Most people believe democracy is a uniquely just form of government. They believe people have the right to an equal share of political power. And they believe that political participation is good for us—it empowers us, helps us get what we want, and tends to make us smarter, more virtuous, and more caring for one another. These are some of our most cherished ideas about democracy. But, Jason Brennan says, they are all wrong.
In this trenchant book, Brennan argues that democracy should be judged by its results—and the results are not good enough. Just as defendants have a right to a fair trial, citizens have a right to competent government. But democracy is the rule of the ignorant and the irrational, and it all too often falls short. Furthermore, no one has a fundamental right to any share of political power, and exercising political power does most of us little good. On the contrary, a wide range of social science research shows that political participation and democratic deliberation actually tend to make people worse—more irrational, biased, and mean. Given this grim picture, Brennan argues that a new system of government—epistocracy, the rule of the knowledgeable—may be better than democracy, and that it's time to experiment and find out.
A challenging critique of democracy and the first sustained defense of the rule of the knowledgeable, Against Democracy is essential reading for scholars and students of politics across the disciplines.
Jason Brennan is the Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Ethics of Voting (Princeton), Why Not Capitalism?, and Libertarianism. He is the coauthor of Markets without Limits, Compulsory Voting, and A Brief History of Liberty. He writes regularly for Bleeding Heart Libertarians, a blog.
"Brennan has a bright, pugilistic style, and he takes a sportsman's pleasure in upsetting pieties and demolishing weak logic."--Caleb Crain, New Yorker
"A brash, well-argued diatribe against the democratic system. There is much to mull over in this brazen stab at the American electoral process. . . . Sure to cause howls of disagreement, but in the current toxic partisan climate, Brennan's polemic is as worth weighing as any other."--Kirkus
"Important."--Ilya Somin, Washington Post Volokh Conspiracy
"The book makes compelling reading for what is typically a dry area of discourse. This is theory that skips, rather than plods."--Molly Sauter, Los Angeles Times
"Among the best works in political philosophy in recent memory."--Zachary Woodman, Students for Liberty
"Challenging and insightful."--Alexander William Salter, Public Choice
"Lucidly written in provocative, sometimes brash tones, it is especially useful for the undergraduate classroom."--Choice
"Against Democracy seems scarily prescient today. Writing well before the twin shocks of the Brexit and the U.S. elections, the Georgetown political scientist makes a powerful case that popular democracy can be dangerous--and, provocatively, that irrational and incompetent voters should be excluded from democratic decision-making. The case for elitism in governance never read so well."--Zocalo Public Square
"Meticulous [and] crisply written."--Tom Clark, Prospect
"Mercilessly well-argued."--Niko Kolodny, Boston Review
Table of Contents:
Preface and Acknowledgments vii
1 Hobbits and Hooligans 1
2 Ignorant, Irrational, Misinformed Nationalists 23
3 Political Participation Corrupts 54
4 Politics Doesn’t Empower You or Me 74
5 Politics Is Not a Poem 112
6 The Right to Competent Government 140
7 Is Democracy Competent? 172
8 The Rule of the Knowers 204
9 Civic Enemies 231
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Jason Brennan: