The Case For Being An Uninformed Citizen

How much of your time do you spend thinking about politics? 

Me? I'm ashamed to say how much time I spent listening to political podcasts and YouTube channels in the past few years. I thought it would make me a respectable person who could hold conversations at cocktail parties. But I was just kidding myself - I don't even like drinking. 

For some time I actually thought having that type of knowledge was important. I often agreed when people said that "the government affects you whether you like it or not so you better pay attention to it" and "the world would be a better place if more people got involved in politics."

I now think paying attention to politics is a waste of time and mental energy, especially when you think about the opportunity cost.

I can say for a fact that my reality would have been the same, if not a lot better, had I never payed any attention to politics. In other words, if I never knew what's going on in the Middle East or even who is my current president, my life would have been no worse. I simply don't think those facts will ever become useful in my life other than for trivial purposes. 

Sure that information may convey that something bad is going on, but it does me no good to know them. Just like it does me no good to know that a dog just got run over a couple blocks from me. It's a huge bummer, but there's nothing I can do and therefore no reason to know. In fact, it would have been better to not be aware of the k-9's tragedy because knowing such a thing only makes me depressed and unfocused. That's a net-negative for society.

Even if knowing a little bit about what's going on at the national level can be useful, shouldn't it be proportionate to your control over it? For example, spending 20% of your time learning about what's going on in politics is irrational if you have an almost-non-existent power to do something impactful with it. 

While it may be important to be aware of the government's laws and policies at a basic level, very quickly we run into diminishing returns. That point is when we watch the news like a drama show every day and keep up with the president's tweets.

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that the people that pay the most attention to politics have less control over their emotions. You can see this with the people that went out of their minds when Trump won because they thought the world was coming to an end. Their mood is beholden to the political climate.

The thought of paying attention to what Trump is up to and getting mad over it is just absurd. There's nothing the average citizen could do. Voting comes every 4 years and even then your vote has virtually no impact. So just stop wasting your time and focus on things you do have control over.

If anything, elections makes people more passive: it fools them into thinking that they're making a difference in the world just by voting. 

Young people (particularly college students) are the ones who should ignore politics the most. They still have a lot to improve about themselves before they spend (in my opinion waste) so much of their time trying to save the world through politics. As Jordan Peterson would say, "they need to sort themselves out first."

People should measure all of the time and emotional energy used on arguing and fretting over politics and compare it to the actual impact that they have had with it. I think if they did that, most would immediately give up on politics and take on a more cost effective endeavor for themselves such as bettering their immediate environment. If everyone did that I believe the world would truly be a better place. 


Hello, I'm Erick. I like to write about philosophy, self-development, running, unschooling, podcasts, software tools and digital marketing.