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Against Democracy

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Against Democracy

Princeton UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

“Hobbits, hooligans and vulcans,” oh, my! Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love political apathy.

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Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Innovative


Contrarian political philosopher Jason Brennan frets about democracy and the intellectual fitness of voters. The controversial Georgetown University professor argues for giving voting rights only to those who can pass a test or prove that they’re capable and competent. Brennan’s “epistocratic” vision is sacrilege to the world’s democracies and, despite his counterarguments, elitist, or at least exclusionary. Yet, to his credit, he manages to make a calm, logical case. Brennan’s analysis of how and why democracies go astray is worth reading. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends his treatise to those policymakers, leaders and citizens who’d be intrigued by an out-of-the-mainstream analysis of modern politics.


“Hobbits, Hooligans and Vulcans”

Modern democracy is an imperfect system marked by high-minded talk of equality and undermined by apathy, voter ignorance and the vagaries of human nature.

In the late 1800s, voter turnout neared 80% for major US elections. Today, 60% reflects a healthy turnout for a US presidential vote. When voters decide to stay home, that isn’t the embodiment of a lamentable trend. It’s “a good start.”

Consider economist Joseph Schumpeter’s political theory: “The typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field…He becomes a primitive again.” If politics turns otherwise responsible citizens into beasts, perhaps it’s healthy that Americans are apathetic and care more about football than studying C-SPAN or the latest social science research.

Voters in democracies break down into three groups:

  1. Hobbits – These know-nothings typically don’t bother to vote and pay no attention to politics, policy or current events. Hobbits generally lack opinions about political matters.
  2. Hooligans – The political equivalent of “rabid sports fans,” these true believers...

About the Author

Georgetown University professor of strategy, economics, ethics and public policy Jason Brennan co-wrote Marketing without Limits with Peter Jaworkski, A Brief History of Liberty with David Schmidtz, and Compulsory Voting: For and Against with Lisa Hill. He also wrote The Ethics of Voting, Why Not Capitalism? and Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know.

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