Just decided to publish a brief post in order to show you some of Jason Brennan’s work. I also encourage you to take a look into his book although I haven’t.
What I do have read are most of his BHL articles. Here are some of them:
- Hammer, painting, person: How to Value Democracy?
- The Expressive Meaning of Democracy (Plus: Why Are Philosophers so Enamored of Semiotic Arguments?)
- Politics Is Not a Poem: Against Semiotic Arguments for Democracy
- Arbitrary vs Non-Arbitrary grounds for Political Inequality
- The Conservative Argument for Democracy. Here is he against himself.
- Return of the Philosopher King? Not so fast
- Hearing the Other Side
- Judgments of Superiority
- Democracy and Freedom
I don’t want to copypaste the relevant stuff of each of this posts because is a lot of work.
If we take a look into J. Brennan’s work he has been fighting against semiotic arguments for policy making for a long time. He has a book on the topic and here you can see a video. One of the things he points out is that semiotic arguments are not good enough in order to ban a market for, say, kidneys. So you shouldn’t prevent other people from selling a kidney just because we find it disgusting. You could argue against a market for kidneys if you think that it will produce bad outcomes or whatever. But not just because you don’t like it nor because you find it nasty. See also this about a market for kidneys (in spanish).
Tyler Cowen has argued (here) that he could easily imagine a USA in which the elites at Harvard or MIT supporting left-wing policies. So is not a matter of ideology.
J. Brennan has also published this in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Having said that I have showed you one piece of the picture. I ignore most of the literature about democracy and you should look into other sources in order to have a broader view. However, whether you agree or not you’ll find this posts very interesting.
I agree a lot of the arguments that favors democracy over epistocracy rely on a bunch of social constructs, cultural beliefs and so on. But consider the fact that the arrangement of our political system could have to take into account the nature of today’s humans in order to avoid social tensions. That includes biological constraints that may play a role at the time of determining our feelings once we are in a system that doesn’t imbue us with political power (I would like to see some research about it, just an hypothesis for the moment). And also could include social constraints, such as cultural beliefs or social constructs. We may have to change that but changing it will take a lot of time. In order to pass epistocracy you will need the agreement of a huge part of the population which is not feasible in the short nor in the medium run. I don’t see epistocracy as a short way of improving people’s life. And even if the society leaves aside this types of beliefs I have serious doubts about how could it actually work in the long run. We should note the importance of improving the epistemic level of the pool of voters but step by step you get further.
When proposing political measures a lot of people usually don’t take into account the nature of individuals. I have found that over and over again. Is like they focus more on how things should be than in how they actually are. In a way if you change the starting point you can reach a different optimal outcome.
I’m not saying that this is useless, in fact I think it is a way of inspiring new ideas (like the ones presented here). But it’s also true that you should go carefully at the time of defending them. Brennan himself is very cautious.