Against Democracy and Elitism

The people's best political framework is neither democracy nor epistocracy but original liberalism, or what we today call libertarianism.


Whenever we libertarians point out democracy's perverse incentives (as I do here) we risk being accused of elitism. However, those who assume that the only alternative to rule by the people is rule by an aristocracy reveal a tragically incomplete awareness of the choices before us.

Rather than choose among rulers, we should ask why anyone at all must rule. But even if we don't go quite that far, we could entertain the idea that radically reducing the scale and scope of government, which essentially is the threat of violence, would also drastically reduce the harm produced by those perverse incentives. Elitism isn't the only available alternative to democracy—and it certainly is not the most desirable one.

Unfortunately, some libertarian critiques of democracy encourage nonlibertarians to believe some form of elitism is the only alternative. Take Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan's recent op-ed, "Can epistocracy, or knowledge-based voting, fix democracy?" in the Los Angeles Times, which is drawn from his book Against Democracy. Brennan begins by citing democracy's systemic flaw: "The median voter wields great power over what politicians ultimately do. But—and here's the problem—the median voter would fail economics or Political Science 101."

"For 60 years, political scientists have studied what voters actually know," Brennan continues.

The results are depressing. Hundreds of different surveys, such as the American National Election Studies, find that the median voter is ignorant or misinformed not only about the social sciences needed to evaluate candidates' policy proposals, but even of basic facts and trends, such as what the unemployment rate is and whether it's going up or down.

This isn't because public schools fail us. It's not because Fox News or MSNBC (take your pick) bamboozles poor voters with well-crafted lies. It's not because people are inherently stupid or unable to think for themselves. It's because democracy gives us the wrong incentives.

How we vote matters, but how any one of us votes does not. The chance an individual vote will make a difference is vanishingly small. Thus, we have little incentive to gather relevant information so that we can cast our votes in careful, thoughtful ways….

While not everything governments do is decided by voters — bureaucracies, parties and officials have significant independence — what voters want makes a difference. And since voters are generally uninformed, we get worse policies that we would with a better-informed electorate.

I'll leave for another time Brennan's debatable contention that this "better-informed electorate" is really better informed where it counts. (When this electorate says it favors "free trade," does it actually mean neoliberal managed trade through government agreements, which may be what some of the supposedly lesser informed electorate fears?) Instead, I'll focus on Brennan's "alternative to democracy called epistocracy." He explains: "In a democracy, every citizen gets an equal right to vote. In an epistocracy, voting power is widespread, but votes are weighted: More knowledgeable citizens' votes count more."

Brennan lays out several ways to implement epistocracy, insisting that "epistocracies should keep some things—like our basic rights—off the bargaining table. They should make power widespread because concentrating power among the few invites abuse. Epistocracies should have constitutional limits on power, judicial review, checks and balances and a bill of rights—just like representative democracies." That's a relief, but can we really trust the informed elite to understand basic rights? (Did the framers of the Constitution get it right? I argue otherwise in America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.)

Even with his caveat, Brennan's proposal leaves him open to the charge of elitism. Rod Dreher of The American Conservative writes:

Restricting the vote to the cognitive elite is no solution. I would rather be ruled by the first thousand people through the gates at the Daytona 500 than the people in that room Friday night with Hillary Clinton and Barbra Streisand. Guess who holds more power already in our society? That's right: the cognitive elite. That's how it works in a meritocracy. Prof. Brennan's epistocracy would only give them more — for our own good.

Brennan certainly does not blunt the elitism charge when he writes:

Some would object that epistocracy is essentially inegalitarian. In an epistocracy, not everyone has the same voting power. But what's so wrong with that? Only some people have plumbing or hairdressing licenses because we accept that only some people are qualified to fix pipes or cut hair. Perhaps only some people, rather than everyone 18 and over, are truly qualified to decide who will lead the most powerful country on earth.

Need I point out that it is astonishing for a libertarian to cite licensing in defense of his plan for an unequal distribution of voting power? Formally, licensing is the state's way of determining who may and may not engage in occupations supposedly in the interest of consumers. Actually, licensing is how incumbent practitioners of occupations exclude competition and hamper innovation in order to support the monopolistic incomes to which they have become accustomed. It's a system of privilege. Why hitch political reform to it?

The public-choice problems with any form of epistocracy have long been noted, and Brennan is familiar with them. For example, who would compose the test to determine who gets extra votes? Even if we assume that Brennan has good ideas about making any test fair, public-choice analysis gives us reason to doubt that his ideas would be adopted.

Another problem with testing relates to Gilbert Ryle's distinction between "knowing how" and "knowing that." Someone could be ignorant of the facts asked for on a test—what's the unemployment rate? what party controls Congress? Etc.—but have perfectly libertarian instincts about what the government ought not to be able to do to him. Why should that person have fewer votes than, say, Paul Krugman or George Will?

The shame here is the Brennan needn't have gone down this road. He needed only to spell out the flaws in democracy, contrast stupid "public" action with reasonably intelligent private action, and call for a substantial shrinking of government—if not its abolition. Why invite the elitist charge with a call for an epistocracy?

Albert Jay Nock had it right in the opening of his classic book, Our Enemy the State:

If we look beneath the surface of our public affairs, we can discern one fundamental fact, namely, a great redistribution of power between society and the State. This is the fact that interests the student of civilization. He has only a secondary or derived interest in matters like price fixing, wage fixing, inflation, political banking, 'agricultural adjustment,' and similar items of State policy that fill the pages of newspapers and the mouths of publicists and politicians. All these can be run up under one head. They have an immediate and temporary importance, and for this reason they monopolize public attention, but they all come to the same thing; which is, an increase of State power and a corresponding decrease of social power.

It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power. There is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power.

(Emphasis added.)

Social power is Nock's term for the web of peaceful consensual relations—market and otherwise—among free individuals. Thus the people's best political framework is neither democracy nor epistocracy but original liberalism, or what we today call libertarianism.

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog.

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  1. Which is worse? An electorate voting for its own interests or against its own interests?

    Also, here in the United States of America we’re governed, not ruled.

