The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.
The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.
As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, “very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.
He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people’s ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as “above average” — even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile. [Incompetent People Too Ignorant to Know It]
(via The Way of Improvement Leads Home)
[Not-so] Shocking Revelation: Elites Think You Are Too Stupid To Make Your Own Decisions.
Do I even need to advise massive skepticism about this “growing body of research”? We are in familiar, well-worn territory, here. Dunning and Kruger are two more in a long line of VERY SERIOUS PEOPLE who, betraying deep disdain for democracy, would like to convince everyone who didn’t go to Cornell or NYU to “JUST GET OUT OF THE WAY AND LET US HANDLE ALL THIS HARD STUFF, OKAY? YOU GUYS GO WATCH THE KARDASHIANS, NOW, RUN ALONG.” They are Walter Lippmann’s “responsible men”, who, alone, should “administer” society, without intrusion from “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders”, i.e., the rest of us.
From Chomsky (quoting Lippmann): “‘the public must be put in its place.’ The bewildered herd, trampling and roaring, ‘has its function’: to be ‘the interested spectators of action,’ not participants. Participation is the duty of ‘the responsible man.’”
Here’s an enormous middle finger right up the chutes of all the “responsible men”, the VERY SERIOUS PEOPLE, who gave us the Iraq war, and every war that came before it; the for-profit healthcare system that provides some of the worst outcomes in the developed world at exorbitant, and rising, costs; the “war on drugs”, which needs no further comment. And on. And on. And on.
Emma Goldman wrote that “with human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?”.
We have to first attempt democracy before we may herald its failure.