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Democracy: Institutions

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Political Science
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Oct. 4 , 2010 (Lecture 4) Democracy: Institutions Marx felt that democratic institutions were all a visage; not a real reality what we see Democracy is a method for choosing leaders. Universal franchise, secret ballot, majoritarianism Should not be confused with eternal bliss, not endless pleasure, doesn’t make you rich or powerful Franchise is universal - that is the vote is secret May want certain distributional outcomes – not a big gap btw the rich and the poor The basics of democratic outcomes: emerges out of different pre- democratic contexts Democracy has evolved out of all kinds of society; ANY kind of society Whether they stay democracies depends on how wealthy they are; poor countries can become a democracy, BUT often do not stay democracies Different kinds of democratic institutions; not a single set of identical democratic institutions Which ones you have indicate how the game of democracy is played But there are different kinds of democratic institutions: political institutions, different ways of organizing democratic government. These have profound implications for how government is carried out, how social interests are channeled into politics, what political competition looks like, what kind of parties you get, what the flow of legislation is etc. Institutions are the rules of the game Important interpretations of the law Importance of common law, judicial precedent & interpretation For ex. Abortion laws over-ruled due to a stipulation in the constitution/ Men who wrote the American constitution never intended that certain things in the constitution would apply to abortion laws hundreds of years later Law evolves through the development of ideas Evolving judicial precedent/system not in Europe *Institutions are the product of “evolution” (in many ways the combination of changing customs leads to changes in the constitution) United States Written documents; lays out basic rules of the game, US government functions according to these rules Enumerated rights -> nowhere in any documents in England does it enumerate rights/ however; paradoxically, they have rights Rules of the game are clearly articulated (documents of human design, written at a specific point in time) Institutions are the product of human design rather than evolution Design of Government Executive: US president & cabinet (members of the cabinet do not necessarily have to run, can be appointed by the president) Great Britain: prime minister & cabinet responsible form of government (all members once members of the parliament) Legislative: US congress - House of representatives & Senate Great Britain - House of Commons & House of Lords Judicial: US - Supreme Court Great Britain - none (House of Lords) Principles of Government Britain: Parliamentary, unified, cabinet, doctrine of “responsible government” (cabinet must enjoy a majority support of parliament, as opposed to support of head of state, vote of no confidence) Cannot have a government in which the majority does not support US: presidential, separation of powers, federal cabinet is appointed by the president (head of state), only must be confirmed by senate but does not require continuous majority confidence (i.e. the government does not have to have the confidence of parliament) Britain: head of state & head of government are different offices (prime minister merely head of office NOT of state) US: head of state is also head of government (cabinet) Britain: parliamentary supremacy US: equality of branches (judicial review) Implications: Flow of Legislation US: bills can be introduced by members of congress; but gets submitted by President Complicated, gridlock, horse-trading Multiple veto points Legislation fails? Government stays. If president veto’s bill/senate can override the president, but the Supreme Court can shut it down (extremely easy to shut down a bill) System designed to kill legislation
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