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Book review Anchrit Wille in the Economist

Anchrit Wille, Associate Professor at Leiden University's Institute of Public Administration, wrote together with Mark Bovens, Professor of Public Administration at the Utrecht University School of Governance the book“Diploma Democracy”. The Economist wrote a review “This fascinating book shows that what they call political meritocracy is advancing across the rich world.”

70% of the population has no university degree, but is a small minority of  MPs (Member of Parliament). They underperform when it comes to every measure of political participation, from joining parties to voting. They are retreating at a time when other under-represented groups are advancing. For example, The proportion of women MPs has increased from 3% in 1979 to 32% today, as the share of degree-less MPs has fallen from 40% to 30%.

Why should it bother us?

There are two polite arguments why it should not bother us: degree-less citizens aren’t being prevented from voting and the proportion of young people who go on to university has risen from less than a tenth in 1980 to nearly half today. However, there is also a rude argument: that stupid people vote for stupid things. “Only 59% of the electorate turned out in 2001, electing a Labour government that poured resources into tackling poverty. Fully 72% voted in the Brexit referendum, with less educated voters tipping the balance in favour of leaving the EU, which is likely to make the poor poorer”.

Worry among Parliament

"The most powerful argument for worrying about the number of less-educated people in Parliament is the same as the case for worrying about the number of women or ethnic minorities: “that some groups have experiences in common that give them a claim to representation. Degree-less people have different outlooks to graduates because they have different experiences”.

One thing is clear: thanks to Brexit and the collapse of the Blair-Cameron consensus, the forgotten citizen is finally being remembered.

Read the full article here

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