Democratic Reason: The Mechanisms of Collective Intelligence in Politics

Hélène Landemore
May 22, 2008

Original documents at

La sagesse collective : principes et mécanismes

Colloque des 22-23 mai 2008, organisé par l'Institut du Monde Contemporain du Collège de France, sous la direction du Professeur Jon Elster.
Intervention de Hélène Landemore.

In this paper, Landemore argues that democratic institutions can be seen as ways to channel "democratic reason," or the distributed intelligence of the many—a concept that she builds in part on the insights of the cognitive sciences. She argues that two main democratic mechanisms—the practice of inclusive deliberation (in its direct and indirect versions) and the institution of majority rule (aggregation of judgments through voting)—combine their epistemic properties to maximize the chances that the group picks the better political answer within a given a context and a set of values.

Under the conditions of a liberal society, characterized among other things by sufficient cognitive diversity, these two mechanisms give the rule of the many an epistemic edge over any variant of the rule of the few.

Paper and slides available.