Against Epistocracy: For True Democracy

Why The Political Upheavals Of 2016 Point To A Need For Compulsory Voting

By Professor Lisa Hill (University of Adelaide)

January 15, 2017         Picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters.

This article is part of The Critique’s January/February 2017 Issue “Stick It To The Man: A Year Of Anglo-American Populist Revolt Against A Changing Culture And An Obtuse Political Establishment.”

As far as election results go, 2016 has been a strange year. Brexit, the subsequent “Regrexit” and the U.S Presidential election that resulted in Donald Trump’s victory have prompted many to re-evaluate representative democracy. Some have even suggested that, in order to make political decision-making more rational and apolitical, we should trade participatory democracy for epistocracy, a form of rule by the so-called “wise”. Although I’d be the last one to say that everything’s fine with democracy right now, a knee-jerk retrogression into epistocracy is hardly the solution.

For philosopher Jason Brennan, the “rise of Trump” —a candidate “seemingly as ill-informed as he is uninterested in policy”—“should challenge our faith in democracy”.[1] Similarly, the Brexit vote delivered by an electorate imperfectly aware of its implications should prompt us to “put aside the childish and magical theory that democracy is intrinsically just”.[2] As he sees it “[m]ost voters are ignorant of both basic political facts and the background social scientific theories needed to evaluate the facts”. Further “[t]hey process what little information they have in highly biased and irrational ways” and vote “largely on whim”. On this account “dumbnesss” is an unavoidable consequence of the universal franchise: in fact, democracy positively “incentivizes voters to be dumb”.[3] Because individual votes make so little difference, “we remove the incentive for people to use power wisely”. [4] Electoral democracy as it is currently practiced is therefore fatally flawed. By way of an antidote Brennan asks us to consider epistocracy as our best bet for better government.

Under such a system, the decision-making power of the “ignorant” masses would be reduced either by restricting the right to vote to those able to pass a political competence test, granting an educated elite “additional voting power” or else allowing panels of experts to overturn bad policy decisions.[5] By skewing the system towards experts we would presumably be governed by wiser, less interested and less corruptible rulers. In effect, we would trade the self-government of democracy for rule by an educated, (hopefully) apolitical intelligentsia.

This sounds like an endorsement of oligarchy but Brennan acknowledges that it would be unwise to allow power to fall into the hands of what would inevitably become the selfish few. At the same time, he doesn’t want the “incompetent” masses running the show so he proposes to split the difference in a solution that purports to at once spread power only to the extent that it cannot be used selfishly while at the same time weeding out —or at least reducing the power of —incompetent decision-makers.[6]

Brennan is keen to reassure his reader that his “epistocracy would look much like a modern democracy, with constitutional limits on power, a bill of rights, contests among political parties, free and open political speech, regular elections, checks and balances, division of powers, and the like”. So far, so good. But the devil, is, of course, in the detail. “[N]ot everyone would have equal voting power” and “[s]uffrage would be widespread but not universal”. This is where a participatory democrat like me starts to get nervous. Inequality of political power would not only be tolerated but legally mandated and distributed, not on the simple criterion of citizenship status, but according to far more complicated, opaque, qualified and exclusivistic foundations: demonstrated “competence, skill, and the good faith to act upon that skill”. Suffrage, the sovereign right of citizenship for which generations fought and sometimes died, could no longer be taken for granted but would have to be “earn[ed]”.[7] Under such a system, the politically competent would be able to multiply their voting power while the politically naïve would be left voteless and defenceless. As even the famous advocate of plural voting, John Stuart Mill, once observed: the right to vote is an individual’s safeguard from “the abuse of…authority” and “misgovernment”.[8] He is not alone in this view: that suffrage is the sovereign right that protects all other rights has been repeatedly asserted by both the United States Supreme Court[9] and the European Court of Human Rights.[10]

Assuming we find this particular variant of epistocracy too problematic Brennan proposes the almost equally problematic alternative of allowing “panels of appointed experts to veto harmful legislation, just as the Supreme Court vetoes unconstitutional legislation.” [11] Superficially attractive to many as a solution to a lot of what’s wrong with democracy today, there is a lot that is wrong with epistocracy, not least its derogation of the very purpose and foundation of modern democracy (I will return to this point in a moment). Then there is, of course, the legitimacy problem: as other critics have pointed out, Brennan fails to appreciate that “representatives need to be accountable to citizens as a prerequisite for democratic legitimacy”.[12] Further, how exactly do we determine which legislation is harmful and which isn’t? And don’t get me started on how we are supposed to decide if those with the greatest decision-making power really are acting in “good faith”.

