Martin Rezny
3 min readOct 4, 2023


A good question. I didn't want to get into the technicals too much in this article, but in political science, there is a range of things that can be quantified, but the whole discipline also has a qualitative dimension, which, even though unquantifiable, still is important and has to be dealt with somehow (that's basically the split between political science and political philosophy).

Using economics is certainly one approach to the measuring of political outcomes, an important one, but by itself, it's overly reductive and incomplete.

Much like giving everyone an equal vote is only the beginning of improving everyone's quality of life and of ensuring their basic freedom and dignity, removing any economic inequity, or at least any inequality of opportunity, could similarly only be the beginning of a saner level of politics, in which many fundamental qualitative disagreements would remain. It may also not be the best approach in terms of any particular output metric, even if it is the best one overall. That's what a test would have to determine. Which fixed units of measure do you propose should decide which version of democracy is better or worse? Let's assume for now that you propose economic metrics.

Any democratic polity can certainly decide to give the questions or measures of economy a priority, deciding that more desirable goals or better-working policies are those that maximize profits, maximize production, maximize employment, maximize income, maximize innovation, minimize costs, reduce poverty, provide the highest level of essential amenities, goods, and services to each person, and so on. Virtually any polity is bound to care about such things at least moderately.

But this approach to measurement leaves many qualitative aspects of political life, or even of the nature of work, goods, or services, unaddressed. Maybe people would have more material stuff in your system, but a different, less materialist social arrangement would make them much happier. Maybe a less equitable regime could be better at ensuring its security, or the security of each citizen. What about the environment? What about controversial issues like drugs or abortion? What outcomes does your system guarantee in those dimensions, in objective, quantified comparison to any alternative system of democracy, or governance? Was there already a test run of the system you propose? Do you have mathematical proof that you could defend in front of the world's leading economists?

According to Hannah Arendt's theory of freedom, for example, economic freedom of the type you aim to base the whole system on is only one type of freedom, or only one of the prerequisites for freedom or enfranchisement. Also, it's entirely possible that a certain level of inequality could actually produce better outcomes. That's why different approaches or different settings of each one approach need to be tested and compared for us to know anything about democracy with a level of confidence that could be called scientific.

By the way, I'm not really disagreeing with you, or think your proposal is bad or anything, I'm just trying to clarify what the process of sciencing this in a laboratory of democracy would entail. On our platform, someone like you could certainly propose a type of democratic system like yours which should be tried, as well as the means by which the relative success of competing systems should be measured. Like using the economic measures. That was always an option that could be proposed in the laboratory.

Other non-economic quantifiable things in use by political scientists as inputs to tweak or output measures include:

- institutional metrics, like diversity of representation, sizes of winning parties or coalitions, numbers of chambers or chairs, etc.

- formulas for conversion of votes into mandates and other quirks of electoral mathematics that can in theory make a difference in outcomes

- various questionnaires used to establish voter preferences, satisfaction levels, and so on

- statistics of incidence of crime or organized violence, dynamics of population demographics, change in biodiversity, and so on; the options here of what can be measured over time as metric of a regime’s quality or performance are fairly extensive

In short, in our laboratory of democracy, the point would be to lead conversations about which things to change in any particular version of democracy, and about how to determine the relative success or failure of the proposed changes. Which could then turn into a trial, if anyone anywhere would be interested in trying out the reform. If enough trials are run, we're probably going to learn something new about democracy with some confidence. This isn't as scientific as physics, but hey, it's a social science. Politics are complicated.