Lecture #7—Problems of Democracy
Democracy and Inequality
Rules of the game—laws (that protect our human rights), rules that govern the restrictions of
Laws are the foundation of democracy
Unique from the rule of man—the rule of the individual
Laws allow us to manage diversity—we vote towards the centre.
Political parties go towards the centre—we have a more harmonious way of doing politics.
Majoritarianism—democracy, through electoral rules reflect the will of the majority—Flaw #1.
o Normative commitment in democracy
o Destabilizing force—but what makes it stable. The not knowing of what party will win makes
democracy stable—the ability for chance.
o It’s the institutionalized uncertainty that gives us our stability
Variations of Democracy
o NO two democracies are the same—entail these other conditions & institutions—
conditioned to different social and economic conditions.
o Ex) Proportional representation
o Ex) Efficiency—Parliamentary systems.
o Democracy’s resilience is because of its variations—broad
o Democracy is dynamic—it changes over time—allowing black voters: the United States.
o Individuals are treated equally—your one vote equals the weight of another man’s vote.
(I) Equality of Opportunity
Political Equality—rules of democracy apply equally to all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity
o The rules of democracy are applied equally to all
o “Process of democracy”—the rules of the game. The constitution, provisions in the bill of
o The political institutions we put into play
o These institutions help strengthen the procession of democracy.
o “Free and fair” elections—optimal procedural democracy that grants equality of opportunity.
o Polyarchy—Robert Dahl
Public contestation—the process of democracy and the equality of opportunity
enforce public contestation. We have the right to fight for our own views
Inclusive participation—You’re not excluding anyone.
(II) Equality of Outcome
Political and economic perspective.
Political—economic equity. (The consequences of democracy in action.) Grossi 2
o How does democracy matter?
Procedural vs. Substantive democracy
o Rules are important in so far as they deliver more equitable outcomes.
o Here is often an expectation that the democracy will provide a greater equality of outcome.
Their lives will improve as a result of implementing democracy.
o Ex) Democratic Welfare State—UK, Europe, Canada—Coincided with the Rise of
Industrialization. Presence of a social democratic party strongly coincides with a Welfae
o Democracy creates more equitable outcomes.
o Democracy creates fair outcome—that’s what matters here (Equality of Opportunity—
Equality is one of the key concepts of democracy—what is means is that when it is put into
practice, there are challenges that are brought into play.
Collective Action Problem
“We all act as individuals, but acting collectively, we assume someone else will do it”
o its very costly to vote—you need information on what the party stands for, what the
individual wants, read the news about info—cost of the information AND time.
o They’re not clear—how does one benefit?
o Are you getting benefits—are they worth the cost? Not likely.
o If we’re rational, we won’t engage in collective action, but rather free ride.
o “Why expend the energy when others can do it for me”—Mentality.
It’s not rational to vote. If dealing with collective action, the only way to compel them to vote
would to be incentive.
If we agree to this, we fail to acknowledge of Equality of opportunity.
Equality of opportunity—Challenges
Challenge 2. The Fallacy of Democratic Pluralism.
o Predicated on Pluralism and inclusiveness
o Assumes political inequality—that procedurally, democracy allows us this equality of
Ex) US health care reform.
o Majority of America believes that Americans should have universal health care.
o America is far from ever achieving this.
o All movements/ pushes have failed, but they still want it. If it was about equality of
opportunity, then we should see health care reform.
1) American political system suffers from institutional fragmentation—presidency.
congress, courts and legislation.
US system privileges minority actors and interests that have resources. Grossi 3
Basically the rich.
o The most powerful opponent: The American Medical Assoc