Seminar: The Negative and the Positive Side of Democratic Institutional Design

Seminar: The Negative and the Positive Side of Democratic Institutional Design

Department of Politics and Public Administration Seminar
Wednesday, 10th September, 2.00pm, F1030

The Negative and the Positive Side of Democratic Institutional Design

Peter Stone, Trinity College, Dublin

Abstract: 

By what standard does one measure the success of democratic institutions? Drawing upon the work of Jeremy Bentham, the political theorist Jon Elster has forcefully argued that democratic institutional design should be negative, not positive. It should aim to keep baneful influences out of the political process, instead of trying to ensure that the process produces high-quality decisions. Elster stresses very effectively the limits of our current knowledge of how democratic institutions work. He also defends some useful “negative” institutional mechanisms that are compatible with those limits. But his emphasis upon negative institutional design is overstated; such design cannot be coherently carried out without some positive vision of the democratic process, however minimal.

Presentation preceded by tea/coffee and followed by discussion. All welcome!