    1. Also, here in the United States of America we’re governed, not ruled.

      Whether governors, rulers, leaders, or anything else, isn;t that a distinction without a difference? It doesn’t really matter much whether we are ruled by vague and shoddy law as written and interpreted by fallible men, or ruled directly by fallible men.

      1. Yeah, when your average individual has no say in the rulemaking process and no way to reasonably affect the how laws are applied, that sounds a lot like being ruled to me.

        1. Same as with voting — some people say voters are irrational, some say they are rational and don’t vote rationally because they know their vote is not important. I say voters are entirely rational and realize that one vote every two years cannot represent any rational combination of views on all the areas where government intrudes. Voting is a facade so the rulers can delude the delusional into thinking government represents the will of the people.

          1. Voting absolutely represents the will of the People.

            We have a messed up USA because it is the will of the People to not vote, vote against their interests, continue to re-elect failed incumbents and not run for office when the available candidates are corrupt assholes.

            1. Way to go, Bud. Next time try responding to what was written.

              1. Reason shall prevail!

                You said voting is a facade and voters are entirely rational. I disagreed with you.

            2. Yeah, people suck. I mean, not us, but you know…other people.

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  2. Liquid governing emanating from the within mean. Social clumps can rest like fucking bubbles against each other without bursting a goddamn thing. Force all the disparity, alternatives, and traditions under the same smashing thorny boot and societies become pestered harried clods of blood-wrapped delusion lorded over by eternalized elite capricious malevolence.

  3. I sometimes take an opposite tack, and say that I am for extreme democracy, extreme decentralized government, extreme federalism, something of that sort. It doesn’t mollify statists and collectivists, but it sometimes catches them off guard and forces them to weasel around my implication that I am for more democracy than they are, which is always entertaining.

    1. This makes more sense to me and seems like the more libertarian sentiment. I don’t know what the fuck Jason Brennan was thinking writing this book. I don’t see how I can consider him a serious libertarian. BTW, Brennan is one of the leading bloggers at for those that don’t know him. It’s a good site to get the bile flowing if you are so inclined.

  4. What’s wrong with democracy? It’s worked great for hundreds of years. So there are some government excesses. We’ve just gone off the rails a bit and need to rein it in. Vote for Hillary and downballot libertarians/principled conservatives – ensure gridlock for the next 4 years then hand the presidency to Rand Paul in 2020 to clean up the mess.

    1. Your plan is delusional fantasy. Good luck with it though.

    2. “Pay attention to meee!” the troll explained.

      1. You have such insightful comments, CX.

    3. Get to work finishing that book, fuckface Dave Weigel. It isn’t going to magically finish itself.

      1. First of all, I am working on the book. Secondly, my publisher told me to take my time and not be pressured. He also said if you really want it finished then you should help me write it, though he can’t pay you.

    4. Yeah, look how well Democracy has worked for Cuba, the Soviet Union, and North Korea.

  5. “Whenever we libertarians point out democracy’s perverse incentives (as I do here) we risk being accused of elitism.”

    The problem with representative democracy is that it’s insufficiently democratic.

    Markets are direct democracy.

    I can even choose not to participate at all.

    Surely, being ruled by an unaccountable bureaucracy isn’t better than people being free to make choices for themselves–just because the unaccountable bureaucracy is ostensibly overseen by people we elect.

    1. Markets are in no way democratic.

        1. The fact that David Hasselhoff had a singing career is proof that markets don’t work.

          1. Germans are also into scheisseporn. Just sayin’.

            1. You’re strengthening my case! The fact that people like different things than me proves I need a violent government to make them like what I like.

              1. +1 Ministry of Culture

              2. This is what Tony actually believes.

      1. Democracy mean everybody gets some say in how everyone else get to run his life. The free trader does not impose his will on anyone, no matter how many people chuse to trade the same products. There is no point at which enough people buying something results in another person being forced to go along.

    2. Electoral democracy isn’t really representative, unless 90% of the population are corrupt malignant narcissists. Selection isn’t a panacea, but it’s a necessary first step.

      1. The electoral college is because it was supposed to be a federal Republic. As such, the states are treated as moral agents whose consent must be begged and which must be treated as distinct from that of their individual components.

  6. This sounds reasonable. It’s remarkably well-written, with clever points.

    I need to lie down. Just give me a minute.

  7. Government is bad mkay, because it is violence. Thus government should be restricted to doing only those things that involve shooting and imprisoning people.

    And we need to be suspicious of democratic outcomes because people are stupid. But somehow they become rational robots in the marketplace.

    The reason people critique libertarianism for supporting elitism is because you can’t get around the fact that democratic majorities will never choose libertarianism, and so you imply some restriction, coming from some nondemocratic force, should exist. And it should enact exactly the policies you want regardless of objections to government violence.

    1. It’s just friggin weird that you are making me defend Sheldon Richman from a Manichean false dilemma.

      Little of Column A, little of Column B. It’s a possibility, that’s all I’m saying.

    2. And we need to be suspicious of democratic outcomes because people are stupid.

      It’s unfortunate that you point this out sarcastically. But I suppose you’re happy with stupid people deciding the rules.

      1. Who gets to define stupid? People with the world’s dumbest political ideology?

        1. I would think each person should get to decide what stupid is. Then each person could decide whether or not someone stupid is trying to make the rules that everyone is going to have to follow. You know, kind of like democracy.

          Unfortunately, you seem to be hung up on the belief that it’s only democracy when rules you like are made. Or maybe that it’s only democracy when rules are made at all. Does democracy not include the ability for a person to rule himself?

          1. As long as everyone subject to the laws of a jurisdiction gets to vote for the people who make those laws, I’m content to call the system legitimate, even if I don’t agree with the outcomes. The whole unstated point of this article is the problem libertarianism has in not appealing to enough people to ever be democratically implemented.

            1. I look forward to your just bending your head for the executioner when President Christfag McHitler gets elected someday and the Christian Jihadis finally institute their final solution for “teh gayz”.

              You know, cause democracy!

              (If you couldn’t tell, I’m saying you’re full of shit and you’re only content to call it legitimate when it doesn’t affect you.)

              1. Implying that your system, whatever that is, protects gays from the bigoted mob with the use of magical freedom force fields or something.

                It was a good idea to protect the rights of members of minority groups from the whims of simple majoritarianism, for obvious reasons. I never said I was against that, no matter how many times you idiots claim it.

