Roughly a third of American voters think that the Marxist slogan “From each according to his ability to each according to his need” appears in the Constitution. About as many are incapable of naming even one of the three branches of the United States government. Fewer than a quarter know who their senators are, and only half are aware that their state has two of them.Blah, blah.
I have two responses to this stuff.
1) Name a system of government that works better.
In the past one might have pointed to aristocracy + tradition, with or without monarchy, as a quite effective system. But then we had the Enlightenment and all such systems were swept away, leaving the modern world without that option. Since 1800 the record of stable democracies is just vastly better than anything else. In parts of the world a stable democracy has failed to establish itself, and one might argue that for Thailand or Egypt democracy has not worked very well. But even if we grant that, we in the US, Japan, and western Europe do have stable democracies, so why would we want to risk losing these amazingly successful systems?
2) Where is the evidence that any particular group would do better at governing than the mass of the ignorant, feckless people, with all their bad opinions? As Lord Acton famously said, "The danger is not that some particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern."
Brennan likes an idea he calls "epistocracy," which would mean rule by the well-educated. Of course this doesn't exist and never has, although various governments have imposed literacy tests and the like, so its actual performance can't be judged. I am extremely dubious of such notions, because of the actual behavior of the well-educated. For starters the smartest and best educated political party in America right now is the libertarians. In the Britain of 1935 it was the communists. The intelligent and well-educated seem to have a fatal attraction to extreme political movements based on totalistic theories of society. As a fan of offbeat political ideas I regularly read the blogs of libertarians, neo-Marxists, conservative Catholics, communitarians, and the like. These are intelligent, educated people, far more thoughtful and better read than the average Democrat or Republican, and I wouldn't want them anywhere near to power.
For my whole life, Republican voters have been better educated on average than Democrats. (Or, if you prefer, have had more years of schooling.) College-educated Americans went strongly for George W. Bush over Al Gore. Thanks folks! The oh-so-successful Iraq war was launched by a fabulously well-educated crew (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Addington, etc.) We would have been better off with (as someone else famously said) the first dozen names in the Boston telephone book.
The preference of educated people for Republicans is related to opinions about the fairness of capitalism. Basically, the richer people are, the more they think the economy is fair, and since better educated people make more money, they are more pro-capitalist. Poor people may be ignorant about economic theory, but they care about their own interests in a way that nobody else does. Democracy, by soliciting the opinions of the poor, forces the government to consider the interests of people outside the ruling elite better than any other system.
I would make another point about democracy at a more theoretical level. To function effectively, a government must command legitimacy, and democracy is the best system ever created for getting the people to support the government.
Democracy is the best system of government ever attempted, period. And I will still be insisting on this next week even if Donald Trump wins.