The epistemic case for non-electoral forms of democracy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Electoral representative government embodies a compromise, exchanging political equality and broader distribution of political power for the supposed epistemic benefit that comes through the use of elected representatives. Direct democracy would do better by considerations of political equality, inclusivity, responsiveness, self-government, and other aspects of political morality commonly brought under the heading of “democracy,” but it also would almost certainly result in epistemically poorer decision-making. This chapter draws attention to the significant epistemic shortfalls of electoral representative democracy and suggests that this is a compromise that is not working out. Perhaps more surprisingly, the chapter suggests that there are non-electoral alternatives that do at least as well as electoral representative government on the democracy scorecard, and which would likely do better than electoral representative government on the epistemic scorecard. To do this, the chapter presents seven core questions of institutional epistemic competence and suggests that two non-electoral alternatives-lottocratic systems and systems of technocratic agencies coupled with extensive citizen oversight-would do better than electoral representative systems at answering those core questions, while doing no worse by the lights of other considerations of political morality.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781000371925
ISBN (Print)9780367345907
StatePublished - Apr 22 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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