The Science of Democracy: Are Humans Hard-Wired To Be Stupid Voters?

The next United States Presidential election is just under 16 months away, and already “silly-season” is in full force. The frontrunner for the Republican party is Donald Trump: a “television personality” and businessman who has filed for bankruptcy four times and receives vocal support from the right-wing base when he calls all undocumented immigrants rapists. The frontrunner for the Democratic party is Hillary Clinton: a woman who is more popular than every other candidate from either party, despite the fact that much of her base thinks she is too hawkish about the Middle East and too friendly with big business interests.

Campaign coverage by the media is a bit of a clown show. Television and radio talk programs scramble to play up gaffes by the Republican candidates, while wringing their hands over what impact Bernie Sanders–the Democrat who trails Hillary in the polls by 37 points but is considered a “more pure liberal” by many hardline Democrats–may have on election dynamics. Many major media outlets are starkly and plainly partisan, while the rest are nothing more than carnival shows: trying to create drama for the sake of ratings.

It can make a person wonder why we’re doing this at all.

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By this I mean not just campaigning and media, but the entire election process itself. Amid record-low levels of satisfaction and trust in government, it’s natural, if slightly taboo, that people would begin to question the core assumption of elected government. If people don’t know the issues and vote against their own best interests, while the media is biased towards glitz and hype, and everyone lies anyway, then why exactly are we so certain that elections are the best way to choose our country’s government?

Second Nexus
via Flickr user Eden, Janine and Jim

The case against democracy

In just the last few years there has been growing criticism of “democratic government,” which in modern usage refers simply to any government system where the people vote to elect representatives or enact laws. This denunciation has predominantly come from the political right wing.

Last year, the German-born American political philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe published the short book From Aristocracy to Monarchy to Democracy: A Tale of Moral and Economic Folly and Decay, in which he argues the upper classes are more naturally suited to governance. Indeed, he does not tap-dance around his disdain for the lower classes, saying: “the rich are characteristically bright and industrious, and the poor typically dull, lazy or both.”

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Greg Stevens is an ex-academic and research scientist who still writes about sciencey things for The... keep reading

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