But my main problem with Brennan’s scheme is that it is based on a misguided interpretation of what modern democracy is actually supposed to be doing. Brennan assumes that democracy is a device for arriving at “correct” decisions. The catch here is that, in the world of politics, “correct” is very much in the eye of the beholder and something to be determined through a process of debate, competition and compromise; this, indeed, is the very raison d’etre of representative democracy as it is currently practiced.

Brennan is certainly not the first political theorist to endorse epistocracy; it was famously championed by Plato millennia ago. But it took a serious hammering under the critical eye of his most famous student, Aristotle. It is instructive to take a close look at their disagreements here because it helps us to understand why participatory democracy is worth defending even as it seems to be failing us.



As mentioned, epistemic democrats regard the main purpose of democracy as producing ‘correct’ decisions arrived at impartially; such decisions will approach the ‘truth’ according to standards ‘that are independent of … procedures’ used.[13] Democracy is to be judged according to its outcomes; its capacity to promote wise decisions and laws[14] rather than the manner in which the decisions were arrived at, hence its high tolerance for what might seem like anti-democratic methods. So long as the decisions made serve the interests of the people in general, the aristocratic bias is tolerated.

Only the wise should rule because the expressed preferences of the multitude will tend towards bad decisions and therefore bad government. This approach is famously exemplified in Plato’s critique of Athenian democracy in The Republic.[15] Plato rejected participatory democracy on the grounds that knowledge (episteme – sometimes translated as “certainty” or “truth”) not opinion or belief (doxa – often implied as “opinion of the multitude”), should guide government laws and decisions. Plato regarded doxa as an inferior form of understanding that is herd-like and unreflective, emanating from the unreasoning, lower regions of the soul.[16] The business of governing is therefore reserved to the “philosophers” (guardians) who alone are capable of apprehending “truth” and “wisdom” (Republic, 6.484b).

In order to ensure that the guardians will devote themselves to the common good and not be distracted by personal concerns Plato required them to have neither private property nor families of the nuclear variety. This means that they should live communally, sharing wives and offspring, none of whom will know the identity of their biological fathers. Living this way will not only allow them to focus on one common good; it will also keep social and political conflict at bay. All “law-suits and accusations against one another” will “vanish” and the guardians will be “free from the dissensions that arise among men from the possession of property, children, and kin” (Republic, 5.464b–e).

Unlike the unwise multitude (mere “lovers of opinion”), philosophers have a “hatred…of falsehood” and are “lover[s] of truth” (arete) (Republic, 6.485c, 6.480a). In order for the state – and indeed the entire “human race” – to be free from “troubles”, there must be a “conjunction of…political power and philosophic intelligence”. The “motley horde” must not only be discouraged from participating but “compulsorily excluded” (Republic, 5.473c–d).

Certainly, in an age that is now deplored as “post-truth”, we could all do with more “truth-lovers”. But, even if we could get these “truth-lovers” into positions of power, would they be enough? As Aristotle shrewdly understood, not only are “truth-lovers” extremely hard to come by, even if they were in plentiful supply, they still wouldn’t be enough. Here’s why:

Like the epistemic democrats who came after him, Plato needed to hold the following three beliefs in order for his epistocracy to work: first, that there exists an identifiable common good; second, that there exist objectively “correct” political decisions that can be arrived at through the deliberations of the wise few, and third: that it is possible to completely eradicate partiality and personal interests from political decision-making.

These are all highly questionable assumptions. Is the primary purpose of democracy really to arrive at “correct” outcomes? Is there really any such thing as an identifiable common good? Is it possible (or even desirable) to divest our leaders of all personal interests that might interfere with their capacity to deliberate impartially and therefore correctly?


