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6 - Equivocal Democratic Accountability in the Anthropocene

Where Effective Legislatures Do Not Exist

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2021

Walter F. Baber
Affiliation:
California State University, Long Beach
Robert V. Bartlett
Affiliation:
University of Vermont
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Summary

The essentially open-textured quality of political discourse that an equivocal (equi-vocal) norm suggests does not simply allow for many voices to be heard – it mandates it. Likewise, governance benefits from the pragmatism inherent in a norm that eschews absolutes and formulaic solutions in favor of bespoke designs, tailormade for environmental problems that vary in character by location and time. The forces of globalization make legislative oversight of administrative action difficult, if not impossible, by multiplying accountability challenges across multiple governance levels and processes. Using existing administrative competencies, a deliberative model of transnational democratic accountability can build on the functions that intergovernmental organizations already perform tolerably well without relying on new legislative inputs or continuous monitoring by elected officials. Two features of democratic deliberation – its tendency to reduce moral disputes and to promote consensus – can reduce the costs of organization maintenance in stakeholder communities that offer non-legislative alternatives for administrative oversight. The EU is a pioneer of transnational democratic oversight and administrative accountability, and its incremental and trial and error innovations, as inadequate as they still are, offer lessons for the problem of accountability in the absence of effective legislative authority.

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Democratic Norms of Earth System Governance
Deliberative Politics in the Anthropocene
, pp. 123 - 137
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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