The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 19–36 | Cite as

Epistocracy is a Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

  • Justin KlocksiemEmail author


‘Epistocracy’ is the name of a type of political power structure in which the power is held by the knowledgable—for example, by restricting the right to vote to those who can demonstrate sufficient knowledge. Though Plato and Mill defended epistocratic views, it has found few contemporary advocates. In a recent book, however, Jason Brennan argues that epistocratic power structures are capable of outperforming democratic ones. His argument is two-pronged: first, he argues that democratic procedures with universal suffrage allow poorly-informed voters to pollute the electorate, and that doing so has negative policy-related consequences that are easily avoidable. Second, he argues that voting does not possess any non-intrinsic value, and so restricting suffrage to the educated does not result in a loss of status or standing for less well-educated persons in any meaningful way. I argue that epistocratic techniques are (a) impossible to implement fairly, and (b) represent an ineffective solution for the problems they are designed to solve. On these bases, I recommend rejecting it.


Epistocracy Democracy Social philosophy 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA

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