Journal of Political Philosophy

Published by Wiley
Online ISSN: 1467-9760
As I discussed in the introduction, the challenges posed by citizenship in pluralist societies and by claims to self-determination advanced in many parts of the world require a principled basis for determining the character and the entitlements of minority groups. While this book focuses on the entitlements of different national groups and what constitutes their just treatment, consideration of these issues requires that I go beyond the subject of my study to consider the constitution and entitlements not only of national groups but also of groups of other types. In this chapter, I distinguish between different types of group rights.
Citizen demands for more accountability and transparency are implicitly grounded in a model of political representation based primarily on sanctions, in which the interests of the representative (in economic terms, the agent) are presumed to conflict with those of the constituent (in economic terms, the principal). A selection model of political representation, as with a selection model of principal-agent relations more generally, is possible when the principal and agent have similar objectives and the agent is already internally motivated to pursue those objectives. If a potential representative’s intrinsic goals (overall direction and specific policies) are those the constituent desires and if the representative also has a verifiable reputation of being both competent and honest, a constituent can select that representative for office and subsequently spend relatively little effort on monitoring and sanctioning. The higher the probability that the objectives of principal and agent may be aligned, the more efficient it is for the principal to invest resources ex ante, in selecting the required type, rather than ex post, in monitoring and sanctioning. A selection model is efficient when agents face unpredictable future decisions, are hard to monitor, and must act flexibly. Accountability through monitoring and sanctioning is appropriate to the sanctions model, narrative accountability and deliberative accountability to the selection model. Normatively, the selection model tends to focus the attention of both citizens and representatives on the common interest. In political science the selection model was advanced in the early 1960s as one of the two paths to constituency control, but after the 1970s was eclipsed by the sanctions model in spite of data seeming to indicate that in many circumstances it has greater predictive power. Economists have only recently begun to apply the selection model significantly to politics.
This paper addresses a significant flaw in democratic theory, which assumes that citizens can combat the abuse of executive power via standard mechanisms of oversight - elections, public opinion and deliberation. It examines how the institution of state secrecy can obstruct the functioning of these standard mechanisms and analyzes why alternative mechanisms of oversight proposed by contemporary democratic theorists - including transparency, mediation and retrospection - prove inadequate. The paper then identifies circumvention (or ‘leaking’ to the news media) as the mechanism that democracies actually rely on to combat the abuse of state secrecy and explains why the reliance of democratic oversight on this mechanism is problematic. In particular, it suggests that the efficacy of democratic oversight in this setting depends in a significant way on the role of private institutions and personal virtues. If correct, this assessment invites democratic theory to cultivate a relationship with theoretical approaches that can account for the importance of these institutions and virtues.
Suppose a police car gives chase to some violent criminals, putting innocent bystanders at risk. The criminals have not threatened the police in any way; so we would not normally say that the police have been coerced into chasing. Nor are the police merely responding to natural circumstances, so they are not acting under necessity, in the usual sense. The case is different from one in which an ambulance speeds to hospital, putting innocent bystanders at risk, because the reason for the police speeding has to do with the unreasonable behaviour of others. Yet that unreasonable behaviour does not constitute threatening behaviour. How then should we describe what happened?
In “Two Concepts of Liberty” Berlin notes the protean nature of the word “freedom” and then systematically proceeds to narrow its range of meanings. In the process, Berlin eliminates much of what most people, in everyday communication, regard as freedom, believing that this is in the best interest of intellectual clarity. As he puts it:[N]othing is gained by a confusion of terms. To avoid glaring inequality or widespread misery I am ready to sacrifice some, or all, of my freedom: I may do so willingly and freely: but it is freedom that I am giving up for the sake of justice or equality or the love of my fellow men. I should be guilt-stricken, and rightly so, if I were not, in some circumstances, ready to make this sacrifice. But a sacrifice is not an increase in what is being sacrificed, namely freedom, however great the moral need or the compensation for it. Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience. (Emphasis added).Berlin's other, perhaps overarching, aim is to show how inattention to the specificity of the meanings of concepts might have potentially dangerous political repercussions. He implicitly argues that the intellectuals who promoted the idea of positive freedom as opposed to that of negative freedom contributed to the emergence of totalitarianism and fascism in Europe.
The demographic factors that helped trigger the debate about generations and equity will grow in importance, which is a straightforward prediction from the current age structures. This warrants further scientific inquiries. It is also likely to require new policies, or changes in the design of current policies. We argue that although life-cycle considerations have been essential for welfare state policy designs there has not been a corresponding interest for life cycle perspectives in the development of political theory. The shortcomings of both classical liberalism and Marxism can be related to their lack of a life-cycle perspective. In this context, the Myrdals’ argumentation in the 1930s for welfare state policies as a response to demographic challenges can provide guidance also for policy-making in the 21st century. What we argue is that a balanced population growth would reduce the distributive tensions between generations. There are policy options that should be part of a future oriented approach to changing population structures. To invest in human capital and to use migration as a way of increasing the labour force are good examples of investment policies for the future. Such policies boil down to increasing the number of future taxpayers and their productivity. What is warranted to succeed in this endeavour, is a balanced approach; a synthesis between the concern with the way that the welfare state supports different groups in society, on the one hand, and a realistic view of how society works, on the other hand.
In the closing years of the eighteenth century, a great intellectual and moral challenge to European empire was launched by many of the most innovative thinkers of the day, including Kant, Adam Smith, Bentham, Burke, Diderot, and Condorcet. They drew on a strikingly wide range of ideas to argue against empire: among others, the rights of man and the imperative of popular self-determination, the economic wisdom of free trade and foolishness of conquest, the corruption of natural man by a degenerate civilization, the hypocrisy required for self-governing republics to rule despotically over powerless subjects, and the impossibility of sustaining freedom at home while practicing despotism abroad.
It is only in the last few years that the discourse of multiculturalism has become respectable. Yet, initially seen as a progressive discourse, it is today already seen by many academic commentators as conservative, even reactionary. Arguments for political multiculturalism are directed against essentialist or monistic definitions of nationality, for example, definitions of Britishness which assume a cultural homogeneity, that there is a single way of being British. Multiculturalists have emphasised internal differentiation (relatively easy in the case of Britain which encompasses up to four national or semi-national components, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and fluidity, with definitions of national belonging being historical constructs and changing over time. In this way it has been possible to argue for the incorporation of immigrant groups into an ongoing Britishness and against those who prophesied ‘rivers of blood’ as the natives lashed out against the aliens perceived as threatening national integrity. In this political contest the ideas of essential unity, integrity, discreteness and fixity have been seen as reactionary, and internal differentiation, interaction and fluidity as progressive. Yet in the recent years that multiculturalism has come to be respectable, at least in terms of discourse, academic critics have attacked multiculturalism in very similar terms to how multiculturalism attacked nationalism or monoculturalism. The positing of minority or immigrant cultures, which need to be respected, defended, publicly supported and so on, is said to appeal to the view that cultures are discrete, frozen in time, impervious to external influences, homogeneous and without internal dissent; that people of certain family, ethnic or geographical origins are always to be defined by them
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