Democracy Symposium: A Call For Posts

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

Related Post Roulette

28 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    “Is X [a political party, law, or court ruling] eroding the foundations of our democracy?”


  2. dhex says:

    viable meaning “to last a thousand years” or just “workable enough for the time being”?Report

  3. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Just until Inauguration Day, by which time Herr Romney will have the troops in place.Report

  4. James K says:

    I’m planning to write a post that looks at democracy from a benefit-cost perspective. Basically, what is democracy actually good for?Report

  5. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’d like to write about how the presidential election process weeds out eccentrics. Not necessarily for good reasons, but it does. What we get is not the best of the best, but the best of the blandest.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Heh, I tell my students that’s the primary virtue of democracy. I look forward to your take.Report

      • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        Yep, it’s also my take that the process does not generally produce the best, but generally avoids the worst – and this is its defining virtue. The ‘worst system except for all the alternatives’ kind of thing.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

          I realize that by using the terms ‘best’ and ‘worst’ I am moving a bit off what Jason seems to be saying. But ‘eccentric’ can quickly shade into ‘worst’ given the right (wrong) circumstances and a huge amount of power.

          To avoid Godwining myself by bringing up a certain Austrian art student with…strange ideas, I’ll just note that Mugabe and Chavez and Amin were probably all just charming fellows with a few odd ideas, once upon a time.Report

  6. James Hanley says:

    If I can work up the energy for another major post I’ll write about the difficulty of aggregating preferences.Report

    • Murali in reply to James Hanley says:

      We’re going to have an Arrow’s theorem for dummies post? AwesomeReport

      • James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

        Maybe. The Condorcet’s paradox for dummies is easy to write, but the Arrow’s theorem for dummies is a frickin’ bear. A year or so ago a few blogging economists tried their hands at writing popular versions of it; IMO they all failed miserably. And they’re all smarter and better writers than me. Cross your fingers, maybe, but don’t hold your breath.Report

  7. Glyph says:

    James, I know your angle is usually economic, but is there any way you could factor technological change into it? I have been trying to come up with a technological angle w/r/t the speed and ease of internet communications and I just can’t get it to come into focus in my mind. Maybe Blaise could help here.

    Something like, is our democracy still running DOS when it could be running Mountain Lion? Is the fact that we sort of use an older ‘mainframe’ approach (which usually favors stability over flexibility) good or bad compared to a newer server/distributed approach (generally more flexible, and better failure recovery by use of re-routing, but also in my experience less stable due to increased number of variables and less rigid ‘rules’?)

    Or take the way Google (the details are a trade secret) aggregates preferences (links) into Google placement rankings. Can we use the internet to do something similar in our democratic processes?

    If we were to model any changes to our democratic system based on current communications tech & innovations, what are the risks, given that the current US Constitutional structure is intended to *slow down* popular fads and avoid the ‘madness of crowds’ (an apt description of the internet in certain modes if I have ever seen one) resulting in rapid and destabilizing catastrophic change?Report

    • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

      You know, I am looking at my calendar, and there is little realistic likelihood of me being able to tackle any of these ideas with any justice in time, so I will throw them out there as idea seeds for any that want them.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:


      I’m afraid not, because the problems are more fundamental than that. They’re not technologically solvable; in fact they’re theoretically unsolvable (that is, not solvable even in theory). That said, the upside is that they’re merely very problematic, not necessarily fatal.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Besides, I’m too much of a Luddite–I’ve never even heard of mountain lion! Thanks for making me remember, yet again, what a technological dolt I am. 😉Report

      • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        No worries. I look forward to reading anything you write on the topic. You, Jason and Roger are all really good at clearly laying out theoretical foundations for many of the things that make sense to me already, even if I can’t always clearly articulate the ‘why’.

        A cynic might say I am just looking for justifications for the way I feel already. But I hope it is more just a case of, ‘yeah, that fits what I have seen.’Report

        • Roger in reply to Glyph says:


          My prospective contribution hits upon many of these themes, but perhaps not exactly as you might expect. Mine is that improved technology and communications will enhance the flexibility and “exit rights” of the various players in democracy. This introduces competition for non exploitative institutions, and will act to inject choice and fairness into democratic states.Report

  8. James Hanley says:

    I’d like to see somebody tackle the following issues: 1) representation, a contemporary look at the classic delegate v. steward debate; 2) democratic responsiveness v. intentional speed bumps in the system.Report

  9. Lancifer says:

    Whether liberal democracy is viable is a rather settled argument. That is if one considers the current “western democracies” to be “liberal”. None have collapsed into dictatorship or anarchy with the possible exception of the Weimar Republic.

    Now whether “liberal democracy” is the most desirable or efficient governance to ensure human happiness and justice is another matter.Report