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Lecture

Problems of Democracies (Lecture 5) Lecture 5: The lecture is presented by Professor Wong. He talks about the many issues that come with democracies, mainly regarding the ideas of equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POL101Y1
Professor
Jeffrey Kopstein

Page:
of 4
POL101Y1 LECTURE 5
OCTOBER 18TH, 2010
RED: VOCAL NOTES BLACK: POWERPOINT SLIDES
PROBLEMS OF DEMOCRACY
Democracy and Equality
Rules of the game
o Structured by this
o Known as political institutions
o Underpinning structure of democracy and rights governing human laws
o Rule of Law rather than Rule of Man
o Democracies are Predictable
Managing diversity
o Democracies as a political system is much better at managing diversity than other forms
o Moderates excess
Most individuals like to vote in the middle (bell curve)
The ends are more or less extreme
o Norms of inclusion everyone is included in the political process
You are free to vote, or engage in a civil society social movement or even say what you want to say
due to freedoms of press and assembly
Institutionalized uncertainty
o What makes democracy stable is that we never know the next election outcome until it happens
o There is always an expectation that one may win next time if not this
o Allows for the alternating of power
o This promotes stability in democracies
Variations of democracy
o Democracies are different all around the world (although there are the same core characteristics, there is a
different institutional make up)
o Every democracy of the world is structured by rules different set of rules
o Dynamism: The abilities by which democracies can change the rules
This dynamism promotes democracies to be altered in a way that serves its society optimally
Equality
o Core principle of democracy
o There are two ways to look at equality
Equality of Opportunity
Equality of Outcome
Equality of Opportunity (looking at the process of democracy)
Political equality
o All citizens regardless of any difference are treated political equally
o Rules of the game apply equally
Procedural democracy
o Equality of opportunity is about processes of democratic politics
o Equality of opportunity is a function of the rules of the game
o All individuals get equal opportunities and rules of the game apply equally
One of the most important aspect of Equality of Opportunity Free elections
o The elections have to be free of cohesion and fair in order for the process to provide equality of opportunity
Polyarchy (Robert Dahl)
o Public contestation
All citizens have the ability to contest, to fight it out with words
It does not matter where you come from or who you are
o Inclusive participation
Everyone has the right to vote
Equality of Outcome (looking at consequences of democracy)
Political-economic equity
o Does democracy matter?
o Does it matter at all in providing more fairness?
Procedural vs. substantive democracy
o The rules matter
o They matter as long as they facilitate more equitable democracy
Example: democratic welfare state
o Rise of the welfare state mirror the rise of democracy
o It was because of democracy that we a more social, economic, political and equitable outcomes
We Look at fair outcomes in processes rather than fair opportunities (fights the tyranny of the majority)
Challenges of Equality of Opportunity
[1] Collective action problem even if we have equality of opportunity, we will not use it or exercise it
1. Costs
People don’t want to do it because it wastes time
Cost of engaging in collective action are high
Information costs of voting are high
2. Benefits
No one will directly benefit
Votes only have a marginal impact
Benefits of voting are low
3. Free-riding
Let others do the work
It is not “rational” to vote
o Someone else will do it, I will get the benefits
o There is no rational reason to why anyone should vote
[2] Fallacy (misleading notion) of Democratic Pluralism Although we have equality of opportunity (all have equal vote),
power is not equally distributed
Democratic pluralism assumes political equality
o Does not always work out this way
o Example: US health care reform
75% of Americans want health care but won’t get it
To get any bill passed, the process is harsh there is tremendous institutional fragmentations
Veto points by which a bill can be killed
o US Privileges the minority Tyranny of the minority
“The flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper class accent.”
Elmer E. Schattsschneider
Power is not equally distributed
[3] Representative = Elite Democracy would equalise how people participate in politics
Wealth
o People who participate are wealthy
o They are society’s “haves” rather than ‘have-nots”
Education
o Tend to be educated
Social networks
o Have highly influential association
Political parties
o Parties tend to be hierarchical
Corruption
While we would like to believe that Democracy is inclusive, the reality is the opposite
o The “myth” of accessibility
Challenges to Equality of Outcome
[1] Protecting the disadvantaged
Liberal tradition equal rights of individuals leads to equitable outcomes
o BUT “...the belief that the right of the community can trump the rights of the individual and this is not
incompatible with liberalism but exactly what humanizes it
What is most important is community and groups individuals
Groups are more fundamental constituent to democracy than individuals
Article 33, notwithstanding clause
o Seen as Equality of Outcome to be seen more important that Equality of Opportunity
Bumiputra policy in Malaysia
o Under British rule, there was tremendous ethnic diversity
o Bumiputra = Have-nots
o What the government do
Passed Bumiputra policy
Certain percentages of contracts, jobs, properties, and to be reserved for the Bumiputra
o Benefits
Less poverty
More equitable outcome
o As the economists put it
Discriminatory solution to a problem of discrimination
Affirmative Action in the US
o To take an affirmative action
o To ensure that the employment practices were free of discrimination
o It was basically an order against racism
o Lyndon B. Johnson
America has a history of racism
There is no such thing as equal opportunity in US