REDEM (V). Membership and Voice: Local and Global

Notes from the conference Reconstructing Democracy in Times of Crisis: A Voter-Centred Perspective, organized by SciencesPo/CEVIPOF, and held in Paris, France, on 5 and 6 February 2020. More notes on this event: redem2020

Marcus Carlsen Häggrot, Goethe University, Frankfurt a.M.

Nomads are usually excluded from the electoral process as they cannot be assigned to a specific constituency. Maybe we should reconsider the concept of constituency, especially when residence is decreasingly important in an increasingly mobile society — and most especially within the European Union, with so many expatriates.

Single member plurality systems:

  • Pros: popular self-government, accountability, eliminates extremist parties
  • Cons: unequal power over policy, vertical inequality, anonymity

Two round election systems put voters in a trade-off between maintaining their integrity or having to vote (in the 2nd round, considering their 1st option did not pass) the lesser undesired one.

José Luis Martí, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona. Globalizing democracy, deterritorialisation and Crowdlaw

A new reality:

  • Growing complexity
  • Globalisation
  • Digital revolution: deterritorialisation
  • Crisis of democracy: dissatisfaction with institutions, populism, concentration of power, etc.

Globalising democracy: in the XVIIIth century, due to a new social, economic, technological and political scenario lead to a scaling-up of democracy, from the city level to the state level. Maybe, the new scenario coming on the XXIst century should lead us to the scaling-up of democracy, from the state level to the global level.

On the other hand, we are witnessing the (new) rise of cities, the nearest administration to the citizen, able to coordinate between cities. The paradox is that cities are increasingly able to address global issues, while their demos is obviously not global. We certainly have to rethink the traditional approach to democracy and participation. Again, the need to deterritorialise democracy.

And, besides the territorial factor, the deliberative phase and the voting phase of democracy get increasingly intertwined and their differences blur. e.g. liking a proposal on an online participation platform can mean nothing, can mean just endorsement of the idea and thus remain at the deliberation stage, or can boost the proposal and, past a threshold, make it binding, thus entering the voting phase.

Elise Rouméas, CEVIPOF/Sciences Po. Do I go with my party or my beliefs?

Compromise: a decision-making procedure based on reciprocal concessions. There are many reasons for compromise in face of conflict, and many times they have to do with the ethics of voting.

What happens when, to reach a compromise, you “betray” some of your main principles? Tactical voting as an internal compromise. What is wrong, if anything, with tactical voting?

Two main objections:

  • Wrong attitude: dishonesty, “gambling”.
  • Wrong outcome: mediocrity, obscurity. Not a true revelation of preferences.

A positive case for tactical voting: we have the moral obligation to vote tactically when we have campaigned for a strategic voting.

There also is the idea of reaching a second-best outcome when the optimum is not reachable.

Ismael Peña López, Government of Catalonia

Discussion

Andre: are you proposing a guild-based democracy, with different levels of participation? Can we shift to a commons-based democracy?

Andrei Poama: what is the role of representative democracy and elected members in such a democracy?

Ismael Peña-López: we should certainly promote a commons-based democracy in the sense that anyone should have the tools to make collective decisions. Horizontal networks have proven to be effective, if appropriately facilitated, in diagnosing, deliberating and negotiating. Representative democracy institutions still have a crucial double role: (1) to nurture and take care of this democratic commons and (2) to provide the holistic vision required to connect the different dots and to be able to draw the big strategies, maybe too abstract for grassroots participation methodologies.

Laurentiu: there’s the statement that shifting from hierarchies to networks does not necessarily means losing power. How to back this statement? Based on what theory?

Ismael Peña-López:

  • Hierarchies are very sensible to voting with one’s feet: digitization scales-up the power of voting with one’s (e-)feet. Exiting the system (or circumventing it) is stronger than voice.
  • Network effects are stronger than economies of scale.
  • The estate/administration is the central node.
  • Networks are based on a different currency: the gift economy.
  • Institutionalising informal participation.
  • Enforcing through law and budget.

Chiara Destri: are there externalities in such distributed models? What about accountability? Ismael Peña-López: in a distributed system, accountability is not accurately allocated to anyone and externalities (positive and negative) can go wild as they are difficult to bring inside the system. Institutions thus have the duty — and may be the best positioned — to institutionalise what is going on in a distributed network for collective decision-making, in order to internalize externalities and to allocate accountability.

Reconstructing Democracy in Times of Crisis: A Voter-Centred Perspective (2020)