            2. So you’re content to be ruled by the will of stupid people. Good on you.

              I’ll agree that libertarians have a blind spot which leads to belief that people would be libertarians if only they understood libertarianism. As I see it, the majority of people do want to be free, they just don’t want people who don’t think like them to also be free.

        2. Yep. Your guys are the ones currently defining it.

    3. Tony|9.26.16 @ 10:02AM|#
      “Government is bad mkay, because it is violence.”

      So you prefer violence? Not surprising:
      Tony Judt: “What begins with centralized planning ends in centralized killing”

      1. No, you “prefer” violence. That’s all you think government should do. What you don’t prefer is taxation, which you define as violence, which is somehow only bad when it’s metaphorical.

        1. Government has two tools and only two tools.

          1. Force

          2. Control of the money supply (which indirectly relies on force to limit alternatives)

          Everything else is derivative to these and rely on these tools in order to achieve anything. So yes, taxation is violence, because it relies on the threat of violence in order to work.

          1. Government has two tools and only two tools.

            1. Force

            2. Control of the money supply (which indirectly relies on force to limit alternatives) Force

            1. It’s fair to point out that government often shapes incentives though “softer” means like adjusting the money supply or where the money from tax receipts is spent. That does not fundamentally alter the fact that those “softer” tools are all implicitly backed by the hard tool of force.

              Much like how “soft power” in diplomatic circles is worthless without hard power to back it up.

            2. Fair enough

          2. But protecting your property rights means literal violence is employed to remove trespassers. If government is bad because it employs violence, why is it good only in the cases when it actually employs literal violence?

            1. We differ in the scope of when it is acceptable to use violence.

            2. When the government protects property, it does as much a service to the trespasser as the owner.

              Your constant presumption that power always flows from ownership ought to at least give you the insight to realize that it’s a lot better for the cops to deal with the trespasser than for the owner to. The cops have an incentive–in a functional polity, at least–to follow the law. Absent legal protections for individual rights, the owner doesn’t.

              Of course, it works both ways. The mob shouldn’t get to take someone’s property just because they’ve got a larger group and sharper pitchforks.

              You talk about equality but that’s not what you really want.

          3. I disagree that taxation is violence itself but the only way for government to enforce its rules is through coercion and force.

            Some people would not pay taxes without threat of force and coercion to collect those taxes. I would voluntarily pay a small tax rate to cover roads, military and courts. Basic government services laid out in the Constitution. Instead the Nanny-State behemoth wants upwards of 35% of my income from all sources, plus tax on gas and sales tax on all purchases in sales tax states.

            1. There’s not a single person who is happy with everything the government does. That’s how it will always be in a democracy. You’re entitled to say what your preferred scope of government is, but you’re not really entitled to say that the constitution happens to endorse your worldview and yours alone. Clearly it also endorses the status quo, or we wouldn’t be here.

              1. If the government we have is endorsed by the Constitution, then why did it take 100 years before even resembling its current self, and 150 before settling on its current form?

                Never mind the 27 Amendments, or the 17 of them that came after ratification. The Constitution itself has been “reinterpreted” so many times that the words on the paper are practically meaningless. We are not governed by the Constitution, but by the courts, Congress, the President, the civil service, etc.

                1. There’s only so much a piece of paper can do all by itself. I’d say technology has perhaps played the biggest role in the changes in what government does. I consider government programs like Social Security to be technologies too. It’s been around for almost a century without being eliminated by the interpretive branch of government, so I assume it’s constitutional. Get enough people to vote your way and you can get people on the supreme court who feel differently. No doubt they’ll justify gutting a century of policy because the constitution told them to do so.

                  1. Fail to report and pay OASDI tax, and what happens?

                    SS is a Ponzi scheme with guns behind it. It’s not “technology”, it’s just another version of redistribution.

                    Thievery backed by thievery.

                  2. The Constitution has been facing an uphill battle with all the usurpers trying to destroy it and what it stands for.

                    Add in a lack of personal fortitude, lack of education and lack of respect for Liberty- presto! Nanny-State policy.

              2. +1 Obamacare

              3. I don’t have to be happy with everything the government does. The Constitution only gives the government certain enumerated duties. Other than those, it is up to states and the People for the rest of life’s curve balls.

                Luckily for me, my Worldviews sync up very nicely with the Constitution, which is why I still live here fighting to destroy what progtards have done to the USA.

                We are here because we have not tipped to complete socialism yet.

                We have usurpers among us.

            2. You should tell that to the people I’ve known who were physically attacked by the IRS, imprisonned, at the point of many guns. Some of them. You can’t tell all of them, because some of them were killed. “Taxation doesn’t involve force” is one of the stupidest things people say. They have force. They use it. My mother was forced off a public highway, held at gunpoint, and eventually given a jail sentence, on orders from IRS, with two IRS agents present and in co?rdinating the other various agencies involved in the attack.

    4. Democratic majorities chose libertarianism for much of the US’ history, and continue to in many areas. They also often violated those principles in favor of oppression. The elephant you’re ignoring is that collectivism has been far more cruel, not least because violating its high minded principles of egalitarianism in favor of oppression is the main feature of such systems. When choosing between the least bad system, I’ll take classical liberalism with its short shelf life over collectivism and it’s guaranteed death march, thank you.

      1. It’s all collectivism. Or are you not saying that everyone is best off under a libertarian regime? The flaw is thinking that because libertarianism mouths platitudes about individual freedom that it’s somehow not a regime at all.

        But modern liberals (liberalism being a thing that has evolved over the centuries to incorporate new moral norms and technologies) think that their regime offers the best shot at widespread freedom. They’re simply not hung up on the income tax being equivalent to gas chambers.

        1. They’re simply not hung up on the income tax being equivalent to gas chambers.

          It helps that they’re not by and large the ones who shoulder that burden. Despite all the protestations that the rich aren’t paying their “fair share”, the government (esp. the Federal government) is in practice an institution that takes from one group of people and gives to an entirely different group of people. The protection of property rights is a tiny fraction of what most governments spend their money on.

          It’s absurd to say that the recipients of stolen goods are the moral authority on the righteousness of the stealing.

