Linker: An absolute democracy would assign political offices by lot

Damon Linker’s argument against compulsory voting weaves in Plato and the Socratic argument for aristocracy. His reasoning is an interesting modernization of the classical aristocratic mindset. His point about the contestability of excellence is good, and he makes use of it as a justification of electoralism.

A democracy gives every adult citizen a very small say in who rules. An individual doesn’t have to prove that he’s thoughtful or informed to exercise that right. As Plato argued 2,300 years ago, this makes democratic politics exceedingly peculiar. We don’t take a vote to determine the medical treatments that doctors prescribe, and neither do we ask for a show of hands about how to construct a bridge or a building. And yet we think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for everyone’s opinion about what policies our country should pursue at home and abroad.

That’s because in politics, unlike in medicine and engineering, the act of determining who does and does not possess knowledge and wisdom is exceedingly contentious. (One might say it’s a political act in itself.) So we solve — or rather, we sidestep — the problem by letting everyone have a say.
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