Advertisement

Epistocracy is a Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

  • Justin KlocksiemEmail author
Article

Abstract

‘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.

Keywords

Epistocracy Democracy Social philosophy 

Notes

References

  1. Anderson, Elizabeth. 2009. Democracy: instrumental vs. non-instrumental value. In Contemporary debates in political philosophy, ed. Thomas Christiano and John Christman, 27–213. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Astor, Maggie. 2018. Seven ways Alabama has made it harder to vote. New York Times. June 24, 2018. New York edition p. A12.Google Scholar
  3. Barnes, Robert, and Marimow, Ann E. 2016. Appeals court strikes down North Carolina’s voter-ID law. Washington Post. July 29, 2016. Washingtonpost.com.Google Scholar
  4. Brennan, Jason. 2011. The ethics of voting. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brennan, Jason. 2016. Against democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caplan, Bryan. 2007. The myth of the rational voter. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Editorial Board. 2017. In Alabama, federal intervention protects minority rights. Washington Post. January 7, 2017. Washingtonpost.com.Google Scholar
  8. Estlund, David. 2008. Democratic authority. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gilabert, Pablo. 2012. Is there a human right to democracy? A response to Joshua Cohen. Revista Latinoamericana de Filosofia Politica/Latin American Journal of Political Philosophy 1: 1–37.Google Scholar
  10. Griffin, Christopher. 2003. Democracy as a non-instrumentally just procedure. The Journal of Political Philosophy 11: 21–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hajnal, Zoltan L., Lajevardi, Nazita, and Nielson, Lindsay. 2017. Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes. We did the research. Washington Post. February 15, 2017. Washingtonpost.com.Google Scholar
  12. Mill, John Stuart. 2015. Considerations on representative Government. In On liberty, utilitarianism, and other essays, ed. Mark Philp and Frederick Rosen, 178–405. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Nozick, Robert. 1989. The examined life. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  14. Schmidtz, David, and Jason Brennan. 2010. A brief history of liberty. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Somin, Ilya. 1998. Voter ignorance and the democratic ideal. Critical Review 12: 58–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. U.S. Census Bureau. 2017. Median income in the past 12 Months. <https://factfinder.census.gov>.
  17. Weber, Paul J. 2017. Texas voter ID law was designed to discriminate against minorities, judge rules. Washington Post. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA

Personalised recommendations