          1. the government (esp. the Federal government) is in practice an institution that takes from one group of people and gives to an entirely different group of people.

            Yes, that is one valid way to define government, and not especially the federal government, but all of them. You just don’t like certain policies, ones you claim the poor favor, as if the poor don’t have, if anything, an even greater personal stake in government policies than the rich who are more able to pack up and move if they don’t like things.

            Thinks you deem OK for government to pay for by violently ripping property away from people and redistributing it to other people” police, prisons, armed forces. Things you don’t like: taxing, because it’s kinda like violence!

            See my confusion?

            1. If your definition of government is a vehicle for theft, then why do you demand that it be respected? I owe no respect to an institution founded on criminal activity. Should I bow to the mafia, too?

              But I don’t believe that’s the definition of government. It is not there to redistribute. It is there to: a) keep other governments out and b) resolve disputes between the people while respecting their rights. Does it need operating capital to meet those ends? Of course. That justifies a single, small amount of tax. Not every tax. Not every tax rate. And certainly not a “progressive” tax scheme like we have. Every citizen benefits from the government, so all should pay for it. Not just the few whose money is, actually, a lot less powerful than a majority of votes (despite whatever left-wing talking points claim).

              I want far fewer things to be crimes. But I’m not gonna get all bent out of shape if murder, rape, and theft are crimes and people go to jail for committing them. Don’t like it? Don’t abuse your fellow man.

              My problem is that your goal is to institutionalize the abuse. You want take an aberrant, marginal behavior and turn it into standard operating procedure.

              1. You cannot claim that taxation is equivalent to violent theft and then say a little violent theft is OK out of bare necessity. This is simply and obviously a way to justify your preferred minimalist policy. Since armed forces are permissible, does that mean untold trillions are permissible, or does the same well of principle you’re drawing from define the parameters there too? Could we legitimately tax people 100% to pay for armed forces?

                The point is none of this is set in stone; you just want to pretend that your preferences are. Democracy does things you won’t like. That’s what goes with sharing a country with hundreds of millions of other people. Some of us think that it’s OK to tax and redistribute to pay for healing people and preventing starvation in addition to bombing foreigners and locking up murderers. You can legitimately disagree, but you don’t get to say I favor government violence while you don’t.

                1. Democracy does things you won’t like.

                  Then “democracy” can pay for them.

        2. Yet, there progressive schemes never work like they hope.

          Free market and Libertarianism have worked as designed with some minor hiccups. Those hiccups tend to be undermining socialists trying to wreck free markets and classic liberalism.

        3. Clearly most people are ok with an income tax, but that doesn’t prevent me from arguing that it’s immoral. Repeat for entitlements, going to war, free speech restrictions etc – all of which at one point were/are popular. And sure any government action is collective in nature but you know damn well the difference between collectivism as a broad concept vs limited government. The basic truth is that we are both radicals pulling at different ends of a rope. But the end of the road I want doesn’t have the murderous track record yours does.

        4. The point is that nobody can say what is best for everyone. That’s insane. Libertarian’s basic argument doesn’t argue that everyone would be better off (whatever it means) being free, but rather that theft is wrong. It doesn’t matter whether you imagine everyone would be better off if a gang of thugs was stealing from them, because evil is never justifiable no matter how good are the intentions of the criminal.

  8. “Assuming the only alternative to rule by the people is rule by an aristocracy reveal a tragically incomplete awareness”

    Should be “reveals”?

    Also, people aren’t wearing enough hats.

    1. “Also, people aren’t wearing enough hats.”

      Valve shill detected.

    2. We can dance when we want to, Goddammit.

    3. Well, according to “some” grammarians, abstract substantives like “assuming” don’t take an -s in the plural, so possibly he meant “assuming” in the plural.

  9. So, Jason Brennan = Chris Kyle? /sarc

  10. . . . we should ask why anyone at all must rule.

    You’d almost think we were pack animals carrying out our genetic programming, complete unaware that we are doing so, instead of rational individuals with free-will.

    1. Aren’t we more troop animals, being hairless apes?

      1. *Technically*, troop is monkeys and kangaroos. Apes in general are a ‘shrewdness’ and gorillas a ‘band’.

        But these are all names for a similar sort of group organization.

        1. An Arrogance of Papillons

  11. Democracy is almost certainly better than other strategies for a people to govern themselves.

    The thing is, democracy versus other means begs the question of whether men should be governed or ruled. Protecting people from violations of rights is a perfectly legitimate activity. That’s governing. The problem is that governments inevitably overstep this function to begin to impose the will of some on others. Not as a response to violations of rights, but simply for the preferences of the rulers. And it really makes little difference whether that ruler is the king, the padron, the laird, or 50%+1.

    1. begs the question

      What you really meant to say here is ‘raises the question’.

      1. Not really. The democracy/elitism debate pretends the question of rule versus governance doesn’t exist.

        That’s begging the question.

        1. I see. Maybe a slight rewrite so that dummies like me can get what you’re saying.

          “Comparing democracy to other forms of government is comparing governance to rule. And saying that men need to be either governed or ruled is begging the question.”

          Does that sound like a fair translation?

    2. A Democratic Republic is even better because it tries to protect individuals from the tyranny of a majority.

  12. The country never restricted the vote to the cognitive elite. It restricted the vote to people who had some stake in the system, namely property owners. They didn’t deprive blacks or women of the vote just because they thought them inferior, they deprived them of the vote because since they were not full citizens they did not have a full stake in the system and thus had no business voting.

    That thankfully has changed and women and minorities are full citizens. That does not however take away from the wisdom of allowing only those who have some stake in the system from voting. In today’s world no one who works for the government or doesn’t own property or have a job in the private sector should be voting (I would include anyone who receives a private pension as “working’ since that pension is just deferred compensation for their job in the private sector).

    If you don’t own land or have a job in the private sector, you don’t really have a stake in the system and thus have no business voting. Go back to that principle and things would get a lot better.

    1. The sick thing is you’re actually serious.

      What counts as property? Everyone owns something, even if it’s a stick of gum. Or is this restricted to owning land, for some arbitrary reason?

      Who doesn’t have a stake in government? If people are disenfranchised for your arbitrary reason, does that mean they don’t have to follow laws?

