Democracy is in bad health. The symptoms are familiar: the rise of fear-mongering populists, widespread distrust in the establishment, personality contests and point-scoring in place of reasoned debate, slogans instead of expertise. Against Elections offers a new diagnosis – and an ancient remedy.
In this ingenious book, David Van Reybrouck reminds us that the original purpose of elections was to exclude the people from power by appointing an elite to govern over them. He demonstrates how over time their effect has been to reduce the people’s participation in government to an absolute minimum, ensure power remains in the hands of those who already wield it, and force politicians to judge policies not on their merits but on their likelihood to win or lose votes. And that’s when elections go well.
Yet for most of democracy’s 3000-year history governments were not chosen by election at all: they were appointed, much like the jury system, through a combination of volunteering and lottery. Drawing on vast learning, an international array of evidence and a growing number of successful trials, Against Elections demonstrates how a sophisticated and practical version of this ancient system would work today and thus eliminate the underlying cause of democracy’s sickness.
Urgent, heretical and completely convincing, Against Elections leaves only one question to be answered: what are we waiting for?