In February, I wrote about The Merits of Direct Democracy, and I still believe that direct-democratic tools like initiatives and referenda are essential for any people that wants to do its shared True Will. However, I am also aware that people often fail to vote for what they truly want due to a lack of policy-related knowledge.
Although in that blog post I discussed the problem of voter incompetence, showing that the much-bemoaned “stupidity of the common man” is not as problematic as random knowledge polls suggest, I kept wondering nonetheless: Could there really be no better political system?
Now, I think I’ve found precisely that. It’s a simple system of policy-making that solves the problem of ignorance, but it would require us to go against political equality. Instead of “one man, one vote,” I suggest a new principle:
Knowledge-weighted voting means that the power of a person’s vote depends on how well he understands the issue he is voting on.
Imagine you go to vote on a referendum. As an adult citizen, you have the right to vote, but for your vote to count, you also have to take a multiple-choice test designed to inquire your level of competence—for example, whether you understand the ballot question conceptually, whether you know what it means economically, whether you are aware of simple facts indicative of potential sociological or international implications, and so forth.
The test may have 10 questions for a total of 10 points. Your points (p) determine the weight of your vote (v) such that v = p * 0.1. If you score zero points, your vote is null; if you know four of the answers, your vote weights 0.4; if you answer every question correctly, your vote counts as 1.
This would ensure that people’s votes on issues weigh less the worse informed they are about them. On the one hand, this is a form of political inequality. On the other hand, we live in an age of information where ignorance is a choice, because everybody has the freedom to become knowledgeable about whatever one finds important.
In addition, taking a knowledge test before voting on an issue activates the brain’s conscious reasoning system, thus biasing voters towards less emotional, more rational thinking.
An obvious problem, however, is that such a voting system shifts the political power from the people to the test creators. So, who creates the test?
The test shall be developed by an interdisciplinary team of experts, selected through a democratically established process, and it shall not only include experts and academics of the relevant fields, but also analytical philosophers and cognitive scientists who minimize potential biases, especially framing effects.
Eventually, I would expect people to trust the test creators about as much as they trust judges in court, but I will not go into more detail here. If you have objections to my idea of knowledge-weighted voting, I am happy to debate you in the comment section below.1