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Against Democracy

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  306 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Most people believe democracy is a uniquely just form of government. They believe people have the right to an equal share of political power. And they believe that political participation is good for us--it empowers us, helps us get what we want, and tends to make us smarter, more virtuous, and more caring for one another. These are some of our most cherished ideas about d ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Princeton University Press
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Charles
Sep 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Jason Brennan is The Man Who Was Born Yesterday. His book is incisive, insightful, interesting, funny, and well-informed. It delivers a sound and compelling case that democracy is fatally flawed. But everything he says in “Against Democracy” lacks depth, because he thinks that history began roughly twenty-four hours ago. So, while his analysis of democracy is good, his prescriptions are unbelievably shallow and poorly thought-out, making the book very like a delicious-looking piece of cake that ...more
Kate
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating discussion of whether democracy is unjust. Brennan compares political decision-making to jury deliberations, in which a decision is deemed unjust when the jury proceeds incompetently because they either ignored the facts or acted corruptly. He argues that perhaps voting should be more like driving, or becoming a judge, where certain levels of competence are required.

I wish there had been more focus on possible epistocracies (governance by the competent), rather than only one chapte
...more
Elliott
Aug 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Libertarianism is bullshit not to mention it's all bunk.
There. That's something that needs to be said rather plainly before I go into specifics.
Now, don't think that I'm just getting my angries out over 'not seeing the mystic truth' of some particular cult-and libertarianism is a cult- I rate this book one star because libertarianism and Brennan's book is just a collection of bad ideas.
So, there are some fundamental assumptions that libertarianism makes that need to be addressed:
1.) Humans a
...more
Emanuela
Tre stelline perché l'organizzazione dei contenuti è piuttosto contorta, se non ritorta e, spesso, ripetitiva. Poteva essere strutturato in una forma più semplice dicendo le stesse cose, guadagnando in chiarezza.

Nei contenuti si fa un'analisi macroscopica dell'elettorato nelle democrazie occidentali, suddividendolo in hobbit, hooligan e vulcaniani dove, solo gli ultimi, una stretta minoranza ha conoscenze sufficienti per riuscire ad esprimere una scelta razionale durante il voto.
Degli altri, u
...more
Shawn
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Against Democracy, as the name suggests, is a devastating critique of democracy both in terms of the efficacy of real-world democracies to provide competent government and the moral justifications for democracy (more precisely, universal suffrage as a moral right). It is at its best when it challenges and debunks our cherished assumptions about and views of democracy.

I find the book less convincing when it comes to Brennan’s proposed alternative: epistocracy. This is the rule of the knowers; or
...more
P
Oct 31, 2016 rated it liked it
First off, I can’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed reading a work of analytic philosophy this much. Brennan argues with a genuinely accessible clarity, not to mention humor, and he argues forcefully: democratic institutions (particularly in the US) are instrumentally incompetent and corrupt, due to policies put in place by an electorate that is overwhelmingly ignorant, irrational and misinformed. Terrifying statistic after terrifying statistic is cited. His tentative (for there is as y ...more
Arup
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
My first serious book on political science. Must read in current times. Perils of ignorance and the consequent incompetent rule of democracy. Well crafted arguments. Fun to learn how democracy works because it doesn't work.
Jana Light
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Plato's Republic Redux -- long live the Philosopher King!

Well, not quite. But Jason Brennan makes a solid case for replacing democracy (power of and by the people) with epistocracy (power of and by the most knowledgeable and competent). Democracy, he argues, is dangerous. It has significant flaws and drawbacks that endanger the rights and well-being of the population, flaws and drawbacks that a properly established epistocracy could avoid.

Brennan isn't arguing that epistocracy would absolutely
...more
Daniel Cunningham
Levels serious critiques at American democracy in particular (though, as a work of political philosophy it clearly aims at 'democracy' in general) and proposes 'epistocracy' as a replacement... though what epistocracy means in practice is left loose, and how we get there from here is barely waved at.

