Social Science: This passage is adapted from a book titled How Courts Govern America by Richard Neely (copyright 1981 by Richard Neely)
Government is a technical undertaking, like the
building of rocketships or the organizing of railroad
yards. Except possibly on the local level, the issues
which attract public notice usually involve raising
 money (taxes), spending money (public works), foreign
wars (preventing them or arguing for fighting easy
ones), education, public morals, crime in the streets,
and, most important of all, the economy. When times
are bad, or there is a nationwide strike or disaster,
 interest in the economy becomes all-consuming.
However, the daily toiling of countless millions of civil
servants in areas such as occupational health and
safety, motor vehicle regulation, or control of navigable
waterways escapes public notice almost completely.
 Furthermore, even with regard to high-visibility
issues, significant communication between the electorate
and public officials is extremely circumscribed.
Most serious political communication is limited to
forty-five seconds on the network evening news. In
 days gone by, when the only entertainment in town on a
Wednesday night was to go to the county courthouse to
listen to a prominent politician give a theatrical tirade
against Herbert Hoover, an eloquent speaker could pack
the courthouse and have five thousand people lined up
 to the railroad tracks listening to the booming loudspeakers.
The political orator of yesteryear has been
replaced by a flickering image on the tube unlocking
the secrets of the government universe in forty-five-
 second licks. Gone forever are Lincoln-Douglas type
debates on courthouse steps. Newspapers take up the
slack a little, but very little. Most of what one says to
a local newspaper (maybe not the New York Times)
gets filtered through the mind of an inexperienced
 twenty-three-year-old journalism school graduate. Try
sometime to explain the intricacies of a program
budget, which basically involves solving a grand equation
composed of numerous simultaneous differential
functions, to a reporter whose journalism school curriculum
 did not include advanced algebra, to say
nothing of calculus.
But the electorate is as interested in the whys and
wherefores of most technical, nonemotional political
issues as I am in putting ships in bottles: they do not
 particularly care. Process and personalities, the way
decisions are made and by whom, the level of
perquisites, extramarital sexual relations, and , in high
offices, personal gossip dominate the public mind,
while interest in the substance of technical decisions is
 minimal. Reporters focus on what sells papers or gets a
stations high Nielsen rating; neither newspapers nor television
stations intend to lose their primary value as entertainment.
Since the populace at large is more than willing
to delegate evaluation of the technical aspects of government
 to somebody else, it inevitably follows that
voting is a negative exercise, not a positive one. Angry
voters turn the rascals out and, in the triumph of hope
over experience, let new rascals in. What voters are
unable to do — because they themselves do not understand
 the technical questions — is tell the rascals how to
do their jobs.
Serious coverage of goings-on in government is
deterred by the fact that government is so technical that
even career civil servants cannot explain what is happening.
 In 1978 I attended a seminar on federal estate
and gift tax, where the Internal Revenue Service
lawyers responsible for this area frankly confessed that
they did not understand the Tax Reform Act of 1976.
Intricate technical issues such as taxation, arms control,
 and nuclear power are difficult to understand for professionals,
to say nothing of the most diligent layman.
That anything gets done is by a political body at all
is to be applauded as a miracle rather than accepted as a
matter of course. When we recognize that in the federal
 government, with its millions of employees, there are
but five hundred and thirty-seven elected officials, put
into office to carry out the “will” of a people who for
the most part know little and care less about the technical
functioning of their government, the absurdity of
 the notion of rapid democratic responsiveness becomes
clear. The widely held tenet of democratic faith that
elected officials, as opposed to bureaucrats or the judiciary,
are popularly selected and democratically
responsive is largely a myth which gives a useful legitimacy
 to a system. In fact, however, far from democratic
control, the two most important forces in political life
are indifference and its direct byproduct, inertia.