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This is a polite way of saying that most voters are not smart enough to realise that presidents are not responsible for shark attacks. Achen and Bartels ostensibly defend a conception of democracy. Many political actors around the world, similarly, think that epistocrats should rule and try to gain the emotional support of the population.

Consider the slogan of the Democratic Party in the US election: Democracy, instead, requires treating people as citizens — that is, as adults capable of thoughtful decisions and moral actions, rather than as children who need to be manipulated. One way to treat people as citizens is to entrust them with meaningful opportunities to participate in the political process, rather than just as beings who might show up to vote for leaders every few years. D emocrats acknowledge that some people know more than others. However, democrats believe that people, entrusted with meaningful decision-making power, can handle power responsibly.

Furthermore, people feel satisfaction when they have a hand in charting a common future. Democrats from Thomas Jefferson and Alexis de Tocqueville to the political theorist Carole Pateman at the University of California in Los Angeles advocate dispersing power as widely as possible among the people. The democratic faith is that participating in politics educates and ennobles people.

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For democrats, the pressing task today is to protect and expand possibilities for political action, not to limit them or shut them down in the name of expert rule. Every day, people demonstrate that they are capable of learning.

People master new languages, earn degrees, move to new cities, train for jobs, and navigate the complexities of modern life. It is true that people tend to be ignorant of things that do not touch their lives. People study things that they care about and where knowledge helps them to accomplish things. The county randomly called upon 23 eligible adults to hear evidence to determine whether the district attorney could move forward with criminal indictments. Before grand jury service, many of us had little knowledge of criminal law or standards of legal evidence; afterwards, most of us did.

We learned by doing. In these instances, citizens assembled in mini-publics and, given time for discussion and research, became knowledgeable about public matters.

Why Socrates Hated Democracy

It is misleading to say that most people are too ignorant or apathetic to participate in political affairs. In the right circumstances, many people perform civic functions well.

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Citizens must consult with experts and are liable to cognitive biases, but this holds true for whoever holds a leadership position in the modern world. Furthermore, the elitist stance clashes with the fact that many people demand a say in how we lead our personal and collective lives. Many people today value autonomy, or self-governance, and suffer when it is denied. One reason why is because of a certain progression in the history of ideas.

Other historians have continued this work up to the present, showing how the ideal of autonomy informs modern thinking about economics, race, gender and so forth. Many people share the sentiment of the international disability movement: T echnological developments have also accustomed people to having some control over their individual and collective lives. Cars, for instance, make it possible for individuals to choose where they want to go; cars cultivate the sense of individual autonomy. In the medieval world, people might have felt like they were locked into a certain place in their society, but in the modern world they demand a say in the ordering of things.

That is why liberalism — a political doctrine that extols individual freedom — and democracy — a political doctrine that valorises collective freedom — are so often intertwined in modern political thought. Modern people hate to be told: A third option is democracy, or the notion that flesh-and-blood people can and ought to exercise meaningful power in the governing of common affairs. Democracy means people exerting power, not choosing from a menu made by elites and their agents.

Guerrero, a philosopher at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks that direct democracy cannot work because most people lack the time and ability to understand the complexities of modern public policy.

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Democrats have responded to this situation by creating a system of representative democracy where people vote for politicians who act as our agents in the halls of power. The problem is that most people cannot pay sufficient attention to hold their representatives accountable. To make matters worse, powerful economic interests have the knowledge and resources to capture representatives and make them serve the rich. The time for electoral representative democracy has passed, argues Guerrero. Guerrero envisions single-issue legislatures whose members are chosen by lottery and serve three-year staggered terms.

At the beginning of the legislative session, experts set the agenda and bring the legislators up to speed on the topic, then the legislators draft, revise and vote on legislation. On the contrary, the wealthy and powerful could easily manipulate a lottocracy. Think tanks and lobbyists, funded by economic elites, would welcome the opportunity to educate lottery-chosen legislators.

Those who set the agenda make the most important decisions. This is the democratic critique of plans that tightly regulate the ways that people may participate in politics. T he remedy for our democracy deficit is to devolve as much power as possible to the local level. Many problems can be addressed only on the state, federal and international level, but the idea is that participating in local politics teaches citizens how to speak in public, negotiate with others, research policy issues, and learn about their community and the larger circles in which it is embedded.

Like any other skill, the way to become a better citizen is to practise citizenship. Jefferson articulated the democratic faith in a remarkable series of letters in the early 19th century. He first denounces the idea, shared by fellow American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and the French philosophes , that elites should govern from the capital.

Concentrating power in this way enervates citizens, and opens the door to aristocracy or autocracy. Jefferson envisions a system of ward republics that empower people to handle local affairs, including care of the poor, roads, police, elections, courts, schools and militia. Jefferson sees a role for counties, states and the federal government, but he wants substantial political power to be dispersed to every corner of the country. A few decades later, the French political scientist Tocqueville argued in Democracy in America that Americans have shown what democracy in the modern world might look like.

In France, when people want something done, they petition the centralised government. Peter-Georg Albrecht Wirklich gewollt? Heike Grimm Governance-Corner Seite — Policy Expertise in Contemporary Democracies.


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Contesting basic assumptions on an issue has always been a very useful analytical tool and starting point for generating new knowledge. In a world where, thanks to Wikipedia and the internet overall, information and expert knowledge is easily accessible for anyone, what role is there left for political experts?

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However, when further browsing through the book it soon becomes clear what outstanding role all contributors ascribe to policy expertise in western industrialized democracies. The volume is split into two parts first outlining theoretical issues before focusing on national cases. Apart from single nation case studies Mackinnon, Thunert, Braml, Czaputowicz and Stasiak the second part of the volume also compromises a cross-country comparison Abelson. The contributors convincingly examine the role and influence of policy experts from both theoretical angles and in case studies on Canada, Germany, Poland, and the United States.

Unfortunately, besides a passage on case selection the introduction also falls short on providing the reader with some guidance and recurring central themes.

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Taking these structural aspects into account, the central question remaining is who this volume is written for. Given the short introduction to the issue and little analytical tools that may help the reader to conduct his or her own research except for the first chapter by Abelson it can hardly be considered a student textbook. Yann Lorenz Hertie School of Governance lorenz hertie-school. Zusammenfassung Wissenschaft liche Fachinformation und praxisrelevantes aktuelles Handlungswissen zur Politikberatung: Abstract Scientific and practical knowledge about political consultation and policy advice: ZPB is concerned with maintaining a high level of quality.

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