      1. The sick thing is Tony, you are so stupid, you can’t understand the problems with universal suffrage. And owning property means owning land. If you don’t own anything permanent and don’t have a job or pay taxes, you have no stake in the system and have no business voting. Inevitably allowing people who either work for the government and thus have a direct interest in expanding it or people who don’t own anything or pay any taxes and thus have nothing to lose by expanding it and taxing others, makes government into a vehicle to for those who don’t have a stake in the system to loot those who do.

        You will never understand that because you are such a shallow thinker. You are incapable of going beyond a few feel good platitudes and assumptions, one of which being “everyone should vote”. It is the wages of being stupid.

        1. If I can be arrested and imprisoned, I have a stake in the government, whether I own any land or not. We’ve done rule by landowners. It was deemed to be just a tad unjust.

          1. If I can be arrested and imprisoned, I have a stake in the government, whether I own any land or not.

            Fine. Then you get to vote on what is or isn’t a criminal act. But you don’t get to set the tax rates, or decide how the money is spent.

            One of the many problems of modern government is that it rolls a bunch of disparate and unrelated tasks into one instrument.

            1. Tony being paranoid and stupid assumes that in such a system people would automatically vote to throw everyone else in jail. This is bunk for a couple of reasons. First, we have a constitution that ensures the laws are in some measure applied equally. Second, most of the things that people want to criminalize, the productive class engages in as well. Short of criminalizing things like vagrancy, it is hard to see what motivation to criminalize the underclass they would have.

              And of course, we have universal suffrage today and have expanded the criminal justice system beyond all proportion. So, it is not like my system would make things any worse.

              1. How often do you run into someone arguing that the solution to a perceived problem is the thing we are already doing. When you point that out they just say, well we haven’t done it right or hard enough. “The patient ails. More leeches.”

              2. Plus those greedy rich people can’t have all their servants getting picked up for every minor thing so they’d have a vested interest in not letting things get too out of hand.

            2. All government does is spend money. Its entire job is to reallocate resources for certain ends, including administering justice (or its poor imitation of such).

              But everyone pays taxes. The only possible reason you could have for restricting the franchise to people who pay a certain kind of taxes more is because you don’t like those particular taxes. This is grossly stupid and you surely know that.

              1. But everyone pays taxes.

                No, they don’t. Everyone pays sales tax. But not everyone pays income tax, or property tax. And some states don’t even have sales tax. Why should you get to say that 25%+ of my income should be confiscated, when none of yours will be? Or that my property should be taxed, when you have none to pay the tax on?

                1. If you don’t like it you’re welcome to quit your job and become poor so you don’t have to pay income tax. Since it’s such a boon and all.

                  1. Many people do just that because, relatively speaking, it is a “boon” to them. But not everyone does, because some people have dignity and self-respect. I realize those are foreign concepts to you, but you might try to have some empathy for one’s fellow man.

                    And why would I have to quit my job? I thought the income tax didn’t involve any actual violence?

              2. Tony|9.26.16 @ 11:16AM|#
                “Its entire job is to reallocate resources for certain ends, including administering justice (or its poor imitation of such).”

                You just made that up, and expect us to take it at face value, you lying piece of shit.

      2. “What counts as property? Everyone owns something, even if it’s a stick of gum.”

        Fine. Representation in relation to taxation; no representation without taxation, if you will.
        Pay sales tax on gum? OK, here’s your vote.
        Pay property tax and income tax and capital gains tax and business tax and…? OK, here’s your votes.

        1. Yeah again the sick thing is you’re actually serious. And you cry into your pillows about why no one takes you guys seriously.

          1. A serious liar is still a liar, a serious thief still a thief, a serious killer still a killer. I don’t really much care how “seriously” you take yourself; I care whether you are honest and fair.

            Your justifications are always base and self-serving.

            1. Why do I need to justify an argument against letting only people of means (arbitrarily defined by idiots on the internet) vote?

              1. Tony|9.26.16 @ 11:20AM|#
                “Why do I need to justify an argument against letting only people of means (arbitrarily defined by idiots on the internet) vote?”

                Because you make the arbitrary claim otherwise. But you knew that, didn’t you? What’s one more pile of bullshit from Tony? A good start.

              2. 1. Praise universal suffrage
                2. Decry idiots
                3. ???
                4. Profit

        2. Fine. Representation in relation to taxation


          Equal taxation. I pay $3250 a year. My wife pays $3250 a year. Bill gates pays $3250 a year. The kid working the register at Mickey D’s pays $3250 a year for equal shares of government “services.”

          NOW, our votes are equal AND we’ll honestly see how many people are in favor of increasing the size of government…

          1. Or handle votes the same way that corporate proxy votes are handled:

            The stockholder gets votes equal to the number of shares he or she owns in the company.

            Every voter gets one vote for each dollar he pays in federal taxes – income taxes, FICA taxes, federal gas taxes, etc.

            There is no legitimate reason whatsoever ever why someone who pays no federal taxes on a NET basis (i.e net of EITC, food stamps, etc.) should get an exactly equal say in spending the federal pot of money as everyone who pays thousands, hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars in federal taxes.

          2. And if someone’s too poor to afford that amount, lock them in a cage and remove their franchise, of course. For freedom.

            1. Tony|9.26.16 @ 11:17AM|#
              “And if someone’s too poor to afford that amount, lock them in a cage and remove their franchise, of course. For freedom.”

              Beat that strawman and fake those equivalences, Tony!
              Mendacity’s all you got.

            2. No one is suggesting that non-taxpayers be imprisoned.

              But why should you have a say in something that you made no contribution towards?

              1. So clearly the wealthy who find schemes to avoid paying taxes should also lose the right to vote.

                The principle at play is consent of the governed, not skin in the game (as narrowly as you define it). If government can arrest and imprison me, I get to vote. It can at any point increase my taxes even if I pay none now, so why should I only get a say after the fact?

                (As it happens I also think imprisoned convicts should have the right to vote; few have as much of a stake in government policy as they do.)

                Is libertariansm composed entirely of the few and the proud who skipped civics in 8th grade to smoke weed, or what?

