Can Ignorance Be Bliss? Imperfect Information as a Positive Influence in Political Institutions

In Parts I and II, I shall summarize the law-and-economics and civic virtue perspectives on the value of political information and their proposals for reforms in the political process that would stimulate greater political information. These two literatures are often viewed as distinct in their objectives: one seeking to improve means/ends rationality; the other seeking to improve goal formation – a function that I loosely describe as normative, ethical, or value-based. Nevertheless, they share some common practical approaches where information is concerned. In Part Ill, I shall discuss the instrumental advantages to limiting political information, focusing particularly on the role of political party identification and party organization generally in promoting rational decisionmaking (section III.A), overcoming the perverse influence of special interest groups (section 111.B), and surmounting political stalemate (section 111.C). These sections cover, respectively, models one, two, and three described above. Finally, in Part IV I shall explore the normative value of more limited information, based partly on the approach of Rawls’ veil of ignorance (model four). This Part explores such issues as delegation of legislative authority, separation-of-powers confrontations, and pluralist versus constitutional decisionmaking, all in the context of the breakdown of political parties.