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Lecture 10

Lecture 10 - Aristocratic Elections and Metamorphosis of Representative Government


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLS 1000
Professor
Martin Breaugh
Lecture
10

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Lecture 10
Distinction principle, what it means, idea that representatives should be economically, socially,
and morally superior than who elected them
Those who obtained political office should be wealthier, higher social standing, more virtue than
those who voted for them
Britain: Deference (define), tendency to give in to the will of others that come from a higher
rank than we do; High costs of campaigning
France: active and passive citizens, 3 day’s wages, allowed to partake in the 2 tiered electoral
system (indirect)
Create a filtration of democracy
American: Philadelphia convention, delegates agreed that there should be wealth requirement
for public office holders, unable to decide on the level to apply uniformly, unable to entrench
the wealth requirements
Decided to create large electoral districts, James Madison “allow general respectability and
probable attachment to rights of property”
Despite extension to the right to vote, and the dropping of wealth or property requirements,
will not fundamentally modify the practise of representative government -> democratic
aristocracy
In theoretical terms, Manin offers 4 reasons why elections are
aristocratic
1. Electors do not treat candidates equally
a. Can only be explained if adopting perspective of votes, when electors are called
upon to decide, not obliged to be impartial, nobody forces us to follow the
guidelines to treat everyone equally
b. As electors, we are left alone to make our choices, we can be as partial as we
want
c. It’s our right to be partial
d. Not all candidates will be treated equally
e. force someone to be impartial is not possible
2. In situation of choice, candidates must be distinguished
a. Manin 139, to elect is to choose
b. In order to make the choice, voters have to find distinguishing characteristics
i. Have to be something that’s positively valued
ii. Have to be unique
iii. It would be hard to choose if all candidates are similar

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iv. Idea is that elections, because they are forced to choose, have
something like a built in mechanism that incites the voters to distinguish,
it discourages the selection of a candidate who would be too similar to
voters
3. Human tends to give advantage to salience
a. Notable significance
b. Human beings have tendency to focus on qualities and individuals that stand
out
c. Quality and characteristics that stand out are determined by a particular context,
valued quality of the leader in the US or Canada are not the same
d. We sometimes think that certain characteristics are universal, in fact they are
particular
i. E.g., all political communities seek strong leaders, when some seek
weak leaders
e. Salience Variable property, it will reinforce decisions voters make and
reinforce distinction principle and aristocratic nature of modern representative
government
4. Cost of spreading information
a. A factor that played an important role that ensured elections remained
aristocratic
b. Expensive to disseminate information, engaged in electioneering
c. Wealthy candidates are favoured
d. It’s much easier to get the money from the rich than the poor, if the candidate is
not personally wealthy, connections to wealthy people, and sympathies from
wealthy people will greatly facilitate the acquisition of funds necessary to run
e. Now, through internet fundraising it’s easy to raise a lot of money without
asking wealthy people (a side note to Manin’s argument)
f. Internet transform the ways politicians raise money
Rep government will be seen as an elective aristocracy that leads to election of public office
holders that people perceive to be superior to the electors
Qualities that are politically relevant, voters tends to be influenced by such qualities
These qualities do not really have to exist, simply have to be perceived
Perception will count as much as reality
IN SUMMARY, elections are two faced. On one hand, when all citizens are allowed to vote,
elections will be undeniably democratic and egalitarian; on the other hand, elections will also
be inegalitarian and undemocratic, it does not allow for equal distribution of public offices.
The ambiguity of representative government, both egalitarian and inegalitarian; democratic and
undemocratic.
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