                1. So clearly the wealthy who find schemes to avoid paying taxes should also lose the right to vote.

                  If you can find a millionaire who pays no tax, then sure. But paying $20 million instead of $25 million, when half the country pays $0, is not failing to contribute.

                  It can at any point increase my taxes even if I pay none now, so why should I only get a say after the fact?

                  What happened to the “fair share”? Every other voters has already been paying the tax. Why should you get a break?

            3. So you would be cool if i didn’t pay my taxes then?

            4. And if someone’s too poor to afford that amount, lock them in a cage and remove their franchise, of course. For freedom. decrease the amount of government services until they can.

              OMG…a positive incentive towards limiting government…the fucking horror!

              1. And justice for some! Keep brainstorming and we’ll get straight to feral anarchy in no time.

                  1. Tony repeatedly demonstrates that he has no idea what justice actually is. You would think someone with a degree in philosophy would have paid the slightest bit of attention to Plato.

    2. Grow a brain, John. Property-owners will be the cognitive elite.

  13. There is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch.

    1. This is why leftists hate civil institutions so much and are forever trying to destroy them or co-opt them into being part of the state. They compete with the state for power and thus are a direct threat to leftist’ Utopian projects.

      Moreover, once the state starts doing something people naturally stop doing it for themselves and start seeing it as the state’s duty and not theirs. You want to know why parents no longer educate their kids like they once did? Because the public schools took the job from them and parents now see it as the schools’ job to educate their children and not their own. The bigger the state is, the less people do for themselves.

    2. Damn right Hampster !!!

      Nock nailed it.

  14. “epistocracies should keep some things?like our basic rights?off the bargaining table. They should make power widespread because concentrating power among the few invites abuse. Epistocracies should have constitutional limits on power, judicial review, checks and balances and a bill of rights?just like representative democracies.”

    That’s a whole lot of shoulds that ignore the incentives of those who would rule us to really full-on RULE us.

    Power hungry sociopaths are gonna want to control us.

  15. The other thing about Democracy is that the consent of the governed is necessary for any just government. Even if your solution is correct, it isn’t going to work unless the people it is being imposed on consent to it and at some level see it as legitimate. So some measure of Democracy is necessary for any government to be both legitimate and effective.

  16. If tony is against the rule by the wealthy…why does he support the democratic party? Doesn’t make too much sense.

    1. Whoever is running the Tony sockpuppet is just getting warmed up for the post-debate.

    2. Because they support raising taxes on the wealthy.

      I suppose you think Donald Trump is a hardscrabble populist as well. The guy’s entire identity is his alleged wealth, and people take him for a man of the people. Yeah I’m the one suffering from cognitive dissonance.

      1. The democrats and their donors are the wealthy…you do realize this right? My guess is they will raise taxes on the wealthy and the extra revenue will be spent conveniently helping their billionaire friends like Steyer, Buffet, Gates, Musk.

        1. Ackman, Hanauer, Soros

      2. How would raising taxes on the wealthy prevent rule by the wealthy? Seeing how the democrats and their friends are currently wealthy.

        1. Do you expect the wealthy to not be wealthy anymore? Or have that power you claim they have? How much will taxes be raised on the wealthy?

        2. Do I get to take a group of Republicans at a fundraiser and claim that everyone who supports Republicans wants to be ruled by obese sexual predators? The Clintons and George Soros do not make up the entire Democratic party.

          1. See Steyer, Gates, Ellison, Clooney, DiCaprio, Hanuaer, Ackman, Musk

            I heard they had a 100K a plate fundraiser in the hamptons a few weeks ago? Place of the common man!

            1. Zuckerberg, Twitter, Google, Bezos, Allen

            2. Yeah, there are people who are superrich and also socially conscience. Your implication that being rich goes hand-in-hand with greedy misanthropic sociopathy is rather an indictment of capitalism, isn’t it?

              Democrats are the only game in town at least giving lip service to changing the big-money system anyway. What are you expecting me to do, support Republicans?

              1. Yeah, there are people who are superrich and also socially conscience.

                Why do you and those who share your worldview get define what that means? Why do you assume that only conservatives’ policies are enacted for selfish reasons?

                I bet the Adelsons, Trumps, Bushes, Kochs, and Romneys consider themselves plenty socially conscious as well. And judging the record of societies built on ordered liberty vs those based on the redistribution of wealth, they’re probably right.

                1. Every society is based on the redistribution of wealth.

                  1. Every society is based on the redistribution of wealth.

                    Redistribution != Trade

                    Most functional societies are based on people doing what they want and exchanging with each other to get what they need.

                    The ones that are actually “based on” redistribution fail, hard and fast.

                    1. Every society has a government. Governments redistribute wealth. If that’s not going on, you don’t have a society, you have a desert. Or maybe an ocean. Somewhere where people don’t live. Trade cannot peaceably exist without rules, which are made and administered by government. But you know this.

                    2. You are defining redistribution down. Stick to what it actually means, buttercup.

                    3. Trade cannot peaceably exist without rules, which are made and administered by government.

                      Your ignorance never ceases to amaze.

                    4. Governments redistribute wealth.

                      Patently false assumption.

                    5. In trade there is no redistribution of wealth. Trade generates wealth. It doesn’t move it around. “Redistribution of wealth” is a fair definition of “theft”.

              2. Democrats are the only game in town at least giving lip service to changing the big-money system anyway.

                Raising taxes does not take “big money” out of the system, it enshrines the dependence upon “big money”.

                I realize that Democrats are not always very bright, but saying “we will be less dependent on your money the more of it we have” is not exactly sound reasoning.

              3. Ah so you admit to wanting to be ruled by the wealthy. Big money influencing me changes to big money? Hmmm

              4. So do you support socialism? Which ALWAYS ends up a rule by wealthy elites…each and every time.

                They are trying to rig it permanently in their favor.

                Big money dem donors who spend money trying to evade taxes just want to pay more and drop their influence?

                Yeah right!

          2. Tony|9.26.16 @ 11:34AM|#
            “The Clintons and George Soros do not make up the entire Democratic party.”

            You’re right; we left out that hypocrite Buffett, that hag Pelosi, the confused Feinstein, along with the ambulence-chasing Edwards, the lying Lizzy Warren, and if you’re like some perversion with your hypocrisy and lies, we’ll toss in “Carlos Danger”.

