An Epistemic Argument for an Egalitarian Public Sphere


23 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2021

See all articles by Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett

Utrecht University - Department of Philosophy

Date Written: October 26, 2020


The public sphere should be regulated so the distribution of political speech does not correlate with the distribution of income or wealth. A public sphere where people can fund any political speech from their private holdings is epistemically defective. The argument has four steps. First, if political speech is unregulated, the rich predictably contribute a disproportionate share. Second, wealth tends to correlate with substantive political perspectives. Third, greater quantities of speech by the rich can “drown out” the speech of the poor, because of citizens’ limited attention span for politics. Finally, the normative problem with all this is that it reduces the diversity of arguments and evidence citizens become familiar with, reducing the quality of their political knowledge. The clearest implication of the argument is in favor of strict contribution limits and/or public funding for formal political campaigns, but it also has implications for more informal aspects of the public sphere.

Keywords: Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Political Theory, Democratic Theory, Politics, Deliberative Democracy, Democracy, Moral and Political Philosophy, Normative Political Theory, Capitalism and Democracy, Money in Politics, Political Epistemology, Epistemic Democracy

Suggested Citation

Bennett, Michael, An Epistemic Argument for an Egalitarian Public Sphere (October 26, 2020). Episteme, Available at SSRN:

Michael Bennett (Contact Author)

Utrecht University - Department of Philosophy ( email )

Heidelberglaan 8
Utrecht, 3506 TC

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