Against Plato

In contrast to the epistemic approach there are those –like me– who oppose Plato and focus on democratic procedures as the best way to conduct democracy. This approach is based on a realist appreciation of persisting interests and power relations in human societies. Plato’s ideal of no private interests and his complacent faith that the wise few can be trusted to make impartial decisions for the common good have been practically elusive; partiality and conflicts of interest have remained integral to the conduct of politics. This was the basis of Aristotle’s persuasive challenge to Platonic epistocracy. He had two further grounds for this challenge: first, he denied that “correct” decisions could ever be part of governing given the way humans really lived and the way power tended to be distributed in the real world. Second, and in light of this first fact, he rejected the Platonic conception of the whole point of democratic government itself. It was not a mechanism for making “correct decisions” and generating truth but a method for managing conflict and avoiding tragedy by securing the consent, liberty and equality of the people.[17]

So Aristotle asked us to think of constitutions as mechanisms for accommodating and limiting the negative effects of these facts of life. Politics is fundamentally about struggles for power so government should be seen as a mechanism for managing and distributing that power so as to minimise and regulate the inevitable and quite natural conflicts between competing interests. Unless power is spread throughout the population, the society will be torn apart by class warfare. Therefore democracy is best understood as a substitute for violence and a preservative of stability.[18]

Aristotle understood something that all students of politics are compelled to acknowledge: attachments, families and private interests will likely be perennial aspects of human social life.[19] Until that changes, achieving complete impartiality in political decision-making is out of the question. There is only opinion on what should be done according to one’s individualised or social group perspective. This is not the same as denying the existence of brute facts or saying that the “post-truth” public culture is acceptable. Rather, it is an insistence that different groups will have different reactions to the brute facts and that, ultimately, it is opinion, not “truth”, that determines political decisions. Further, it is consent rather than virtue (or “good faith” in Brennan’s version) that confers legitimacy upon those decisions. These are the underlying reasons why we still have representative democracies in settings where we are lucky enough to be able to secure the conditions for them.

By denying Plato’s claim that doxa was nothing more than the worthless preferences of the rabble and arguing instead for its central role in democratic decision-making, Aristotle re-imagined democracy as a perspective- and power-sharing exercise capable of staving off tyranny and totalitarianism (and the social instability they inevitably brought) which he believed the Platonic ideal ultimately invited. Indeed, much later Karl Popper blamed Plato for the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century.[20]

Democracy, for Aristotle (as for many contemporary democrats, myself included), keeps conflict at bay by serving two intimately related values: liberty and political equality. “[J]ustice”, says Aristotle, consists in every citizen enjoying “an equal share” of power so s/he can “live as [s/he] likes” and not as a “slave”. Each should “govern and be governed in turn” and the decisions “of the majority must be final” and “sovereign” (Politics, 6 1317a–1317b).

I’m with Aristotle here; Brennan’s notion that democracy exists to generate “correct” decisions is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of its history. Democracy emerged as a reaction to aristocracy and other hierarchical, elite-based forms of rule. It was, and continues to be, as a struggle for political equality, for the right of people to participate – irrespective of social standing or levels of political competence – as the necessary condition for the enjoyment of liberty. It was a challenge to the belief that the wise few knew best and that politics could eradicate conflicts between different interests. Further, not only did the wise few seem not to know best; their claims to knowing best led to perpetual instability. Those who fought for representation and the diffusion of political power throughout the polis saw it as an exercise, not in truth, but in conflict accommodation, power-sharing, self-representation, as well as equality and liberty-enhancement.

Campaigners for suffrage rights in the early and late-modern period did not argue that the disenfranchised knew best: what they fought for was a voice, an equal share in power so that everyone could enjoy their liberty and rights. Thomas Paine made no mention of truth or wisdom when he called for equal representation; instead he demanded a universal release from political slavery and the right to bear rights.[21] There was no mention of epistemic considerations when Susan B. Anthony demanded voting rights for women in 1872. Who knew best or worst was beside the point; voting meant liberty, equality, rights, representation, power-sharing and the capacity to confer or withhold consent. It meant protection from wrongful imprisonment, exploitation and being taxed without being consulted about how the money was spent.[22] Similarly when when Lyndon B. Johnson defended the voting rights of all African-Americans he spoke only of equality, ‘liberty’ and ‘government by the consent of the governed’.[23]


So who exactly is ‘the people’?

Apart from my theoretical objections to Brennan’s epistocracy, I also have some practical objections, some of which relate to Brennan’s reading of recent empirical trends and their supposed implications for participatory democracy.

