Democracy, Dictatorship, and Knowledge

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Does democracy mean government by the ignorant? Is there some type of non-democracy that would systematically produce better policy by empowering knowledgeable experts? Would the costs of such a form of government outweigh its benefits?

Instructions

  1. The point of this page is not to compare democracy with dictatorship in general, but to examine whether there are alternatives to democracy that provide better performance in most or all respects than democracy by restricting political power to some subset of (especially) educated rulers or citizens, or by taking certain matters away from political control and putting them under market management, for example.
  2. Summarize the arguments against democracy from the point of view of knowledge. Are voters well informed? Are voters likely to hit upon the correct policy? Do voters even have reason to be well informed? Does their lack of information matter, if they are not well informed? (Consider also whether any flaws of democracy are inherent, or merely temporary or accidental).
  3. Consider whether there are alternatives that would guarantee superior performance. Would restricting the franchise on the basis of education produce better results, as Mill, for example, claims? Or would taking some policies away from political control and placing them under the control of markets, for example, produce better results (as in, e.g., Robin Hanson's "futarchy" proposal)?
  4. Even if you argue that some forms of non-democracy would be likely to produce better results than democracy, you need to consider whether its costs would outweigh its potential gains. Would democracy be justified even if it did not produce the best results? Or maybe alternatives would not be stable - people might resent their exclusion. Etc.

Resources

  1. Some of the articles and books in our bibliography here and here might be useful.


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