Roughly one-third of Americans can’t name a single branch of the US government; less than a quarter can name their own states’ senators. Ignorant voters have worried elites since the days of Plato in ancient Greece. The US government required literacy tests for more than a century, blocking poor immigrants and later black citizens from voting. Scholar David Estlund coined the term “epistocracy” to describe a political system which educated voters control.”Democracy is other people, and the ignorance of the many has long galled the few, especially the few who consider themselves intellectuals.”In his book Against Democracy, Jason Brennan divides citizens into three groups: 1) “hobbits” who ignore politics and shouldn’t vot, 2) “hooligans” who follow politics for fun and 3) “vulcans” who make reasoned, fact-based decisions. For the public good, Brennen believes most people shouldn’t vote unless they’re educated – even if disenfranchised groups like blacks and women inadvertently suffer. He doesn’t specifically explain how epistocracy would work, making such a model difficult to critique. Furthermore, he doesn’t prove that his ideal voters (vulcans) even exist or how he’d prevent the government from abusing the system.”What Jason Brennan’s model omits is that sometimes, in an election, democracy itself is in danger. If a soldier were to calculate his or her personal value to the campaign that his or her army is engaged in, he or she could easily conclude that the cost of showing up at the front isn’t worth it.”The 2016 US presidential election exposed democracy’s flaws. Unlike economics, politics doesn’t have Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” to stabilize the market. Voters ignorant of economics skew more isolationist and pessimistic about immigration, market competition and foreign trade. Brennan’s model seems to forget that the United States is a representative democracy, wherein politicians make most policy decisions, not voters whose responsibility peaks on Election Day.Brennan considers voting part of a larger “civic virtue,” which includes the dubious assertion that selling food to Martin Luther King Jr. “indirectly” contributes to such virtue. Brennan also equates uniformed voting with air pollution because so many people do it that it’s impossible to control and because the harm they create dilutes a few people’s good actions. Overall, Brennan’s model forgets democracy’s main goal: to involve those in an election who will have to live with the election’s results. Sometimes elections endanger democracy. Voters who don’t show up because they think their contribution won’t count fail to realize that their votes could make the difference between which side wins.

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