How to Assess American Democracy?
Keywords:American democracy, American constitution, evaluation framework, political reform.
AbstractThis article proposes a framework to evaluate the functioning of American democracy and to suggest, accordingly, suitable reforms. Reform, literally, means to form again, to reshape and restructure, sometimes to return to basic values that had been lost and sometimes to pursue newly emerging ones. It implies an improvement over the status quo in pursuit of some objective, and it is the question of goals and objectives that raise problems. This article’s main findings suggest that there are seven general values or criteria by which government and the political process – and therefore reform proposals – are to be evaluated. Governmental institutions and processes above all must be (1) effective, implying that its actions must be determined by a process of (2) reasoned and fair deliberation and judgment and that its operations should be (3) efficient. At the same time, government must be controlled and limited, leading to the criteria that apply to the citizenry: (4) responsiveness, (5) representativeness, (6) accountability and (7) participation. Any government that meets these criteria is very likely to be perceived as fair and legitimate by the governed, and is likely to be safe and protect liberties.
Birch, A., (1993) The Concepts and theories of modern democracy (London: Routledge, 1993), chap. 5.
Burke, E., The Works of the right hon. Edmund Burke (New York: Harpers).
Clucas, R., (1996) Encyclopedia of American Political Reform (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1996), p.2.
Elster, J., ed., (1998) Deliberative democracy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press).
Eaulau, H., and Karps, P., (1977). "The Puzzle of representation: specifying the components of responsiveness,"
Legislative Studies Quarterly 2 (August, 1977): 233-54
Grimmer, J., (2013) “Appropriators not position taker: the distorting effects of electoral incentives on
congressional representation,” American Journal of Political Science 57 (July, 2013): 624-42.
Jones, J., “Americans Say Federal Gov't Wastes over Half of Every Dollar,” Gallup Politics:
Lipset, S.M., (1981). Political man, expanded edition. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1981), p. 64.
McAdams, J., “Six theses on campaign finance reform,” Vox Pop: Newsletter of Political Organizations and Parties 8,
issue 1, p. 6.
Neustadt, R., (1990) Presidential power and the modern presidents: the politics of leadership from Roosevelt to
Reagan (New York: Free Press, 1990), p.29.
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “American values survey”: http://www.people-press.org/values-
Rush, M., (2001) “The Hidden costs of electoral reform,” in Mark E. Rush and Richard L. Engstrom, Fair and
Effective Representation? Debating Electoral Reform and Minority Rights (Lanham, New York, Boulder, and Oxford:
Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), pp. 69 – 120, p. 71.
Schumpeter, J., (1947) Capitalism, socialism, and democracy, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1947), chap 22.
Seidman, L. M., (2012) The New York Times, December 31, 2012, p. A-17.
Swers, M., (2002) The Difference women make: the Policy impact of women in congress (Chicago: University of Chicago
Vogler, D., (1974) The Politics of congress (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1974), chap. 1.
Weissberg, R., (1978) “Collective vs. dyadic representation in congress,” American Political Science Review 72
(June, 1978): 535-47.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).