Monday, November 21, 2016


"The New Yorker" has an article called "The Case Against Democracy."

It has the usual references to freshman course topics like Plato's opposition to democracy,  J. S. Mill's proposition that the educated be overweighted in voting (In fact, the British academics voted twice at that time, once at school and once at home), and the American contributions (the first literacy test for voting was in Connecticut in 1855.)

David Estlund coined the word “epistocracy,” meaning “government by the knowledgeable.”
This is from an abstract: An influential anti-democratic argument says: ‘(1) Answers to political questions are truth-apt. (2) A small elite only—the epistocrats—knows these truths. (3) If answers to political questions are truth-apt, then those with this knowledge about these matters should rule. (4) Thus, epistocrats should rule.’
He offers as an alternative opposed to epistocracy,  "procedural fairness."

In a new book, “Against Democracy” (Princeton), Jason Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown creates an argument for epistocracy. Against Estlund’s claim that universal suffrage is the default, Brennan argues that it’s entirely justifiable to limit the political power that the irrational, the ignorant, and the incompetent have over others. To counter Estlund’s concern for fairness, Brennan asserts that the public’s welfare is more important than anyone’s hurt feelings; after all, he writes, few would consider it unfair to disqualify jurors who are morally or cognitively incompetent. As for Estlund’s worry about demographic bias, Brennan waves it off. Empirical research shows that people rarely vote for their narrow self-interest; seniors favor Social Security no more strongly than the young do. Brennan suggests that since voters in an epistocracy would be more enlightened about crime and policing, “excluding the bottom 80 percent of white voters from voting might be just what poor blacks need.” (The New Yorker)
All this and the trains run on time.
Brennan draws ample evidence of the average American voter’s cluelessness from the legal scholar Ilya Somin’s “Democracy and Political Ignorance” (2013), which shows that American voters have remained ignorant despite decades of rising education levels.

In “The Myth of the Rational Voter” (2007), the economist Bryan Caplan suggested that ignorance may even be gratifying to voters. “Some beliefs are more emotionally appealing,” Caplan observed, so if your vote isn’t likely to do anything why not indulge yourself in what you want to believe, whether or not it’s true?

Be careful. The elite want their country back.

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