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10 Not Quite Right, but Still Good: The Democratic Ideal in Modern Politics Arrow’s Theorem • All democracies are fraught with problems. • Economist Kenneth Arrow demonstrated that even free and fair elections do not ensure that the majority’s preference will be selected • Whenever there are more than two choices in an election, the method used to add up the votes has a tremendous impact on who wins • Further, one can never be certain that any one method of counting votes will lead to the majority’s single preferred option Arrow’s Theorem • There are many types of elections that are possible, e.g., winner-take-all, winner-take-all with a runoff to ensure a majority, multiple rounds of voting eliminating those with the lowest vote first, ranked votes, the use of open primaries, or an electoral college • These methods are all fair but could provide different results • The example also assumes that the process of conducting the election was perfect • However, in the real world problems come up, e.g., hanging chads, misprinted ballots, voting machine failures, etc. • Arrow’s Theorem shows us that elections cannot be the perfect means of making decisions because part of the process, the way you tally the votes, can significantly alter the outcome, even when it is done perfectly and fairly Democracy • What is it? • A method of governing in which the people rule directly or through representatives • Examples of Pure (Direct) Democracy? • Athenian Democracy, New England town meetings, CA ballot propositions (referenda and initiatives) • What’s wrong with Direct Democracy? • Matter of Scale • People have neither the expertise or the interest What does Democracy Mean to You? • What does Democracy Mean to you? • Take a few moments and write down a definition of democracy What is Democracy? • Joseph Schumpeter defines Democracy as, “the democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote” • Is Democracy just casting votes or does it mean something more? The Ideals of Liberal Democracy 1. Popular Control of Government • Government does what the people want, not vice versa • Representative government • Responsible government • General welfare government 2. Rule of Law • Constitutional government • Limits and restraints on rulers • Rights-respecting government • Prevent tyranny of the majority 3. Contestation • Genuine alternatives who do gain power Liberal Democracy: A Working Definition • Constitutional government characterized by popular rule, • protection of basic rights, • and political and economic competition. In Defense of Liberal Democracy • Guiding vision and ideals have led to greater measure of civilized life, healthy growth, and creative fulfillment as evidenced in the American case. • Has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to changing circumstances. • Has been able to effectively respond to the worst examples of the abuse of power and tyranny. • Is realistic about politics, and this creates a stable regime. The Attack on Liberal Democracy from the Left • American liberal democracy has failed to fulfill its own promise. • Individuals are not free; they are confined in an exploitive economic and social system of inequality, racism, and sexism. The Attack on Liberal Democracy from the Right • Liberal democracy has degenerated into mobocracy, serfdom, and socialism. • The dangers of participatory democracy threatened representative democracy and equality of opportunity. • The political right is fearful of the state’s growing bureaucratic power to regulate economic affairs and undermine private property and enterprise. Variations on the Liberal Democratic Theme _______________________________________________________________ Government Intervention in Economic Affairs For Against Expansion of For Liberal Libertarian Personal ______________________________________ Freedoms Against Populist Conservative _______________________________________________________________ Source: William S. Maddox and Stuart A. Little, Beyond Liberal and Conservative: Reassessing the Political Spectrum (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1984), 5. Contemporary American Liberals •Seek to expand popular power •In general, they favor a greater concern for the least free and the least powerful in society, • Markets can also limit freedoms, how? • Advocate employing government to help people overcome obstacles – poverty, illness, ignorance, prejudice – allowing fair play for society’s most needy. •Concern that free markets do not do these things •They are also more favorably disposed to political, economic, and social change. Contemporary American Conservatives While they are genuinely concerned about the most needy in society, they are deeply skeptical of the ability of government to solve the problems associated with poverty. They generally endorse a laissez-faire position and are opposed to adverse government interference in their economic, political, and social affairs. Seek to maintain the existing economic, political, and social scheme of things. Contemporary American Conservatives • Uneasy Alliance: • Free-Market Conservatives: Government should not interfere with markets (sound familiar?) • Social Conservatives: need government to protect “traditional” morality and passions (sound familiar?) • Also, Neoconservatives: Disillusioned with unintended consequences of liberal social programs and Willingness to use force abroad Democracy and the Liberal Ideal • Plato believed that simply because a majority of people had an opinion, it did not make them correct • Aristotle believed that democracies self- interested factions fighting for their own selfish interests without concern for the public good • The framers of the U.S. constitution shared these negative views of democracy Democracy and the Liberal Ideal • The Framers created a republic in which decisions are made by representatives of the citizens rather than by the citizens themselves • Think of the many undemocratic features of the Constitution, e.g.: – the Supreme Court – the Senate – the Electoral College • Despite its flaws, democracy remains a powerful ideal Representative Democracy • The framers of the U.S. Constitution consciously and rationally designed it from nearly a blank slate • Four factors are critical to the effectiveness and the remarkable endurance of the U.S. system: • First, the Constitution uses representatives to create a democratic government of specialists • Second, it institutionalizes revolt through frequent elections of representatives • Third, the Constitution recognizes the potential downside of democracy by specifically limiting the power of government • Fourth, it recognizes democracy’s limits by adding a few undemocratic features.
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