First of all, Brennan’s argument is based on the belief that ‘the people’, in fact, voted for Brexit and Trump. But in reality, the people—at least ‘the people’ as I define them— were not really present on these occasions. At the last US election, less than 60% of the voter eligible population voted (turnout at the last several elections hovered at around 55%).[24] Not only is that number scarily low, the composition of the vote was highly skewed; for example, young people were under-represented[25] while, as usual, the poor and marginalised turned out in much lower numbers than the prosperous and well educated. While turnout of 72% was unusually high at the Brexit referendum, participation rates in British parliamentary elections normally hover at around 60%[26] with the composition of voters strongly biased towards well off, better educated and older voters, a bias that is fast becoming worse over time.[27] In fact, in most industrialised democracies worldwide, failure to vote is generally –and increasingly– concentrated among the young, the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, renters, new citizens, and people with low levels of education.[28] In other words, the worse off you are, the less likely you are to vote in voluntary systems like America’s or Britain’s. In effect, the overall trends[29] are delivering exactly what Brennan is calling for: a sifting of the electorate towards more educated, information-rich voters, regardless of some recent and rather odd electoral events. The problem is that the decisions of this electorate are not delivering the results that Brennan wants.

Brennan cites with regret the political psychology research of Diana Muntz that “citizens who can adequately explain political opinions other than their own rarely vote or participate in politics.” [30] If this is indeed true,[31] then we should find a way of getting these outliers to vote, not by forcing citizens to earn their right to vote through a test (which the outliers would be the last ones to want to sit anyway) but by doing something far simpler and more in keeping with democracy’s true spirit: getting everyone to vote. The best way of achieving this is through mandatory or compulsory voting.[32] I’m aware that this might sound a bit like putting out fire with gasoline but hear me out.


Can we do better?

According to Brennan “[d]ecades of social-science research suggest that political engagement tends not only to fail to educate or ennoble us, but also often to stultify and corrupt us”. Yet, true democracy (whereby just about everybody votes) does not seem to “incentiviz[e] voters to be dumb”; quite the opposite. Brennan is mainly concerned with systems where voting is voluntary. Yet, compulsory voting democracies are able to enhance political sophistication. Although some studies have found that compulsory voting has a neutral effect on levels of political sophistication,[33] other, more recent research concludes that compulsory voting laws can stimulate political engagement and cause “citizens to increase their political interest and attention to political news as well as their level of information about party platforms”.[34] This is partly because voters choose to inform themselves when they know they have to vote and partly because the voting process “imparts incidental knowledge”. Furthermore, and most importantly, it causes that knowledge to be spread more evenly throughout the citizenry. In effect, high levels of voting turnout democratise political knowledge because access to it becomes less reliant on educational attainment.[35] In other words, political knowledge is diffused throughout the general population but especially among those social groups that currently abstain in voluntary systems.

It seems that when citizens routinely vote, they become better informed and more politically competent in the way J.S. Mill would have anticipated. As is well known, Mill saw voting as educative and as something that takes practice: he wrote that one of the “foremost benefits” of electoral participation is the “education of the intelligence and of the sentiments which is carried down to the lowest rank of the people when they are called to take part in acts which directly affect the great interests of the country”.[36]

On a practical note, even if we agreed that its okay to legally exclude from voting those who fail a political competence test, such a measure would probably be legally infeasible because international human rights law prohibits restrictions on the right to vote “on the ground of physical disability, literacy standards, educational standards or property requirements”.[37] Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected attempts to restrict the franchise in order to promote “intelligent or responsible voting”.[38] In the 1970s the U.S. Congress instituted a federal statute that permanently banned the use of literacy tests nationwide as a precondition for voting, partly on the grounds that it disenfranchised minority citizens.[39] Obviously, we’d all prefer well-informed and competent voting to the alternative; however, the reasoning of the courts here is that the franchise is just too important for the protection of rights and the promotion of liberty and equality to be conditional on the quality of the reasoning behind a person’s vote. This practical, legal impediment to Brennan’s scheme also adds weight to my previous point about what democracy is supposed to be doing. In upholding the value of political equality over epistemic considerations, the courts endorsed the Aristotelian/procedural/participatory/self-governing ideal of democracy and rejected the Platonic/epistemic ideal (which I hesitate to even think of as a democratic form). They did so because they understood that modern representative democracy is about power and perspective-sharing, not “correct” decision-making.

As an Australian who lives in a setting which has used compulsory voting for nearly a century, ‘the people’ really means everyone, not just the prosperous, well-educated and older electors who tend to turn up on election day in most industrialised, voluntary-voting democracies.[40] The democracy I (and the majority of other Australians) inhabit quite happily requires everyone to share the not-particularly-onerous work of constituting democracy; and, like most other established compulsory voting regimes, Australia has more even wealth distribution, more social spending, less corruption and greater levels of satisfaction with the way democracy is working than do comparable voluntary voting regimes.[41] Relatively speaking, it therefore works quite well at delivering political equality and liberty and reducing social conflict while at the same time epistemically empowering the people.

