Testing epistemic democracy’s claims for majority rule

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 19 (1):22-35 (2019)
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While epistemic democrats have claimed that majority rule recruits the wisdom of the crowd to identify correct answers to political problems, the conjecture remains abstract. This article illustrates how majority rule leverages the epistemic capacity of the electorate to practically enhance the instrumental value of elections. To do so, we identify a set of sufficient conditions that effect such a majority rule mechanism, even when the decision in question is multidimensional. We then look to the case of sociotropic economic voting in US presidential elections to provide empirical tractability for these conditions. We find that absent such an epistemic capacity a number of presidential elections might well have been decided differently. By generating clear conditions for the plausibility of claims made by epistemic democrats, and demonstrating their correspondence to empirical data, this article strengthens the broader instrumental grounds recommending democracy.

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William J. Berger
University of Pennsylvania


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