October 21, 2016

The UK decides to leave the EU. Colombian voters reject a peace deal to end their civil war. The US presidential election has been a roller-coaster ride. It’s enough to make someone wonder… is representative democracy all it’s cracked up to be? Jason Brennan, a professor at Georgetown and author of Against Democracy, thinks it may be time to reevaluate whether democracy really is the best form of government.

Three Takeaways:

  • People think that participating in democracy makes us better, more virtuous citizens. Brennan says that’s just not true: “Over the past sixty years, we’ve been conducting a massive amount of studies on voter behavior, political behavior - and it looks like politics tends to make us meaner and dumber rather than smarter and nicer.” 
  • Brennan thinks democracy should be judged by its results. Democracy doesn’t, by itself, make people engaged or informed. Instead, Brennan sees democracy as a tool to improve the lives of a country’s citizens. If the tool isn’t working, it should be replaced. 
  • There’s no obvious next step to make democracy better. Brennan thinks we could try prioritizing informed voters over non-informed ones, or require all voters to learn basic facts. But whatever the result, Brennan insists that we shouldn’t stop trying to find a government system that works better.

More Reading:

innovation hub, NPR, Jason Brennan, Kara Miller, WGBH

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