Unpopular ideas about politics and economics

I’ve been compiling lists of “unpopular ideas,” things that seem weird or bad to most people (at least, to most educated urbanites in the United States, which is the demographic I know best).

Because my collection of unpopular ideas became so long, I’ve broken it into categories. Below, I focus specifically on ideas about political and economic systems. (Here’s my previous list, on social norms.) I’ll be posting similar lists on other topics and adding to each one over time as I find new examples.

Why am I making these lists? Even though I disagree with many of these ideas, I nevertheless think it’s valuable to practice engaging with ideas that seem weird or bad, for two reasons: First, because such ideas might occasionally be true, and it’s worth sifting through some duds to find a gem.

And second, because I think our imaginations tend to be too constrained by conventional “common sense,” and that many ideas we accept as true today were counterintuitive to past generations. Considering weird ideas helps de-anchor us from the status quo, and that’s valuable independently of whether those particular ideas are true or not.

Unpopular ideas about political and economic systems:

  1. Many people have a moral duty not to vote. (1)
  2. We should institute futarchy, in which market predictions determine policy. (1)
  3. Chinese governance is superior to American governance. (1)
  4. Singaporean governance is superior to American governance. (1)
  5. Political leaders should be selected at random, rather than by voting. (1)
  6. There should be no minimum voting age. (1)
  7. Votes should be sellable/tradeable with enforceable contracts. (1)
  8. Transparency in politics is actually making things worse. (1, 2)
  9. “Pork barrel politics” gets blamed for corruption and bloat, but it was actually good and we shouldn’t have banned it. The ability to add pork is what allowed for political dealmaking and compromise; without it, we’re stuck in gridlock. (1)
  10. Ethnically homogenous societies work better — are happier, more trusting, etc. (1, 2)
  11. We should institute a global democracy. (1)
  12. Anarcho-monarchism would work better than democracy. (1)
  13. On the margin, economic development is bad because it increases technological progress, which increases the risk of various global catastrophies. (1)
  14. The United States should institute open borders, allowing in billions of poor and uneducated immigrants. (1)
  15. The government should sell US citizenship. (1, 2)
  16. Individual citizens should be able to trade or transfer their citizenship to another person. (1, 2)
  17. Large-scale philanthropy undermines democracy, because it allows billionaires too much influence over policy. (1)
  18. Economic growth isn’t an effective way to improve human well-being, because people’s happiness level quickly adapts to higher standards of living. (1)
  19. We should replace democracy with epistocracy, in which voting rights are restricted to those who meet a minimum level of knowledge or competency. (1)
  20. Old people shouldn’t be allowed to vote, or their vote should count less. (1)
  21. People worry about overpopulation, but underpopulation is a bigger risk. (1)
  22. Brexit would be good for the UK and the world. (1, 2)
  23. We should aim for a steady state economy, one that’s not growing but staying the same size. Getting our economy to the right size may even involve making it smaller. (1)