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[转载]智者统治能否修复美国民主?

已有 5852 次阅读 2016-9-3 18:47 |系统分类:海外观察|关键词:民主,美国,精英主义| 美国, 民主, 精英主义 |文章来源:转载

贾森·布伦南:智者统治能否修复美国民主?


【文章来源,参考消息

【原文来自美国《洛杉矶时报》网站828日文章】


现有制度催生“无知”选民

   民选官员往往会通过他们认为可以吸引中间选民的法律。左翼或右翼的政界人士通常可以通过转向中间立场赢得更多选票。总统候选人在初选后就会软化政策,这种做法就体现了上述理论。

中间选民对政界人士的终极行为具有很大影响力,但问题在于,中间选民的经济学或者政治学基础知识都不及格。

60年来,政治学家研究了选民们究竟知道些什么。结果令人沮丧。包括美国全国选举研究在内的数百项研究表明,中间选民缺乏了解或者错误理解的不光是评估候选人政策建议所必须的社会科学知识,还有当前失业率及其升降情况等基础事实和趋势。

这不是因为公立学校不够格。这不是因为福克斯新闻频道或者微软全国广播公司用精心编造的谎言迷惑了贫穷选民。这不是因为大家天生愚蠢或者不会思考。这是因为,民主给了我们错误的激励。




我们如何投票很重要,但我们当中的任何单个人如何投票并不重要。一张选票改变局面的可能性几乎可以忽略不计。因此,我们缺乏搜集相关资讯、谨慎小心投票的动力。

选票就像彩票。中彩可以改变一切,但单独一张彩票几乎毫无价值。假如以为慈善家提出,如果你通过经济学基础知识考试,他就付给你1000万美元,你或许会去学习基础经济学。但是,假如同一位慈善家提出,如果你通过经济学基础知识考试,就有一百万分之一的机会赢得1000万美元,你会宁愿无知下去。

尽管政府并非把一切事务都交由选民决定,但选民的意愿很重要。选民们通常很无知,所以与选民博识的情况相比,我们的政策比较蹩脚。例如,博识的选民(无论种族、收入或者性别)往往支持自由贸易,而无知的选民则持相反观点;后者很可能迫使政界人士粉碎《跨太平洋伙伴关系协定》(TPP),而大多数专家都认为该协定对全球经济有益。

智者统治设置知识权重

我们没法解决这个问题,因为它是民主的固有特征。因此,我们也许有必要考虑民主的替代性选择——智者统治。在民主国家,每位公民都有平等的投票权。在智者统治的国家,投票权很广泛,但投票是设置权重的:公民越有知识,选票越有分量。

相对而言,代议制民主国家运转得很好:它们通常比较富裕,对公民权利的保护也比其他形式的政府更到位。智者统治的国家会尝试沿袭民主国家的成功秘诀,但会做得更好。智者统治的国家应该保留一些东西,比如我们的基本权利。它们应该使权利分布得更广泛,因为集中在少数人手中就会导致滥用。智者统治的国家应该像代议制民主国家一样,具备对权力的宪法限制,司法审查、制衡和权力法案。

智者统治的国家有多种形式。智者统治的国家可能会给公民一人一票的权利,然后把多余选票交给通过了基础政治知识考试的公民。或者,它可以只把投票权交给通过了此类考试的公民。或者,他可以进行投票权抽奖:在选举前随机挑选一万名公民,然后只有这些公民获准投票,但前提条件是他们必须首先完成一项能力建设练习。



或者,智者统治的国家可能会通过我所谓的模拟权威进行管理。在该体系中,每位公民都可以投票或者通过民调表达自己的政策偏好。公民不仅会被问到他们支持哪位候选人,还会被问到他们支持哪些政策。公民投票时,我们会要求他们接受基础政治考试。(比如哪个党控制着国会或者当前失业率是多少)并公布他们的人口统计信息。

搜集到这些资料(这些公民是谁,他们有什么愿望,他们掌握哪些知识)之后,任何统计学家都可能计算出公众的知情偏好,也就是说,只要能更博识,人口统计学上属于同一类的选民群体支持何种政策。然后智者统治的国家可以把公众的知情偏好(而不是他们实际的不知情偏好)实例化。

不要把智者统治与专家统治混为一谈。在专家统治的国家,专家官僚构成的小组参与大规模的家长制社会工程。专家统治的关键是政府做些什么,而不是政府由什么人构成。

哪种体制好效果最重要

关键问题是何为政治能力或基础政治知识,以及由谁来加以确定。我们不希望自私的政党为一己私利操弄政治测验。一个解决办法就是采用广泛得到接受的现有考试,比如美国公民入籍考试。另一个听起来简直自相矛盾的观点是,我们应该允许通过民主程序选定一种资格考试。此处的想法是,即便选民的能力不足以回答关于国际贸易经济学或移民的难题,也可能足以回答符合优秀选民条件的简单问题。

有些人会反驳说,智者统治在本质上是不平等的。在智者统治的国家,并非所有人都具有相同的投票权。但是,这有什么不对呢?只有一部分人拥有管道工或理发师执照,因为我们只承认一部分人(而且不是所有年满18岁的人)真正有资格决定由谁来领导这个全世界最强大的国家。

