Democratic Reason

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* Book: Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many. By Hélène Landemore. Princeton University Press, 2012



1. From the publisher:

"Individual decision making can often be wrong due to misinformation, impulses, or biases. Collective decision making, on the other hand, can be surprisingly accurate. In Democratic Reason, Hélène Landemore demonstrates that the very factors behind the superiority of collective decision making add up to a strong case for democracy. She shows that the processes and procedures of democratic decision making form a cognitive system that ensures that decisions taken by the many are more likely to be right than decisions taken by the few. Democracy as a form of government is therefore valuable not only because it is legitimate and just, but also because it is smart.

Landemore considers how the argument plays out with respect to two main mechanisms of democratic politics: inclusive deliberation and majority rule. In deliberative settings, the truth-tracking properties of deliberation are enhanced more by inclusiveness than by individual competence. Landemore explores this idea in the contexts of representative democracy and the selection of representatives. She also discusses several models for the "wisdom of crowds" channeled by majority rule, examining the trade-offs between inclusiveness and individual competence in voting. When inclusive deliberation and majority rule are combined, they beat less inclusive methods, in which one person or a small group decide. Democratic Reason thus establishes the superiority of democracy as a way of making decisions for the common good.

Hélène Landemore is assistant professor of political science at Yale University."


""The scholar Hélène Landemore, a professor of political science at Yale, has spent much of her career trying to understand the value and meaning of democracy. In recent years, she has been part of a group of academics, many of them young, trying to solve the problem of elected democratic representation—addressing flaws in a system that is widely believed to be no problem at all. In her book “Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many” (Princeton, 2012), she challenged the idea that leadership by the few was superior to leadership by the masses. Her forthcoming book, due out next year and currently titled “Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the 21st Century,” envisions what true government by mass leadership could look like. Her model is based on the simple idea that, if government by the people is a goal, the people ought to do the governing." (


See: (prologue)

More Information

  • Landemore, Helene E., Democratic Reason: The Mechanisms of Collective Intelligence in Politics (April 1, 2011). COLLECTIVE WISDOM: PRINCIPLES AND MECHANISMS, Hélène Landemore and Jon Elster, eds., Cambridge University Press, Spring 2012.

Available at SSRN:

This paper argues that democracy can be seen as a way to channel “democratic reason,” or the collective political intelligence of the many. The paper hypothesizes that two main democratic mechanisms - the practice of inclusive deliberation (in its direct and indirect versions) and the institution of majority rule with universal suffrage - combine their epistemic properties to maximize the chances that the group pick the “better” political answer within a given context and a set of values. The paper further argues that under the conditions of a liberal society, characterized among other things by sufficient cognitive diversity, these two mechanisms give democracy an epistemic edge over versions of the rule of the few.

Other Essays: