Would Introducing an Increased Dose of Epistocracy Improve the American Political System?
Given so much reasonable dispute about who counts as wise in the right way, and other matters, it might seem doubtful that rule of the wise could meet this standard of generally acceptable justification.
Moreover, there is a problem with the public reason framework itself—a problem which can only be solved by providing a better definition for what makes an objection to a political arrangement a “reasonable” one.Epistocracy is the first plausible competitor to democracy to enter the debate in some time. It is motivated, I think, by the nasty state of contemporary democratic politics. Many philosophers, myself included, look at the low quality of political discourse in the United States and wonder if there might be a better way. After all, the American people loathe their representatives, and have for many years—yet they reelect the same politicians, election cycle after election cycle. Scandal, incompetence, and failure are not dangers when what matters most to the democratic electorate is incumbency. If the American people know that they are choosing poorly but yet continue to do so, then perhaps it is time to take political decisions out of their hands, at least to some degree. Before epistocratic theories of government can be fully developed there is a challenge that must be met. Some philosophers have argued that epistocracy fails to meet a widelyaccepted standard of political justification: namely, public reason. One goal of this paper is to demonstrate that these objections to epistocracy are unsound.
At the very least, Brennan’s Competence Principle is a powerful challenge to the conventional wisdom about democracy. And his analysis of epistocratic alternatives to democracy is worth serious consideration – even if most of these ideas are nowhere near ready for large-scale implementation.