To really argue against this I'd have to re-read it. But a first major objection would follow the outline that, while the criticisms are entirely valid -in my experience, anyway- and the merits of ep
...more
ehk2
Dec 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not against the critique of democracy on account of the ignorance of voters. But the writer is himself so ignorant about "social scientific knowledge" and he misses his own ignorance.

1) There's not even a single mention of the ages-old epistemological controversy over truth vs. ideology! The author is simply ignorant on the philosophy of social sciences or years of disputes in sociology of knowledge. He has a very childish, positivist confidence the existence of some "social scientific facts
...more
Sven Gerst
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
As promised, Brennan provides a strong (almost devastating) critique of democracy—and the theories surrounding it. It is a great read and Brennan is a witty writer, but after all the book appears to be unbalanced (his defense and outline of epistocracy only makes up for tiny part of the book) and incredibly repetitive (certain statistics, thought experiments, and quotes appear 3-4 times throughout the 250 pages).
Luis Henrique Sacchi Guadagnin
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: seul
Extremely interesting critique of democracy, though in my view falls short of proposing a coherent and feasible alternative.
Ron Bronson
Sep 04, 2016 rated it liked it
read Jason Brennan’s book “Against Democracy” which argues for a epistocracy of informed citizens who have some enhances ability to makedecisions for all of us, because essentially democratic rule as we know it, does not work and we’re ruled by commoners who make bad decisions & are uninformed.
On face, Brennan’s arguments have some good philosophical ground & provide the reader with a solid case for why we’d consider his thesis even if it’s not plausible in today’s political landscape in
...more
Ken Cartisano
Feb 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
Democracy isn't defective, it's an endangered species. And thinking like Brennan's is the reason why. This book sounded interesting when the author was being interviewed on NPR. But in the harsh glare of my bathroom light fixture, this thing smells worse than almost everything else in my bathroom.
Several other reviewers have gone to great lengths to detail the many flaws in this books architecture, foundation, structure and plumbing. I won't bother.
This book is the literary equivalent of a Russ
...more
Jason
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Some interesting aspects covered in this book and some good arguments made, others addressed and still others overcome. It is no secret that democracy has its shortcomings; the author acknowledges that it still may be the best form of political structuring. Yet the epistocratic models he pushes us to try out don't really adhere to his conclusions on democracy. But I think the most overlooked option for epistocratic selection is not the voting public, but those running for office. It's a tall tas ...more
Stefan Schubert
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Forceful book. The author has a thesis and argues for it pretty heavily. This makes the book very clear, but in some passages the author comes off as a bit biased. Perhaps a bit more focus on empirical data and a bit less on refuting pro-democracy armchair political theory would have been good. Overall I recommend reading this book.
Todd
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'll admit that the 2016 presidential election and ensuing events really soured me on politics and the American experiment. It's one thing for people to act in ways that are not in their best interest. It's another when large groups of people simultaneously act in ways that are not in my best interest either. Maybe there's something better than democracy out there. Maybe this was a book I needed to read to blow of some steam. Either way, Brennan's arguments for an epistocracy are fun and thought ...more
Rob
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Much better. Thought-provoking and easy to read (I finished in less than 24 hours).
Sergio Redondo
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politica
Libro muy interesante que además de ser leído merece ser pensado.
Os dejo mi vídeorreseña en YouTube: https://youtu.be/CQXWlLmUzeE
Malin
So even tho I doubted the solidity in some of his arguments this is still an interesting thought experiment. I was always of the idea that Democracy seriously is a flawed system, but that we cling to it because all of the alternatives are even worse. But Brennans arguments for Epistocracy are worth thinking about, especially since he does cover and eradicates most of the objections I had to it after reading the first few chapters.
Basically the majority of voters today are not only ignorant, but
...more
Yngve Skogstad
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Suppose you start with an understanding of politics not as a struggle for power between interest groups, but as a choice between competence and incompetence, and you couple it with an absence of theory on the operations of the state or how people relate to positions of power. Then you add some cherry-picked studies from the most dysfunctional democracy in the West (while claiming these are universally applicable) and spice it up with an endless string of de-contextualized and ahistorical thought ...more
