Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Notes on Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner's "Democracy"

Diamond, Larry and Leonardo Merlino “The Quality of Democracy.” 2004

Methodological research shows:

a) deepening democracy is a moral good, maybe even an imperative

b) reforms to improve democratic quality are essential if democracy is to achieve the broad and durable legitimacy that marks consolidation

c) long-established democracies must also reform if they are to solve their own gathering problems of public dissatisfaction and even disillusionment (20).

“We attempt here to identify some of the ways in which the different elements of democracy not only overlap, but also depend upon one another, forming a system in which improvement along one dimension can have beneficial effects along others” (21).

Diamond and Merlino’s democracy:

a) universal adult suffrage

b) recurring free, competitive and fair elections

c) more than one serious political party

d) alternative sources of information

Ideal democracy:

a) political and civil freedom

b) popular sovereignty (control over public policies and the officials who make them)

c) political equality (in these rights and powers)

Measuring quality:

a) procedure: a quality product is the result of an exact controlled process carried out according to precise, recurring methods and timing

b) content: quality inheres in the structural characteristics of a product, such as its design, materials or functioning

c) result: the quality of a product or service is indirectly indicated by the degree of customer satisfaction with it, regardless of how it is produced or its actual content

“The multidimensional nature of our framework, and of the growing number of democracy assessments that are being conducted implies a pluralist notion of democratic quality” (22) as opposed to elitist version

“There is no objective way of deriving a single framework of democratic quality, right and true for all societies” (22).

Quality democracies include:

1a) rule of law; b) participation; c) competition; d) vertical accountability; e) horizontal accountability

2a) freedom; b) equality; c) responsiveness

“Where we find democracies very weak on some dimensions, such as freedom and the rule of law, they tend to be noticeably deficient on others as well” (29).

“The linkages among the different elements of democracy are so densely interactive and overlapping that is sometimes difficult to know where one dimension ends and another begins” (29).

Key question: “Will a high-quality democracy necessarily produce high-quality results and citizen satisfaction” (30).

“We still think that at least part of the present disenchantment with democracy does concern procedures and institutions and stems not only from more information about the failings of government, but also from higher citizen expectations of what democracy can deliver procedurally, and substantively, as well as in terms of results” (30).

Plattner, Marc F. “The Quality of Democracy: A Skeptical Afterword” 2004

“The word ‘quality’ simply refers to the character of something, whether good o bad” (106).

“The whole field of democratization studies is animated by a ‘normative’ preference for democracy – and properly so” (107) normative vs. positive

Diamond and Merlino’s mistakes:

a) reducing complex issues to mere ‘indicators’

b) enshrining particular political preferences of scholars as objective standards of quality

Two complications for Plattner:

a) the inherent contradictions and problems inherent in liberal democracy

b) democracy is a form of government that must not only be democratic but also effectively govern

Ask class about conflicts between majority rule and minority rights. Which would be the mark of a “quality” democracy?

“…The extent to which a democracy can deliver benefits is not necessarily related to how democratic it is…” (108).

“For, at least in principal, one might then give the highest rating for democratic quality to a government that utterly fails to promote economic growth, curtail crime and corruption, or provide a decent education to its people” (109).

“…There is every reason to expect that when there are tensions between civil rights and security, for example, human rights lawyers are much more likely than most other citizens to come down on the side of civil rights” (110).

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