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Willy Brandt, in a parliamentary speech delivered on October 28, 1969, when elected as the first postwar social democratic chancellor of the German Federal Republic, challenged politicians “to dare more democracy” (Mehr Demokratie wagen!). In his view, the problems of democracy could only be solved with more democracy. In the same vein, a few months after a failed coup against the recently reestablished democracy in Spain, the social democratic leader, Felipe González, defended a program of “deepening democracy” (profundización de la democracia). The program was eventually adopted by the congress of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) in November 1981, a few months before winning the elections in 1982 that led to fourteen years of uninterrupted social democratic rule.
Why would these leaders make such statements? How should we interpret that the problems of democracy can be solved by “more democracy”? In both Germany and Spain, these statements were made when the countries were experiencing the first rotation in office since democracy had been reestablished. In both cases, suspicions and fears about this rotation and the future policies of the new incumbents existed. The obvious meaning of the statements is that the influence of citizens in the political process had to be reinforced; that no resistances should prevail over the power of votes. A usual electoral slogan of the PSOE was “your vote is our strength” (tu voto es nuestra fuerza) – implying that other political actors had powerful resources other than the vote. What Brandt and González expressed above all was trust in the voice of the people. Their statements may be seen as rhetorical, innocent, or perhaps dangerous if democracy is seen as a problem rather than as a solution. This is particularly so when democracy is questioned as an effective instrument to achieve substantive outcomes – such as order, welfare, or equality.
José María Maravall, Professor of Sociology, Universidad Complutense de Madrid; Director, Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Ciencias Sociales (Instituto Juan March),
Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, Doctor Miembro, Instituto Juan March; Associate Professor of Sociology, Universidad Complutense de Madrid; Professor of Political Science, Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Ciencias Sociales (Instituto Juan March)
We discuss in this book some core topics in the positive theory of democracy. We try to understand the relationship between citizens and politicians: what guides voters at election time, why governments survive and fall, and how institutions modify the power of the people over politicians. These are all relevant questions to determine the role of elections in democracy. Note, however, that elections can be analyzed from many other perspectives different from the representative dimension of democracy. Thus, elections can be also interpreted as an epistemic device to reach the right decision (Coleman 1989); as an exercise of self-government (Przeworski 2005); or as an opportunity for participation and deliberation (Elster 1998).
This book focuses on the representative side of democracy – how rule for the people and rule by the people are connected. Do elections (rule by the people) induce politicians to act in a representative way (rule for the people)? A common theme in all the contributions here included may sound commonsensical or even trivial: we need to combine some analytical rigor with empirical analysis. If we dare to say something so obvious, it is because the field is badly divided into formal analysis and empirical studies. We take seriously what we have learned from economic models of democracy, but we use these conclusions to organize the empirical research of cases that are far removed from the assumptions made in the formal literature.
José María Maravall, Director of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Juan March Institute (Madrid),
Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, Professor of Political Science, Center for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Juan March Institute (Madrid)
My purpose is to explore whether democracy within the incumbent party can help citizens to monitor the government, that is, if the internal accountability of party leaders facilitates their external accountability as public office holders. On one hand, voters might reward parties in which internal monitoring provides information needed to control ruling politicians. On the other hand, internal partisan debates may carry too much noise for citizens and entail costs for the political capacity of the government. Voters might, in this case, reward disciplined parties and punish undisciplined ones; this would reinforce the position of leaders at the expense of critical activists. External electoral considerations would then be detrimental to the internal accountability within the party. I examine parliamentary democracies only. The reason is not that parties are different under presidentialism and parliamentarism, but rather that the relationship of the governing party with the executive is not the same.
Let us start with some clarifications on who's who. Think first of voters. Citizens elect for office that party whose promises are closer to their own political preferences, and they want the elected government to be democratically accountable and politically capable. Such a government would provide information about its actions and answer for them at election time. However, it would also need to be able to implement its promises, and this ability could be undermined by internal dissent and factionalism. Voters will face trade-offs if accountability were to hamper capacity, or vice versa.
How much influence do citizens have to control the government? What guides voters at election time? Why do governments survive? How do institutions modify the power of the people over politicians? The book combines academic analytical rigor with comparative analysis to identify how much information voters must have to select a politician for office, or for holding a government accountable; whether parties in power can help voters to control their governments; how different institutional arrangements influence voters' control; why politicians choose particular electoral systems; and what economic and social conditions may undermine not only governments, but democracy. Arguments are backed by vast macro and micro empirical evidence. There are cross-country comparisons and survey analyses of many countries. In every case there has been an attempt to integrate analytical arguments and empirical research. The goal is to shed new light on perplexing questions of positive democratic theory.
Let us assume that politicians want to be in office and to maximize their autonomy in decision making. On the other side, citizens want to avoid abuses by politicians. Citizens have two instruments to protect them: first, to throw the rulers out of office at election time; second, to enforce, through institutions, legal limits to the political discretion of incumbents between elections. The first protection is provided by democracy; the second, by the rule of law. Prima facie they complement each other. Citizens are not just interested in electing politicians who, once in office, are controlled only by the prospect of future elections; they are not interested either in unelected, nonrepresentative rulers, even if bounded by laws passed by an undemocratic assembly.
I use here a minimalist definition of the rule of law. It consists of the enforcement of laws that have been publicly promulgated and passed in a preestablished manner; are prospective (nulla poena sine lege), general (like cases are treated alike), stable, clear, and hierarchically ordered (the more particular norms conform to the more general ones); and are applied to particular cases by courts independent from the political rulers and open to all, whose decisions respond to procedural requirements, and that establish guilt through the ordinary trial process. This definition makes no reference to fundamental rights, democracy, equality, or justice: it corresponds to what Dworkin (1985: 9–32) has termed the “rulebook” conception of the rule of law.
This book addresses the question of why governments sometimes follow the law and other times choose to evade the law. The traditional answer of jurists has been that laws have an autonomous causal efficacy: law rules when actions follow anterior norms; the relation between laws and actions is one of obedience, obligation, or compliance. Contrary to this conception, the authors defend a positive interpretation where the rule of law results from the strategic choices of relevant actors. Rule of law is just one possible outcome in which political actors process their conflicts using whatever resources they can muster: only when these actors seek to resolve their conflicts by recourse to la, does law rule. What distinguishes 'rule-of-law' as an institutional equilibrium from 'rule-by-law' is the distribution of power. The former emerges when no one group is strong enough to dominate the others and when the many use institutions to promote their interest.
Our central question is why governments do or do not act according to laws.
The traditional answer to this question has been that the law has an autonomous causal efficacy. People obey the law because it is the law: actions follow prior norms. This view is now being contested by arguments that law cannot be treated as an exogenous constraint on actions. In some situations, the actions that individuals want to and do undertake are stable and predictable even if they do not implement any antecedent laws.
The normative conception of the rule of law is a figment of the imagination of jurists. It is implausible as a description. Moreover, it is incomplete as an explanation. Why do people obey laws? Why do they obey a particular law? Would they obey any norm just because it is a law?
By a normative conception, we mean only the following. First, a set of rules constitutes law if and only if it satisfies some formal conditions. Second, the rules that satisfy these formal conditions are obeyed. Hence, law rules when actions follow anterior norms. The question whether the law rules is thus one of obligation, obedience, or compliance.