My New Book Chapter on “Top-Down and Bottom-Up Solutions to the Problem of Political Ignorance””

You can now download my forthcoming chapter “Top-Down & Bottom-Up Solutions for the Problem of Political Ignorance” on SSRN. This is the abstract

Although not unanimous, there is general agreement that voter ignorance and an irrational assessment of evidence pose serious threats to democracy. However, there are deep differences over the best ways to mitigate this danger. The “top-down” approach, which places more power and authority under the control of experts, seeks to reduce ignorance by giving more political power to the most educated segments of society. The “bottom-up”, on the other hand, aims to increase the political competency of the public and empower the ordinary citizen in ways that provide better incentive to take good decisions than traditional ballot box voting. Some examples of bottom-up strategies are education and various sortition proposals. They also shift more decisions to institutions that allow citizens to “vote with your feet”.

This chapter reviews and criticizes both top-down as well as bottom-up strategies. Conclusion: I find that top-down strategies suffer from systematic weaknesses that limit their potential. They should not be rejected categorically, but we need to be cautious about adopting them at large. The limitations inherent in bottom-up strategies are significant. However, expanding the voting rights of foot voters holds greater promise than any other option. It is worth considering the possibility of paying voters for their increased knowledge.

This chapter draws on some of my earlier work, including elements from my books. Moving freely: Migration and Foot VotingAndThe difference between democracy and political ignorance. Why a smaller government is more effective. It also provides new evaluations of various strategies to alleviate political ignorance as well as new ways of categorizing these solutions. The idea of paying voters to raise their knowledge level is something that has not received as much attention.