Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System That Shouldn't Work at All Works So Well” as Want to Read:
Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System That Shouldn't Work at All Works So Well
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System That Shouldn't Work at All Works So Well

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  42 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
Voters often make irrational decisions based on inaccurate and irrelevant information. Politicians are often inept, corrupt, or out of touch with the will of the people. Elections can be determined by the design of the ballot and the gerrymandered borders of a district. And yet, despite voters who choose candidates according to the boxer--brief dichotomy and politicians wh ...more
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published January 27th 2012 by MIT Press (MA)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Democracy Despite Itself, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Democracy Despite Itself

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 246)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Churchill had two great quotes about democracy, that "the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter," and that "democracy is the worst form of government, except all of the others that have been tried."

In the alternately hilarious and depressing first half of the book, the authors explore the truth behind the first quote -- that voters are dismally ignorant about many issues and make terribly flawed decisions when choosing candidates. The authors combin
Peter Mcloughlin
The book explains why democracies do better despite ignorant voters, lying politicians and complex problems. the answer is in procedure. It doesn't matter that voters are ignorant. They will follow the laws if they beleive the people who made them are legitimate lawmakers. Therefore governments can carry out policy knowing the citizens won't resist as they would say in an autocracy. Hence there is less need for authoritarian measures and consequently more freedom. A free citizenry is happier an ...more
Apr 16, 2015 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Disclosure: The lead author is a friend and colleague (I worked in his lab in college).

This insightful and thought-provoking book explores how democracy can do such a good job of ensuring the rights, freedoms, and prosperity of the people in it even though those people often make decisions--political and otherwise--for crazy reasons. The first half of the book mainly uses information from psychology to show how people's irrationality impacts the political process in ways most of us would like no
Apr 18, 2012 Margot rated it it was amazing
I won this book on Gooreads and I am so glad I had the chance to read it! Instead of tearing apart the democratic system Edwards and Oppenheimer examine the people who fuel the voting process. If our system is broken, they explain through clear examples, it is our fault not the fault of a democratic system. Uninformed, misguided voters select candidates based not on platforms but preconceived biases and "news" that they accept without questions. This book should be required reading for students ...more
Aug 23, 2016 Ian rated it it was amazing
It was a book about democracy and how it is not supposed to work well. Also it is about how it works well too.
Brian Sison
Jul 29, 2015 Brian Sison rated it it was amazing
This book is basically split into two distinct parts:

Part 1 - Explains in scary detail how flawed and complicated the US democratic system is. It lists issues and contradictions in the candidates, the voting process, and even the voters themselves.

Part 2 - Explains why even despite all its warts, our US democracy is leaps and bounds more desirable than any of the alternatives. Seems like the system tends to be a self-righting ship usually headed straight ahead while being urged Left or Right by
Jul 07, 2013 Clay rated it it was amazing
Despite all their warts, democratic countries do better than the rest by a wide margin. There are many reasons why. When people think that the governing process is fair and that they have a voice, they are more likely to voluntarily follow laws, regulations and processes. When people do this, things work better. When opposition leaders see that there is life after being power, they will be more likely to accept criticism and defeat when they are in power again, thus enhancing the virtuous circle ...more
Nov 20, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Bias alert: I'm married to the second author of this book.

It's an enjoyable read and surprisingly funny. You, the voter, get to be both the villain and the hero of the story.

Yep, you, me, the authors of the book -- we all make some pretty bad political decisions. But it's ok. In the end, things work out pretty great after all.
Jun 12, 2012 Kame marked it as to-read
Didn't realise this was an MIT Press book until I got it, makes me that much more excited to start it!

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I am required to disclose that I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Maya Richardson
Maya Richardson marked it as to-read
Sep 22, 2016
Ash is currently reading it
Sep 21, 2016
Mari Barcelo
Mari Barcelo marked it as to-read
Sep 21, 2016
Muhannad marked it as to-read
Sep 19, 2016
Rob Curry-Smithson
Rob Curry-Smithson rated it liked it
Aug 18, 2016
Ruby Zhang
Ruby Zhang marked it as to-read
Aug 17, 2016
Nam marked it as to-read
Aug 08, 2016
Sir marked it as to-read
Aug 03, 2016
Craig Brown
Craig Brown marked it as to-read
Aug 02, 2016
Callan Mcgill
Callan Mcgill marked it as to-read
Jul 31, 2016
Nathan Byrd
Nathan Byrd marked it as to-read
Jul 29, 2016
Van Bui
Van Bui marked it as to-read
Jul 29, 2016
Majid marked it as to-read
Jul 07, 2016
Margaret Mcmillan
Margaret Mcmillan rated it it was amazing
Jun 16, 2016
Claudia marked it as to-read
Jun 05, 2016
Matthias marked it as to-read
May 15, 2016
Kaela Bierce
Kaela Bierce marked it as to-read
May 07, 2016
Setavya Sarawagi
Setavya Sarawagi marked it as to-read
May 03, 2016
Lily Moen
Lily Moen marked it as to-read
Apr 12, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Advances in Behavioral Economics
  • Risk: A Very Short Introduction
  • Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making
  • Direct Hits Core Vocabulary of the SAT
  • The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama
  • The Catholic Guide to Depression: How the Saints, the Sacraments, and Psychiatry Can Help You Break Its Grip and Find Happiness Again
  • The Impulse Factor: Why Some of Us Play It Safe and Others Risk It All
  • Juggling Elephants: An Easier Way to Get Your Most Important Things Done--Now!
  • Where Soldiers Fear to Tread: A Relief Worker's Tale of Survival
  • After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed
  • Well-Being: Foundations of Hedonic Psychology: Foundations of Hedonic Psychology
  • The Vintage Book of Amnesia: An Anthology of Writing on the Subject of Memory Loss
  • Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do
  • Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human
  • The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Understanding Lisbeth Salander and Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy
  • Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives
  • The Plundered Planet: Why We Must--And How We Can--Manage Nature for Global Prosperity
  • The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team

Share This Book