The Political Consequences of Learning

by Chris Ansell on February 11, 2013

One of the morning news stories that recently caught my attention was about the power of the New Finns—a rising Finnish populist party—to change the debate about bailing out Greece and possibly other southern European countries (_Financial Times_, September 24 2012). The New Finns have pushed the two largest Finnish parties—the Social Democrats and the Centre Party—to harden their line on Greece and led them to demand collateral from Greece and Spain for aid.  The governing parties, the article suggests, hope that their harder line has taken the wind out of the True Finns’ sails and brought them in line with the 54% of the Finnish electorate who support taking a tougher stance toward their Mediterranean partners.  The story catches my attention not only because I am visiting in Sweden, Finland’s neighbor, but also because I have just finished reading Jack Knight and Jim Johnson’s powerful and tightly-reasoned treatise, _The Priority of Democracy: The Political Consequences of Pragmatism._ [click to continue…]

Seminar on The Priority of Democracy

by Henry Farrell on February 11, 2013

Over the next several days, we’ll be running a seminar on Jack Knight and Jim Johnson’s recent book, _The Priority of Democracy._ The participants:

“Chris Ansell”: is a professor of political science at UC Berkeley. He works on pragmatism and Western European politics, and is the author of “Pragmatist Democracy: Evolutionary Learning as Public Philosophy”:

“Peter Boettke”: is University Professor of Philosophy and Economics at George Mason University. His most recent book is “Living Economics: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”:

Henry Farrell blogs here.

Ingrid Robeyns blogs here.

“Cosma Shalizi”: is Associate Professor of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, and a former guest-blogger here at CT.

“Melissa Schwartzberg”: is an associate professor and political theorist at Columbia University. She has a forthcoming “book”: under contract with Cambridge University Press, Counting the Many: The Origins and Limits of Supermajority Rule.

“Adrian Vermeule”: is a professor at Harvard Law School. His book, “The System of the Constitution”:, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

Popen Thread

by Kieran Healy on February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict steps down and surely Mitt Romney thinks, “One door closes, another door opens”. Or maybe the FAI could engineer a swap for Giovanni Trappatoni. Either way, the field seems wide open.


by Henry Farrell on February 11, 2013

“Charlie Stross”: argues that we’re living in a post-democratic system.

bq. Institutional survival pressure within organizations — namely political parties — causes them to systematically ignore or repel candidates for political office who are disinclined to support the status quo or who don’t conform to the dominant paradigm in the practice of politics. … The status quo has emerged by consensus between politicians of opposite parties, who have converged on a set of policies that they deem least likely to lose them an election — whether by generating media hostility, corporate/business sector hostility, or by provoking public hostility. … The news cycle is dominated by large media organizations and the interests of the corporate sector. … Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change. … So the future isn’t a boot stamping on a human face, forever. It’s a person in a beige business outfit advocating beige policies that nobody wants (but nobody can quite articulate a coherent alternative to) with a false mandate obtained by performing rituals of representative democracy that offer as much actual choice as a Stalinist one-party state. [click to continue…]