Rethinking the epistemic case against epistocracy

DPhil student in Political Science, Udit Bhatia, has published and article on epistocracy in the journal, 'Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy'.


In this article, I focus on arguments which suggest that disenfranchising persons on the grounds of incompetence is likely to produce epistemically sub-optimal decisions. I suggest three ways in which such arguments can be strengthened. First, I argue that they can be untethered from the controversial ‘best judge’ principle, according to which each person is the best judge of his or her own interests. Second, I suggest that epistemic arguments against epistocracy are currently insensitive to the nature of the groups that would be excluded on the grounds of incompetence. Such arguments would remain unchanged were epistocracy to disenfranchise privileged persons rather than already disadvantaged persons. I argue that a stronger critique of epistocracy ought to focus on distinctive epistemic obstacles faced by socially privileged persons. Third, I argue that current epistemic critics of epistocracy ignore how its basis for exclusion entails consequences that are relevant to our assessment of its justifiability. Their criticisms would, for instance, remain the same had this exclusion been brought about in a random manner. Instead, I emphasise the deliberative costs that follow from the exclusion of disadvantaged groups qua incompetent.