另一个显而易见的不满是,在智者统治的国家,有些人群会比其他人群拥有更多的投票权,因为有些人群比其他人群更有知识。在我们的社会里,有优势的人更有知识,有优势的人更有可能是老人和白种人,而不是年轻人和棕种人。因此,智者统治的国家可能会把我们带回到糟糕的旧时代。那时,中年白种专业人士对选举的影响超过了其他所有人。但是,至少某些形式的智者统治(比如投票权抽奖或模拟权威)能避免这种弊端。

任何智者统治体系都面临遭到滥用的可能性。智者统治在高信任度、低腐败的社会(比如新西兰)比在低信任度、高腐败的社会(比如俄罗斯和委内瑞拉)效果更好。在后面这种社会,无论由谁设计投票要求都更有可能为取得某种结果而加以操弄,公民也更有可能怀疑其中存在不公正(即便实际上并没有)。不过,民主体制也是一样。

耐人寻问的问题不在于哪种体制是完美的,而在于据实而论,哪种体制的效果最好。


Op-Ed Can epistocracy, or knowledge-based voting, fix democracy?

By Jason Brennan

Elected officials tend to pass laws they believe will appeal to the median voter. A politician on the left or right usually can win more votes by moving to the center, a theory you can see in action by watching how presidential candidates soften their policies after the primaries.

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. 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.

An epistocracy would try to copy what makes democracies work, but do it better.

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. Votes are like lottery tickets. Winning the lottery changes everything, but an individual lottery ticket is nearly worthless. If a philanthropist offered to pay you $10 million if you could pass Economics 101, you’d probably learn basic economics. But if the same philanthropist offered you a 1 in 100 million chance of winning $10 million if you could pass Economics 101, you’d stay ignorant.


   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. For instance, high-information voters (regardless of race, income or gender) tend to support free trade, while low-information voters have the opposite view; the latter may well force politicians to squelch the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which most experts agree is good for the global economy.

We cannot “fix” this problem because it’s a built-in feature of democracy. So maybe it’s time to consider an alternative to democracy called epistocracy. 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.

Relatively speaking, representative democracies function rather well: They are in general more prosperous and protect citizens’ rights better than other forms of government. An epistocracy would try to copy what makes democracies work, but do it better. 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.

Epistocracy comes in many forms. An epistocracy might give everyone one vote, then grant extra votes to citizens who pass a test of basic political knowledge (such as the citizenship exam). Or it might grant the right to vote only to citizens who pass such a test.  Or it might instead hold an “enfranchisement lottery”: Immediately before an election, choose 10,000 citizens at random, and then those citizens, and only those, are permitted to vote, but only if they first complete a competence-building exercise.

Or, an epistocracy might govern through what I call a “simulated oracle.” In this system, every citizen may vote and express his or her policy preferences through public polls. Citizens would not only be asked which candidates they support, but also which policies they support. When citizens vote, we would require them to take a test of basic political knowledge (such as which party controls Congress or what the unemployment rate is) and disclose their demographic information.

Having collected this information — who citizens are, what they want and what they know — any statistician then could calculate the public’s “enlightened preferences,” that is, what a demographically identical voting population would support if only it were better informed. An epistocracy might then instantiate the public’s enlightened preferences rather than their actual, unenlightened preferences.

Don’t confuse epistocracy with technocracy. In a technocracy — a system espoused by many progressives — small panels of expert bureaucrats engage in massive paternalistic social engineering. Technocracy is more about what the government does rather than who the government is.

One major question is what counts, and who decides what counts, as political competence or basic political knowledge. We don’t want selfish parties rigging a political exam for their own benefit. One solution would be to use widely accepted existing tests, such as the American Citizenship Exam. Another, almost paradoxical sounding idea, is that we could allow the qualification exam itself to be chosen though a democratic process. The idea here is that voters might be competent to answer the easy question of what counts as a good voter, even if they are not competent to answer the hard questions about the economics of international trade or immigration.

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.

Another obvious complaint is that in an epistocracy, some demographic groups would have more voting power than others because some demographic groups have more measurable political knowledge than others. In our society, advantaged people are more knowledgeable, and advantaged people are more likely to be old and white than young and brown. Epistocracy could therefore take us back to the bad old days when middle-aged white professionals had more sway at the ballot box than everyone else. But at least some versions of epistocracy — such as the enfranchisement lottery or simulated oracle — avoid this problem.

Any epistocratic system would face abuse. Epistocracy would work better in high-trust, low-corruption societies — such as New Zealand or Denmark — rather than low-trust, high-corruption societies, such as Russia or Venezuela. In the latter, whoever designed the voting requirements would be more likely to rig it in favor of certain outcomes, and citizens would be more likely to suspect unfairness, even if there were none. But that’s also true of democracy.

The interesting question isn’t which system is perfect, but which system would work best, warts and all.

Jason Brennan is a professor at Georgetown University. He is the author of “Against Democracy.”




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