Democracy vs. epistocracy

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Jim B.
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Democracy vs. epistocracy

Post by Jim B. » Thu Dec 22, 2016 2:50 pm

http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2016/06 ... istocracy/

The argument goes that democracy isn't an intrinsic good but only an instrumental good and if there's a way of bringing about better outcomes without infringing on anyone's rights, shouldn't a society try to do so? This is a particularly salient topic after the last election in the US. (Would Hillary voters be as exercised about it or Trump supporters as sanguine about it if she had won? ) Brennan argues that the incentive structure in present democracies isn't designed to bring about good outcomes. Imagine, he says, that in the first day of class, the teacher says to the class that your final grade will be based on the average grade of her 210 million students. Would you have any incentive to study?

Arguments against it include the idea that since every adult citizen is equal before the law, their franchise should be equal as well. Also each one is an equal stakeholder in the outcome of elections. (That's debatable.) If society sets up some kind of test for voting, that might open the door to another entrenched, self-justifying elite, another 'gatekeeper' that determines what voters should know and how much they should know, although the last objection isn't a hurdle that couldn't be cleared with safeguards. Also, if "those who know" are really better at making political decisions, shouldn't we find a broad consensus of opinion among them? We don't.

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sgttomas
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Re: Democracy vs. epistocracy

Post by sgttomas » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:45 pm

I think I'd prefer republican democracy but would rather that it not be organized into groups of more than 1 million or so, or areas larger than 1000 square kilometers. The principle being akin to - if you have to look the person in the face you're much less likely to say things in a mean and condescending way (hello internet, I see you over there). Also, you might actually know something about your neighborhood and care about doing something good for it.

Apparently there are things like this already happening: https://www.compactofmayors.org

Peace,
-sgttomas
Prophet Muhammad (God send peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said, "God says 'I am as My servant thinks I am' " ~ Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 9 #502 (Chapter 93, "Oneness of God")

Jim B.
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Re: Democracy vs. epistocracy

Post by Jim B. » Fri Dec 23, 2016 1:47 pm

sgttomas wrote:I think I'd prefer republican democracy but would rather that it not be organized into groups of more than 1 million or so, or areas larger than 1000 square kilometers. The principle being akin to - if you have to look the person in the face you're much less likely to say things in a mean and condescending way (hello internet, I see you over there). Also, you might actually know something about your neighborhood and care about doing something good for it.

Apparently there are things like this already happening: https://www.compactofmayors.org

Peace,
-sgttomas
You linked to a compact of mayors. That's different than actual governing political units like you described? Setting aside the compact, I agree with you in principle about smaller political units, but as more or less autonomous units, I don;t see it as workable for a number of reasons. There are fairly easy measures that could actually be enacted soon to incentivize knowledge and voter participation to create better outcomes.

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sgttomas
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Re: Democracy vs. epistocracy

Post by sgttomas » Fri Dec 23, 2016 3:58 pm

Ah, well I haven't thought about it much. I would like to hear your thoughts! ...
Prophet Muhammad (God send peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said, "God says 'I am as My servant thinks I am' " ~ Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 9 #502 (Chapter 93, "Oneness of God")

Jim B.
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Re: Democracy vs. epistocracy

Post by Jim B. » Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:14 pm

sgttomas wrote:Ah, well I haven't thought about it much. I would like to hear your thoughts! ...
Jason Brennan discusses several ways to do this.

One is Mill's idea of plural voting. Everyone gets one vote but those with more knowledge get two. There are problems with this one, of course. The big one is that if I know only slightly more than you, I get twice as many votes. We could fractionize votes to avoid this problem.

No default vote: You earn the right to vote by passing a very basic test.

Enfranchisement Lottery: Voters are chosen at random shortly before the election but only if they first go through some sort of competence-building exercise.

Bodies of Experts: Elections are held and laws passed as normal but bodies of experts can veto or pass laws themselves. Imagine if the Council of Economic Advisers could have a say over economic policy similar to how the Supreme Court can strike down unconstitutional laws. The democratic legislature could then override those bodies.

Government by Simulated Oracle: Everyone votes as normal along with information about how much they know about basic civic issues. Then you do what the enlightened public wants, or weigh that more heavily.

Tax Credit: for people who take a test and score well on it.

There are problems with all of these scenarios, just as there as serious problems with what we've got right now. One is that you could end up with a caste of experts, an expertise-ocracy that could tend to amplify bad ideas due to insularity, as happened in the Vitenam era with McNamara and his crew.

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sgttomas
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Re: Democracy vs. epistocracy

Post by sgttomas » Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:57 pm

It seems like the US already has a very elegant system for distribution of powers but that unlimited election spending just privileges the wrong kinds of candidates? Smart people already make the decisions, but leaders need to dumb down because that's how media spending shapes the message. ....which....heheh, actually....you really gotta admire Trump. Devious M*F'er that he is.

Anyways, not shooting down any of these ideas (I'll think about / read about them more....this is fully inline with my obsession over our technology mediated world: government is a form of social technology), just wanted to see what you thought about this notion (I hear it brought up in some talks I listened to).

Peace,
-sgttomas
Prophet Muhammad (God send peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said, "God says 'I am as My servant thinks I am' " ~ Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 9 #502 (Chapter 93, "Oneness of God")

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