Well functioning compulsory voting regimes demonstrate that in order for a democracy to serve the values of political equality and liberty, ‘the demos’ must be strictly defined as all not just some of the eligible voting population; otherwise representatives can only mirror the thoughts and preferences of a partial and biased segment of the electorate and this demonstrably leads to lower levels of trust in and satisfaction with the political system; this, in turn, leads either to angry or protest voting or a self-defeating political withdrawal. So, rather than calling for a shrinking of the electorate, what Brennan should be encouraging is an expanding one. Rather than turning our backs on democracy, we should be thinking about how to deepen and expand it.



I think Brennan is quite right to be worried about “the rise of angry, resentful, nationalist, xenophobic and racist movements, movements made up mostly of low-information voters” but the conclusion he draws from these trends—that we should “put aside the childish and magical theory that democracy is intrinsically just”[42] — is a dangerous and heroic leap of logic. Democracy is a just system and it is not “childish” to cleave to it as an ideal. Those who continue to defend it do so because properly functioning democracies are more stable and better places to live in than most of the alternatives. Nevertheless, democracy does need help right now.

Brennan is also right to hope that there are “better alternatives” to what is going on in many democracies. But exclusionary, aristocratic epistocracy is not one of them. A deeper, less maladaptive, more inclusive, more equalitarian democracy whereby everyone votes is a surer and safer bet.

Rather than questioning democracy as a basic concept why not consider how we can make democracy do its proper job of delivering and expressing political equality and liberty? In the process we can even get some of the epistemic outcomes Brennan seeks (e.g. a less information-poor electorate and less corruption). Contrary to his claim that “we cannot change the incentives” to ignorance “built into democracy” we can, in fact, incentivize voters to greater levels of political sophistication simply by requiring that everyone does their share in making democracy work as a social activity engaged in by all affected interests, not just a privileged elite or even a highly partial, information-poor minority. When participation is low, the political community is only partially and lopsidedly constituted and many, usually the worst off, are left out. Rather than “screen out[43] we need to “screen in” more voters. Now is not the time to chicken out on democracy: now, more than ever, we need to recommit to it in new and bold ways.

Footnotes & References

[1] Jason Brennan, “Pox Populi’, Chronicle of Higher Education, 64 (39), p. 9

[2] Jason Brennan, “Brexit, Democracy, and Epistocracy”, Princeton University Press Blog, 24/6/2016, available at, 7/12/2016. See also Brian Fung, “The British are Frantically Googling What the E.U. Is, Hours After Voting to Leave It”, Washington Post, 24/6/2016, available at, 7/12/2016.

[3] Brennan, “Brexit, Democracy, and Epistocracy”.

[4] Brennan, “Brexit, Democracy, and Epistocracy”.

[5] Brennan, “Brexit, Democracy, and Epistocracy”.

[6] Jason Brennan, Against Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016).

[7] Brennan, Against Democracy. This idea of a test for voting competence has also been mooted by Bryan Caplan (see Bryan Caplan, “Majorities against Utility: Implications of the Failure of the Miracle of Aggregation”, Social Philosophy and Policy, 26, no. 1 (2009): 198–211.

[8] John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government in Gray, J. (ed., intro.), On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991): 342; Ch. 8-10, passim).

[9] See Yick Wo v Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886)); Smiley v Holm, 285 U.S. 355 (1932); Evans v Cornman, 398 U.S. 419 (1970); Cook v Gralike, 531 U.S. (2001).

[10] See Hirst v United Kingdom (No. 2) [GC], no. 74025/01, ECHR 2005-IX (Grand Chamber, 2nd instance), [43] 59 (2006).

[11] Brennan “Pox Populi”.

[12] Schliesser Eric, and Tom Van Der Meer ,“New Proposals Would Let Lotteries or Experts Replace Voting. Here’s What’s Wrong With That”, Washington Post 18/8/2016 available at, 1/12/2016.

[13] Maria Saffon and Nadia Urbinati, “Procedural Democracy, the Bulwark of Equal Liberty”, Political Theory, 41 no. 3 (2013): 441–481.

[14] David Estlund, Democratic Authority: A Philosophical Framework (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008): 97–98

[15] Plato, The Republic. Trans. A.D. Lindsay (London: Everyman, 1995).

