Welcome to the next installation of our ongoing forum for discussion of recent books in moral/political philosophy, alongside the reviews of them in NDPR, which provides authors a chance to respond to their reviewers (and for the reviewers to respond back). Today we open discussion on Jason Brennan’s book Against Democracy, which was recently reviewed by Tom Christiano (Arizona) in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (NDPR). Blurbs from both the book and the review below the fold. Please join in on the discussion. Feel free to post thoughts on the book, the review, or Jason’s response to the review, which will appear below.
About Against Democracy: “Most people believe democracy is a uniquely just form of government. They believe people have the right to an equal share of political power. And they believe that political participation is good for us—it empowers us, helps us get what we want, and tends to make us smarter, more virtuous, and more caring for one another. These are some of our most cherished ideas about democracy. But, Jason Brennan says, they are all wrong. In this trenchant book, Brennan argues that democracy should be judged by its results—and the results are not good enough.” (Princeton website)
From the start of Christiano’s review: “Jason Brennan’s book is a lively and entertaining exploration of an important pair of questions: (1) how can democracies work when the citizens who are supposed to rule are not very well informed about the substance and form of government and policy? and, (2) can we do better with non-democratic government? The basic difficulty with Brennan’s discussion is that he is inclined to proceed from a poorly understood micro-theory of democracy to conclusions about how well democracy works. He doesn’t always hold to this — indeed there are times when he suggests that democracies overall work pretty well and then wonders how this is possible — but the main thrust of the book starts from the micro-theory, which is simply not strong enough to bear the weight of his argument.”4