Books in Brief

Against Democracy, by Jason Brennan (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press; 288 pp., $29.95).  I found this a disappointing book, as the subject is a critical one in the 21st century.  Brennan begins with Schumpeter’s well-known assertion that

The typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field.  He argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests.  He becomes a primitive again.

From there, he goes on to consider not whether simple citizens should be encouraged to participate in politics, but whether they should be allowed to do so, since mass democratic politics creates problems, perhaps more of them than it solves.  The large majority of citizens know little about politics, and care less.  Others view politics like a team sport (as James Fitzjames Stephens observed in the second half of the 19th century in Great Britain).  A small minority, in Brennan’s view, “think scientifically and rationally about politics,” and “try to avoid being biased and irrational.”  The principle of one man, one vote, according to the author, actively inflicts harm on the citizenry by imposing stupid policies approved by the stupid democratic majority, and by encouraging citizens to dislike and even to hate...

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