Jedediah Purdy at Bookforum:
Could there be a more propitious time to come out, as the title of Jason Brennan’s book announces, Against Democracy? From the Brexit vote to the Trump nomination, both liberal and conservative bien-pensants are grumbling that, if this is what the people decide, then maybe the people should not decide after all. If that is your mood, Brennan has catnip for you.
Brennan divides citizens into three gimmicky species: hobbits, who don’t care much about politics and just want to live their lives; hooligans, keenly interested in politics, who tend to be hyper-partisan and filter everything through their tribal loyalties; and vulcans, who just want to reason about the facts. He is fond of hobbits, but thinks they shouldn’t be encouraged to care about politics, because more civic engagement would probably just turn them into hooligans. In fact, most of political life is a twenty-four-hour hooligan party, bringing out the most strident and irrational in its participants. The trick is to make the world safe for hobbits by giving more power to the vulcans. So Brennan proposes to replace democracy—or at least leaven it—with “epistocracy,” rule by those who have knowledge.