Mechanisms of Democracy: Institutional Design Writ Small

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What institutional arrangements should a well-functioning constitutional democracy have?

Most of the relevant literatures in law, political science, political theory, and economics address this question by discussing institutional design writ large. In this book, Adrian Vermeule moves beyond these debates, changing the focus to institutional design writ small.

In established constitutional polities, Vermeule argues that law can and should - and to some extent already does - provide mechanisms of democracy: a repertoire of small-scale institutional devices and innovations that can have surprisingly large effects, promoting democratic values of impartial, accountable and deliberative government. Examples include legal rules that promote impartiality by depriving officials of the information they need to act in self-interested ways; voting rules that create the right kind and amount of accountability for political officials and judges; and legislative rules that structure deliberation, in part by adjusting the conditions under which deliberation occurs transparently or instead secretly.

Drawing upon a range of social science tools from economics, political science, and other disciplines, Vermeule carefully describes the mechanisms of democracy and indicates the conditions under which they can succeed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A truly brilliant book, and a unique one. Vermeule illuminates many of the most important questions in democratic theory — the achievement of transparency, the use of voting rules, the idea of a "veil of uncertainty," the delegation of authority, and much more. An extraordinary contribution to political science and law, Mechanisms of Democracy also offers countless concrete lessons for those involved in designing constitutions — and in making them work better."
—Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago School of Law

"There has been a recent clutch of books on the institutional design of deliberative institutions, some more theoretical, others more practical. Vermeule combines a nuanced sense of the larger theoretical landscape with a real comparative advantage on the finer details of institutional groundings for that project. His book thus makes a distinct, invaluable contribution to that recent clutch of agenda-setting books. It may well end up being the most important of them."
—Robert Goodin, Australian National University

"Once again, Vermeule is original and illuminating. It is one of those rare books that changes the angle from which we view familiar issues."
—Larry Solum, John E. Cribbet Professor of Law & Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois College of Law

"Employing a procedural perspective, Vermeule (Harvard Law) emphasizes micro institutional reforms within governing institutions to enhance democratic values and purposes. Believing that small reforms generate less opposition than large-scale changes in governing institutions and relations, he focuses on four democratic values found in many versions of democracy-impartiality, accountability, transparency, and deliberation-but not foundational values such as equality, freedom, or enhanced popular participation. He insists that it is not a theorist's responsibility to make proposals that are immediately practicable or consistent with current political possibilities, but more effort to address additional practices that might circumvent his proposals is consistent with his desire to change practices and institutions. Recommened - graduate, research, and professional collections."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195333466
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/24/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Harvard Law School
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Table of Contents

I. Impartiality and Uncertainty
1. The Veil of Uncertainty:
2. The Limits of Uncertaintyl:
II. Accountability and Voting
3. Submajority Voting Rules: Forcing Accountability:
4. Absolute Majority Rules: Optimizing Accountability:
5. Delegation, Accountability and Judgingl:
III. Deliberation and Transparency
6. Optimizing Transparency: The Budget Process:
7. Optimizing Deliberation: Constitutional Issues in Congressl:
Conclusion: Institutional Design as a Going Concern
Acknowledgements & Sources

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