The Severity of the Information Gap Problem for Epistocracy: On Gibbons’s Reply

Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 12 (10):47–52 (2023)
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Abstract

Adam Gibbons (2022) holds, in response to my recent paper on epistocracy (Méndez 2022), that the severity of what I identify as a very relevant epistemic problem for epistocracy is overstated. What I call the Information Gap Problem refers to the gap of information that an elite electorate of well-informed citizens would experience, with regards to what epistocrats call ‘ill-informed’ lay citizens’ preferences. In that paper, I claimed that a group of highly qualified people could be better at determining the content of policies to foster general goals, but that this does not mean they could also be able to identify the best forms for those policies to be implemented. The form is what I connect to the lived experiences of lay citizens, and an epistocratic arrangement— which equals to distribute political power in accordance with political competence—would exclude the preferred forms of implementation of the ill-informed citizens. That information would thus be out of reach for an elite electorate, and persisting socio economic differences would reduce the overlap between the preferences of the elite and the preferences of illinformed citizens. According to Gibbons, it is not clear why such information is so important. Additionally, Gibbons states that the Information Gap Problem would be less of a threat, and even no threat at all, to some types of epistocracy. Finally, from Gibbons’s perspective, there are other more pressing issues for epistocracies that are not properly addressed in my paper, such as the difficulties of assessing political competence, and the risks of abuse in epistocratic arrangements. Here I will argue that the importance of including preferences from lay citizens comes back to the goal of the epistocratic project, namely, to improve the outcomes of our democracies for everyone. As I state in the paper, lay citizen’s lived experiences are crucial to do so. Relatedly, I will show that all forms of epistocracy are in some way exclusionary, since they do involve restricting the electorate, be it directly or indirectly, which means that no matter the type, they would all be susceptible to the Information Gap Problem. As well, I will briefly address the final objection regarding competence by showing that Gibbons’s worries regarding competence are present and developed in my paper.

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