The tired democracy

A discussion with Etienne Chouard and David Van Reybrouck under the title “The tired democracy – what are the solutions?” was held in Brussels in April. A video of part of the meeting is available. Unfortunately, the audio quality is rather poor.

Below is Ahmed Teleb’s English summary of the talk (Thanks!).
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Impact of money raising considerations on campaign rhetoric

The virtue-based justification of electoralism implies an indirect connection between public opinion and policy. According to this justification, the public identifies people it trusts and puts them in office. Those people then determine policy as they see fit. According to this theory, then, the connection between policy and popular opinion is mediated by character judgments.

The rewards-based justification, on the other hand, implies a direct connection: elected officials wish to please the public in order to be re-elected and thus pursue policy that matches public opinion (in the sense that if they pursue policy X, then there exists no alternative policy which would win higher approval ratings).

The rewards-based theory suffers from two fundamental defects:

  1. It ignores the epistemic difficulties facing voters. In reality voters’ ability to determine the effects of government policy is very limited. They are therefore unable to tell whether government policy matches their world view and promotes their interests.
  2. It assumes that politicians lack policy preferences of their own. The theory assumes that politicians want to be elected simply and solely for pleasure of being in office rather than to promote any specific policy.

Those defects indicate why the rewards-based theory cannot be expected to explain policy setting by elected government. However, those defects do not apply to the rewards-based theory in the limited context of campaign rhetoric. Continue reading

A democratic republic

This essay was originally published in 2008 in the Australian e-journal ON LINE opinion.

My fellow Australians,

You know that the question of whether Australia should become a republic has been as yet unresolved. The motivations for becoming a republic are many, but the most important has always seemed to be that Australian culture and politics are, at their best, democratic and egalitarian, while monarchy is not. Why is our head of state chosen by accident of birth? And, why can’t the head of state be someone born poor, or Catholic, or black or even Tasmanian?

Australia has a history of leading the way in being the most democratic, free, and equal society in the world.

We, along with New Zealand were the first to achieve women’s voting rights. We insisted, when it was unheard of anywhere in the world, that a man should be able to vote no matter how much he earned or owned. We have always been inclined to greater democracy and fairness. So, we are embarrassed by the institution of monarchy, and most of us wish to abolish it.
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