January 17 – Thick and Thin Democracy
You can think of democracy as something that you can have more or less of (in the case of
analyzing freedom), or it can be a scale of either you have it or you don’t (in the case of
elections). There is a lot of confusing about what democracy is. There are different definitions,
but all the definitions have normative content.
Is democracy primarily a mechanism – elections – that rotates political leaders in office; or is it
primarily a commitment to the twin ideals of freedom and equality.
Democracy = Demos (people) + kratos (power)
Classical Theory of Democracy
Ancient Greece: And institiutional arrangement that realizes the Common Good that decisions
that carry out the Common Will. The common good is some point on the utility curve before it
begins to flatten out, it is mathematically identifiable. An institutional method for channeling the
will of the people.
Common Will ! Democratic Process ! Common Good
Economic Theory of Democracy
Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) – Joseph Schumpeter
Schumpeter says there is no common good, because people disagree about what is good. Human
individuals have different natural inclinations, because they stand in different relations to the
structures in power. There is no correct set of policies, there are only competing preferences of
Individual Will ! Democratic Process ! Manufactured Will
What looks like the common will is actually a manufactured will. The common will does not go
before the democratic process.
This critic lays the groundwork for Schumpeters own theory, considered a thin theory of
Schumpeterian Theory of Democracy
He argues that his theory is an improvement because it is more true to reality, he doesn’t say that
we should like it better, or value it more. Doesn’t express higher ideals.
Direct Democracy: “the people” ! policy
Representative Democracy: “the people” ! elected representatives ! policy
“The democratic method is the 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.” – Joseph Schumpeter
Because of this shift from the people to the actions of political leaders, Schumpeters theory is
often called an elitest theory of democracy… it is no long power to the people. But shifting