Overview

Dennis C. Mueller illuminates the links between the structure of democratic government and the outcomes it achieves by drawing comparisons between American and foreign government systems. The questions examined are not what constitutions have been written, but rather what constitution should be written to advance a community's interests. The book explores the major issues a polity faces when drafting a constitution: Is a two-party or a multi-party system better? Should it adopt federalism? Bicameralism? Should ...
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Constitutional Democracy

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Overview

Dennis C. Mueller illuminates the links between the structure of democratic government and the outcomes it achieves by drawing comparisons between American and foreign government systems. The questions examined are not what constitutions have been written, but rather what constitution should be written to advance a community's interests. The book explores the major issues a polity faces when drafting a constitution: Is a two-party or a multi-party system better? Should it adopt federalism? Bicameralism? Should the executive and legislative functions be combined? What role should the judiciary play? How should citizenship be defined? Addressing these questions and much more, Constitutional Democracy is a comprehensive and up-to-date normative analysis of these issues. Provocative and intriguing, this work will be of great interest to scholars and students of political science, economics and law.
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Editorial Reviews

Kenneth Godwin
Dennis Mueller has written an extraordinarily interesting book. It addresses such fundamental questions as, "What are the best constitutional institutions for a society?" "How does a polity create those institutions?" and "What are the most likely mistakes democratic governments will make?" MuellerÆs major goal is to construct a set of decision rules that will yield a constitutional government that is both representative of the people and will adopt positive-sum rather than zero-sum policies. Mueller writes his book using the public choice framework and makes at least five important assumptions: 1) humans act in a rational and self-interested manner most of the time, 2) using reason, humans have the capacity to create a set of good institutions that need not rely on past ones, 3) the purposes of government are to preserve order, to provide the collective goods that citizens want provided, and to reduce market failures where their reduction by government would result in less harm than leaving them in place, and 4) the goal of democratic government is to accurately represent the opinions of the citizenry, and 5) the principal failing of democratic government today is that it is too easy for special interests to obtain private goods for themselves at a cost that is quite high to the remainder of society. Fortunately, a reader need not agree with any assumption other than the first to learn a great deal from the book. As is often the case with scholars who use the public choice approach, there is a strong bias against government intervention in the economy and a strong argument in favor of requiring supermajorities such as three-fourths or five-sixths for decisions relating either to a new constitution or to government interventions into the economy. One of the most important contributions of MuellerÆs book is that it explains to those who do not use the public choice framework the underlying rationales for that bias. Although readers of THE LAW AND POLITICS BOOK REVIEW might be most interested in MuellerÆs discussions of the appropriate roles for the judiciary and the best means of selecting judges, it would be a mistake to read that chapter without reading the chapters that preceded it. Mueller examines such broad and interesting questions as when is it better to have a multiparty rather than a two party system, what is the ideal relationship between the legislative and executive branch, how should authority be divided between the national and regional governments, should there be a bill of rights and what should it include, what is the appropriate role of political parties, and how should representatives to a constitutional convention be selected. Mueller attempts to answer all of these questions within a single framework and to tie them together in a logical order. This is an enormous task and, as with anyone who attempts such a task, most readers will think that some errors were made. What criticisms are most readers likely to make when they first read the book? I think the most likely will be the overly sanguine faith in human reason to develop new and better institutions each generation; and, seemingly paradoxically, the exceptional support given to the existing distribution of rights and property. In his support of the periodic need for new constitutions and his faith in reason, Mueller is Jeffersonian. At the same time, however, the decision rules he suggests for adopting either constitutional or statutory laws would make any redistribution of income and rights extraordinarily difficult. This seemingly is an odd combination of optimism about humanÆs reason and pessimism about what might occur if democratic governments use simple majorities to decide economic issues. How might Mueller respond to these criticisms? First, he would argue that if supermajorities are required to replace an existing constitution with a new one, only if there is overwhelming consensus will the population replace the old constitution. This helps insure that almost all believe that they, and perhaps their children and grandchildren, will be better off under the new institutions. MuellerÆs opposition to government actions to redistribute economic rights are based not on his opposition to those who are less fortunate getting more, but on the reality that those who generally benefit from government interventions into the market are those who are already quite privileged. Tariffs, subsidies, waivers, and other actions that provide economic advantages to portions of the population are far more likely to help the few and cost the many than to help the many and cost the few. Because legislators often represent their constituents rather than the citizenry as a whole, it is necessary to prevent log rolling and pork barrel projects through constitutional decision and supermajoritarian requirements. Mueller includes in his discussion of institutions appropriate to a good society arguments concerning why altruism, rational self-interest, and uncertainty about the future would encourage social insurance programs and guarantee basic levels of income, education, and heath care for all citizens. Those who dislike public choice literature because of its frequent use of symbolic notation and first or second derivatives will be pleasantly surprised by MuellerÆs book. It is almost entirely prose and leaves the mathematical proof of his statements to notes. The prose explanation of his conclusions is almost always sufficient. A tremendous advantage of MuellerÆs book is that it provides material for the teaching of many courses. Anyone teaching American politics, comparative politics, democratization, federalism, theories of representation, constitutional theory, or interest groups will find useful material for their lectures and exciting topics for class discussion and for term papers. My only regret is that the bookÆs copy-editing was quite poor. This distracts from an otherwise excellent book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198025603
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Dennis C. Mueller is Professor of Economics at the University of Vienna.

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Table of Contents

1 Democracy in America 3
2 Democracy in Other Parts of the World 21
3 The Constitutional Premise 43
4 Why Have Government? 50
5 The Nature of a Constitution 59
6 Federalism 77
7 Direct Democracy 95
8 Representative Democracy: Proportional Representation 101
9 Representative Democracy: Two-Party Government 114
10 The Two Systems of Representation Compared 127
11 The Parliamentary Voting Rule 152
12 The Referendum 177
13 Bicameralism 192
14 Rights 209
15 The Market and the State 225
16 Redistribution 237
17 The Executive Branch 247
18 Dictatorship 263
19 The Judiciary 279
20 Citizenship 299
21 The Constitutional Convention 314
22 Epilogue 341
Glossary 349
Bibliography 351
Name Index 371
Subject Index 377
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