Epistocracy and the Problem of Political Capture

Public Affairs Quarterly (forthcoming)
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Concerned about the harmful effects of pervasive political ignorance, epistocrats argue that we should amplify the political power of politically knowledgeable citizens. But their proposals have been widely criticized on the grounds that they are susceptible to manipulation and abuse. Instead of empowering the knowledgeable, incumbents who control epistocratic institutions are likely to selectively empower their supporters, thereby increasing their share of power. Call this the problem of political capture. In this paper I argue for two claims. First, I claim that the problem of political capture for epistocracy has been overstated. Incumbents who want to increase their share of power will encounter certain obstacles that complicate the task of capturing the system. Second, however, I claim that if the problem is nevertheless sufficiently serious, it militates against not just epistocracy, but also many other institutions. The problem of political capture is thus far wider than typically recognized.

Author's Profile

Adam F. Gibbons
Lingnan University


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