Today, we’re exploring what an informed citizen is, why they’re essential, and how to become one.
What Is An Informed Citizen?
“Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” – Frederick Douglass
An informed citizen is an individual who can contribute to the stable maintenance of the nation-state. In a stable society, citizens are protected and free to pursue their life goals. The state is restricted or doesn’t exist at all. Unfortunately, our governments are bloated, corrupt, and incapable of solving various issues.
We should be aware of and involved in the shaping of society. I believe strongly in the wisdom of Pericles: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
Why Are Informed Citizens So Important?
The world is suffering from an orgy of ignorance, fake news, and a misinformed public. The average person does not care about or even understand what is happening in our complex world.
This reality is troubling. Voting and democracy make ignorance more terrifying than it should be. People who know nothing about budgeting, sustainability, and violence are making decisions about the national debt, the expanse of government, and the growth of war.
How should an individual respond?
By becoming as informed as you can be. Becoming knowledgable about economics, history, and the law will ease your anxiety. Why? Because you will gain insight into your individualism and the benefits it produces on a societal level. Lastly, this insight will help you make informed decisions when you exercise political power.
The Three Reliable Ways To Become More Politically Informed
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle
Becoming an informed citizen requires three things:
- Accept you do not know everything – Embracing humility will help you navigate through challenging discussions.
- Develop your strengths while adhering to virtue – The more you practice being a good person in your day-to-day, the more insight you will gain into what is just, sustainable, and possible.
- Consume Experts To Expand Your Knowledge – You can learn about a variety of topics by consuming the works of experts.
By becoming more informed, you can wisely exercise your political power while pushing against collectivist voices.
1. Accept You Do Not Know Everything
Firstly, you must accept the limits of your knowledge. Thus, never present yourself as infallible.
For example, if you are debating with someone about the merits of capitalism, you should focus on the benefits capitalism has for the individual. You’re well aware of how working hard and keeping your money improves your life. Therefore, you should avoid going into the weeds and discussing the industrial revolution or monetary policy. If you are ignorant of these things, then admit your ignorance.
Lastly, acknowledging what we are biased against and what we don’t know gives us a clearer view of ourselves. Such clarity leads to a deeper trust and a desire to learn.
Therefore, be an individual and humble yourself. The humbler you are, the better of an informed citizen you can be.
2. Develop Your Strengths and Adhere To Objective Values
“When you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately, that is to love people without any standard, to love them regardless of whether they have any value or virtue, you are asked to love nobody.” – Ayn Rand
Secondly, develop your strength and objective values. Virtue serves as a bedrock of character. This bedrock can give you insight into what is and is not optimum. You can use this insight to make common sense, rational conclusions about topics and subjects you may not fully grasp.
For example, I practice the virtue of frugality by creating a budget, setting aside money for the future, and investing in my present. I also know virtue is universal; i.e., what is moral for me is moral for everyone. Therefore, I know it is immoral and flawed for national debt to be so high and unsustainable.
Looking at your virtues and expanding them to the social realm gives you insight into what is wrong and what is right. This way of thinking isn’t full-proof, but it works.
Furthermore, you can look past the “experts” who try, in vain, to make greedy, short-term actions seem virtuous, moral, and sustainable. For example, no economist, philosopher, or politician has been able to adequately explain how the national debt is not a crisis, a clear sign of selfishness, and unsustainable. And they never can, because the national debt is immoral and spits in the face of virtue.
So, live your best life. The more virtuous you live, the more insight and wisdom you gain into how civilization should be structured.
3. Consume Experts To Expand Your Knowledge
The last step in becoming an informed citizen involves consuming the work of experts. By consuming the works of people who have dedicated their lives to one subject, you expand what you know and grow in wisdom.
For example, if you can’t give the most passionate defense of capitalism, then refer to the experts who can. Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ludwig Von Mises, and so on are all accomplished philosophers, thinkers, and economists who give your support of individual freedom more weight.
Lastly, you can also pursue experts who you may not agree with. There are thinkers I gain wisdom from, even if I disagree with their anti-individualistic conclusions. I read them to increase my knowledge in areas such as law, religion, history, and science.
You can’t know everything. However, you can seek the insight of those who have studied your given subject in full detail.
Why Should Citizens Stay Informed?
“Obscurity and a competence—that is the life that is best worth living.” – Mark Twain
Becoming an informed citizen involves humility, virtue, and knowledge. These three components ensure you can participate in the body politic with a clear mind and a clear conscious.
Politics is a nasty game. Each individual should decide on how involved you want to be in the political game. If you do participate in politics, the only reasonable goal is to slow the growth of the state.
In the meantime, continue to focus on improving yourself by becoming an individual.
- Do you vote? Why or why not?
- What virtue do you struggle with the most? Which virtue do you excel at?
- What’s one topic you’d like to know more about? How do you learn more about that topic? Who are the experts on your desired topic?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.