Epistocracy and the Anti-Authority Tenet
By Bryan Caplan
While you’re waiting for Jason Brennan’s The Ethics of Voting to arrive in the mail, check out his new article in The Philosophical Quarterly. In the book, Brennan merely argues that uninformed and irrational voters should voluntarily abstain. In the article, Brennan makes the stronger argument that uninformed and irrational voters should not be allowed to vote. “Epistocracy,” rule by the well-informed and rational, is at least less unjust than universal suffrage.
The highlight of the piece is Brennan’s clever response to David Estlund, who objects that epistocracy commits the “expert/boss fallacy.” Brennan:
To commit the expert/boss fallacy is to think that being an expert is sufficient reason for one person to hold power over others. But possessing superior knowledge is not sufficient to justify having any power, let alone greater power than others. We can always say to the experts ‘You may know better, but who made you boss?’. For example, a nutritionist may not compel me to conform to a diet, even if in possession of the knowledge that the diet would be good for me. You may not force me to listen to the newest Celine Dion album, even if you have indisputable proof that I would love it. And so on.
However, the argument I am making for epistocracy does not rest upon the authority tenet, but instead on an anti-authority tenet.
3*. The anti-authority tenet: when some citizens are morally unreasonable, ignorant or incompetent about politics, this justifies not granting them political authority over others.
I took on the same issue here, but Brennan’s account is markedly clearer and more convincing.