POL101Y1 Lecture Notes - Liberal Democracy, Direct Democracy, Industrial Revolution
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Political Science 9/12/2012 1:33:00 PM
Reading: Criteria for Assessing Electoral Systems
- The choice of an electoral system hinges in two sets of judgments:
Empirical judgments – about the likely consequences of the various
Normative judgments – about how “good” or “bad”, and
“important” or “trivial” these consequences are.
- Why do we believe it is a “good” thing that legislators be chosen by the
people in a fair and honest election? What are the benefits of democratic
elections? What conditions must be fulfilled for these goals to be achieved?
These conditions help us to specify criteria from assessin`g electoral
Electoral system: the set of rules which govern the process by which
citizens‟ opinions about the candidates and parties are expressed in votes
and by which these votes are thereafter translated into the designation of
- An electoral system comprises the constituency structure (how many
representatives are to be elected in each constituency?) the ballot structure
(how are electors supposed to express their opinions?) and the electoral
formula (what conditions must be fulfilled in order to be elected?).
What should elections accomplish? – policies are more likely to reflect the
views of the majority and conflict is more likely to be dealt with peacefully in
Holding of elections increases legislators‟ sensitivity to public
opinion and that, as a consequence, there will be congruence
between what citizens want and what governments do
1st criterion - How and why is this congruence supposed to occur?
1st mechanism = accountability : if politicians attempt to maximize
that probability of being elected they will propose policies that
correspond to the views of the greatest amount of electors and then
implement these policies if they are elected for the probability of
being re-elected. Legislators are free to do what they want yet they
may not be re-elected..
2nd mechanism = representation by reflection: if electors vote for
candidates who best represent their views, the legislature will likely
reflect the overall distribution of viewpoints in society. Therefore
decisions legislators would make should resemble those that
citizens would have made in direct democracy
2nd criterion – Does it produce legislatures and governments that are broadly
representative of the electorate?
elections allow citizens to resolve their conflicts peacefully.
Why / under what conditions do losers peacefully accept the
outcomes of the election – three main reasons
o because they believe that some basic rights will not be
infringed upon by the government (charter of rights)
o because they believe tat even though they may have lost this
time they will win another time
o because even though they do not like the outcome, they
recognize that the procedure is legitimate
3rd criterion – Does the electoral system produce legislatures and
governments that are systematically biased against certain groups or
interests? (criterion fairness)
losers in an election may finally accept the outcome because they
perceive the electoral procedure to be legitimate. But what makes
the election device legitimate? Each vote should count the same
each person should have equal rights
4th criterion – does each vote count equally?
(accountability, representativeness, fairness, and equality)
Reviewing the debate on electoral systems:
5th criterion – does the electoral system produce legislatures and
governments that are both effective and accommodating?
There is a tension between effectiveness and accommodation. A
government that is effective gets out to implement the policies it
had advocated during the election campaign. A government that
seeks accommodation will consult widely before making final
decisions and will look for compromises that will be acceptable to as
many groups as possible. These objectives are partly contradictory.
It seems to me that most people want to prevent extreme
ineffectiveness and complete absence of accommodation
6th criterion – Does the electoral system produce relatively strong parties
and relatively strong representatives
we want strong parties and parties are meaningless if they are not
we do not want parties to be too strong.
Want representatives to be sensitive to out concerns
7th criterion – is the vote both simple enough and a relatively precise
reflection of citizens‟ preferences?
The more precisely voters are allowed to express their views on the
ballot, the greater the likelihood that what governments do will
reflect what citizens want.
My reading of the literature on electoral democracy and on the debate over
electoral systems has led me to formulate the following criteria for assessing
existing and proposed electoral systems: accountability,
representativeness, fairness, equality, effectiveness,
accommodation, party cohesion, freedom for representatives,
simplicity and precision.
Monday September 17th/ 2012: (lecture #2)
Apartheid in South Africa: one of the most inhumane political
Crime to have sexual relations with black people
1950 - physical and spatial segregation
1952 – all people over 16 had to have a pass to enter a white area
1954 resettlement act
Majority of population was black however white people owned most
of the land and had 75% of the national income
Existed until 1994, and then blacks were able to vote, travel and
live under a free society.
Democracy cannot be taken for granted;
Democracy is extremely appealing; Samuel Huntington (argues that
we‟ll see a third wave of democratic transition around the world
Number of democracies increased from 46 in 1975 (29%) to 114 in
Economic growth in post war
Post war- modernization; as the world modernized, democracy
becomes more appealing