Political theorists have recently shifted their focus from the normative properties of institutions to their epistemic ones. One popular thesis in the current literature is that democracy has desirable epistemic properties, at least when compared to other methods of social choice. Critics respond by highlighting problems with the mechanisms epistemic democrats rely upon in making their arguments. A quite different thesis in the literature points out the desirable epistemic properties of markets. There are problems, however, with these sorts of arguments as well. Given the lack of no clear victor, this paper explores the epistemic properties of polycentric governance systems, which cannot be accurately characterized as either states or markets. Possessing some features of both these more traditional forms of governance, the paper argues that polycentric systems possess all the benefits and none of the drawbacks of epistemic accounts of democracy and markets.

Author: Brian Kogelmann

Status: Working Paper (Do not cite without permission)

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