Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System That Shouldn’t Work at All Works So Well
by Danny Oppenheimer and Mike Edwards
Democracy works. Voters are irrational, but democracy works. Polls are misleading, but democracy works. Ballots are poorly designed, politicians don’t know the will of their constituents, and those constituents are pretty out of touch anyway. And yet democracy works.
Just not for any of the ‘obvious’ reasons.
Psychologists and political scientists have found that most voters are uninformed, inconsistent, and easily swayed by irrelevant considerations. Moreover, politicians can use ballot design, media control, and gerrymandering to distort the will of even the most knowledgeable voters. In short, politicians win elections because of things like their height, their facial features, their famous last names, and their position on the ballot, none of which make them qualified leaders.
It would be all too easy to conclude, as have many recent authors, that democracy is inherently broken. Except that citizens of democracies are healthier, happier, and freer than citizens of other countries. If you measure by results, democracy functions beautifully.
In this book we will explain why a system that shouldn’t work at all in fact works so well. How a system comprised of irrational voters, choosing leaders in poorly designed and biased elections, can lead to such consistently good outcomes. Pulling from the most cutting edge research in psychology and political science, we report results that will surprise you, disturb you, and ultimately make you rethink democracy in all its forms.
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