Eduardo
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
“The right to vote is a metaphorical badge of equality”, J B writes, so it is a metaphysical displacement or make-believe –a philosophical mirage–, not a fact, as equating soldiers with young lions, or women with fresh roses.
J B argues that voters in the United States are divided in three big categories: ‘hobbits’, ‘hooligans’, and ‘vulcans’.
Hobbits “are mostly apathetic and ignorant about politics. They lack strong, fixed opinions about most political issues. Often they have no opinions at all
...more
Karen Adkins
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Brennan defends epistocracy in this book; the idea that we better achieve justice by having knowledgeable people make decisions, instead of assuming that popular votes win out. The thesis is something that I've thought about since first reading John Stuart Mill--political knowledge surveys seem to make it clear that newly-credentialed citizens to this country understand its political system far better than many birthright citizens. And Brennan makes a pretty thorough critique of the ways in whic ...more
Aaron Gertler
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reminds us of things we know but very often forget, or maybe never thought about. A flawed book, but flawed in that it makes bold proposals that will take a very long to happen in some places and will never happen in others (but then, many books are like that). And of course, there are sentences in this book I've have trimmed as an editor (like the sentence where Brennan brags about his IAT results) and terms I'd have asked him to define (what really constitutes "basic social science knowledge", ...more
Popup-ch
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, kindle, non-fiction
Would you let anyone who want to do so don a white coat and operate on your body? Probably not, but most people are perfectly happy when people with demonstrably very little knowledge about how a country works decide how their country should be run, albeit in a rather indirect manner.
Brennan's argument is fairly simple - Most people score lower than randomness when asked about fairly simple political questions. (For example - a majority of US voters believe that the US foreign aid budget represe
...more
Priscilla
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is scholarly political philosophy, which means that it's interesting reading, but unlikely to ever be implemented, at least not in our lifetimes, since it would require a major overhaul of the Constitution. An epistocracy, which Brennan argues for, is rule by the informed, knowledgeable, and competent, with the goal of achieving justice and happy lives for everyone. Democracy will never achieve such goals, because it allows everyone to vote, and so long as that's the law of the land, we wil ...more
Henrik
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
This topic is extremely interesting and it is nice to have your ideas challanged, I certainly have never thought about the alternatives to democracy presented in this book (I have nothing to do with political theory in my everyday life). Yet, it doesn't quite catch my interest in the way that I thought it would. The book first presents a number of reasons why democracy (in the sense of a single vote per adult) is suboptimal, which are well argued for and backed by credible (as far as I can tell) ...more
Jo-Ann
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jason may be a "prophet" considering recent political developments in the USA and other countries. His case for restricted suffrage/epistocracy is compelling given the nature of his evidence and related scenarios. I was skeptical when I saw his interview with Steve Paiken on our provincial public television network TVO, but I take his arguments much more seriously. What most people consider to be just in democracy may in fact not really be so. I plan to read more of his work, and those who follo ...more
Writemoves
My notes from the book:

Trump's support in the early primaries came from low information voters.

Trump won the nomination in part because the high information voters split their votes among the other nominees.

Asking everyone to vote is like asking everyone to litter.

John Stuart Mill---we should institute the type of government that gets the best results.

35% of voters are "know-nothings."

"A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years." Herbert Spencer
...more
Daniel Repp
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Jason Brennan is Assistant Professor of Ethics, Economics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Ethics of Voting and co-author of A Brief History of Liberty. He also writes for the popular blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians.
“Democracy does not empower individuals. It disempowers individuals and instead empowers the majority of the moment. In” 1 likes
“In civil society, most of my fellow citizens are my civic friends, part of a great cooperative scheme. One of the repugnant features of democracy is that it transforms these people into threats to my well-being. My fellow citizens exercise power over me in risky and incompetent ways. This makes them my civic enemies.” 1 likes
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