Democratic Legitimacy and the Competence Objection

Res Publica 25 (2):283-293 (2019)
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Abstract

Elitist scepticism of democracy has a venerable history. This paper responds to the latest round of such scepticism—the ‘competence objection’, articulated in recent work by Jason Brennan. Brennan’s charge is that democracy is unjust because it allows uninformed, irrational, and morally unreasonable voters to exercise power over high-stakes political decisions, thus imposing undue risk upon the citizenry. I show that Brennan’s objection admits of two interpretations, and argue that neither can be sustained on close examination. Along the way, I consider the merits of Brennan’s preferred ‘epistocratic’ alternative to democracy, and argue that it is likely to lead to lower-quality outcomes.

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Lachlan Umbers
University of New South Wales

Citations of this work

Enfranchising the Youth.Lachlan Montgomery Umbers - 2020 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 23 (6):732-755.
An Epistemic Problem for Epistocracy.María Pía Méndez - 2022 - Social Epistemology 36 (2):153-166.
Enfranchising the Youth.Lachlan Montgomery Umbers - 2018 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 23 (6):1-24.
The Place of Voting in the Ethics of Counterspeech.Corrado Fumagalli - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (4):595-609.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Against Democracy: New Preface.Jason Brennan - 2016 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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