      3. Tony|9.26.16 @ 11:19AM|#
        “Because they support raising taxes on the wealthy.”

        Yep, make someone else pay for your ‘free’ shit. You look so good in green.

        1. Remember when he admitted he doesn’t like poor people and the reason he wants to give them stuff is so they will stay away?

        2. Bottom line…Tony is a disgusting shitweasel who wants shit he didn’t earn. He knows full well the only way he can achieve this is to set up a system of governance that will steal in his behalf.

          Come on, Tony, if you’re going to be a fucking immoral thief at least be man enough to do your own stealing.

          1. You’ve got to be a grown-up by now. Go read a grown-up book. This adolescent Ayn Rand passion about immoral thieving was old when I was a teenager. Granted she did herself hang onto it well into her Medicare years.

            1. How is wanting me to be taxed so you can be taken care of not immoral?

            2. Tony can you tell me again why claim to be compassionate yet admitted you hate poor people?

            3. None of which even attempts to argue against my point. You are an immoral pig who wants the benefit of someone else’s labor. You’re not competent or brave enough to steal it on your own so you promote a system that will do it for you.

              So not only are you a pig, you are a cowardly pig. About the lowest form of life on earth.

              1. So you’re against law and courts and armed forces and roads, i.e., other people’s labor. So go be an anarchist and cover your walls in foil or whatever it is anarchists do these days.

                1. No, for the thousandth time. I’m for limiting the role of government to the defense of individual rights, because such an arrangement maximizes individual liberty.

                  1. Well it maximizes simplicity at any rate.

                    1. Still doesn’t get around the problem that you’re stealing people’s labor.

                    2. So you have a problem with stealing labor…ok. So why do you suppport taxing me so you can be a bum?

                    3. you’re stealing people’s labor


                      I wasn’t aware that mutually agreed upon conditions of employment was theft. Please, tell me more.

                      And this from the man who believes in taking wealth at gunpoint and redistributing it. WHOSE philosophy steals labor?

                      Mendacious cunt!

                2. Strawman. Pretty sure i was talking about you wanting to take from me so you can be a bum

            4. Tony|9.26.16 @ 12:15PM|#
              “You’ve got to be a grown-up by now. Go read a grown-up book. This adolescent Ayn Rand passion about immoral thieving was old when I was a teenager.”

              Slimy piece of shit doesn’t miss a thing, does he?
              We can add ‘poisoning the well’ to your score of failed logic.
              Is there any bit of dishonesty you don’t use?

  17. So long as there exist governing overlays that have the ability to coerce the individual, we need to make sure that the jurisdictional boundaries of those overlays cover as small a physical area as possible. That way one can move with minimal cost if government becomes too overbearing. It also lessens the need to worry whether democracy or aristocracy or dictatorship is better or worse than the others. It’s like voting except rather than having politicians cycle through an institution that governs a large territorial boundary, the individual cycles through different small jurisdictions governed by different politicians. The size of the jurisdictions is key here to keep moving costs low.

    1. I agree with this. But it comes at an added cost to cross-jurisdictional activities. But I don’t understand why writers here will praise federal intervention to harmonize laws (like with self-driving cars) in order to keep a “state from making bad rules” – which is predicated on the assumption that the Federal layer of government won’t do that. And if the Feds didn’t do that then there’s no need for the quasi-independence the states have at all. Its actually an impediment.

  18. Richman, I have a question for you.

    If Trump is so horrible, why is the race so close? Is it, do you believe, because a lot of people simply *don’t know any better* regarding Trump? That they can’t see through his duplicitousness and PR machine?

    These are the people of this country and if they’re that blind and clueless and the only thing that will save them is paying careful attention to ‘Top Men’s’ advice – then what’s the point of democracy in the first place. Why not dump this sham and just appoint the person the wise and good of the country deem the best to lead us?

    Because the other explanation is that maybe *you’re* wrong and Clinton doesn’t have the advantages you think she does.

  19. A Richman thread, featuring Tony. That’s like throwing rocks at the lions before you let them into the Colosseum with the Christians.

    Well played.

  20. It is amazing tony complains about being ruled by the wealthy as he licks the boots of the democrat party….do they have a fundraiser that isn’t 25K per plate or at rich guy’s house?!

  21. The Republicans are controlled by the wealthy….just ignore all the democrats schmoozing with the billionaires /Tony

  22. Tony you support a candidate that has 12K pantsuit…but she represents the common man? lol

    1. Is there a middle-class candidate running in one of the two major parties?

      1. Like you didn’t vote for Hillary in the primaries.

        1. Well I’m not the one arguing that a Democrat can’t vote for a wealthy person for president, because I’m not retarded.

          1. Right, you’re just the one making sure that, if we’re going to have corruption in office, why go just half the way?

          2. But you said you don’t want to be the one ruled by the wealthy. She has many wealthy friends.

      2. So you support rule by wealthy if democrat?

        1. They have the right intentions.

          You know this, because while they lie all the time, every once in a while they tell the truth.

          Social consciousness!

          1. Clearly Tony doesn’t watch what they do. Actions speak louder then words

      3. There hasn’t been a middle-class President since (arguably) Gerald Ford, and his was an accident. So, the federal government has been making economic regulation and income redistribution a greater and greater share of its business for roughly a century and we are being ruled by wealthier and wealthier men.

        The very policies you advocate have, at best, failed to prevent oligarchy and, at worst, have actively encouraged it. So, thanks for nothing.

        1. The very policies you advocate have

          No, no, no! You didn’t let them go all the way! If only they could have gotten all that they wanted, then we would be enjoying the rousing democratic success of Venezuela.

  23. Can someone explain to me Tony’s ayn rand comment with respect to medicAre?

    1. Ayn Rand collected Social Security payments (I don’t know if she signed up for Medicare, but I wouldn’t be surprised). This invalidates everything she ever said, because OMG TEH HYPOCRISIES!

      Ignore any instance of a liberal Democrat being a hypocrite. That invalidates nothing, because they’re just fallible human beings and ideas are what matters.

      Never mind that government has never offered Ayn Rand or anyone else a refund of their SS/Medicare contributions. It’s your job to pay for their policies, and if you dare question them, well then you can continue to pay but never benefit!

