A pair of university professors in psychology have concluded the voters do not have enough intelligence to make rational assessments of what is good for them or good for the nation. Anyway, that is what this news report says.
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.
To make this stick, the studies would have to show scientifically that an elite of intelligent voters are able to avoid the weaknesses listed in the study. These people would have to be objectively capable of making these decisions based on intelligence alone.
No such studies exist.
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.
The problem is not just political. It appears that dumb people are allowed to make decisions in other areas. They do not have the ability to do this.
“We’re just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. “To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people,” Dunning said. In one study, the researchers asked students to grade quizzes that tested for grammar skill. “We found that students who had done worse on the test itself gave more inaccurate grades to other students.” Essentially, they didn’t recognize the correct answer even when they saw it.
This raises a question: If not the voters, then who should make the decisions? On what legal basis? Empowered by whom?
The most incompetent among us serve as canaries in the coal mine signifying a larger quandary in the concept of democracy; truly ignorant people may be the worst judges of candidates and ideas, Dunning said, but we all suffer from a degree of blindness stemming from our own personal lack of expertise.
The economist asks of every benefit and every liability, “Compared to what?” So should everyone else, in every area of life.