Against Democracy: New Preface

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, Sep 26, 2017 - Philosophy - 312 pages

A bracingly provocative challenge to one of our most cherished ideas and institutions

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.

Featuring a new preface that situates the book within the current political climate and discusses other alternatives beyond epistocracy, Against Democracy is a challenging critique of democracy and the first sustained defense of the rule of the knowledgeable.


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User Review  - dcunning11235 - LibraryThing

Levels serious critiques at American democracy in particular (though, as a work of political philosophy it clearly aims at 'democracy' in general) and proposes 'epistocracy' as a replacement... though ... Read full review

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User Review  - DavidWineberg - LibraryThing

Crowdsourcing is not consent of the governed The day after the Brexit referendum, the top internet search requests were for “benefits of EU membership”. This compactly explains Jason Brennan’s thesis ... Read full review


1 Hobbits and Hooligans
2 Ignorant Irrational Misinformed Nationalists
3 Political Participation Corrupts
4 Politics Doesnt Empower You or Me
5 Politics Is Not a Poem
6 The Right to Competent Government
7 Is Democracy Competent?
8 The Rule of the Knowers
9 Civic Enemies

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About the author (2017)

Jason Brennan is the Flanagan Family Chair 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), and Why Not Capitalism?. He writes regularly for Bleeding Heart Libertarians, a blog.

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