Less democracy, better government?

George Mason University economics professor Garett Jones argues for a ‘10% reduction’ in democracy and return of ‘rule by the knowers’ for better government.


(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

To most students at an American college in the suburbs of the hub of Western democracy, learning about better government usually comes in the form of increasing democracy.
George Mason University Economics Professor Garett Jones believes exactly the opposite of that.

(Claire Cecil/ George Mason University Fourth Estate)

(Claire Cecil/ George Mason University Fourth Estate)

“Democracies have important downsides that are underappreciated”
Garret Jones, GMU Economics professor



He’s not the first to make this argument, but on Feb. 24 he was able to make his case to Mason students, among other things–

Garett Jones, BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at the Charles and David Koch-run Mercatus Center, favors distancing policy makers from voters, what he calls 10 percent less democracy.
“A lot of us have an automatic reaction to say ‘more democracy is better,'” Alec Schwengler, vice president of the host organization, GMU Economics Society
“But there are certain situations where voters wouldn’t make good decisions, like monetary policy, where we let the Federal Reserve make decisons insulated from voter input.”


(Garett Jones/ Powerpoint Slides)

(Garett Jones/ Powerpoint Slides)

Not getting too deep into the economic policy jargon and borrowing from fellow Mason Economic Professor Bryan Caplan, Jones highlights the relationship between policy makers and the frequency of biases against economic policy such as pro-market legislation.From the historical and empirical evidence, Jones has drafted a plan-of-action for a 10 percent cut of democracy.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

  • Increase term for House Representatives from 2-year to 6-year, to incentivize “politicians focusing on long-run” policy.
Federal Reserve members, Governor Powell, Chair Yellen, Governor Lael Brainard, and Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer. (Federal Reserve)

Federal Reserve members, Governor Powell, Chair Yellen, Governor Lael Brainard, and Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer. (Federal Reserve)

  • Reform more agencies to function like the Fed: “14-year terms, autonomous budgets, act more independently of politicians.
Hulk smash the democracy (ruinedchildhood.com)

Hulk smash the democracy (ruinedchildhood.com)

  • Increase appointed positions and decrease elected positions. 

If these reforms were to take place, it would further distance voters from policy makers establishing a quasi-epistocracy, what Jones characterized as “rule by the knowers.”


To some, this may seem backward, against the principles of the American democracy, but Jones argues that such reforms are a fresh approach to modern economic policy. An approach that the GMU Economics Society is vital to understand the multidimensional nature of the discipline.

“The [GMU Economics Society] likes to host events that present new and different perspectives than what students are used to hearing because it gets students talking about things in a way they may not usually,”  Schwengler said. “By having this discussion about the limits of democracy, we hope to get students talking about what the most efficient way to choose public policy is.”

Jones’s other work includes research on low-skilled workers and the relationship between IQ and productivity. His work has been featured in prominent economics journals including the Journal of International Money and Finance and Economic Systems.

Listen to the whole event audio here.


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