      1. But what did she even say that would make her a hypocrite? Lefties never make this clear.

        1. She was pretty vocally opposed to welfare spending and entitlement programs.

          1. And rightfully so. However, she was forced to pay into these programs. Not sure how recovering money taken by force would be considered hypocritical?

            1. It’s kind of like how a person who went to private schools argues against school choice.

    2. He also regularly characterises concern for justice as infantile. Listen to him.

  24. Most Progressives like Tony if you press them long enough will admit that they don’t believe that the average person are capable of making the “right” decision, so therefore, people like them need make sure that they do the “right” thing.

    Or whenever their party has control of the House of Reps or Senate, they will without any irony say that, “Well majority rules,” or “We were given a mandate to do X,” but somehow has amnesia whenever the GOP gains a majority in either chamber.

    They don’t give a shit about democracy unless they are calling the shots. If they found out tomorrow that they could prevent anyone who doesn’t believe in what they believe in from voting, they would go full speed towards taking their right to vote away.

    1. That’s a nice description of Republicans, who have spent the last 6 years redefining democracy across the country to mean “Republicans win,” while Democrats let a guy get elected president by the supreme court despite losing the popular vote. Yeah maybe sometimes I do feel Democrats are a little too noble and would play hardball with democracy a bit more, but it’s better than being one of the tyrannical theocratic fuckfaces on the other side.

      Obviously people are capable of making stupid decisions in a democracy. That’s why it kind of depends on having a good education system. Which Republicans are working to gut too, of course.

      1. How are they working to gut education? Seeing how the education system is run by progs….why do the results appear to be worse and worse?

        So when your team is in power that = will of people. When pubs are, that is dissent is highest form of patriotism?

        1. By cutting budgets and promoting the wholesale swindle known as charter schools.

          And are you really surprised that liberals get more upset when Republicans are in power?

          1. Which budgets were cut exactly? How would a higher budget mean better education? Are you saying educators are deliberately slacking?

            For charter schools you don’t support school choice? What about folks who think they are beneficial? Dems in NY supported them fyi

        2. It would just be nice for consistency from you once in a while

        3. It would just be nice for consistency from you once in a while

  25. But what did she even say that would make her a hypocrite? Lefties never make this clear.

    Reclaiming some of the money taken from her by threat of force instead of burning those Social Security checks is hypocrisy.


    1. They use the same arguments with roads. “If you don’t like government so much, stop driving on government paid roads.”

      First off, I’m forced to pay for that shit, so fuck you I’m gonna ride the shit out of it.

      Secondly, the government really doesn’t really allow for any alternatives for me to travel, so fuck you.

      1. Next time say well you can’t criticize the Iraq then if you use the roads

      2. Sure it does. Lots of open space. Just buy the property and build your own roads.

        Or just accept that “forced” means a fee for use of civilization, just like you’re “forced” to pay for the meal you just ate in a restaurant.

        1. This is a strawman. Using your logic it is all or nothing.

          So Tony you supported gay marriage bans cause you use roads?

          So you would support a Republican theocracy cause you use roads?

          Remember you can’t criticize government!!

          1. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe a straw man. Maybe just word salad.

            You don’t have to like roads and you are entitled to use them anyway. But most people do like having roads, and you don’t always get your way all the time, as your kindergarten teacher no doubt said once.

            1. What are you talking about? How much taxes do you have pay?

              Where did i say i don’t like roads?

  26. So tony talks about social contracts and paying fair share but himself doesn’t want to pay taxes

  27. Tony didn’t zuckerberg, gates, buffet etc open up their own foundations to avoid paying taxes?

  28. Tony i need money can you help me out…as part of your social contract?

    1. I can but I choose not to. You’ll just spend it on play-doh to eat.

      1. So you talk about getting credit for being caring (libertarians are uncaring)…..yet you wont actually help me out?

        What is with you? It is almost like you want to talk, but force others to walk. Seems a bit lazy

  29. Tony do you think if liberals are in charge they should have unlimited power?

  30. Tony do you think Steyer, Gates, Buffet, Soros, Ackman, Musk, Zuckerberg, Ellis who donate to political causes are trying to influence policy? Note these guys are all billionaires

  31. Tony how does it make you feel that the standard of living in society today is due to fossil fuels?

    1. Fossil fuels don’t have feelings, so I don’t feel guilty for abandoning them despite all they’ve done for me.

      1. So you have abandoned them completely?

  32. Tony why do you feel liberals should get credit for being caring when they won’t themselves walk the walk? Why do they expect others to do it?

    Do you feel you are superior due to your politics and this is a way to communicate to the bee hive?

  33. Tony do you have any friends? You seem like a lonely bitter soul.

  34. The obvious answer would be to let the most productive members of our society decide, and by that I mean only those who are actually bearing the cost of having this Leviathan we call government run things. Only those who pay more into the system than they receive should be allowed the opportunity to have a say in what happens with the resources they provide the State. This criteria should be applied to a time period equal to the length of one term of the office (or offices) they are voting for in any given election. This would immediately disenfranchise all public employees and officials as well as those citizens who receive an in ordinate amount of government assistance or otherwise derive their main source of income from government coffers (for example, contractors, like myself). Earning back the franchise would be simple: just get off the dole. As it stands now, there exists an inherently flawed dynamic in which a significant portion of the electorate has a conflict of interest resulting from their desire to improve their own situation possibly at the expense of what represents the greater societal good. This antithetical dichotomy cannot possibly provide the most efficient or ethical outcomes for American society as a whole since there will always be a contingent of voters who seek to apportion ever greater quantities of other people’s resources for themselves.

    1. Couldn’t a faction of the “makers” gang up on a smaller faction and vote to take all their stuff?

      Jesus you guys are fascists to the core.


  36. RE: Against Democracy and Elitism
    The people’s best political framework is neither democracy nor epistocracy but original liberalism, or what we today call libertarianism.

    Oh please!
    Elitism is what made what our country is now…broke, held in utter contempt by both our allies (and enemies), war-torn, economically unstable, a bloated government, racial strife, etc.

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  38. Really Nice Post. Thanks for sharing with us.

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