[16] Martha Nussbaum (ed) Essays on Aristotle’s De Anima (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

[17] Of course, Aristotle did not favour pure democracy, preferring instead a mixed constitution. But he knew what the democratic component of his constitution was supposed to be achieving and why it was necessary.

[18] Similarly, Karl Popper saw democratic elections as the only way to get rid of leaders without bloodshed (Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962).

[19] Even if we could divest political leaders of personal attachments and interests there is still no guarantee that they would remain free of biases.

[20] This is partly due to Plato’s ideal of rule of the wise but also because of his social engineering, his eugenics program and utopianism. Popper thought that this led to the appalling policies of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler (Popper, Open Society: 31 and passim).

[21] Thomas Paine, “Dissertation on First Principles of Government” in T. Paine, The Writings of Thomas Paine, Collected and Edited by Moncure Daniel Conway (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, [1791] 1894): III. xxiv.

[22] Susan B. Anthony, 1872. “Is It a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” 1872 [online]. Available at, 5/7/2013.

[23] Lyndon B. Johnson, “We Shall Overcome Speech to the Full Congress”, (1965) [online]. The History Place, available at, 20/3/2015

[24] Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) Voter Turnout Database, US, available at, 10/12/2016.

[25] The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, “Full Analysis: Young Voters in the 2016 General Election” available at, 9/12/2016.

[26] Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) Voter Turnout Database, UK, available at, 9/12/2016

[27] Oliver Heath, “Policy Alienation, Social Alienation and Working-Class Abstention in Britain, 1964–2010’, British Journal of Political Science, published online September 2016, available at

[28] See, for example, Arend Lijphart, “Unequal Participation: Democracy’s Unresolved Dilemma,” American Political Science Review 91, No. 1 (1997): 1-14. Lisa Hill. ‘Increasing Turnout Using Compulsory Voting’, Politics, 31 no. 1 (2011): 27–36.

[29] As opposed to somewhat atypical events like Brexit and even the Trump election.

[30] Brennan, “Pox Populi”.

[31] It’s a bit hard to square with what we know about the education levels of habitual voters.

[32] Hill, “Increasing Turnout Using Compulsory Voting”.

[33] See Birch, Full Participation: 140.

[34] Victoria Shineman, “Compulsory Voting as Compulsory Balloting: How Mandatory Balloting Laws Increase Informed Voting without Increasing Uninformed Voting,” Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto, 2010; Victoria Shineman, “Isolating the Effects of Compulsory Voting on Political Sophistication: Exploiting Intra-national Variation in Mandatory Voting Laws Across the Austrian Provinces,” Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, 2009.

[35] Jill Sheppard, “Compulsory Voting and Political Knowledge: Testing a ‘Compelled Engagement’ Hypothesis”, Electoral Studies, 40 no. 4 (2015): 300-307.

[36] Mill, Representative Government: 321.

[37] United Nations Human Rights Committee, General Comment 25, paragraphs 4, 10

[38] See Dunn v. Blumstein (1972) 405 U.S. 330, 343.

[39] Pamela S. Karlan, “Convictions and Doubts: Retribution, Representation, and the Debate Over Felon Disenfranchisement”, Stanford Law Review, 56, no. 5, (2004): 1147–1170.

[40] Voting turnout at Australian elections averages between 93 and 95% (RV).

[41] See Lisa Hill, Chapter 6 passim in Jason Brennan, and Lisa Hill, Compulsory Voting: For and Against (New York/London: Cambridge University Press, 2014). See also Sarah Birch, Full Participation: A Comparative Study of Compulsory Voting (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009).

[42] Brennan, “Brexit, Democracy and Epistocracy”.

[43] Brennan, “Pox Populi”.

Lisa Hill
Lisa Hill
Photo Credit: Gabrielle Rish. Lisa Hill is a Professor of Politics at the University of Adelaide. Prior to that she was an Australian Research Council Fellow as well as a Fellow in Political Science at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Her interests are in political theory, history of political thought and electoral ethics. Recent publications include: An Intellectual History of Political Corruption, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with Bruce Buchan) and Compulsory Voting: For and Against, (Cambridge University Press, 2014), with Jason Brennan). She has published her work in Political Studies, the Review of Politics and the British Journal of Political Science.

“How many newsworthy issues, which should have been the rightful domain of philosophy, have been usurped in recent years by religion, law, and psychology?”

Lee McIntyre

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