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2 Responses to “Hello world!”

  1. Mr WordPress Says:

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. John Burnheim Says:

    Take a look at equalitybylot.wordpress.com the site of the kleroterians.

    Representation and accountability

    In the broadest sense of “authority” we are all, individually and collectively in the position of having to accept the consequences of the decisions of very many authorities over whose decisions we have no control. Powerful corporations, in virtue of their legal authority to determine the uses to which important natural and social resources are put shape very many of the options available to us as consumers and affect profoundly the economic and cultural matrix of social life. Even the sum of the effects of countless individual choices results in a pattern of conventions that define acceptable behaviour. In most scientific, economic, educational and medical matters we have to accept the authority of the consensus of experts where that exists, even though we know it is not infallible. The alternative is to act collectively on the basis of prejudice, ignorance and incompetence. Authoritative decision rests not on the will of those affected by it, but on its being so well based on the relevant considerations that there are no acceptable grounds for rejecting it.

    The need for accountability and representation must be grounded not on the will of those affected by authorities, but on the need for good decisions. What provisions for accountability and representation are appropriate in a particular field is a matter of what is conducive to goo decisions in that area. If it is a question of planning a transport network that will serve the needs of the next generation, it is not rational to give overriding weight to the existing interests affected by it. But most future users are not present voters and accountability to future users is at best conjectural. The interests we plan for are those we impute to them and even impose on them. The consequences are often quite different from what we intend. But if we do nothing we need to accept the responsibility for our omissions. We can only do what we think is best for them. Authority to decide now imposes responsibilities that we cannot be sure of meeting satisfactorily. We have to gamble but others incur the losses.

    The main point in insisting on effective representation of those affected by the decisions of an authority in the processes of deliberation leading to decisions is to get beyond their uneducated preferences to those they are inclined to form as the result of mature deliberation. The hope is that this will lead both to better decisions and to a better educated public opinion, as representatives try to explain their choices. That in turn should result in a better understanding of the grounds for those decisions, a greater trust in the decision processes and a satisfaction with those processes as a great collective achievement. In place of the old glorification of power people might celebrate the fairness, responsiveness and rationality of their authorities and the moral superiority of the society that sustains them. Such a vision is not without its dangers. Education can degenerate into subtly imposed conformity to the ideology of an elite. In the name of providing a clear focus for deliberation questions may be posed in terms that predetermine the answers. Those willing and able to engage in sustained deliberation about difficult choices are inevitably in that respect different from most of those they are supposed to represent. They may be susceptible to cooption into elites, especially as career opportunities as advisors, consultants, lobbyists and publicists open up from their involvement in the decision process. Only constant scrutiny can mitigate these tendencies.

    My contention is that in most cases the choice of those who are to be involved in deliberation about a certain field of decision should be chosen from among those who are willing to serve by a statistical procedure designed to give a representative sample of those material interests most directly affected by that field of decisions. I have discussed that proposal in greater detail in Is Democracy Possible? It is a radically different conception of democracy from the liberal tradition. Borrowing from Hayek, whose work influenced it strongly, I have called it Demarchy. Hayek saw no alternative to state provision of public goods, which he rightly criticised as unsatisfactory and dangerous, except for the rule of law. My aim is to show that there can be authorities that provide public goods without being instruments of state power, thus supplementing his view rather than opposing it. Since Hayek wrote two great problems of a global reach have come to the fore, that of regulating the international monetary system and that of the ecological crisis. He was not unaware of these problems and commendably frank in discussing them.

    Hayek believed that he monetary problem could be solved simply by removing all controls on the creation of money, leaving commercial operators to coin their own money, in the expectation that the value of different currencies would be set by the market. In a world where exchange rates have been allowed to float freely and banks allowed to create credit at will his prescription has been adopted almost completely. The difficulty that led to the recent crisis is that the most important form of money, credit has been leveraged to an irresponsible extent for short term gain and that concerted action has been needed to avert a catastrophic collapse of the monetary system. In a world where money moves instantly at the call of speculative traders national governments are almost powerless in such matters. An international authority that is impartial and effective is needed to limit speculation that is dangerous to all. Hayek assumed that good money would drive out bad. Unfortunately, at least in the short term, the contrary is the case.

    The ecological problem was one for which Hayek acknowledged he had no solution. We must simply accept that people had always acted in ways that degraded their environment. It is very doubtful whether he would have sustained that view in the context of our present understanding of the likelihood of catastrophic consequences unless coordinated action is taken to change our patterns of production and consumption. There seems to be no prospect that vague agreements that depend entirely for their implementation on the internal politics of individual nation states can handle these problems. A justified hostility to state power is not a good reason for opposing a specialised international authority.

    In the short run these authorities would inevitably have to be set up by international agreements. In order to remove them at least one degree of separation from the politics of nation states, the states might be asked to nominate people to a pool from which representatives would be chosen by lot as representing relevant kinds of considerations. In the case of climate change the main categories of representation might be scientist with relevant expertise, economists and public figures or perhaps experienced people from welfare agencies, both governmental and voluntary, who could document the problems of the communities most adversely affected. The strong understanding would be that they were all there to contribute to a sound outcome rather than any particular point of view. Representatives would be rotated at staggered intervals to ensure continuity and opportunities for changes of perspective.

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