During the 2016 presidential election, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders argued that elites were hurting the economy. But, drawing together evidence and theory from across economics, political science, and even finance, Garett Jones says otherwise. In 10% Less Democracy, he makes the case that the richest, most democratic nations would be better off if they slightly reduced accountability to the voting public, turning up the dial on elite influence.
To do this, Jones builds on three foundational lines of evidence in areas where he has personal experience. First, as a former staffer in the U.S. Senate, he saw how senators voted differently as elections grew closer. Second, as a macroeconomist, Jones knows the merits of "independent" central banks, which sit apart from the political process and are controlled by powerful insiders. The consensus of the field is that this detached, technocratic approach has worked far better than more political and democratic banking systems. Third, his previous research on the effects of cognitive skills on political, social, and economic systems revealed many ways in which well-informed voters improve government.
Discerning repeated patterns, Jones draws out practical suggestions for fine-tuning, focusing on the length of political terms, the independence of government agencies, the weight that voting systems give to the more-educated, and the value of listening more closely to a group of farsighted stakeholders with real skin in the game—a nation's sovereign bondholders. Accessible to political news junkies while firmly rooted and rigorous, 10% Less Democracy will fuel the national conversation about what optimal government looks like.
Introduction: The Source of My Idea
1. The Big Benefits of a Small Dose of Democracy
2. Braver Politician
3. Central Bank "Independence"
4. The 2% Solution
5. This Chapter Does Not Apply to Your Country
6. Bondholders as a Separate and Coequal Branch of Government
7. Jonathan Rauch, Prophet of Political Realism
8. The Hard Case of the European Union
9. Singapore: Flourishing with 50% Less Democracy
10. Conclusion: Buying the Right Dose of Democracy
Garett Jones is Associate Professor of Economics at the Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University. He is the author of 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less (Stanford, 2020) and Hive Mind: How Your Nation's IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own (Stanford, 2015).
"10% Less Democracy is a joy to read. If you liked Freakonomics or Predictably Irrational, you'll love this book. It deserves to be read widely, widely discussed—and acted upon. A tour de force combining the best economic insight with real-world, practical applications. Every chapter demonstrates ways in which reducing democratic control over certain decisions reliably results in better outcomes for all. We should jettison our religious attachment to democracy and see it for what it is: a tool good only in moderation."
~Jason Brennan, author of Cracks in the Ivory Tower
"How can we rescue democracy from the slough of despond into which it has fallen? In this lucidly written book, Garett Jones makes the case for a surprising answer: the best way to improve democracy is to have a bit less of it. It's only by handing power to technical experts, lengthening congressional terms, staggering elections, and reducing direct democracy that we can save the invaluable core of democracy from self-destruction."
~Adrian Wooldridge, co-author of Capitalism in America: An Economic History
"Invocation of 'democracy' is one of the most ill-defined canards of modern discourse. In this revisionist work, rooted in common sense, Jones shows that effective representative government does not in fact rest on pure democracy, but does rely on well-functioning elites. Definitely recommended."
~Tyler Cowen, Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mazon University, Author of Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero
"The belief in democracy is strong in most rich, democratic countries, even sacred. Why in the world would anyone propose ten percent less of it? The key is sharpening our thinking on what 'democracy' means. Once we allow a sharper definiteion, decision-making by the vote of all, we demystify 'democracy' and more sensibly assess its pluses and minuses. Jones' argument is persuasive and rests on global data."
~Charlotta Stern, Professor of Sociology, Stockholm University, Deputy Director of the Ratio Institute
"If a genie told me that James Madison had been reincarnated as another person and had written an update to the Federalist Papers, I'd say, 'It's Garett Jones and 10% Less Democracy, right?'"
~Tim Groseclose, Professor of Economics, George Mason University
"Mr Jones musters plenty of convincing evidence that fewer elections and more distance between voters and decisions make for better governance."
"In his cheeky new book, 10% Less Democracy, the economist Garett Jones makes a counter-zeitgeist case for more 'epistocracy,' or rule by the knowledgeable. Recent weeks have rather made the case for him and altered that zeitgeist."
~Janan Ganesh, Financial Times
"Overall, the book embodies a courageous attempt to grapple with the weaknesses of democratic decision-making... Jones provides copious sparks to reflect on democratic practice by setting out the proposals, pondering their viability and defending their soundness. Stylistically, his reasoning proceeds orderly and fluidly, accompanying the reader with data and examples which contributes in making his thesis clear."
~Paolo Bodini, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice