Political Equality, Epistocracy, and Expensive Tastes

Publication Title

Lua Nova: Revista de Cultura e Política

Document Type


Publication Date



Democracy and equality are different concepts. There are two fundamentally different ways of relating them. The first way defines democracy in terms of substantive political equality: the purest form of democracy is a regime in which each citizen (at any given level of aptitude and motivation) has equal influence over political decisions, regardless of the citizen’s wealth and other resources. The second way renders democracy as a device for assuring equality (or justice) by some measure external to the process by which political decisions are made. According to this second way, political equality -democracy’s defining trait on the first view- is at best of secondary importance. John Rawls is the most prominent exponent of the first way, and Ronald Dworkin and David Estlund of the second. This article explores the differences between the two ways, and concludes with the thought that the failure to appreciate how different they are contributes to our current democratic malaise.


External Links

Lua Nova

Recommended Citation

William A. Edmundson, Political Equality, Epistocracy, and Expensive Tastes, 117 Lua Nova: Revista de Cultura e Política 55 (2022).



First Page


Last Page