miércoles, 28 de junio de 2017

Does it matter if Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows? | MercatorNet | June 28, 2017 | MercatorNet |

Does it matter if Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows?

MercatorNet | June 28, 2017 | MercatorNet |

Does it matter if Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows?

Ignorance is part of the human condition.
Ilya Somin | Jun 28 2017 | comment 

A new survey indicating that seven percent of Americans believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows has gotten a lot of media attention, including from NBCHuffington PostFood & Wine, and the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. As an example of public ignorance, this is not a particularly worrisome figure. As Caitlin Dewey notes in her Wonkblog article about the survey, “the most surprising thing about this figure may actually be that it isn’t higher.”
Seven percent is actually a pretty low number, and it’s not clear that it really matters whether people know where chocolate milk comes from or not. Some of the seven percent is likely caused by respondents being confused about the survey rather than genuinely ignorant (though some also probably got the correct answer by guessing). Even well-designed surveys have measurement errors that affect a small percentage of respondents.
Sadly, there are numerous far worse examples of public ignorance out there, including many about far more consequential issues. The seven percent figure pales in comparison with the 25 percent who don’t know the earth orbits the sun, the 66 percent who can’t name the three branches of government, and – my personal favorite – the 80 percent who support mandatory labeling of food containing DNA. I cover these examples and many others like them in my book on political ignorance.
Most of this ignorance is not the result of stupidity or lack of information. It is in fact largely rational behavior. We all have limited time, energy, and attention, and so can learn only a small fraction of all the information out there. It makes sense for us to focus on that which is likely to be useful or interesting. For many people, large swathes of basic political and scientific facts don’t qualify.
In and of itself, ignorance is not a problem. It is often rational and is an unavoidable part of the human condition. But ignorance becomes dangerous when individually rational ignorance leads to harmful collective outcomes.
Sadly, that is often the case with political ignorance, and ignorance about scientific issues relevant to government policy. From the standpoint of the individual voter, it makes sense to devote little effort to acquiring information about government and public policy, because the chance that her vote will make a difference is infinitesimally small. But such behavior can lead to terrible outcomes when an entire electorate is ignorant in this way.
We shouldn’t worry much about the fact that a small minority of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. But we should take the problem of widespread political ignorance far more seriously.
UPDATE: The photo originally posted with this article actually depicts a brown bull, rather than a cow. I was misled by the lack of horns. But it turns out not all bulls have horns. I have now replaced it with a picture of an actual brown cow.
I don’t claim to have much knowledge of cows or bulls or much skill in telling them apart, and the photo snafu certainly proves that I am no expert on those subjects! Regardless, the main point of the post stands. Public ignorance about the origins of chocolate milk is not a big deal. But some other kinds of ignorance are.
UPDATE #2: It may be worth noting that 48 percent of respondents to the survey admitted they simply don’t know where chocolate milk comes from, a much larger figure than the 7 percent who said it comes from brown cows. Still, I think there is little cause for concern about this result, because it’s not clear why it matters whether people know how chocolate milk is produced. Most people don’t know much about the production process for the vast majority of the products they consume. It’s not a significant problem unless it leads them to support harmful or counterproductive public policies or ignore some significant safety risk.
Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and the study of popular political participation and its implications for constitutional democracy. This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


June 28, 2017

We make a big thing of marriage and parenthood on MercatorNet, and rightly so: the family is at the heart of society and of our mission and it needs to be vigorously defended today. But not every adult will be married or should be married. Singlehood is a valid and important way of life that complements marriage in building up society and can be lived generously and joyfully, either while preparing/hoping for marriage or as a permanent state. 
Last week we ran an article about a German study that showed single people are much more likely to be lonely than those married, and to suffer ill health. That was particularly true of those who lived alone, which of course is not the necessary consequence of being single. Anyway today we hear from two women living the single life in different ways. Cristina Montes, a law professor in the Philippines, speaks up for the single state in general. Chiara Bertoglio, an Italian musician and contributor to MercatorNet, shares something of her own life and its many opportunities for self-giving even as she remains open to the prospect of marriage. I thank them both for speaking so well about a state that I share with them.

Carolyn Moynihan 
Deputy Editor, 

Not Miss Lonelyhearts
By Chiara Bertoglio
Single, but in training for the surprises that life may have in store.
Read the full article
Young boy raises lion cub
By Jon Dykstra
African animals charm young readers.
Read the full article
Does it matter if Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows?
By Ilya Somin
Ignorance is part of the human condition.
Read the full article
Single, but living a life full of love.
By Cristina Montes
The single state can be a way of self-giving and fulfillment.
Read the full article
Detroit: still shrinking in 2016
By Marcus Roberts
But the Mayor is sure that 2017 will be better.
Read the full article
What would you do if you were invisible?
By Jennifer Minicus
Another page-turner from the author of the Mysterious Benedict Society
Read the full article
‘The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible’
By Carolyn Moynihan
Camille Paglia on the transgender wave, puberty blockers and special rights.
Read the full article
Chastity, family life and the future of religious freedom
By Patrick F. Fagan
Science supports chaste family culture, but it must have freedom.
Read the full article

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