping since he got booted out of Destiny’s Child.
After seeing that result, I began to think about what it might be like to be that stupid. But then I realized, if I was that stupid, I’d be too stupid to know it. In fact, I’d be so dumb, I’d actually think I was smart. Then things wouldn’t be all that bad.
36% percent of Americans can name Vladimir Putin as the president of Russia. Which is ironic, because 36% of Russians have actually been tortured by Putin.
Among viewers of The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, 54% scored in the “High Knowledge” category. This is in contrast to viewers of “Sabado Gigante,” of whom 90% just scored in the “High” category.
Actually, blog readers didn’t score all that well. Only 37% of blog readers were judged to be in the “High Knowledge” category. Even worse were viewers of local news – only 35% of local news viewers are High Knowledge. But I dispute this result, because the poll obviously didn’t quiz people on the squirrel in Beloit that can play the drums.
In a roundabout way, this kind of illustrates a point I’ve been meaning to make on one of Owen Robinson’s posts a couple of weeks ago. When discussing a proposed constitutional amendment to require showing photo identification when voting, Owen says:
“Regardless of what you think about the merits of this constitutional amendment, shouldn’t the voters at least get a say?”
Well, no, actually.
Regardless of what I think about the merits of requiring photo identification at the polls, I think legislators should have their say – since it’s a matter of public policy. We don’t live in a direct democracy – and taking a look at the poll referenced above might illustrate why that’s a good idea.
Legislating via constitutional amendment is a tricky game. Not only is the public not necessarily well informed (as seen above), they are notoriously bipolar depending on the issue. Conflicting constitutional amendments are almost inevitable. Furthermore, as Federalist #10 points out, “majority rule” is fraught with danger from factions.
I am certain that a constitutional amendment limiting taxes and spending in Wisconsin would pass. I am also nearly as certain that a constitutional amendment declaring health care a basic right for every Wisconsin resident would also pass. Shouldn’t voters at least get a say on that? Should voters get a say on whether we need more gun control, especially after the Virginia Tech massacre?
Granted, the segment of citizens who can name Beyonce’ but not Condoleezza Rice probably aren’t voters. But at least there’s a reasonable expectation our lawmakers have a passing knowledge of issues relevant to the legislation before them.